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« Bob was here! | Main | Bioinformatics resources in Australia »
Friday
Aug092013

Life (curves), the Univers(al healthcare), and everything

Last month, I had the privilege of attending the 2013 Microsoft Research Faculty Summit. As well as chatting to Bill Gates (well, asking a question at his keynote at 25:20), I spoke to a US researcher who described her work as “squaring the Life Curve” which was explained to me as follows:

…not so much “live fast, die young” as “live long, die fast.”

Fulfilling the Aussie-larrikin stereotype (or perhaps just being a cheeky git), I said “but think about all that lost revenue for the healthcare industry!”

Thanks to different cultural norms in humour, I think I succeeded in coming across as a cheeky git (or perhaps just a git), but the point of the comment was to allude to powerful market forces that might not necessarily work to humanity’s benefit.

Last week, Nadia Rosenthal (EMBL Australia Scientific Director) pointed out to me that Australia is in a unique position to judo-throw those market forces because of its governmental, legal and cultural context.

Under our healthcare model, the apparent profit to healthcare industries from declining health with age actually represents a loss to government. Furthermore, Australia’s cultural disposition to universal healthcare is dramatically different to that of, say, the US.

(Nadia also pointed out that while it might not delight health insurers, life insurers love the idea of squaring (and extending) the Life curve.)

As evidence of different cultural attitudes to health, Nadia cited recruitment in the ASPREE Study—now the largest primary prevention aspirin trial in the world. Over 11,000 healthy older Australians have stepped up to help, way in excess of US uptake.

I’m compelled to write about this because

  1. I learned something, and I like it when people share what they learn
  2. The ABN’s purpose is to increase the benefits that Australian bioinformatics delivers, and this can be through understanding the unique national context of Australian bioscience and its potential to do things that are challenging or impossible in other places.

Have a good (and healthy) weekend.

David

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