Vaccines Prevent Disease and PovertyVaccines are known to save lives and protect against diseases, but now can be credited for preventing poverty as well. A study done at Harvard University alongside Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance researched the economic effects of vaccines for 10 different diseases in 41 developing countries. The study concluded that vaccines would help to prevent 24 million people throughout the world’s poorest countries from falling into poverty by the year 2030. The study also estimated that vaccines given between 2016 and 2030 would prevent the deaths of 36 million people.

Vaccines contain the same antigens that are responsible for causing diseases. The antigens in the vaccines are killed or severely weakened and are unable to cause the disease, but are strong enough to allow the body’s immune system to produce the antibodies needed to become immune to the disease. Therefore, the protection comes without the child having to be sick or suffer from a disease. This reduces the cost of healthcare for families and allows them to save and spend more money, boosting the country’s economy.

Dr. Seth Berkley, the CEO of Gavi, talked about the effects on a child who receives vaccinations and their school attendance. He stated that a child who is healthy is more likely to attend school and become a productive member of society, and their families will not be obligated to pay the expensive healthcare costs that come with diseases. Healthcare expenses cause about 100 million people to fall into poverty each year, as medical treatment is one of the main reasons families are forced below the poverty line. With the use of vaccines, countries will be better protected from both disease and poverty.

The greatest poverty reducer will be vaccinations, by reducing the number of people who are living in poverty due to hepatitis B. Gavi anticipates this will help 14 million people avoid medical impoverishment. Poverty cases that are due to measles will be reduced by vaccines, which is anticipated to prevent 5 million cases as well as preventing 22 million deaths. Disease and poverty are linked through a cause and effect in that medical costs cause poverty in many developing countries.

The study also showed that the poorest 20 percent of the global population represented more than one-fourth of deaths that can be prevented by vaccinations. Furthermore, the study concluded that introducing vaccines in the poorest countries would have the largest impact on lowering the number of deaths and the number of people falling into poverty due to their medical expenses. Therefore, vaccines prevent both disease and poverty.

– Chloe Turner

Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Latin AmericaPolicies related to mental health in Latin America continue to be a back-and-forth struggle between political parties, legislation and social stigmas.

Recent History

Over the last 10 years, Latin America has battled to better its mental health services, however, significant obstacles persist. Social stigmas prove to have the most negative consequences on those who suffer from mental illness. Stigmas around mental health in Latin America specifically revolve around the person’s personal life and their “lack” of productivity at work, both of which are heavily emphasized in society. Stereotypes and prejudices about mental illness often focus on the unpredictability of the illness, including capacities for violence and endangering those around them.

Originally, Latin American mental health policies shared the same overall attitude as the society did: lack of proper planning and institutions were not necessarily important. That attitude changed with the Declaration of Caracas in 1990 which implemented the following reforms in regional mental-health policies:

  • To anchor mental health within primary care services
  • To develop community-based mental health services
  • To reduce the stigma associated with mental illness

Organizations that Implement Policy

Since then, several organizations have emerged to help align the reforms with practices.

Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)

The Pan American Health Organization protects and improves people’s health by acting as the international health agency for the Americas. It believes in supporting everyone’s right to good health by providing access to healthcare when they need it. This is done by:

  • Promoting technical cooperation between countries
  • Partnering with ministries of health, civil society organizations, other international agencies, universities, and other institutions.

Its mental health program works within the Department of Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health (NMH) to promote and strengthen national abilities to develop the following areas in order to improve mental well being:

  • Policies
  • Plans
  • Programs
  • Services

World Health Organization Assessment Instrument for Mental Health Systems (WHO-AIMS)

WHO-AIMS works in Latin America and the Caribbean to promote, maintain and restore mental health. Its plan is derived from 10 overall recommendations from the 2001 World Health Report:

  1. Provide treatment of mental disorders in primary care
  2. Make psychotropic drugs available
  3. Give care in the community
  4. Educate the public
  5. Involve communities, families, and consumers in the treatment process
  6. Establish national policy and legislation
  7. Develop supportive human resources
  8. Link with other sectors
  9. Monitor community mental health
  10. Provide resources for more research

This organization focuses mainly on financing the investigations to find which obstacles affect mental health services the most. Since its implementation in Latin America, there has been a 30 percent increase in the creation of mental health policies, as its focus evolved to a more positive trend of protecting human rights.

