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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Global Health

Global Health is serious business.  Taking major advancements in terms of technology to better strengthen our world is necessary in order to move forward towards a healthier and cleaner future.  Though many positives have happened in global health in recent years, there are negatives to underline as well.  Moreover, underlining these negatives are difficult to do, but are merely a step in the right direction, or one would hope surely. 

In this article, we’ll be examining the strengths, weaknesses, and pure ugliness that revolve within the sphere of global health today and its venture into the hopeful brighter future.     

THE GOOD

Innovation and Advancement

Let’s start off on the right foot and there is much to talk about in all honesty.  Advancements and innovations are happening in healthcare, almost every day.  As a whole, the world is taking closer steps towards smarter medical decisions.  This could include investing in mobile health and medical technology that will provide faster and more concise care in the grand scheme of things. 

Today, health care leaders need solutions for a number of unique challenges.  These challenges include protecting the privacy of patient information shared on mobile devices, ensuring the interoperability of mobile health technology with EHRs and other health technology, and determining which mHealth apps are safest and most effective for the ultimate privacy/productivity balance.  Quite a lot to understand!  But the ultimate point is, we’re advancing as a global community; particularly in technology. 

It’s important for healthcare providers to be clear and concise in their description of the care provided.  Each patient contact, including the mode of contact if it is not in-person (e.g. by telephone, email, videoconference telemedicine), should be documented according to organizational policy and professional practice standards.   Ultimately, by keeping a clear and detailed track of a patient’s medicinal intake during the hours of the day and their distinct interactions with different professionals, this allows one to save a lot of time.  Overall, medical documentation has improved and has become present in many standardized and mobile formats to satisfy the ever-changing technological environment.    

From a North American standpoint, things are advancing quite well in terms of research and funding for advancement.  The 2018 Canadian Budget marks the biggest investment in science and university research in Canadian history, with $2.8 million being invested.  Over a 5 year plan (2018 – 2023), Canadians will invest in advancements in research to help grow and push Canada into a healthier tomorrow. This, thus, being quite a big leap for young Prime Minister Trudeau who makes Canadian history through this investment.  In more continental terms, over the past 15 years, North America altogether has been at the core of major steps forward in medical research, including research done on cancer treatment, HIV spread, and establishing smoke free laws. 

Furthermore, the United States, in the past year, is responsible major bodily transplants, redefining medical history.  A woman born without a uterus gave birth to a baby boy in Dallas, thanks to a transplanted womb.  It was the first such success outside of Europe and gives renewed hope to women who lack a uterus or have lost it due to cancer or another illness.  The transplant procedure can be risky and has failed in some other U.S. attempts.  A tip of the hat to our neighbours down south.

As a collective whole, things are moving forward.  Both sides of the pond (North America and Europe) are advancing quite well.  Medical science is taking leaps towards places it has never expected to explore: one small step for man, one big step for mankind. 

Investing in youth

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead.

Yes, American cultural anthropologist, Margaret Mead, was right.  The youth can change the world and they are doing so every day.  Investing in youth can be scary from a management perspective, but the cycle of change will eventually come around for young, ambitious minds to get their chance to sparkle in the spotlight.  Isn’t that what everybody wanted at that age? 

Moreover, this year, millions of young people will pour into the global job market.  As graduates, non-grads, or currently in school, today’s youth all want jobs that pay decent wages, but many want something more.  The youth of today are looking for more than just money in their pocket, in contrast to what older generations may think.  Ultimately, they desire a sense of purpose and belonging in a career where they can help others by contributing whole-heartedly within their field.  

A career in the medical field can be very rewarding.  Despite strict and intense qualification into academic programs, a career in the medical field as a doctor, nurse, or health professional can offer excellent opportunities for advancement and provide exciting projects to work on. 

The millennial generation entering into the core of the medical field today will bring with them their affirmations of technology to better structure and observe the patient experience.  Moreover, the youth of today are taking steps into the job force with ambitious aspirations that could propel them to redefine medical care as we know it.  In Canada, first year enrolment in undergraduate medical schools in the 2016/17 academic season was 2,915.  This is an 85% increase since 1997/98.  What a difference 2 decades can make. 

THE BAD

Planet changes & Disease

Natural disasters, unfortunately, are the side of Mother Nature that isn’t quite so beautiful.  From Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to Sandy in 2012, extreme weather events are, unfortunately, becoming more and more common.  Furthermore, higher highs, lower lows, droughts, and more powerful storms result in flooding, damage, and death.

As global temperatures continue to slowly rise, so does the onset and spread of viruses and diseases including the most famous and common suspects: malaria, West Nile virus, Zika virus, chikungunya, dengue fever, etc…

The mosquito, along with other disease-carrying and crop-destroying pests, is thriving in a warming world.  The problem with these diseases is that they are driven by the natural environment that surrounds them.  Heat, pollution, thinning of the atmosphere, negative human communication, and the limitations of medical care allow diseases to spread and take away innocent lives each day. 

In 2016, there were 36.7 million people living with HIV, including 1.8 million who were newly infected that year. Education is limited and is within continuation as health workers worldwide today are still learning how to best reach the key groups who are most affected by HIV.   Over thirty-five years after the initial steps towards the analysis of HIV and still there is much more research to be done. 

Not to mention other diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer that kill over 40 million worldwide every year.  More than 80% of these deaths occur in low- or middle-income countries.  With diseases’ reach being sometimes greater than one of care, it may be a bit too hard for global health care to catch up to the millions affected by infections and sickness each year.

THE UGLY

Inhibited, fractured access to care

Saying that healthcare and health costs in Medical America are expensive is an understatement. 

Drug reception and administration, doctor care, hospital visits and services are all at an alarming cost.  But the biggest kick out of it all is that a greater portion of the Health budget goes to planning, regulating and managing medical services at the administrative level.

General physicians in America made an average of $218,173 in 2016; double the average of generalists in the other countries, where pay ranged from $86,607 in Sweden to $154,126 in Germany.  Also, administrative costs, meanwhile, accounted for 8 % of the GDP in the U.S.  This is in comparison to the GDP for the other countries that ranged from 1-3%.  The good thing about having an outlier is that it, generally, should not affect the rest of the apples in the bunch.  However, seeing that the United States are one of the biggest medical and pharmaceutical players in the world today, the weight of this outlier is very heavy and negatively impactful.    

Today, one in every seven people on the planet is on the move.  Refugees and other migrants face distinct challenges when it comes to accessing health care, including language and cultural differences, unfamiliarity with local health services, and, often, the vulnerability that comes with being displaced and powerless in a foreign land.  

Migrants on the move have diverse needs, from migrant farmworkers who’ve been exposed to toxic pesticides to refugees who’ve been traumatized while fleeing warzones.  Medical health being on the move may not necessarily be a bad thing, should you want to play devil’s advocate.  But, that being said, a rolling stone gathers no moss. 

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