The Future of Health with Dr Rob Grenfell 

In 2020, global healthcare was tested beyond its limit. The once-in-a-century pandemic sent shockwaves world-wide. Intensive care units reached capacity. Treatments were vetted and discredited. Vaccines were made at rapid speed. 

With so much uncertainly around, many of us have never been more conscious of our physical, emotional, social and spiritual health. Which got us thinking – where is the future of health headed? 

Mike sat down with Dr Rob Grenfell, who is the Director of Health and Biosecurity at the CSIRO, Australia’s leading scientific research organisation to find out. 

Although this was filmed before the COVID-19 outbreak, Rob’s insights, particularly around the risks of pandemics, turned out to be truly prophetic.

Who is Rob Grenfell 

Rob is a health activist and visionary, and began his career as a country doctor. He has held executive roles at the National Heart Foundation and was the National Medical Director at Bupa Australia in New Zealand. 

Rob has the gift of imagination and combines this with his deep understanding of science and technology. At CISRIO, he has been behind programs that have handled major national and international bio-security challenges, which have helped to protect the health of the Australia’s farming sector, environment, people and general way of life. 

When Mike met Rob 

Mike and Rob have actually known each other for many years. They both live in Melbourne, Australia and have even tackled another big topic together alongside UK based futurists Rohit Talwar. Check out The Future of Travel here. 

But in this eye opening conversation, they’re discussing everything from wearable tech to human life expectancy and how AI is helping us to create healthier habits. 

“We’re starting to take mental health management straight to you.”

Dr Rob Grenfell

Let’s get in to it. 

What does the future of health look like? 

According to Rob, just like many other sectors, the future of health will be driven by data. But while some industries are difficult to predict, major developments in healthcare are often expected. 

This is mostly due to the strict regulations at play. Think about it – you wouldn’t want to be prescribed something that might cause harm, would you? Ensuring the safety of treatments and testing devices is absolutely paramount, which is why Rob says that many of the innovations being experimented with now could take up to 15 years to come into practice. 

Rob told Mike that one day soon, micro senses will be able to measure our stress levels. Real-time monitoring of blood sugars and blood pressure is also being investigated, which Rob says will completely revolutionise the way diabetes and heart disease is managed. 

Does that mean wearable tech will only get more advanced? 

It certainly seems so. Rob revealed that in the future, our devices will be able to alert a clinician of a patient’s health status, meaning the perfunctory ‘how are you feeling?’ question we’ve come to expect from doctors will be discarded in favour of concrete (and accurate) data. 

Rob detailed that right now, scientists are plotting systems that can identify our risk for anxiety, depression and even dementia. There is in fact an enormous amount of time and research being invested in psychological wellbeing. Chatbots are being trialed to help manage our mental health, and in the next 10 – 15 years these bots will likely communicate to us via our smartphones (or whichever device we’re using by then). 

What’s more, soon technology will also be able to pinpoint how well a patient is recovering from a heart attack or another serious physical health condition. 

Outliving live-threatening diseases and illnesses has never felt more likely. 

But wait – does that mean we’re going to live forever?

Rob agrees that there is a huge surge in people living past their 80s, 90s and even 100s, recalling that the oldest patient he has treated lived until she was 109 years old. 

In the 1990s, the life expectancy for an average male was around 60 but most people born today will make it close (if not beyond) 100. Rob says the key concern is less about life-expectancy and more about quality of life. 

Which is where these real-time diagnostics can help. In the future, the technology is expected to become so radical that healthcare we will no longer be treating illnesses, only preventing them. 

There’s even talk of growing body parts …. 

Growing body parts! What’s that about?

Have you heard of organoids? Not many people have, but Rob describes them as the cultures of our body cells. Today, these tissue cultures are being crafted to replicate a human organ. In effect, scientists are using organoids to determine the nature of specific diseases and find a means to treat them. 

The science has become so advanced that some institutes are now growing three dimensional guts to test treatment therapies. Rob says it’s only a matter of time too before growing kidneys for human transplant becomes a possibility. The future of health is sounding pretty exciting to us. 

Embracing the future of health during a global health crisis 

Given we are currently living through one of the greatest health crises in history, we think this conversation with Rob will offer comfort in a time of true chaos. We’re guessing you’ve been thinking about your physical and mental wellbeing more than ever before, and we know some of you will watch this episode from your homes while in lockdown due to COVID-19. 

We hope exploring the beautiful mind of Dr Rob Grenfell leaves you feeling a little less alone.

Before you go, we need to ask you something…

We’re here to make a change, but we need your help.

The purpose of this series is to move humanity forward, think bigger and cast our minds into the future.

The best conversations happen now so please, get involved, share the love and leave a comment below.


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