Health care nation appears in some high schools

Bryan Alexander 2024-05-06

As a futurist I study and produce scenarios.  These are short stories about possible futures, visions of what might come to pass and within which participants might see themselves.  They are a classic forecasting method.  (Check Wikipedia for a good introduction.)

Several years ago I offered once called “Health care nation,” wherein allied health becomes the leading sector of the American economy.  In it I imagine how colleges and universities might change. “Health care nation” has appeared in some of my presentations, in a blog post, and a chapter in Academic Next (2020).  Audiences usually appreciate it, but without much excitement, seeing it as simply very likely to occur.

I regularly check in on the world to see if “Health Care Nation” is starting to appear.  So far so good, as American allied health (i.e., everything in medical and public health, from surgery to psychotherapy to electronic medical records and hospital administration) continues to expand in scope and financial size.

Last month I found a very interesting datapoint for this scenario.  It looks like a major donor is trying to make one part of it happen.

DALL·E 2024-05-06 15.23.36 - A vibrant, futuristic cityscape showing healthcare as the leading sector of the economy. In the foreground, there is a large hospital with a prominent

There was an interesting presentation at the 2025 ASU-GSV summit about pre-med high schools.  I couldn’t be there, so here’s the description:

Currently, there are an estimated two million open healthcare industry jobs and an additional two million expected by 2031. These healthcare jobs provide a clear path to economic mobility and are resilient to automation or outsourcing – and many do not require a four-year degree.

In January, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced a $250 million initiative to create new high schools around the nation that will graduate students directly into these high-demand healthcare jobs. This first-of-its kind initiative pairs public education systems and hospitals in 10 communities across the country. These high schools will offer students robust academic programming, specialized healthcare classes, work-based learning at the partner health system and the opportunity to earn industry-valued credentials and certifications. Immediately upon graduation, students can directly enter healthcare jobs within the partner healthcare systems.

In my scenario I imagined something like this.  My focus was on colleges and universities, but I expected demand for such jobs would pile up in K-12:

we can envision secondary school students participating in more pre-pre-med classes than there are in 2018.  Indeed, we can expect high schools to offer more and new classes in such fields.  Perhaps some teens will hold well known medical figures to be aspirational heroes.  A growing number of them may already be familiar with eldercare practices, given demographics and housing trends.

It’s gratifying to see Bloomberg act on this and for New York City schools to participate.

I can see these high schools sending graduates into colleges and universities for health care study. What I didn’t anticipate back then was the idea of having high school graduates go directly into the allied health workforce without going to college (“Immediately upon graduation, students can directly enter healthcare jobs within the partner healthcare systems”).  That does fit into more recent developments about tearing “the paper ceiling” by reducing postsecondary requirements for jobs.

This Bloomberg-New York partnership is the first one I’ve seen along these lines.  Has anyone else seen others, or spotted further signs of our world becoming “Health Care Nation”?