What The U.S. Can Learn From India And Brazil About Preventive Health Care

Nidhi Sahni and Michael Myers | Harvard Business Review | November 14, 2014

American media companies, automakers, clothing retailers, and other industries have for decades looked abroad to find ideas and innovations they can adapt for the US market. But in one of America’s largest, fastest growing, and sometimes most confounding sectors — healthcare — the situation is different.

Imports like aspirin (Germany) and the heart transplant (South Africa) have become almost as American as apple pie. But in preventive health — keeping people from getting sick, or helping them manage the conditions they do have — we adapt too few of the best foreign innovations and models that have proven to be effective and sustainable at scale.

The U.S. spends far more per capita on healthcare than any other nation. Clearly we need to adopt cost-effective prevention efforts where we can. And we have to do so in a way that fits our health care infrastructure, including reliance on the private sector — a mix of for-profit and non-profit payers and providers — as the bedrock of our system. Two tactics that do fit, and can both lower costs and improve patient care, include more expansive use of mobile technology and of lay health workers. Both can be supported by non-profit intermediaries. Scalable models for these interventions are in use and successful in emerging economies, and are particularly germane where it comes to preventing illness and disease in low-income or geographically or linguistically hard-to-reach patient populations...