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Shifting health challenges

Science and better living standards reduced infectious diseases. Unhealthy lifestyles, pollution, other anthropogenic causes turn into health burdens.

(© CC BY 2.0, CGP Grey)

Global health concerns are shifting. Advancements of science and better living standards have increased the opportunity to longer and healthier lives and reduced the incidence of infectious diseases.

However, obesity, malnutrition, antimicrobial resistance, and non-communicable diseases are increasingly becoming the health burden of our century.

Cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes, cancer, depression and anxiety are only some of the symptoms of unhealthy lifestyles, growing pollution and other anthropogenic causes, combined with reactive rather than preventive medicine.

Developments and Forecasts


Many developing countries have to deal with a “dual burden” of disease: continue to prevent and control infectious diseases, while also addressing the increasing prevalence of NCDs and of environmental health risks.

Epidemiologic transitions

Global causes of death

Noncommunicable Diseases - NCDs

Preventive medicine and the "new patient” concept

New health risks


Economics of health

Focus on Europe

There is increasing attention to preventive medicine, lifestyle changes, genetic manipulation to eliminate risks, and geriatric medicine.

NCDs: the leading causes of disability and death in the EU

Risks from air pollution

Technological innovation

Synergies among engineering, physical sciences, computation, and life sciences are revolutionising medicine and health -- advancing techniques to regenerate lost limbs and replace malfunctioning organs, tailored treatments for patients’ needs (using genomics and big data), while therapies to correct disease-causing genetic defects are already in clinical trials.

Preventive medicine

Health technology trends

More Developments and Forecasts

Potential Implications

​Access to quality health care should be a basic human right.

Policies to support innovation

Priority for prevention and early detection of diseases

SDG 3 - Policy note

More Potential Implications


Indicators to measure change and potential forecasts.

Population exposed to pollution levels above WHO guidelines
Source: OECD Green Growth Indicators 2017 (interactive map)


(© OECD)

More Indicators

Relevant EC Work

Policy papers and projects relevant to shifting health challenges

Models relevant to Shifting health challenges used by the EC

TIM (Tools for Innovation Monitoring) is a tool developed by the EC Joint Research Centre to monitor and better understand the different facets of innovation and technological development.
Use TIM to explore R&I related to shifting health challenges


(© JRC, European Commission)

The EMM News Brief, Europe Media Monitoring, is a fully automatic system that analyses both traditional and social media. It gathers and aggregates about 300,000 news articles per day from news portals world-wide in up to 70 languages. 
Use EMM News Brief to explore worldwide news related to shifting health challenges


(© EU, 2018)

Other resources

Selected resources relevant to shifting health challenges

More resources on this megatrend

Disclaimer: the content presented in this Megatrends Hub does not represent the views of the JRC or those of the EC, nor an endorsement by them.

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