In Conclusion

Negative stigmas will continue to circulate around mental health in Latin America as the lack of knowledge and understanding surrounding mental illnesses persist. Organizations like the ones listed previously will continue to work against these stigmas and encourage understanding through education.

– Chylene Babb

Photo: Google

HIVAIDS Rates in Cambodia Are Dropping Down to Virtual Elimination
In 2005, the HIV/AIDS death rates in Cambodia were ranked at number 5, and by 2016 dropped down to rank 24. This decrease totaled 71 percent, and Cambodia is now part of the United States Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) as well as the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF).

HIV/AIDS rates in Cambodia have dropped so low that the country is one of few countries titled with being incredibly successful at reversing this epidemic.

AHF

AHF works to provide health treatments and care at the local communities for HIV and AIDS. AHF also offers numerous free services such as testing, education, condoms, ARV’s, OI drugs and even some transportation. As of January 2017, AHF is working with more than 50 percent of people in Cambodia who live with HIV.

This success has been astounding, according to AHF, because of “firm political commitment, focused and appropriate strategic planning, sound management, broad-based stakeholder partnerships, and effective implementation based on standardized operating procedures.”

PEPFAR

PEPFAR is a USAID program focused on transforming the global response to HIV and AIDS. Currently, PEPFAR is working in over 50 countries helping more than 13.3 million people. This program has further contributed to the successful drop of HIV/AIDS rates in Cambodia.

However, in Cambodia, PEPFAR works closely with four specific provinces most in need of aid: Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

Since Cambodia has had such a high success rate, PEPFAR is now focusing heavily on sustainable financing for its government over a two-year period. This effort began in 2017 and works to strengthen national systems in discovering new cases, and prevent new cases of HIV from spreading.

PEPFAR is also working hard to achieve fewer than 300 new HIV infections in Cambodia annually by 2025; if accomplished, this feat will be considered a virtual elimination of the disease.

Various Successes

Constant efforts from both AHF and PEPFAR have resulted in massive drop rates of the HIV/AIDS rates in Cambodia. For instance, 2.2 million babies are now born HIV-free, even when their mothers are HIV positive. PEPFAR is also helping more than 6.4 million orphans, vulnerable children and their caretakers.

According to AHF, the rate of HIV/AIDS from ages 15-49 declined all the way down to 0.6 percent in 2015, and will continue to decrease to the hopeful virtual elimination by 2025. This elimination is contributed heavily to the 2016-2020 plan by the Strategic Plan for HIV/AIDS and STI Prevention and Control in the Health Sector in Cambodia.

Potential for Progress

Over the past 25 years, Cambodia had made immense progress in reducing the HIV/AIDS rates. Every year since has resulted in a continuation of this decrease to virtual elimination. Even now, in 2018, Cambodia may be considered a success story for both PEPFAR and ATH.

Both of these organizations work tremendously well to help HIV/AIDS rates in Cambodia drop and continue to decline every day.

– Amber Duffus

Photo: Flickr

 

The Link Between Poverty and EpidemicsWhen Bill Gates, the famous humanitarian, entrepreneur and founder of Microsoft, was asked in an interview with Vox about the greatest threat to humanity in the coming decades, his answer was scientific, reasonable and startling. Rather than mentioning the kinds of threats usually brought up in such discussions, dangers such as nuclear weapons, climate change and planet-killing asteroids, Gates pointed to something else with a much higher likelihood of occurrence but with the potential to be just as devastating.

A widespread pandemic is the most likely cause of a mass extinction event in the 21st century, yet despite its relatively high probability of occurring, it remains less discussed than many flashier topics like war and environmental disaster. The last time the risk of pandemic sparked widespread fear and discussion was in 2014, with the spread of the Ebola virus devastating communities in West Africa, and, in rare cases, spreading to other countries as well.

