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The future is in our hands

BMJ 2017; 357 doi: (Published 01 June 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;357:j2642
  1. Kamran Abbasi, executive editor
  1. The BMJ
  1. kabbasi{at}

The future demands attention this week. With a UK general election imminent we explore what motivates doctors to stand for parliament (doi:10.1136/bmj.j2601). Thirty two doctors are seeking election across the political spectrum. They are hospital consultants, general practitioners, and doctors in training. A recurring theme is how working as a doctor is good preparation for a career in politics.

“When the NHS is on its knees someone needs to stand up—and that is what I am doing,” explains John Dean, a consultant cardiologist standing for the National Health Action Party. “I hope that I will attract enough support to demonstrate to the next government that people do not support the continued dismantling of the NHS. Doctors are in a unique position to represent their communities in parliament.”

Other than the burning issue of social care funding, health hasn’t featured in the election campaign, thus far, as much as we might have expected. Our recent analysis of election manifestos identified differences in approaches to NHS funding but no radical new thinking (doi:10.1136/bmj.j2467). The direction of NHS travel is an issue that looks set to re-ignite once this election is done.

A recent meeting of G20 health ministers, however, highlighted the centrality of health to all government policies ( The theme will continue to be developed at high level multilateral meetings. Although this approach feels intuitively right to clinicians, the argument to place health in all policies needs to be won with prime ministers and ministers of finance. All doctors should lobby for this outcome, especially those successful in the coming general election.

Last month, the world’s governments elected their minister for health, the new director general of the World Health Organization—an important appointment. WHO’s handling of the Ebola outbreak left it a weaker organisation, and its chronic funding challenges are further stressed by Donald Trump’s global health strategy. WHO’s role in global health needs to be urgently redefined. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is a doctor and a politician. Importantly, he is the first African person to head WHO (doi:10.1136/bmj.j2605), and brings with him the goodwill of the world.

Africa, then, will dictate the future of health, and perhaps the planet. Andy Haines and colleagues describe how global environmental change, as a result of growing demand for resources and energy, threatens health (doi:10.1136/bmj.j2358). They say that we are living in a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, in which human activities are the dominant driving forces transforming the Earth’s natural systems. From the future health of people in our constituencies to the future of our planet, these big decisions are in our hands.

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