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  • Laura C. Leviton

    Special Advisor for Evaluation

    The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

    Winter Alumni College

    Reed College, January 20, 2010

    How Technology Affects Health

    Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the largest philanthropy devoted to improving the health and health care of all Americans. Visit us at These are my views and do not represent the positions of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

    World Health Organization definition of health: Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. The correct bibliographic citation for the definition is: Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization as adopted by the International Health Conference, New York, 19-22 June, 1946; signed on 22 July 1946 by the representatives of 61 States (Official Records of the World Health Organization, no. 2, p. 100) and entered into force on 7 April 1948. The Definition has not been amended since 1948.

  • This Presentation Will Cover

    A. Increased lifespan: relative contributions of • public health technology

    • medical care technology

    B. Imbalance between medicine & public health

    C. Better medicine is an interaction among

    • technology

    • science

    • human relationships

    D. Better public health is also an interaction among these things

  • Public Health vs. Medical Care

    Public Health


     Population Focused

     Most are Preventive

    Medical Care


     Individual Focused

     Most are Curative

    •First we need to define the difference. •Difference in focus •PH does prevention although some health departments have to do medical care for indigent. •Medical care is mostly curative although doctors regularly advise prevention

  • Public Health


     Populations

     Most are Preventive

     Many Are Highly


    Medical Care


     Individual

     Most are Curative

     Beneficial? Some Are,

    Some Ain’t

    Public Health vs. Medical Care

    •Doctors WANT to do the right thing. •They care deeply about public health as seen in policy related discussions •But their focus is individual and increasingly their hands are tied.

  • Medical Technology Is Not Always Beneficial

     Fetal Montoring

     No benefit in normal


     Increases C Sections

    •Example: Fetal monitoring •It CAN be necessary with high risk pregnancy •But not normal pragenancies. •Leads to more C sections

    •Many C Sections not necessary – about half are not needed •C Sections costly and recovery slower • it makes future C Sections more likely •Possible problems with placenta

    •This is one heck of a costly machine •We find uses for technology – but they aren’t always right.

  • Increased Life Span Is Mostly Due to

    Better Nutrition and Sanitation

    These are technological changes that prevent disease and affect

    populations: i.e. public health.

    In 1900 the average life span was just over 47 years. In 1950 it was a little over 68 years and in 2008 it was almost 78 years. Remember our definitions—public health focuses on populations and prevention.

  • Food Became Cheaper and


    Without It…

     Anemia

     Beri-Beri

     Cardiovascular


     Diabetes

     Goiter

     Kwashiorikor

     Low Birthweight

     Marasmus

     Mental Impairment

     Osteoporosis

     Pellagra

     Rickets

     Scurvy

     Spina Bifida

     Starvation

    •But you gotta know what to eat.

    •There was better nutrition because agriculture became more efficient and cheap. • On the right a long list of nutrition related diseases •But you also have to know what to eat. •Picture of USDA’s food pyramid, showing advice on portions of the different food groups. •This advice is a public health function: population health and prevention •You might say: that’s agriculture, not public health •The systems overlap •Some are clearly public health technology:

    •Iodine deficiency causes goiter and mental impairments: Iodine in salt •You read about fortifying grains with folic acid to prevent spina bifida •Calcium & Vitamin D to prevent osteoporosis •Less fat in diet: cardiovascular disease and diabetes •Obesity and calories/portion size •Corn sweeteners and calories/ obesity in children

    •Notice how agricultural policy is at odds with public health in the obesity area •Obesity replacing smoking as #1 preventable health problem in US

  • Without It…  Cholera

     Diarrhea  STILL the major child killer

    in the developing world

     E Coli

     Giardiasis

     Hepatitis A

     Schistosomiasis

     Typhoid

     Etc., etc.

    Better Sanitation

    •Also, sanitation improved throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. •Without it diseases ranging from cholera to typhoid •And outrageously, diarrhea – still the major child killer in developing countries •And why? Governments won’t fund decent water systems •Sorry to say, your toilet is backed up (click to next slide)… ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- •Cholera outbreak in Peru 1991

    •You can get cholera treatment through medical care, ok •but costly– nice if you can afford it •what about the poor?

  • Water Treatment Plant, Portland

    •Your toilet is backed up by a lot of technology! •This is a picture of the Portland water treatment plant on the Columbia •I visited, thanks to Katie Bretsch, class of 1974 •Katie worked for, in her words, The department of where it goes when you flush ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ This being Reed, a dose of Hum 110 •Romans had this technology:

    •Water pipes and aqueducts •Sewers – the Cloaca Maxima flowed into Tiber •Kept their waste out of their water supply pretty well •Still lots of infectious disease in crowed unsanitary conditions •I’d hate to live downstream from Rome!

  • Public Health, Not Medical Care

    •Now take a look at the causes of health and illness today. •This slide summarizes the major determinants of health, estimated in 1993 and 2002 •Down at the bottom, healthcare directly responsible for about 10% of our health •We know more about the human genome and disease, so increase from 20 to 30%

    •This will affect medical care in future – we just don’t know quite how yet •Then environment – things like pollution, injuries, access to healthy food

    •Turns out most of this is social •Where you live, income, & social status affect your health (readings) •Public health tech affects this: injury control, pollution control, e.g. for asthma

    •Finally, behavioral: down to 40% from 50% but still a huge factor •Can public health affect this? Look at smoking rates •1964 Surgeon General’s report caused whopping decline

    •42.4% in 1965 to 25.5% in 1990 •Surgeon General heads the Public Health Service •This was a population-wide communication •Doctors did not consistently offer this advice, although it’s powerful when they do

    •Now, tax on cigarettes, clean indoor air promote even more decline •20.6% in 2008 •The remaining smokers are mostly addicted, need nicotine replacement (medical care!)

    •proud to say that Robert Wood Johnson Foundation stimulated lots of this

  • Public Health


     Populations

     Most are Preventive

     Many Are Highly Beneficial

     Long Term

     Often Invisible

    Medical Care


     Individual

     Most are Curative

     Some Are, Some Ain’t

     Often Immediate

     Highly Visible

    Imbalance Between Public Health & Medical Care

    •So if public health is so important, why do we think about medical care when we think about health? •Medical care is

    •Highly visible •Often dramatic •Often has immediate effects •Although care of chronic disease often does not – increasing issue around the globe

    •Public health is often invisible

    •How do you show what you prevented? •Many effects are long term •Changes in RATES of problems, not individual success

  • Good Technologies Become Invisible

     We focus on the visible & new.

     We neglect the old technologies.

     For ex