Health is an aspect that goes beyond individuals, countries or governments because globalization, protection of populations currently demands increased international cooperation and joint development of solutions (Parker & Sommer, 2010). Some non-infectious diseases, for instance, HIV/Aids, cardiovascular disease and obesity are particularly increasing across societies and economic classes, necessitating the concept of global health (McCracken & Phillips, 2012). Global health involves efforts to ensure that people in all countries are healthy. This paper discusses the concept of global health and its application.
Global health is a multidisciplinary concept. According to Beaglehole & Bonita (2010), it refers to the range of health issues which go beyond government or national boundaries, therefore requiring action on their global aspects. Koplan et al. (2009) indicate that an alternative perspective considers it to be health-related research, study and practices which aim at improvement of health and achievement of equity for everyone worldwide. An extension of this considers global health as involving ensuring that mental, social and physical wellbeing for everyone is achieved, and not just the elimination of disease with emphasis on both individual and population-level policies while addressing root causes of health challenges by handling their respective cultural, social, economic and scientific strategies.
While global health seemingly suggests the element of international health, it is not the same thing. According to Beaglehole & Bonita (2010), international health also addresses health issues beyond national boundaries, but with an emphasis on issues that affect Low and Middle-income Countries (LMICs), for instance, child and maternal health, infectious diseases and the many local and global forces influencing them. The difference therefore is that while global health focuses on the studying and practicing of health-related matters that go beyond national boundaries, international health is a study of the health matters that impact on people from developing countries. Global health is about the well-being of populations within the global context and emphasizes health improvement and equity for everyone. It seeks improvement of health, elimination of disparities and securing of populations from health threats while international health is just an area of public health which highlights poorer countries and rich countries’ aid-related efforts towards changing the situation.
Global health recognizes the interdependence between health statuses within and past nations and the legal and policy approaches that affect them. According to Koplan et al. (2009), it demands new kinds of governance both at the international and national levels. World Health Organization (2011) provides an example of handling the global HIV/Aids pandemic where the WHO has always been developing, implementing and incorporating elements of its strategy in national policies across the world so as to deal with the issue. The strategy seeks to ensure universal access to diagnosis, treatment, support, care and prevention of the disease and sets global targets and goals for tackling it. WHO periodically researches and gives guidelines for nations or regions and provides resource contributions towards them. Apart from the usual promotion of preventive measures, there is currently global adoption of its guidelines that require reinforcement of community and health systems, alleviation of social factors that contribute to spread or minimization of response, promotion of gender equity and protection of human rights.
Global health involves everyone. According to Parker & Sommer (2010), individual citizens and community organizations can contribute to health system policy-making, planning and operations. Non-governmental organizations at times help in offering training, infrastructure or public health education. The private sector also provides its range of healthcare and medical supplies, therefore offering complementary skills and resources for global health. Governments on their part run health systems at national levels, train and recruit health practitioners and develops the necessary policies, determine the allocation of national wealth towards health systems and guarantee political commitment towards health prioritization. The national government is further the one which is expected to maintain alertness in relation to hazards that may threaten the citizens’ health, for instance, through management of disease outbreaks, and most importantly, ensure maximum collaboration and cooperation with other countries in promoting global health on behalf of the citizens.
In conclusion, the global nature of health and disease has made it necessary to have joint efforts in handling the issue. Global health aims at ensuring improvement of health and equity in its access worldwide. It differs from international health because the latter focuses on the economic power relations between the countries involved. Global organizations and standards enable global health as is exemplified by the WHO anti-HIV/Aids efforts. Global health demands the input of different stakeholders, and governments act as the facilitators.
Beaglehole, R and Bonita, R. (2010). What is Global health? Global Health Action. Vol. 3: 5142-5143
Koplan, J, Bond, C, Merson, M, Reddy, K, Rodriguez, M, Sewankambo, N and Wasserheit, J. (2009). Towards a Common Definition of Global Health. The Lancet. Vol. 373 (9679): 1993-1995
McCracken, K and Phillips, D. (2012). Global Health: An Introduction to Current and Future Trends. New York: Routledge
Parker, R and Sommer, M. (2010). Routledge Handbook of Global Public Health. New York: Routledge
World Health Organization. (2011). Global Health Sector Strategy on HIV/Aids 2011-2015. Geneva: World Health Organization