Population Health Insights

T-1 Countdown to World Health Day - Louis Burns

LOUIS BURNS, CEO – Recent themes for World Health Day have been antimicrobial resistance, urbanization and health, and hospital safety. In your opinion, what makes “aging and health” such an important topic for World Health Day 2012?

From a societal, financial, business, and global perspective, the need is clear. The numbers are staggering and undeniable. In 2000, there were less than 600 million persons aged 60 years or over in the world, comprising 10 per cent of the world population. By 2050, this figure will triple to nearly 2 billion older persons, comprising 22 per cent of the world population. With this growth explosion comes a range of other related issues: chronic diseases, frailty, risk of falling, social isolation, overworked family caregivers, understaffed hospitals… the list goes on and on. The World Health Day’s focus on “aging and health” confirms a core belief at Care Innovations: we simply cannot ignore this new reality.

Why did you decide to work in this field? What does helping older adults mean to you personally?

One of my favorite books is The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw. In this book, he builds an image of World War Two soldiers as brave, wise, and self-sacrificing elders that should be treated with respect and reverence. I believe in this vision and I uphold it in the work done by our company. Our elders are the ones who built the world for us, who raised us, who taught us how to be courageous and true. And for a variety of historical and societal reasons, they are becoming a major percentage of the world’s population today and into the future. Making "aging and health" the topic for this year's World Health Day is acknowledging an important global reality, and issuing a call-to-action for us all to do the right thing: to listen to the needs of our elders and to build a new market for them.

Since Care Innovations was formed, what’s the one thing you’re most proud of accomplishing in the area of "aging and health"?

At Care Innovations, when you walk into any of our core offices, the first thing you see is a wall covered in 200 black and white photos. Some of these photos show an older couple; some of them show a family; some of them show a young child. Each of these photos represents why each of our 200 employees came to Care Innovations. My photo shows my mother and me on the last day that we spent together. I am the most proud of convening this group of passionate employees – all of whom are working like crazy to change the experience of aging for today's generation and future ones, too.

If you could make a single ask of the 193 countries that make up the membership of the World Health Organization, what would it be? What should they do to demonstrate their commitment to "aging and health"??

I'd ask them to take a step back and stop assuming that the way healthcare is delivered today is the "right" way or the only way. Hospitals themselves were just an innovation created back in the 1700s that shifted care from homes into institutions; perhaps it’s time to create another wave of innovations that use technology to take care back into the home where it can be delivered inexpensively and efficiently. So my call to action for countries around the world is to break away from the status quo. Let’s start anew.