Grace Marie V. Ku (Medical Specialist at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City, Philippines & PhD Student at ITM)

The 4th edition of the Geneva Health Forum, attended by an optimal mix of representatives of academia, civil society, researchers, entrepreneurs, media, international organizations, diplomatic missions and the private sector, tackled issues regarding chronic conditions and provided an excellent opportunity to expose policy makers to the grassroots level of caring for chronic conditions.

The different dialogue formats – world café and fish bowl sessions, NCD café at the Marketplace – spiced up the usual plenary and parallel sessions and facilitated the chronic conditions debate.

Sessions tried to dissect factors affecting chronic conditions and the care for chronic conditions in low, middle, and high income countries.

The ingenuity and creativity of people working on and with chronic conditions is impressive even if the differences between the economic strata are glaring: for example, while urban planning in high income countries concentrates on provision of spaces for exercise and noise pollution control, low and middle income countries are still struggling to regulate zoning and sanitation; while high income countries are now considering polypills and tailored drugs, low and middle income countries are still trying to come up with frameworks for the prevention and care for chronic conditions.

The forum has stressed that attention must now be given to the ballooning burden that is brought about by chronic conditions… and deep down lurks the question of rationing…of the tug-of-war between prevention and treatment of chronic conditions… the trade-off between acute illnesses and chronic conditions….and the threat of continued and more marked verticalization looms.

As a front liner who still verges towards idealism, I say – there shouldn’t be any contests between prevention and treatment, no great divide between acute and chronic conditions. If our first line health services are programmed to deliver health care with a holistic, biopsychosocial, and life course approach then there is a greater chance of preventing and caring for both acute and chronic conditions, of delivering good quality health care, of truly taking care of the health of the populace. After all, it was once defined that health is not just the absence of disease… or so I hope.

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