Health care systems across the world are under strain. Significant medical advances have turned previously life-threatening conditions into long-term conditions that now need to be managed. While this is beneficial in the bigger picture, it causes serious smaller issues that need to be addressed, for example; how can we maintain these treatments effectively and costly?
In some parts of the world, citizens have become accustomed to high levels of personalization and efficiency when it comes to private healthcare. However, in order to tackle this international problem, we need to adjust our ways of thinking, we need to start thinking of social innovation for global health.
Social innovation is very tricky to define because there really isn’t a definition that covers the subject, it is used to describe a very broad range of activities. There is no single, commonly agreed definition of social innovation. Basically, it is a disruptive approach for solving many global issues, contributed to, for, and by the people who need it. These ideas are created with the goal of positively strengthening civil society.
“Social innovation refers to the creation, development, adoption, and integration of new concepts and practices that put people and the planet first. Social innovations resolve existing social, health, cultural, economic, and environmental challenges. Some social innovations are systems-changing – they permanently alter the perceptions, behaviors, and structures that previously gave rise to these challenges.” –The Canadian Centre for Social Innovation
New challenges have emerged over the past few decades. In many parts of the world, migration has put pressure on communities and their already fragile healthcare systems. A rapidly aging population has dramatically increased demands on health services. While on the other hand, a rapidly growing population increases the demand for global health care. And in the West, new unhealthy lifestyles have brought problems of obesity and an increase in chronic diseases like diabetes.
Social innovation for global health is a fantastic way for communities and various health systems to find new approaches to growing problems. Recognizing the need for social innovation and the growing capacity of developing countries provides a vital need for global health.
“During the past 25 years, the percentage of the world’s people who live in extreme poverty has been cut in half. The average life expectancy has increased by more than six years. Childhood mortality has been reduced by 50 percent. Polio has nearly been eradicated. These advances are unprecedented in human history.” - Steve Davis
If we build on this progress, we can create something previously unimaginable; a world where people have full access to global health care, the elimination of most deadly diseases, and fewer people dying from preventable illnesses.
Social innovations for global health are needed within health systems to achieve maximum wellness. It is also needed to promote healthy behavior and mindsets within different communities. Shifting our mindset from a personal to a global perspective is very important for these innovations to take hold. At its core, the process of social innovation is about social inclusion and bringing a change in the way people relate to each other
Citizen engagement is necessary because of the complex nature of the social challenges we face. Many social problems don’t have a single solution, rather they are complex problems with many aspects to consider. For example; politics, extreme climates, crime rates, and social injustices can all be factors when trying to initiate change in certain countries.
Therefore, addressing many of these complex challenges can require behavioral changes and education. How successfully a community is able to adapt and embrace these so-called “innovations” in a meaningful way will define their permanent success in the future.
Today the definition of poverty is changing as some countries come into the 21st century. With new technology and information, people who once lived in extreme poverty are closing the gap for low to middle income. Instead of the old ways where a handful of rich countries decided what poor nations needed to do to improve their health, we’re becoming a world of low to middle-income countries that have the resources, to determine their own paths forward. Social innovation and public health can now work together to create global change.
Today we have many valuable technologies, medicines, and research that benefit us greatly. However, too many societies are being excluded, these are most often societies with the lowest poverty rates. Unfortunately, breaking down boundaries and engaging communities still remains the biggest problem for implementing social innovations for global health.
We are living in an increasingly global world. As we become more connected it is imperative that we understand and address international issues. We need to consider the responsibilities of being a global community member, ensuring that innovations don’t leave anyone behind.
Most of the time, social innovation actions are implemented without proper support or scientific research. Evidence on successful and unsuccessful is critical for ensuring future progress when bringing these programs to communities.
There remains a significant role to be played by philanthropic organizations and public agencies for non-repayable forms of funding. However, researchers, academic institutions, social innovators, health-system, and international organizations all have a role to play.