Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Almost up there with personal injury lawyers and requests from Nigeria to help someone get their money out of a frozen bank account. But at the Preventive Health 2011 conference on 30th June, we were shown just what was possible in preventative health.
It was a packed day, with some excellent speakers. Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer, was passionate but pragmatic about the importance of prevention in the future of the nation’s health, and Dr Clare Gerada, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, spoke words that were music to my ears – that non-medical aspects of a patient’s life were important factors in dealing with ill-health. Cardiologist Dr Ameet Bakhai was hugely entertaining, and here is a doctor who actually prescribes T’ai Chi and meditation for stroke and heart attack patients – fantastic to hear!
However, if I have to pick a session that stands out, it was the seminar by Professor Bryan Manning on technology in later life – this wasn’t some techy kid trying to be clever, but some well-thought out suggestions on how to keep older people safe and in touch with friends, family and care support networks. This all rests on some sound theoretical work, and what stunned me was just how much is possible with current technology – for example face recognition systems to allow people with poor mobility to see who is at their door and let them in.
Prof. Manning and colleagues are developing a web-based system around these ideas – see www.finerdays.com for where they are at the moment. Critics will argue that the older people in most need won’t want to use computers and this technology, but the ultimate aim of these ideas is that they will be based on an internet television – and they will be the next big consumer innovation in TVs.
So from government, the NHS, industry and the third sector, the mood seems to be that prevention really is better than cure – the big challenge is can we get the commissioners to sign the cheques . . . ?