What will the prevalent ailments of the future be?

Luke Sewell

Luke Sewell

Luke Sewell has a background in medical writing and biology. He now works for providing innovative scientific translation solutions in Spanish, English, French and Portuguese.

Luke Sewell

Luke Sewell

Luke Sewell has a background in medical writing and biology. He now works for providing innovative scientific translation solutions in Spanish, English, French and Portuguese.


hat will the prevalent ailments affecting humanity be over the next few years? And how will the content we translate in the medical translation industry be influenced or not by these trends?

Our bodies are faltering as the air we breathe turns sour in our cities. The food we eat is purported to cause us harm while it nourishes us, and the pressure we feel to keep working harder increases.

There is a growing movement toward holistic health in many developed economies. People are realizing that without health, very little remains. However, there is already damage done to society and its established unhealthy expectations and habits. Even while we eradicate some ailments and unhealthy norms, new modern diseases prevail and require treatment.

At times it feels as if humanity won’t make it to the end of the month with the number of existential threats that seem to be growing!

We don’t tend to translate materials about the plague, gout or scurvy too much — progress has eliminated these from the developed world. And as we look at what therapy areas we currently translate in, it does make you question what kinds of ailments we will be translating in the future.

Not all modern health issues require the standard drug, clinical trial process and the inherent huge amount of documentation that goes along with this. Not all modern ailments are directly treatable with drugs, although it is drugs that tend to increase translation demand. That being said, all new medical conditions eventually affect the physiology of the human and therefore the pharmaceutical industry’s response.

So does it matter to the medical translation industry?

As I type this from my digital bastion, our decentralized translation industry represents the epitome of the developing issues facing humanity, and also where we might find the green shoots for solution.

Are we not all working 24/7, faster than ever with less face-to-face human contact? Digital stress, digital competition, digital relations. Our real world stressors decrease as our virtual lives become more important, and therefore stressful.

Are we not slouching at our screens and getting frustrated at the breakneck speed of production and delivery? We might have more physical resources and choice as a result but the burden of freedom can come at a cost to the unprepared.

Scientific localization is an industry that not only epitomizes the global digital shift and its potential health consequences, but we also have close, direct contact to information regarding its physiological consequences. We actually read and translate the repercussions of our modern lifestyle choices via the increasing number of requests we are translating in the therapy areas such as anxiety, cancer and diabetes. Often, we or someone we know suffers from these ailments, as we wake up to log on to our computers and translate the very same clinical trials trying to solve them.

So what might these growing health threats be over the coming years, and will there be a growing number of translation requests in these therapy areas?


It’s hard to write that one down, and yet it grows in our society as fast as it does in its patients. This multicaused, multilayered disease is only increasing in prevalence. As undeveloped counties become more industrialized, Western ailments grow from within.

The quantity of documentation and drug-related research sent for translation in this therapy area is sizeable and growing. Oncology as a specialist translation area is in high demand. Translations provide a key communication medium to facilitate the transfer of data and knowledge between developed and less developed economies.

Hopefully one day there will be no need for oncology translators or oncology at all, as it goes the same way as the plague and settles into its place in history.


The number of drugs to treat obesity is very low, so while this is a growing health problem, it is not something that would be a specialist therapy area with a high translation demand.

Treating obesity is more a lifestyle direction and a path toward health. It involves steering the patient away from the eventual development of other common Western diseases, such as cardiovascular disease or stoke — areas where there is a high and growing translation demand.


In the shadow that follows obesity, with the influx of Western food into Latin American and other developing countries’ diets, the number of diabetic patients globally has ballooned.

It seems the number of drugs to treat and control the condition has also grown, as well as the demand for translators focused in this area.


Not physiological but just as damaging, and in a world where we are striving beyond survival and seeking meaning, many are realizing the reality of our ever-more fragmented and divided lives.

People are getting lonelier, and that is not helping our health. As with obesity, some proactive steps can help nip this in the bud, it’s not something that we would translate for often. However, it will be a key health issue over the coming years, and one that can have profound physiological consequences if left untreated.

Cancer is often considered a disease of affluence, and it is clearly associated with wealthier countries in higher proportions.  However, about 70% of cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. Source: GLOBOCAN, 2008.

Cancer is often considered a disease of affluence, and it is clearly associated with wealthier countries in higher proportions. However, about 70% of cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. Source: GLOBOCAN, 2008.

Our relationships are becoming more digital and less real, and our families more fragmented as people move around the world in search of opportunities. We have never been more connected to seven billion people, yet many feel more isolated from each other than ever.

The aging demographic in the modern economy also trends toward loneliness, as the elderly often live alone. According to a report by the Pew Research Center, “The percentage of older adults who live alone quintupled from 6 percent in 1900 to a peak of 29 percent in 1990, and has slowly declined since then, to 26 percent in 2014.”

There are not many documents to translate about how to treat loneliness outside the charity sphere. However, loneliness has been linked to an increased likelihood of cardiovascular disease, anxiety and stroke. These related outcomes are in high demand in medical translation requests.

Mental health disorders

Humans need humans, and isolation real or perceived can contribute to mental heath issues. In the modern world, there are a myriad of physiological disorders and addictions.

This will almost certainly be a growing problem for humanity over the coming years — our physical needs may be covered, while demands on the mind increase.

My experience in medical translation has been that mental health research and translation is sparse, but the physiological consequences and treatments are many. And yet they do not exist in isolation — one affects the other and we will see both growing over the next decade.

The great freedom we can obtain by working in a decentralized remote workforce, while it has its drawbacks, can be a vehicle to drive a person toward becoming more realized and less unhealthy. The choice is up to the individual. As humanity progresses, hopefully one day we will reach a world free of sickness, and the medical translation industry will cease to be about drugs to cure ailments, but will be more about how to promote happiness.

Project-world connections

An isolated Spanish to English adverse event report you’re translating may be much more connected to the world in its entirety, both past and future, than the initial read might first indicate. In fact, the digital medium and work structure through which it was sent might be contributing to the therapy area’s own existence.

So what is the way forward? Should we stop translating and live in the forest?

Many problems are entities that are not yet ready to be solved with quick fixes, but are more paradoxes to be managed long-term and perhaps even enjoyed. Go for a walk after translating something about the damaging effects of modern life on the cardiovascular system. Call a friend and breathe.

We might be creating new problems with our solutions to old problems, but humanity is trying to move forward on an intergenerational level. At least when things are translated more people can access this development!

The irony of the pharmaceutical and its subsequent medical translation industry is that in a perfect world, they would not exist as they serve only to solve our undesirable health issues.

While this noble quest has wonderful productive results for humanity, our ultimate goal should be to eradicate our dependence on them. We delight in sharing information that can reduce the prevalence of a condition but at the same time, would prefer that condition not to exist.

Perhaps one day someone will type the last oncology report, or the last diabetic drug adverse event report, and will move on to translate and spread information about the next challenge that faces humanity.