Though the topic has since faded from national conversation, the threat remains real. Even more important, unlike reducing carbon emissions or preventing nuclear proliferation, one major remedy for disease is relatively straightforward and within our capability. The human race could significantly reduce the likelihood of a pandemic disaster by eliminating extreme global poverty.

In 2014, West Africa suffered an outbreak of the Ebola virus, which devastated communities and killed more than 11,000 people by 2016. It also shed international light on the link between poverty and epidemics. Ebola became such a threat in 2014 because the region was impoverished and lacked the basic healthcare infrastructure necessary to fight the outbreak. This allowed the disease to spread at a fierce pace, risking a worldwide epidemic and sparking fears around the globe. Many patients were at first handled without proper caution, which led to an increase in cases and the rapid spread of the virus throughout the region.

If the United States invested more in these countries, especially toward improving their medical infrastructure and quality of life, such spending would not only create a new market for American exports, but it would also decrease the likelihood that a virus-like Ebola could spread without proper defensive strategies from the medical community. If healthcare infrastructure in West Africa had been better in 2014, the outbreak could have been contained much faster and the death toll reduced drastically.

The way in which a given disease spreads and becomes an epidemic is a complicated issue that depends on many factors. Poverty, however, has been shown to be a major determinant of how many people will be infected and how quickly. A World Health Organization report found that poverty in Africa correlated with an increase in the likelihood of contracting HIV, which researchers speculated was due to poor sexual education and high levels of economic disparity in impoverished regions. Similarly, the National Health Institute found in a 2012 report that communicable disease and poverty were linked to one another.

Though correlation did not imply causation, the researchers stressed that it would be foolish to disregard the link between poverty and epidemics, and that environmental conditions like economic status played a major role in the spread of disease. They argued that the link was likely caused by poor education, crippled healthcare infrastructure and the lack of clean water and food, all of which are common in areas suffering from extreme poverty. By investing in the healthcare infrastructure of other nations, the United States could help both itself and the world by reducing the likelihood of a major global pandemic, as the link between poverty and epidemics is a major risk that could become even more dangerous to the future of humanity than nuclear warfare.

– Shane Summers

Photo: Flickr

Vaccination Acts As a Solution to PovertyOver the past few years, the health status of many developing countries has improved significantly as the goal of increased accessibility and affordability of basic healthcare services became attainable across different regions of the world. Recently, researchers at Harvard University have debated the fact that vaccination is the key solution for not only lowering the number of deaths in developing countries, but also for alleviating the burden of medical expenses inflicted by poverty on the population and government.

The study was carried out by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health faculty, and was published in the journal of Health Affairs. Results highlighted that investments in preventive healthcare, particularly immunization which allow individuals to have access to 10 types of vaccines (measles, hepatitis B, human papillomavirus, yellow fever, rotavirus, rubella, Hib, pneumococcus, Neisseria menpngitidis and Japanese encephalitis) in 41 low-and-middle-income countries, could prevent a total of 36 million deaths over a period of 15 years.

It was also seen that 24 million cases of medical impoverishment could be prevented since most out-of-pocket medical expenses are usually associated with vaccination services in third world countries.

How Vaccination Acts As a Solution to Poverty

The following are five ways of how vaccination acts as a solution to poverty:

  1. Positive Economic ImpactAccording to Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of the Vaccine Alliance-GAVI, vaccines not only save lives, but also generate huge economic impacts for families, communities and society at large. He further explained his point of view by stating that a healthy child who has received all of his/her vaccination will become a productive member of society and can then contribute positively to the prosperity of the country. The family of vaccinated children can also avoid any strenuous costs associated with vaccine-preventable diseases.
  2. Increased Health Equity

    By legislating new policies allowing people to afford the necessary vaccinations, poverty will eventually decrease, leading to improved equity on the global development agenda. New vaccination policies could be considered as a milestone contributing to the process of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and universal health coverage.

  3. Reduced Mortality Rates

    Poverty-related statistics reveal that people living in extreme poverty tend to benefit the most from increased access to vaccines since they are more susceptible to preventable infectious diseases. Increasing their access to complete vaccine doses can lower their risk of contracting deadly communicable diseases, and thus lower their overall healthcare costs.

