Medical Progress: for Health AND the Economy

Medical Progress: for Health AND the Economy

06.21.12 | By

As we march slowly toward an economic rebound, a new study predicts that 5.6 million new healthcare jobs will be created in America by 2020. The report was released by the Georgetown University Center for Education and the Workforce.

"Healthcare will continue to grow fastest and provide some of the best paying jobs in the nation," the authors write, "But the people in these jobs will increasingly require higher levels of education to enter the field and continuous certification once they are in."

In other words, the healthcare sector looks to be the source of significant job growth over the next decade or so. The innovative biopharmaceutical research sector's contribution to creating new jobs is already significant. The industry already provides nearly 650,000 direct jobs, supporting a total of roughly 4 million jobs. These are jobs in every state in the country and jobs that make significant contributions to building communities - as well as the tax revenues that state and local governments depend on.

But, as we contemplate how growth in the industry and healthcare needs may spur job growth, it is also critical to begin thinking about healthcare in a very different way. Currently, so much of how we view healthcare - and its cost - is through a fiscal lens. Sometimes, it seems as though every policymaker wanting to enhance a budget's bottom-line looks to healthcare as a place to restrain or even cut costs. While that is understandable, especially in the current economic climate, it is also short-sighted.

We need to start thinking about healthcare - especially healthcare innovation such as new therapies, medical advances and improved access - as beneficial to the economy. In short, we need to think about healthcare in a very different way.

Today - and we say this frequently - the United States leads the globe in new, needed medicine development and the creation of new therapies. Not only are these developments important in the effort to improve health and help patients in the United States, they are critically important for patients and global healthcare systems. Leading the globe in biopharmaceutical R&D, however, also helps to create jobs and build economic strength in this country.

Last year, for example, PhRMA member companies invested nearly $50 billion in new medical R&D. And a recent report by the National Science Board of the National Science Foundation echoed the message of the role R&D investment plays in the sector, finding that the biopharmaceutical sector represents an astonishing 20% of all domestic R&D funded by U.S. businesses.

So long as we only view healthcare through the lens of fiscal constraint and not take the broader view that medical innovation and progress not only benefit patients but also lead to economic innovation and progress, we risk losing the health and economic contributions of one of the most dynamic global industries.

Interestingly, countries like China, India, Russia, Singapore and others have strategic plans in place to develop strong domestic biopharmaceutical research sectors and to woo R&D, testing and production to their shores. They understand not only the connection between innovation and better health and how it contributes to economic growth. All of which raises the question: if they get it, can't we also?

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