Thoughts on future of health

Medicine & Science

April 26, 2004

As part of its rededication celebration the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health asked faculty members to predict what will happen in their fields in the foreseeable future. Here are some of the responses, which appeared in a commemorative book, Saving Lives Millions at a Time:

By 2008, the Guinea worm, which as recently as two decades ago infected millions of Africans annually with ulcers, fever and sometimes crippling infections, will be eradicated. By 2009, polio will be certified as eradicated. And by 2010, an AIDS vaccine will be deployed globally.

-Donald S. Burke

Within the next 25 years, a person's whole genome sequence will be routinely considered as part of his or her health profile, just as age, cholesterol level and blood pressure are now. Individuals will be able to use their genomic profiles to guide their personal behavior, while health care providers will consider them when prescribing treatment.

-M. Daniele Fallin

In the next few years, the constant harangue of infomercials, "expert" talking heads on "news" channels, and other self-serving sources of "information" will create a spate of bad decisions by the public about health risks. But within the quarter-century, renewed respect for objective science means we will see balanced and safe diets that control the obesity epidemic, basic health care for all and investments in safe food, clean air and potable water.

-Scott L. Zeger

By 2050, the global population will increase by almost 3 billion. In nearly all societies in the world, fertility rates will be at replacement levels - 2.1 births per reproductive-aged woman - and average longevity will increase by 10 years.

-Amy O. Tsui

In 25 years, screening for depression will be as common as taking blood pressure. As a result, treatment in the primary care setting will increase - and because depression increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke, the incidence of those diseases can be expected to decline.

-William W. Eaton

Because the needless fear of negligible risks can interfere with enjoyment of life - while lack of fear of true dangers can lead to tragedy - fear management will be recognized as a significant public health issue. With enhanced risk assessment, risk communication and pharmaceuticals, the beginnings of such management will be accomplished.

-Stephen P. Teret

Instead of chiefly targeting individuals to influence behavior, science will move to understanding how organizations, neighborhoods, laws and social norms can be changed in ways that improve public health.

-Thomas A. Glass

The proportion of the world's population that has daily access to clean water will increase, largely due to new, simple, rugged field technologies. These technologies will include reusable microfilters and solar-powered systems that purify water with ultraviolet light.

-Robert S. Lawrence

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