It’s no secret that the general population is growing at a rate faster than ever before. As it stands, the UK has a population of 64.1 million – a number which is predicted to reach 70 million mid-2027, just 10 years from now.

The world’s population is expanding at a similar rate, with more than 7 billion people on the planet currently and urban populations rapidly developing and branching out.

The healthcare systems supporting these huge urban populations will find themselves under strain, as more and more health issues arise due to people living in such close proximity to each other and the pollutants existing in such cities.

Slums are being erected more and more in some of the world’s largest countries, such as India, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico – the number of people in the world living in slums reached 863 million in 2014 – and these have significant effects on the environment and the people who live in them. In turn, healthcare services for those who can afford it are being impacted and, due to poor sanitisation, such close confinements and the sheer number of people in one place, there are a number of cases of serious illnesses such as cholera and diarrhoea.

In China, the air pollution in the country’s large cities is causing serious respiratory issues as breathing the air in Beijing is likened to smoking 40 cigarettes a day. Therefore, healthcare services in the country are significantly under strain as the population suffers due to the radical urbanisation the country is undergoing.

Focusing on the UK alone, the strain such a huge population can have on a free health service is threatening to its ability offer the best care. The NHS currently deals with more than 1 million patients every 36 hours and is already under great strain. As the population grows, this issue will only increase along with it. Patient safety is currently the major issue, as under strain and overworked staff make decisions that could further jeopardise health because they are unable to think clearly.

The strain extends further than patient care too, supply and demand for items such as medical supplies and protective equipment will rise and there could also be a threat to the amount of available antibiotics and medicines to treat injuries and illnesses.

So what can we do?

It’s important we act now, to lower the potential strain on health services in the future, here are a few key ways to do this:

  • Encourage healthier living – obesity is rising in the world and this is one of the major contributing factors to the strain healthcare services are currently experiencing. Eating well and exercising more will improve general health across a population.
  • Businesses can implement healthcare plans in the workplace – many people get ill but their symptoms worsen because they do not want to pay for a check up at the dentist or antibiotics from the doctor. A healthcare service such as Bupa can cut costs and ensure people remain healthy.
  • More free phone services – People who simply want to talk about their symptoms should be able to call and speak to an advisor. The NHS 111 service took 1,351,761 calls in December 2016 alone, suggesting more support is required for this service.
  • Stronger support for mental health services and charities – Support for those suffering with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression can find that their symptoms worsen if they don’t seek help, but the current healthcare system isn’t prepared for this. Free advice services and support networks can lighten the load on healthcare providers such as the NHS, as well as offering people the help they need.

The growing population will continue to have a significant impact on the healthcare services around the world, with the above points implemented we can help reduce this strain.

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