  4. Increased Life-Expectancy

    A study conducted by John Hopkins University in 2016 found that every $1 spent on immunization efforts is equivalent to $16 saved on healthcare costs. Therefore, the more the population saves money by avoiding additional healthcare costs, the higher its productivity and income due to improved health. As a result, people are offered the opportunity to lead longer, healthier lives, and the return on investment rises to $44 per $1 spent on vaccines.

  5. Reduced Burden of Preventable Infectious DiseasesHepatitis B was estimated to cause 14 million cases of medical impoverishment per year, while measles and meningitis A generated 5 million and 3 million cases of poverty per year, respectively; Rotavirus was also set to cause 242,000 poverty cases per year. By providing people with the necessary vaccines, morbidity and mortality rates will decline significantly and thus lead to overall reduced poverty rates. Currently, measles vaccine is projected to prevent around 22 million deaths each year.

The assumption that vaccination acts as a solution to poverty is a highly supported public health issue that has caught the attention of medical professionals and public health workers all over the world. Such a powerful primary prevention method should be widely dispersed among the public in order to initiate the start of a bright, equitable future and a world where poverty is defeated.

– Lea Sacca
Photo: Flickr

current global issues

Among all the good in the world, and all the progress being made in global issues, there is still much more to be done. Given the overwhelming disasters that nations, including the U.S., have been or still are going through, it is important to be aware of the most pressing global issues.

Top 10 Current Global Issues

  1. Climate Change
    The global temperatures are rising, and are estimated to increase from 2.6 degrees Celsius to 4.8 degrees Celsius by 2100. This would cause more severe weather, crises with food and resources and the spread of diseases. The reduction of greenhouse emissions and the spreading of education on the importance of going green can help make a big difference. Lobbying governments and discussing policies to reduce carbon emissions and encouraging reforestation is an effective way of making progress with climate change.
  2. Pollution
    Pollution is one of the most difficult global issues to combat, as the umbrella term refers to ocean litter, pesticides and fertilizers, air, light and noise pollution. Clean water is essential for humans and animals, but more than one billion people don’t have access to clean water due to pollution from toxic substances, sewage or industrial waste. It is of the utmost importance that people all over the world begin working to minimize the various types of pollution, in order to better the health of the planet and all those living on it.
  3. Violence
    Violence can be found in the social, cultural and economic aspects of the world. Whether it is conflict that has broken out in a city, hatred targeted at a certain group of people or sexual harassment occurring on the street, violence is a preventable problem that has been an issue for longer than necessary. With continued work on behalf of the governments of all nations, as well as the individual citizens, the issue can be addressed and reduced.
  4. Security and Well Being
    The U.N. is a perfect example of preventing the lack of security and well being that is a serious global issue. Through its efforts with regional organizations and representatives that are skilled in security, the U.N. is working toward increasing the well being of people throughout the world.
  5. Lack of Education
    More than 72 million children throughout the globe that are of the age to be in primary education are not enrolled in school. This can be attributed to inequality and marginalization as well as poverty. Fortunately, there are many organizations that work directly with the issue of education in providing the proper tools and resources to aid schools.
  6. Unemployment
    Without the necessary education and skills for employment, many people, particularly 15- to 24-year olds, struggle to find jobs and create a proper living for themselves and their families. This leads to a lack of necessary resources, such as enough food, clothing, transportation and proper living conditions. Fortunately, there are organizations throughout the world teaching people in need the skills for jobs and interviewing, helping to lift people from the vicious cycle of poverty.
  7. Government Corruption
    Corruption is a major cause of poverty considering how it affects the poor the most, eroding political and economic development, democracy and more. Corruption can be detrimental to the safety and well being of citizens living within the corrupted vicinity, and can cause an increase in violence and physical threats without as much regulation in the government.
  8. Malnourishment & Hunger
    Currently there are 795 million people who do not have enough to eat. Long-term success to ending world hunger starts with ending poverty. With fighting poverty through proper training for employment, education and the teaching of cooking and gardening skills, people who are suffering will be more likely to get jobs, earn enough money to buy food and even learn how to make their own food to save money.
  9. Substance Abuse
    The United Nations reports that, by the beginning of the 21st century, an estimated 185 million people over the age of 15 were consuming drugs globally. The drugs most commonly used are marijuana, cocaine, alcohol, amphetamine stimulants, opiates and volatile solvents. Different classes of people, both poor and rich, partake in substance abuse, and it is a persistent issue throughout the world. Petitions and projects are in progress to end the global issue of substance abuse.
  10. Terrorism
    Terrorism is an issue throughout the world that causes fear and insecurity, violence and death. Across the globe, terrorists attack innocent people, often without warning. This makes civilians feel defenseless in their everyday lives. Making national security a higher priority is key in combating terrorism, as well as promoting justice in wrongdoings to illustrate the enforcement of the law and the serious punishments for terror crimes.

