By Dr. Josh Palgi
Global Health has been defined as the area of study, research and practice that places a priority on improving health and achieving equality in health for all people worldwide.
So, global health is about worldwide improvement of health, reduction of disparities and protection against global threats that disregard national borders. The major international agency for health is the World Health Organization (WHO). Other important agencies on global health activities include UNICEF, World Food Program (WEP), the United Nations University – International Institute for Global Health, and the World Bank.
Global Health is a research field combine medical and social science disciplines, including demography, economics, epidemiology, political economy and sociology. It focuses on determinants and distribution of health in international contexts.
Epidemiological Prospective – identifies global health problems Medical Prospective – describes the pathology of major diseases, and promotes prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of their diseases Economic Prospective – emphasizing the cost – effectiveness and the cost – benefit. Individual health analysis from this prospective focuses on the demand and supply of health.
Political Approach – emphasizing political economy, considerations applied to global health, studying production, buying and selling, and their relations with law, custom, and government.
Despite incredible improvements in health since 1950, there are still a number of challenges, which should have been easy to solve.
Think about it:
- One billion people lack access to the health care system
- 36 million deaths each year are caused by no communicable disease, such as cardiovascular disease (about 17 million deaths), cancer (about 7.6 million deaths), diabetes (about 1.3 million deaths) and chronic lung disease (about 4.2 million deaths)
- Over 7.5 million children under the age of 5 die from malnutrition and mostly preventable diseases each year
- Close to 6.7 million people die of infectious diseases
- 33.4 million living with HIV
- Tuberculosis kills 1.7 million people each year, with 9.4 million new cases a year
- 1.6 million people will die from pneumococcal disease every year – making it the number one vaccine preventable cause of death worldwide (more than half of the victims are children)
- Malaria causes 225 million active illnesses and over 780,000 deaths annually
- 164,000 people mostly children under 5 have died from measles
Who repeatedly point out that many of these diseases are “diseases of poverty” even though the world has enough wealth to help address most of the problem and alleviate more of the suffering.
To address these health issues, three principles of action have been suggested:
1. Improve the condition of daily life, the circumstances in which people are born, grow, live, work and age
2. Tackle the inequitable distribution of power, money and resources, the drivers of these conditions of daily life – globally, nationally and locally
3. Measure the problem, evaluate action, expand the knowledge base, and raise public awareness about the social determinants of health
The field of global health is undergoing a technological revolution. Mobile health and telemedicine are poised to define the future of health care delivery. Challenges to health are challenges to society. As the world becomes more urban and interconnected, diverse perspectives must merge in order to prudently shape the future of Global Health.
Dr. Palgi is a professor in Kean’s Physical Education, Health and Recreation Department.