Wednesday, May 22, 2024

New insights briefing examines role of technology in future health

Manatū Hauora’s first Long-term Insight Briefing, tabled in Parliament today, has examined the role technology and information could play in keeping people healthy in the future, with a particular focus on genomics and artificial intelligence.

Long-term Insights Briefings are required under the Public Service Act 2020 to help identify long-term trends, risks and opportunities that affect or may affect New Zealanders.

The briefing, Precision health: exploring opportunities and challenges to predict, prevent, diagnose and treat health needs more precisely in Aotearoa New Zealand, examines how new technology might help health professionals use ‘precision health’ methods to diagnose and manage a range of health conditions in the next 10 years and beyond.

‘Precision health’ is a growing field that aims to use current and emerging technologies and all available information, such as an individual’s genome, current biophysical measures and environment to predict, prevent, diagnose and treat health needs more precisely for the benefits of individuals and their whānau.

Examples of precision health might include use of genomic testing to identify genetic variants, predicting risk of cancer, rare diseases and chronic conditions such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease and use of machine learning algorithms to support analysis of medical imaging analysis, such as X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

“Precision health technologies are developing rapidly and present a range of new approaches to the diagnosis and management of a range of health conditions,” says Chief Science Advisor at Manatū Hauora, Dr Ian Town.

“To realise opportunities precision health offers, we need to ensure we have the necessary systems, investments, workforce and regulation in place to mitigate risks and use tools for collective benefit, in a way that is equitable and meets our Te Tiriti o Waitangi obligations,” says Maree Roberts, Deputy Director-General, Strategy, Policy and Legislation.

“This piece of work represents the start of a conversation with a wide range of stakeholders about how we use current and emerging technologies towards precision health. It is also part of a much larger conversation to understand how new technology can help improve the health of all New Zealanders.”

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