With so many current global issues that require immediate attention, it is easy to get discouraged. However, the amount of progress that organizations have made in combating these problems is admirable, and the world will continue to improve in the years to come. By staying active in current events, and standing up for the health and safety of all humans, everyone is able to make a difference in changing the fate of our world.

– Chloe Turner

Photo: Flickr

 

 

PATH: A Global Health InnovatorFour of the U.N.‘s sustainable development goals in some way deal directly with health issues, whether they are concerned with decreasing world hunger or improving maternity health. Many of these goals have been addressed in a significant way, with improvements in health made across the board. However, there are still limitations on surveying health innovation effectiveness, as well as accessing and administering new technology.

Despite these issues, there are several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working toward bridging the gap between technology and innovation where these services are needed the most. PATH and its partner organization, Innovation Countdown, are doing just that.

Path is a global health innovator that has inspired and pioneered global health solutions. PATH has built its vision on accelerating technology availability by arming its team with entrepreneurial insight, scientific proficiency and public health knowledge, in order to produce measurable outcomes across many sectors in the healthcare industry. PATH was founded on the idea that healthcare should be available to everyone – especially women and children – and most importantly, where it is the least accessible. PATH believes that the antiquated notion of “population control” is not the solution to extreme poverty issues, but instead the solution lies in providing a more wholesome life that will in turn empower millions of people to take control of their lives and health conditions. The trickle-down, beginning with adequate health, has the potential to stabilize populations and churn out productive members of society.

Innovation Countdown, led by PATH, is a nonprofit dedicated to providing a platform for global health innovation, providing data resources and technology resource information. Supported by the Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, Innovation Countdown brings together different donors and investors in order to raise awareness of technologies and make them more accessible to areas that are difficult to reach or have minimal resources.

The work of PATH, along with Innovation Countdown, brings hope for all people – no matter of their socioeconomic status – to be able to access and reap the benefits of necessary global healthcare innovations.

Casey Hess

Photo: Flickr

Zika Virus Kills Cancer CellsTo most, “Zika virus” is synonymous with “devastation.” Here is a quick summary of Zika’s recent global impact:

  • Between January 1, 2007, and April 6, 2016, 62 nations and territories reported Zika virus transmission.
  • Zika Virus brought widespread infection to the Regions of the Americas in 2015.
  • The most recent outbreak indicated by the World Health Organization occurred in India in May 2017.
  • Based on initial research, the scientific community concedes that Zika virus is a cause of microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome.
  • No vaccines or treatment exist for the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

What positive news related to this devastating threat could possibly exist?

In a startling new study, the Washington University School of Medicine—in conjunction with the University of California San Diego School of Medicine—assert that Zika virus kills cancer cells in adult human brains. The Journal of Experimental Medicine published the results in a report in early September. It posits that injecting the Zika virus into the brain at the same time as surgery could potentially remove life-threatening tumors.

The Zika virus attacks malignant brain tumors called glioblastomas. Glioblastoma is one of the most challenging cancers to treat. The conventional treatment is brain surgery followed by radiation and rounds of chemotherapy within 2 to 4 weeks after surgery. Follow-up procedures must begin as soon after surgery as possible, as new glioblastomas can generate rapidly. Frequent patient observation with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans is another vital element of ongoing medical care.

