Best Ideas 2018 features all the nominated entries submitted to the Youth Citizen Entrepreneurship Competition under ‘Submit your Idea’ category. All the entries consist of innovative solution or proposition for an enterprise that champions the Sustainable Development Goals. They can be on the conceptual, planning, or start-up stage. If you want to know the 10 finalists in this category, click HERE
Universal Healthcare Improvement
Explain your idea in details:
My idea is to use placebo effect to optimise health outcomes around the world, but with a particular focus on areas where there is limited access to treatment. Open-label placebos (placebos where the person taking them knows they are a placebo) have been proven to be very effective, if the patient is educated into the mechanisms of the placebo effect, how they work and what to expect. The efforts in developing countries will be supported financially via exploration of the same factors in developed countries. Pharmaceutical companies and healthcare providers, for example, have a great vested interested in understanding how to optimise treatments, by making the most of the placebo effect. There are many different types of placebo effect, which can be applied in different ways. For example, placebo effects that relate to anticipated health benefits could be integrated into the doctor-patient relationship and the healthcare environment. Another type of the placebo effect is often referred to as immune conditioning. Benedetti demonstrated that Parkinsonian patients could be given an active drug for 4 days, followed by a placebo for 2 days. And they would continue to respond to the placebo for 48 hours. This may not seem like a long time, but Benedetti reduced the amount of active medication required by 1/3. Similar effects have been found in other conditions and it has also been demonstrated in animals. But this method has strong potential to help in areas with limited access to medicine. By reducing the amount of medication required by 1/3, 1/3 more people could be treated with existing supplies and the treatment could be 1/3 less expensive per person.
Expected impact of your idea on sustainable development
The primary SDG that we would be focussed on is 'Good Health and Wellbeing', but we would also hope to reduce inequalities through providing more people with access to healthcare. We could measure our success in these areas, by a number of different factors depending upon our level of development. To start off with, we may have relatively little impact on developing countries, as we must invest in research and developing the income stream to start with. Based on research, including existing research, we will develop educational resources and methods to exploit the placebo effect in healthcare. These will be put to use across areas where access to treatment is pressured. But we will also market this approach to stakeholders in developed countries to help people make the most of their medication and to have faster recovery rates etc. Research impact is often measured by publications, citations and how much you are able to engage with the research community. But our work in developing countries, would likely be best measured by the improvement in health outcomes inc. quality of life and recovery rates etc.
Plans for implementation and sustainability
First, we must conduct a complete critical review of existing research in the area. We will use this to develop educational tools and approaches to placebo use, in collaboration with universities, that will appeal to stakeholders in developed countries. This will act as a proof of concept product, to encourage stakeholders to invest in further research in the area. We will also explore how best to implement a consumer programme in which individual people can potentially purchase educational materials and placebos to help them make the most of their treatments, or to improve other factors of their life i.e. build confidence etc. These two methods will be based on research and will help us to obtain the funding to implement similar schemes in developing countries, where access to medicine is an issue. Raising the profile of the open-label placebo method, will also help us to obtain funding from philanthropic organisations and other NGOs.
I am 24 years old, and I have one degree in Art History and one in Neuroscience. I am also hoping to study Medicine in the future. I have a very broad interest, which has led me to have a broad base of knowledge and skills. This allows me to connect information in innovative ways, which has led to this idea, and success in my healthcare marketing career. A precursor to the idea presented here, led me to participate in the St Gallen Symposium. I was a semi-finalist for the Wings of Excellence Award and a winner of the Auction for Ideas competition. As part of this, I got the opportunity to develop this idea, with a diverse international group of people from many different backgrounds. I've been working on this idea ever since I returned from St Gallen and I'm looking for ways to take it to the next level.