Trends and Issues in Health Care Professions

Like many careers in America, the health care profession is changing. Dozens of new issues and trends are emerging. One of the major new skills health care professionals will have to perfect is the ability to change and to deal with uncertainty. Changing demographics -- the age, racial makeup and income levels of those seeking care -- will be important, as will funding sources and changes in primary care and many areas of specialization.

Aging

One of the most important issues affecting health care is the rapid aging of the population. As the baby boomers begin to retire, the pressures on the health care industry will become enormous. This includes issues of cost, overcrowding and pressure on primary care providers to retain quality while dealing with a large influx of patients. The specialty of geriatrics, traditionally underfunded and understaffed, will need to develop incentive programs to attract younger practitioners into the field.

Demographics

Demographics includes the changing ethnic and racial foundation of America, as well as social and economic factors. An increase in single-parent families, children in poverty and radically different approaches to what constitutes "health" is a central issue facing health care over the next generation or two. This may increase pressures on an overburdened health care industry and drive up costs. Like nearly every trend in health care, it will also put additional pressure on primary care doctors and family practitioners. As immigration (with health care problems specific to the third world) continues to rise, pressure on the primary aspect of health care may increase as new diseases and problems arrive.

Prevention

Preventive health care is emerging as a distinct field with its own contributions. It is an important means of controlling costs and encouraging healthy habits. In difficult economic times, healthful habits become centrally important. Often, cheap food means unhealthy food (highly processed "junk" or "fast" food), and struggling families are likely to let their gym memberships lapse. Physical fitness and healthy eating are two main pillars of prevention, but continued economic problems are likely to make this increasingly difficult to finance.