Global health is a broad subject and encompasses the study, research, and practice of medicine with a focus on improving health and healthcare equity globally. This area of health is focused on diseases that are widespread, public health or global health issues.
Huge advancements in technology, healthcare policy, medicine, and education are taking place globally and are impacting the application of health and medicine, producing positive changes in the form of reduced mortality rates from preventable diseases and the spread of harmful pathogens.
The efforts include the production of new vaccines for preventable diseases that are facilitating public health. There is also favorable progress in treating heart diseases and cancer.
Yet global health still remains largely under-supported and under-funded. While the Global Goals for Sustainable Development set out to achieve universal healthcare by 2030, tackling global health issues has been challenging.
Here’s a rundown of some of the issues in global health:
Fragmented healthcare systems
In many parts of the world, different levels of government are responsible for different aspects of healthcare. This can lead to duplication of services and a lack of coordination between different providers, making it difficult for patients to get the care they need.
Disharmony between healthcare services lead to many other problems:
- Poor quality of care – This is due to several factors, including a lack of trained personnel and sufficient resources. Another major reason for the provision of poor healthcare services is the negligence on part of the medical staff. These malpractices often occur during childbirth deliveries. Newborns are delicate and delivery is a complicated process, meaning that if proper protocol isn’t observed, the results are often damaging to the child’s health. Most common injury sustained through birthing complications from medical negligence is erb’s palsy, a disease that causes brain damage in the newborns. If your child suffered from erb’s palsy, you can pursue an erbs palsy claims to get compensated for your troubles.
- Lack of access to quality healthcare – According to the World Health Organization, nearly half of the world’s population does not have access to essential health services, let alone specialized care. This inaccessibility problem is especially prevalent in developing countries, where resources are often scarce. The lack of access to basic and quality healthcare can lead to a host of other problems, including the increased mortality rates and the spread of diseases.
- High cost of care – Another major challenge facing global health is the high cost of care. In many parts of the world, healthcare is simply too expensive for most people to afford. This can lead to catastrophic financial consequences for families and even discourage people from seeking needed care in the first place.
The World Health Organization estimates that 1 in 4 deaths are caused by environmental factors, like air pollution and climate change. This is a global problem, but it has a disproportionate impact on the world’s most vulnerable people and places — those who are least able to protect themselves against adverse health effects.
Air pollution kills more than 13 million people worldwide annually, and often cause heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and other serious conditions. Children are particularly vulnerable because they are still in development, making them susceptible to air pollution’s negative effects.
Climate change also poses a major threat to public health. Rising temperatures can worsen allergies and asthma, increase hospital admissions for respiratory illnesses, like bronchitis and pneumonia, and lead to an increase in heat-related deaths (since many hospitals lack proper air conditioning). Climate-related change also facilitates the spread of infectious diseases, like cholera or malaria.
The biggest challenge facing global health is the occurrence of pandemics. Globalization or global interconnectedness causes diseases to spread easily. Just like with the COVID-19, new diseases that evolve or re-emerge are now much more likely to spread across borders faster. Problems like a lack of basic health education and poor health access are strong factors that catalyze the spread of diseases around the world.
It has been more than two years now since the coronavirus pandemic started, but many countries are still struggling with immunization. Obstacles to immunization are hampering steps taken by healthcare organizations to stop the spread. To top it off, the gene mutation of the virus has resulted in newer variants emerging that are even more infectious.
The WHO has stated that “the nature of global health security is changing,” and as a result, they have upgraded their response plans to include pandemic preparedness.
Lack of access to clean water and healthy food
Globally, 2.2 billion people lack access to safe drinking water services, and 4.5 billion people lack proper sanitation. In the developing countries, people often live without adequate sanitation facilities and depend on dirty water sources, such as rivers and ponds, for their daily water requirements. This lack of access to clean drinking water leads to increased risks of waterborne diseases, which is a major global health concern.
The lack of access to clean water and healthy food can cause many health problems. Waterborne diseases, such as cholera, typhoid fever, dysentery, and diarrhea are still major causes of death in many countries.
Children under 5-years are especially vulnerable because they may not be able to get the nutrients or vitamins they need from their diets. This can lead to malnutrition which causes stunted growth and delays mental development. According to the WHO, chronic malnutrition kills 3 million children under 5 every year.
One of the biggest challenges facing global health is the lack of access to medical resources in conflict-affected areas. The Syrian Civil War has been raging since 2011, and it has had a devastating impact on the lives of millions. The war has killed more than 500,000 people, injured over 1 million, and displaced more than 6 million more.
The conflict has decimated Syria’s infrastructure and economy, making it difficult for people to receive necessities like food, clean water, and healthcare. This is especially true in rebel-held areas where hospitals have been attacked or destroyed by airstrikes or other attacks.
Mental health disorders are among the most common health conditions in the world, affecting an estimated 970 million people globally. Mental health disorders can lead to a wide range of negative outcomes, including suicide, substance abuse, and problems with work, relationships, and physical health.
Global health is an important but an evolving concept. The challenges that affect it are deeply rooted in the world we live in. New medical technologies have the potential to improve lives and reduce hardship, but that requires vast resources and a strong commitment to research and development. The lack of globally enforceable laws and regimes has made implementing global-health initiatives a complicated ordeal. Devising laws and policies, and funding of the establishment of a global-health regime could create opportunities for overcoming the above-mentioned health challenges.