What does "health futures" mean to WHO and the world?
Health futures is defined as a set of tools that can help explore probable, plausible, possible, and preferable futures for guiding actions whereby potential health threats could be anticipated. The World Health Organization (WHO) is promoting national futures studies for health planning and development as confirmed at the World Health Assembly in 1990. WHO began scanning the field of health futures and learning about the methods used for trend assessment and forecasting. An international consultation on health futures was convened in July 1993 and attended by 38 experts. The consultation proposed follow-up activities sharing studies and methods through international publications; establishing electronic communication to this end; developing a handbook on health futures; and cataloguing experts, institutions, and training opportunities in health futures. A variety of people presented a wide range of studies on the purposes of health futures studies, methodologies, and funding; there were 5 scenarios for health care in the United States (continued growth/high technology, hard times/governmental leadership, buyer's market, a new civilization, healing and health care). The consultation focused on 6 themes, including assessing health technology. An extensive study undertaken in the Netherlands between 1985 and 1988 identified emerging health technology: neurosciences, the use of lasers in treating ischemic heart disease, biotechnology, new vaccines, genetic testing, computer-assisted medical imaging, and home care technologies. Health resources projection was also described for China using simulation models for 3 estimates of demand for hospital beds and doctors between 1990 and 2010. Also presented was Statistics Canada's new population-health model (POHEM), which is based on an individual life-cycle theory of health. A well-institutionalized modeling system by the US Bureau of Health Professions was introduced, showing the physician-supply model for forecasting purposes in the debate over health care reform. Artificial neural networking was introduced for predicting hospital length-of-stay.