Sept 1, 2016
10 min read

Living Longer and Healthier Lives: A McKinsey Perspective

In Star Trek, Mr. Spock exhorts those he meets to "live long and prosper," but are these goals mutually exclusive? Modern medicine is allowing mankind to live longer, but unless broader implications to the environment and global society are considered, prosperity might prove more elusive.

To noticeably extend average life spans globally – modern medicine must find ways to reach into developing economies, overcoming barriers to equitable access.

McKinsey & Company

Humanity stands at the cusp of a healthcare revolution that will eclipse the achievements of past centuries in its speed and impact. Scientific and medical breakthroughs, often pushed by big data analytics, have the potential to increase human life spans significantly while improving the overall quality of life. Medicine is moving quickly from a focus on reacting to disease and injury to one that emphasizes stronger and healthier bodies.

As medical and scientific researchers march forward the broader implications of longer, healthier lives require questioning. Such questions must be considered not to halt or slow progress, but to prepare for and mitigate any harmful consequences. Longer, more active lives will consume more resources – food, water, energy, and space – and supply is not infinite. In addition, the shift requires a different approach to how healthcare is delivered, and businesses and other organizations must operate differently as well. Public health officials, corporate leaders, investors, entrepreneurs, and other stakeholders must grasp the relevance of such concerns to create a sustainable future for healthcare and the planet. 

In this paper, we consider some of these longer range implications by first examining advances that have already improved healthcare generally, as well as those on the brink of significant breakthroughs. Second, we consider how best to distribute the benefits of these advances to developing countries so that medical science can deliver the greatest overall impact on longevity and quality of life. And, finally, we examine more broadly, the overall impact of these advances on global sustainability.

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