The outbreak of the cholera epidemic in 1984 opened a conversation about the need for a scientific discipline that studies health issues across the globe. This discipline is increasingly needed when the world is experiencing another outbreak of malaria to tuberculosis that occurred decades later and persists to this day.
Cross-border health events, including those related to the spread of disease, are the background for the emergence of a discipline called global health. Global health is translated as two things that intersect with each other. First, global health is all health issues concerning the world’s population. Second, global health is an area of study, research, and practice that focuses on efforts to increase the degree and fulfillment of access to health for the entire world population.
Global health has a wide range of themes, but generally includes political and economic issues that affect health. Several issues that have become a concern of this discipline in the past decade are related to the degree of world public health, health disparities, and the mechanism for protecting the world community from global health problems.
The emergence of Covid-19 is a serious challenge to global health. More clearly, the WHO explained that the Covid-19 pandemic erased other public health achievements that had been fought for over the past two decades, particularly related to stopping the spread of infectious diseases and improving the health status of mothers and children.
The problem is, even with or without a pandemic, the world has experienced various global health problems. So, what are the global health challenges that the world community needs to face in the next decade?
Climate Crisis to Infectious Diseases
In a report entitled Urgent health challenges for the next decade WHO lists several global health challenges that need to be faced in the next ten years. This report is a summary of the responses of various experts and places health as a very valuable future investment.
First, understand the relationship between the climate crisis and health issues. The climate crisis is a term that describes the situation of global warming, climate change, and its consequences on earth. This term is generally used to describe the dangers of global warming to the earth. The climate crisis is caused by various factors, ranging from air pollution to the depletion of the ozone layer due to industrial activities.
This crisis has a serious impact on health. WHO notes that air pollution alone kills at least seven million people every year. In addition, because it also causes weather anomalies, the climate crisis plays a major role in causing malnutrition and increasing the spread of endemic diseases, such as malaria. That has not been added to the impact of the presence of carbon emissions which are strongly associated with the emergence of heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer, and other chronic respiratory diseases.
Second, providing access to health in crisis and conflict areas. Areas of crisis and conflict are understood as spaces for human rights and legal violations caused by armed wars, natural disasters, or political and social instability.
WHO noted that various disease outbreaks that emerged in 2019 occurred in areas of prolonged conflict. In some cases, there has even been a trend of personnel and health facilities experiencing physical and mental attacks in crisis areas. Attacks on health facilities cut off access to health services that are really needed in conflict areas.
In short, it increases the health burden on groups of people who need access to health care. WHO recorded at least 978 attacks on health facilities in eleven countries last year with the death toll reaching 193 people in 2019. The conflict has also resulted in hundreds of thousands of people leaving their areas of origin so they cannot enjoy proper health services.
Third, close the gap in health quality between one country and another. The World Social Report 2020 published by the UN noted that income inequality occurs in most developed countries. From a health perspective, WHO noted at least 18 years of difference in life expectancy between rich countries and poor countries.
Other findings mention that non-communicable diseases such as cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes are acute problems in low- and middle-income countries. This situation also does not take into account the unequal access to health between one country and another.
Fourth, optimize access to medicines. One third of the world ‘s population has difficulty accessing medicines, vaccines, diagnostic tools and other essential health products. In fact, drugs are one of the most cost-effective elements to ensure an immediate and long-lasting health impact in a population. Meanwhile, it is known that essential medicines are in the highest private expenditure group in low- and middle-income countries.
Fifth, the emergence of various infectious diseases. Infectious diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis, hepatitis, and sexually transmitted diseases are a serious threat to global health. WHO estimates that various infectious diseases will cause the death of around four million people during 2020. Most of these deaths even come from poor communities.
On the other hand, diseases such as measles still caused the deaths of 140,000 children in 2019. Meanwhile , polio , which is almost extinct, has claimed the lives of around 156 children since 2014.
From Pandemic to Sexual Health
Sixth, be aware of the anomaly of the emergence of a new epidemic. Epidemic is the presence of an infectious disease in a certain period of time in an area in a fast time. Simply put, a pandemic is an epidemic that occurs and spreads across dozens of countries or continents.
In fact, Covid-19 is not a single pandemic event that has occurred recently. Previously, the world also faced other epidemics such as cholera to the Spanish Flu which later became a pandemic. The world public is still facing epidemics of other diseases that are transmitted through intermediaries, such as dengue, malaria, Zika, chikungunya, and yellow fever.
Seventh, protect the public from goods that are harmful to health. One third of global deaths are caused by a lack of healthy food consumption and poor diet. Meanwhile, most people consume foods and drinks with high sugar content, coconut milk, or contain a lot of salt. Unhealthy consumption is another form of people’s lifestyle and is often considered normal. However, this consumption is a major factor in obesity or overweight that causes various chronic diseases in the future.
Eighth, invest in health workers. Several factors, such as the lack of benefits and the prevalence of violence, have led to a shortage of supply of health workers in the world. WHO noted that in 2020, at least 18 million health workers are needed for low- and middle-income countries. Nine million of that number are nurses and midwives.
Ninth, maintaining adolescent health. One million teenagers die every year. The causes of their death varied, ranging from traffic accidents, HIV, suicide, to the consequences of violence. The use of alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs plus the absence of a healthy lifestyle are the drivers of the increased risk of death. In fact, teenagers are potential development partners because of their distinctive character who is willing to make changes and have an impact on the surrounding environment.
Tenth, ensure that the workforce and the health system gain the public’s trust. Trust in health workers is an essential thing because it encourages the realization of healthy behavior. In addition, health institutions often play a role in dispelling misinformation and hoax news about health that are often spread on social media.
In a critical period of time, the workforce and the health system are able to influence public decisions that seem trivial but have far-reaching health impacts, such as in the implementation of vaccines, the use of drugs, or the use of contraceptives.
WHO still has some additional global health issues that need to be addressed in the coming period. However, as an introduction the list that has been presented can be considered sufficient to explain the basis of the problem.
As far as can be observed, global health challenges will continue when world leaders do not consider health as a serious investment. The situation can worsen when the community’s health paradigm still views health as a mere condition of being free from disease, instead of a situation of physical, social, and mental well-being.
WHO points out several actions that need attention to face future global health challenges. According to them, world governments need to increase global solidarity on health issues, accelerate access to Covid-19 tests, medicines, and vaccines, apply the health paradigm for all, close the gap in health care inequality, and implement global leadership that is based on science and technology. data.
At the same time, several disease prevention efforts also need to be carried out by revitalizing efforts to handle infectious diseases, initiating effective medicines against disease, preventing and treating people with non-communicable diseases and experiencing mental problems, seeking sector development outside of health (environment, agriculture). , etc.), as well as displaying solidarity between institutions, institutions, and community groups.
By mapping the challenges of global health in the future and preparing efforts to strengthen health, ensuring a future when health can be enjoyed by all is not a difficult thing to achieve.