Hot Topic - Fellows Review How Technological Change May Affect Health Inequalities

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Apr 30, 2019
by Martin Silva Rey and Yasmina Ghandour
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Hot Topic - Fellows Review How Technological Change May Affect Health Inequalities

Salzburg Global Fellows share their views during the Salzburg Global program Bridging Worlds: How Can We Use Business and Economic Development Strategies to Support Better Health? Photo from Oleg Laptev on Unsplash

A select number of Fellows at the Salzburg Global Seminar program, Bridging Worlds: How Can We Use Business and Economic Development Strategies to Support Better Health? were asked: How do we ensure the loss of jobs due to technological change does not exacerbate health inequalities? We have published their answers below.

“One of the biggest cultural or the most profound changes would be to change our notion of what does it mean to be a good citizen? It wouldn’t be too restrictive and based solely on the idea that you have to be a good professional or make a successful career in your life. But, instead, there can be various ways to which we can be a good member of society… there are actually then also other arenas in society where you can find ways of belonging to society, find meaningful contact with other people, plus also find your way to other institutions like the ones that usually tend to nurture health.”

Aleksi Neuvonen

Futures researcher and co-founder of Demos Helsinki

“There is no zero-sum game in this sense... to prevent the situation in which it is exacerbated by the loss of jobs you need to have policies. You have to pre-empt that effect, that negative impact by having policies that would allow people to be protected and to help them transition from their current status to a new status, that will allow them to acquire new knowledge, new skills in order to get back into the labor force. That’s one aspect. There are other benefits of technology... for example, using drones you are able to transport on a timely basis blood, medication, as well as other medical supplies to areas that are very hard to reach. Therefore, rather than exacerbating health inequalities, you are bringing services to those people that before didn’t have any access to essential health services... There are costs, but I think, overall, benefits would outweigh the costs.”

Patricio V. Marquez

Lead public health specialist for the World Bank Group

“[Automation] leads to an increase in issues with mental health because you see people don’t necessarily have permanency with experience previously and don’t necessarily have the ability to progress in their careers... We find that different groups of people are marginalized as well by the onset of technologies. Particularly, older people or people who have distance from work at the present time or have been out of work for a while. Getting them back into work is just that bit harder... It’s not to say it can’t happen because there’s plenty of training programs reengaging people into work, but it’s just adding yet another layer of complexity.”

David Shepherd

Director of regeneration and property at Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council

“How do we address that? Well, I’d love to know the answer actually. And I think it’s one of the challenges that we all face, as a whole strata of jobs, these early jobs that people go into that are missing now, certainly where I’m working in Greater Manchester. Having a good job. There are lots of jobs on zero-hour contracts or in the gig economy. Lots of people who are claiming benefit but still working, so a high proportion, just manifests this big issue. So I think one of the things that we need to do is to look at young people with children being ready for school, ready to learn, looking at what children learn in school, getting ready for what might be the new careers that might be open and available to them, as a longerterm type of approach.”

Sarah Price

Executive lead, population health and commissioning at the Greater Manchester Health & Social Care Partnership

“Technology cuts some jobs, but technology can solve the problem about providing reasonable cost health care to people. I think it can solve the problem about health inequality.”

Shinichiro Okazaki

Senior deputy director for the Healthcare Industries Division at the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry in Japan


The Salzburg Global Seminar program, Bridging Worlds: How Can We Use Business and Economic Development Strategies to Support Better Health?, is part of the Health and Health Care Innovation multi-year series. More information on this multi-year series is available here.