Santander, Spain: Where “smarter” meets “healthier”

06 June 2013 | Elena Bonfiglioli, Senior Director, Health Industry, EMEA

Is a smart city also a healthier city? In theory the answer is yes. In reality, the path from smart city to healthier city is not assured.

Among the cities that have started the journey to becoming smart cities, most are focused on energy efficiency, environmental sustainability, intelligent buildings and sensors, transportation, and infrastructure. Only a few are also focused on the “human factor”—the people-side of the sustainability equation: education, health, wellbeing, and social services.  Santander, Spain, is one such city.

When I visited Santander, I saw a clear sign of their progress in this regard. Under the leadership of Íñigo de la Serna, Mayor of Santander, the city is leading the way and investing to combine both attributes: smarter and healthier. By doing so, I think Santander is laying the foundation for long-term success. 

As cities witness a sharp rise in noncommunicable diseases, they experience the heavy burden and cost of having to support more citizens facing new issues such as mental health, obesity, diabetes, alcoholism, drug abuse, stress, and other chronic conditions. Often this requires that cities provide more services for prevention, rehabilitation, social care, case management, and condition management. And these services can be effectively managed and delivered to citizens closer to home, in community settings and beyond the perimeter of the hospitals. 

As a result, prevention, social care, and services drive how cities like Santander think about the wellbeing of their citizens. By adopting this double focus on smarter and healthier, Santander is building a sustainable foundation for greater competitiveness, employability, and growth. They’re living the adage, “Health is wealth,” and proving that healthier societies are indeed more prosperous.  Their investment in wellness and preventive care will ease pressure on city services and increase sustainability of city budgets over the long term. And the idea is spreading. Over the last few months, since the launch of the Healthier Cities for Healthier Citizens vision and Partners’ Coalition, I’ve used my blog to document similar progress across Europe in Denmark, Sweden, Spain, the UK and elsewhere.

When I met with the mayor of Santander, I experienced firsthand his focus on delivering innovative services in a holistic way. Mayor Íñigo de la Serna attended the launch of the MedCitas Appointment Booking and Pharmacy Applications, which were developed by the local technology innovation company Netboss eHealth under the banner of the Coalition of Partners for Healthier Citizens. The applications are designed to put healthier lifestyle choices at everyone’s fingertips, allowing citizens to use mobile apps to book and manage health appointments. It’s a strong first step on the journey to bring social services closer to citizens, so services are accessible anywhere and anytime, are tailored to individual and family needs, and are delivered in close partnership with medical and social services professionals. 

At the launch event, it was my honor to recognize the mayor with the Microsoft and Netboss Award for Excellence and Innovation for Healthier Cities. Complementing Santander’s current activities as a smart city, we’re proud at Microsoft to enhance our partnership and build a strong ecosystem of innovators and solutions for health and wellbeing. What could be more important?

The story continues to evolve. Watch for additional thoughts after I speak at the Ovum Smart Cities Conference on Tuesday, June 11, and let’s continue the dialog about how Netboss applications and progressive cities are securing the future through innovative technology and healthier citizens.

Have a comment or opinion on this post? Have a question for the author? Please e-mail us at health@microsoft.com.

 
Elena Bonfiglioli
Senior Director, Health Industry, EMEA