My City: what’s good for me is good for you
The caring city is competitive
The Caring Cities forum in July looked at many issues that are pressing not just within Africa but to cities (and other communities) everywhere through the idea of ‘urban Ubuntu’ – sharing and social responsiveness as a key to growth. As urban thinkers, we can learn powerful lessons from Southern Africa’s organic and different responses to growing urban challenges. Chiefly, it shows how putting a holistic idea of ‘care’ at the center of our cities can improve infrastructure, services and competitiveness of the city as a whole. Perhaps it’s time for a look at why care is so important now as we enter the age of the city.
We’re in a period of unprecedented urban development in which we can take part and make real change, as citizens and through creating more connected and integrated services for everyone to use. Propelled by integration of services, better IT and communications, and a need to ensure best use of resources, now more than ever we are seeing true urban interdependency where integrated care services including health, social, housing, age care etc, focus on improving quality of life as an inescapable part of competitiveness.
How can we, as people and city thinkers, help to do this? Perhaps, by examining the principles of ‘urban ubuntu’, we can create more responsive services that share wealth in the right way to create the community we all want and which we all need.
- Our approach to delivering care services needs to be simpler, more efficient, and more cost-effective. We can align improved care with relatively simple changes using current technology to treat all aspects of care as one, focused on people within the community, not on whether someone is qualified as a patient, subject of care, or not.
- By integrating these areas, which are often treated as distinct silos in many cities, into a single service (with a unified interface) treating the end-user, the citizen, as a ‘care system of one’. We can remove silos between health and social services, ensure nobody falls in the gaps, and use structured and unstructured information to drive better insight into people’s lives, needs and to catch problems more early on. In turn, we can save the city money and time. We can, in effect, square the circle, enabling efficiency and care simultaneously. This breaks the current myth that care always has to be expensive; in fact, it is the pathway to the Healthy City.
- Then lets’ embrace what we might term a full ‘digital health’ agenda. While overtly technological solutions to healthcare are often debunked in current media, we will see continuing and unavoidable movement towards full digital health solutions. These services, which emphasize digital interfaces as a way to prioritize treatment by professionals and aid in self-diagnosis for other cases, filter out simple cases, use care resources on cases that are higher-priority, and (again) both cut costs and increase speed of service while creating better care for citizens because doctors and care workers will be working on areas of real need, guided by automated dialogs between care systems and citizens.
- Then let’s look deeper into the future needs we must address. This will include embedding new thinking on taking care of older citizens and better preventive healthcare for chronic and age-related problems as part of service provision: putting in place better nutritional advice and self-care programs to encourage citizens to live better, be happier, and therefore enable government to care for them more effectively.
What connects all these ideas? That care and efficiency are the same – just as care and competitiveness are inextricably linked. Digital technologies can enable, not prevent, holistic care – by connecting services, enabling care professionals to understand and cope with the changing nature of what their communities need from care services – and therefore, how service investment and technology development is directed.
By connecting efficiency and holistic care within our urban environments, we will have our own Ubuntu: the future of people will be wider, their productivity realized over a longer time frame, and they will be happier and safer as well.