Things You Need to Know about Global Health

Ardiani Hanifa Audwina27 Jan 2023

What actually is global health? We have a lot of discussion about global health.

Koplan et al. define global health as: ‘an area for study, research, and practice that places a priority on improving health and achieving health equity for all people worldwide’. Being on the transnational level, global health focuses on the health problem that affects many countries, for example the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.

WHO defines health as the complete state of physical, mental and social well-being and not necessarily the absence of a disease or other disorder. Thus, it also includes the developments in medical science, public health, epidemiology, as well as demography, economic status, and culture.

The complexity of global health problems requires the cooperation of various organizations and governments to solve them. WHO is the largest global organization facilitating this cooperation. There are also health organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) who are involved in similar issues.

The history of global health

Several important events happened in history. In 1796, Edward Jenner, a British scientist, first developed a vaccine to stop the spread of smallpox. It should be noted that, before the appearance of the vaccine, one in thirteen deaths in London was due to smallpox. Smallpox is also easily transmitted through droplets. This event became a milestone in the history of disease eradication through vaccination.

In addition to advances in health technology, world health crises have also occurred several times: the cholera outbreak in the early 1800s which killed more than 100,000 people, the bubonic plague which resulted in the death of 12 million people in the mid-1800s, and the Spanish flu outbreak in the early 1900s which infected more than 500 million people. Every time a health crisis occurs, the world pays more attention to the importance of the health system.

Global health cooperation also increased through the establishment of the WHO in 1948. WHO published a list of essential medicines which contain the most effective and safe drugs to treat common diseases. A few years later, the Alma Ata Declaration appeared in 1978 which highlighted the importance of primary health facilities in maintaining public health.

Measuring Global Health

Measuring global health is important for comparing the quality of health in one country to another. One form of measurement is the global disease burden (GDB), which measures the impact of health problems in terms of mortality, morbidity and financial costs. The results of this measure reflect the quality of life of a population, both physical and mental health.

Another measurement that is also used as a reference is the Disability Adjusted Life Year (DALY). DALY is the number of years of life lost due to premature death plus years of life with disability due to common cases of disease or health condition in a population. In addition, there are also indicators of life expectancy, infant mortality, adult mortality, and prevalence of a disease.

This indicator is also reflected in number three of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Some of the targets to be achieved before 2030 are reducing the ratio of maternal and infant mortality, reducing deaths from non-communicable diseases, and achieving universal health services.

Even though global health sees problems in an international scope, the implementation of health interventions is always carried out on a smaller scale. At the national level, the government formulates policies to determine the direction of health development in their respective countries through the involvement of civil society and the private sector.

Civil society institutions in the form of think tanks such as CISDI play a role through accurate and evidence-based policy recommendations to the government. In addition, CISDI often networks with various parties and organizes health development efforts through online classes for health workers, donations for the needs of health workers, and organizes the Pencerah Nusantara Program.

Multi-stakeholder cooperation oriented towards improving health status is one of the main topics of global health. Without steady and structured cooperation between domestic and international actors, improving health status will be difficult to achieve. It is the basis for improving health indicators in a country. Through good communication and cooperation, global health efforts to increase access to health for all will be more feasible to realize.