By KIM BELLARD
I was driving home the other day, noticed all the above-ground telephone/power lines, and thought to myself: this is not the 21st century I thought I’d be living in.
When I was growing up, the 21st century was the distant future, the stuff of science fiction. We’d have flying cars, personal robots, interstellar travel, artificial food, and, of course, tricorders. There’d be computers, although not PCs. Still, we’d have been baffled by smartphones, GPS, or the Internet. We’d have been even more flummoxed by women in the workforce or #BlackLivesMatter.
We’re living in the future, but we’re also hanging on to the past, and that applies especially to healthcare. We all poke fun at the persistence of the fax, but I’d also point out that currently our best advice for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic is pretty much what it was for the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic: masks and distancing (and we’re facing similar resistance). One would have hoped the 21st century would have found us better equipped.
So I was heartened to read an op-ed in The Washington Post by ReginaDugan, PhD. Dr. Dugan calls for a “Health Age,” akin to how Sputnik set off the Space Age. The pandemic, she says, “is the kind of event that alters the course of history so much that we measure time by it: before the pandemic — and after.”
In a Health Age, she predicts:
We could choose to build a future where no one must wait on an organ donor list. Where the mechanistic underpinnings of mental health are understood and treatable. Where clinical trials happen in months, not years. Where our health span coincides with our life span and we are healthy to our last breath.
Dr. Dugan has no doubt we can build a Health Age; “The question, instead, is whether we will.”
Dr. Dugan head up Wellcome Leap, a non-profit