Lessons from the World Health Summit

Each year, the World Health Summit (WHS) brings together people from the worlds of politics, science, the private sector and beyond to set the agenda for a healthier future for all. One of the topics on the agenda this year: type 2 inflammation.

The WHS session titled Future-Proofing Healthcare Systems: Driving Multidisciplinary Care for Chronic Inflammatory Diseases, focused on the need for unified care for people living with chronic inflammatory diseases, notably type 2 inflammatory diseases, including asthma, atopic dermatitis (eczema), chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyps (CRSwNP), eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), prurigo nodularis (PN) and certain allergies.

The session explored the significant impact of type 2 inflammatory diseases, the need for all-in-one care and ways we can support patients in achieving better overall health. It was chaired by Dr. Roberto Bertollini, Advisor to the Minister of Public Health of Qatar and former World Health Organization (WHO) Representative to the EU in Brussels and Chief Scientist of the WHO Regional Office for Europe, who was joined by esteemed speakers including Dr. Razia Pendse, WHO; Tonya Winders, GAAPP; Prof. Dr. Glenis Scadding, University College London and EUFOREA; and Prof. Dr. Matthias Augustin, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf.

Here are the key takeaways from this insightful session:

1. The impact of type 2 inflammatory diseases is broad

Type 2 inflammation is an invisible thread that links a number of different diseases (explore this more here). Both Ms. Winders and Prof. Scadding shared insights into their personal experiences with type 2 diseases and the serious impact that multiple chronic conditions have on quality of life (QoL), work and school ability, and much more.

Click play to discover the impact of living with a type 2 inflammatory disease.

2. We need to invest in multidisciplinary care for patients with multiple type 2 diseases

Multidisciplinary care involves a group of health and care professionals (general practitioners, nurses, social workers, etc.) that work collectively to determine the best treatment plan for a patient based on the entirety of their symptoms. At the session, there was agreement on the need to invest in multidisciplinary care to improve the health of people with multiple type 2 inflammatory diseases, creating a ‘one-stop-shop’ for patients. Sadly, this is not the experience for many people with type 2 inflammatory diseases, who are often passed from specialist to specialist to treat specific symptoms independently rather than the root cause of symptoms.

Currently, health spending in many countries is high,1 and some of this increased cost may be due to failures in coordinating care and over-treatment.2 Alongside improved health and QoL, multidisciplinary care can help to reduce the cost of treating type 2 inflammatory diseases and reduce the strain on healthcare systems by improving the use of resources. The speakers agreed there is an urgent need for a change in thinking to see multidisciplinary care as an investment rather than a cost.

3. Care should be tailored to support a patient’s specific needs

The speakers agreed on the importance of using both objective measures (based on tests and observations by a healthcare professional) and subjective measures (based on how a patient feels) to determine the impact of a disease. As Prof. Augustin explained, while measuring visible physical symptoms is important, it does not reveal the full picture. Assessing symptoms alongside subjective measures that are important to the patient – such as sleep quality – can provide a more rounded view of how the disease impacts a patient’s life and therefore provides a more thorough indicator of whether a care plan is working. Dr. Pendse added that current healthcare systems tend to put the disease and symptoms at the center rather than the patient. Putting the patients at the center will help us to ensure nobody is left behind.

4. Shared decision-making is an important tool in helping manage disease(s)

Shared decision-making (SDM) is a joint process in which a healthcare professional and a patient work together to reach decisions about their care. SDM begins with understanding what matters most to the patient to form the direction for their path of care. It involves a learning process, in which the patients become the experts for their own diseases and the healthcare professionals the experts for the therapy. As Prof. Augustin explained, SDM enables a doctor and patient to have an open two-way conversation and work together through any concerns to reach a conclusion that is most beneficial for the individual. SDM should also allow a person to be as engaged as they wish as some patients may not wish to take an active role in making decisions about their care.

5. Education is key – for patients and doctors alike

As a part of future-proofing healthcare systems, it was agreed that we want patients to become the expert in their disease. There is growing evidence that the more engaged a patient is, the more able they are to make informed decisions about their care, which can encourage treatment adherence and healthy behaviors.3 Prof. Augustin shared early results from an educational trial he has been involved in for children and adults living with AD, which showed that disease education led to improvements in measurable changes in symptoms, QoL and reduced healthcare costs.

For Ms. Winders, patient groups play a key role in supporting patient education and helping them discover what is right for them, as well as emphasizing to them that they, as citizens, have the right to vote and hold policy makers accountable on healthcare matters that affect them.

The speakers also discussed how continuous education is equally important for healthcare professionals, flagging the value of regularly following the latest science and reviewing guidelines as they often change.

Next steps

During the session, Ms. Winders sent out a rallying cry for us to not waste the opportunity the pandemic crisis has offered to come together and find unique solutions to futureproof our healthcare systems. This is undoubtedly a significant moment in the wider conversation around recognizing the impact of type 2 inflammatory diseases, and how multidisciplinary care combined with a greater focus on the patient experience can result in better health and happiness for patients. Now is the time to invest in patient care, lower the cost burden of type 2 inflammatory diseases and futureproof our healthcare systems.

1. Statista. Health expenditure as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) in selected countries in 2020. Available at: https://www.statista.com/statistics/268826/health-expenditure-as-gdp-percentage-in-oecd-countries/. Last accessed October 2022. 
2. Berwick DM, Hackbarth AD. Eliminating waste in US health care. JAMA. 2012;307(14):1513-1516. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.362
3. The World Health Organization. Patient Engagement. Available at: https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/252269/9789241511629-eng.pdf. Last accessed October 2022.