Salzburg Global Seminar has long been a leading forum for the exchange of ideas on issues in health and health care affecting countries throughout the world. At these meetings agendas have been re-set affecting policy and practice in crucial areas, such as patient safety and the engagement of patients in medical decision making. In 2010, Salzburg Global Seminar launched a multi-year series of seminars to crystallize new approaches to global health and health care in the face of emerging challenges affecting us now and set to continue on through the coming generation.

All countries face resource constraints in health care. Even in the richest countries demand for care threatens to exceed supply, and new ways need to be explored to find greater value from existing resources at whatever level they may be. That search for greater value will be intensified given present secular trends – fiscal pressures, which will not be fully alleviated even if there is sustained growth in parts or all of the world; demographic pressures, again affecting countries in all parts of the world: as a Vietnamese Fellow put it – ‘will we grow rich before we grow old?’; new disease profiles arising from globalization and chronic diseases, such as obesity, spreading in developed and developing countries alike; the threat of climate change, requiring both mitigation and adaptation from health care systems. And, above all, there is the need to focus on the health and well-being of individuals and communities, and how to support these in a co-ordinated way, rather than on health care as an end in itself.