Predictions for 2031: David Welbourn: Transform healthcare and the citizen-state relationship or face divisive iniquity and further marginalised hearing health


Future of Audiology: 2031

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We come to the end of our series of expert predictions with a sharp reminder of realities that wild dreams—from both scientific and manufacturing positions—can all too easily overlook.

Thanks to all who dared to venture a vision, in particular to our 15th and final contributor, a man whose experience in public health and recent vantage point at the sharp end of a UK professional association make him a key source to turn to for balance and pragmatism: David Welbourn sees a post-pandemic social panorama that puts health very much where it is today, at the dictate of wider economic considerations. Read carefully.

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DAVID WELBOURN, Chief Executive of the British Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists (BSHAA)

Without urgent united action, talk of hearing health in 2031 will be inconsequential, whisper of its benefits drowned by more compelling big-ticket items, hearing health further marginalised!

Why? UK public spending is one third of GDP; of which direct healthcare is 15%. Welfare and other contributors to wellbeing double this. By 2031, like-for-like health costs will rise 50% to 20% of GDP (without accounting for curbing climate change whilst living in a lower energy society). For a society wrestling with inevitable polarisation created by extreme opinions of denial and misinformation, this is untenable.

Transforming healthcare demands a changed relationship between citizen and state: greater personal accountability for wellbeing with fully informed personal choices and life-style decisions. Post-pandemic, this is a double-edged sword. The wake-up call to take more interest in your own health and broader wellbeing versus the urge to fatalism, rebellion, and over-exercise of freedoms.

In 2031, the first cohort of generation X turns 65 and millennials will turn 50. Both significant points to reflect on life values: each generation more demanding and more individual than their predecessors. The confident will rise, disenfranchising others.

Currently only one third of those whose lives are limited by their hearing health benefit from support, the majority unaware of need or available benefits. Plenty of opportunity in the transformative agenda to take-up lifestyle technologies and self-care, leaving the pressured scarce professional with resources for those often with greatest need but unwilling or unable to engage!

Will our loud, compelling and clear voice prevent the deepening of this divisive inequity?

Source: Audiology Worldnews EUHA special 2021