Still, most tumors reappear within six months. A small population of cells, called glioblastoma stem cells, often survives the treatments and continues to divide, producing new tumor cells to replace the ones killed by the cancer drugs. Glioblastoma stem cells are hard to kill because they can avoid the body’s immune system and are resistant to chemotherapy and radiation. However, researchers believe that the Zika virus kills cancer cells, preventing new tumors from recurring after surgically removing the original tumor.

Despite such aggressive treatment, glioblastoma cells remain deadly: most patients die within 15 months. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, nearly 52 percent of all primary brain tumors are glioblastomas. Each year in the United States, this widespread form of brain cancer affects approximately 12,000 people. U.S. Sen. John McCain announced he is battling with glioblastoma in July 2017.

The Washington University – University of California San Diego School experiment revealed that the Zika virus favored destroying glioblastoma stem cells over normal brain cells in mice. Two weeks later, the mice with Zika virus injected into their cancerous tumors exhibited smaller tumors than those without the virus. Mice with Zika virus injected into their brain tumors seemed to survive longer than those without the injections.

Despite differences in the biological systems of mice and humans, the research team believes their proposal the Zika virus kills cancer cells merits pursuing. The joint research team hopes to begin human trials in the next 18 months.

According to Michael S. Diamond, MD, Ph.D., the Herbert S. Gasser Professor of Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine, “These cells are highly resistant to conventional therapies.” Diamond continued, “While the Zika virus does harm to the brains of developing fetuses, it may prove effectual in the treatment of glioblastoma in adult brains.”

Heather Hopkins

Photo: Flickr

Insecticide-Treated Bed NetsDespite the overall decrease in malaria deaths, which comes in at a solid 29 percent drop from 2010 to 2016, the reality is that the fight against malaria is still an ongoing battle with massive casualties. Some 429,000 malaria deaths occurred in 2015 alone. In fact, over half of the world’s population is still at risk of malarial contraction, and those living in sub-Saharan Africa are particularly vulnerable due to the area’s malarial-conducive environment. The risk of contraction in this particular region can be greatly mitigated through the use of a simple tool: insecticide-treated bed nets (ITN). The product has revolutionized the fight against malaria and ultimately become the cornerstone of malaria prevention in sub-Saharan Africa.

In a study conducted in the three northern regions of Ghana in 2015, it was found that the mortality rate for children under five that slept beneath ITNs was 18.8 percent lower than those that did not sleep beneath an insecticide-treated bed net. Furthermore, the majority of gathered research shows a significant correlation between widespread ITN usage and decreased malarial death levels. This is attributed to the fact that insecticide-treated bed nets prevent the spread of malaria by not only physically inhibiting mosquitoes from infecting individuals, but also by killing those mosquitoes which encounter the net. This is significant, as it reduces the population of malarial transmitters.

The fact that insecticide-treated bed nets actually kill, and consequently decrease, potential malaria transmitters is exactly why insecticide-treated nets are so essential in the campaign against malaria. Yet, most ITNs require that the nets be periodically retreated with insecticides every three to six months. Such repeated treatments are both expensive and time-consuming, a combination which means that most re-treatments are never done. This ultimately means that ITNs are no better than the average bed net. The identification of this weakness led to the birth of the long-lasting insecticide net (LLIN).

The LLIN was a product that was created in 2003, in a Tanzanian textile factory called A to Z Textiles. After gaining support from Acumen Fund, an internationally-renowned venture-capital organization, A to Z was able to collaborate with Sumitomo Chemical and ExxonMobil to begin producing chemically-treated bed nets that are effective for up to 5 years. This is a huge shift from the previous technologies that required repeated treatments.

By injecting the nets with long-lasting insecticide, A to Z ignited its collaboration with the World Health Organization and UNICEF in an effort to distribute the nets to the most vulnerable individuals. Today, the factory employs over 7,000 people, most of whom are women, and is the largest producer of LLINs in Africa, with a total production of over 29 million bed nets a year. It maintains a commitment to accessibility and has engineered a way to reduce production costs to only five dollars in order to make the nets more financially accessible to those who need it the most.

Though the battle against malaria in sub-Saharan Africa is ongoing, it is greatly aided by the increased usage of ITNs, and LLINs specifically. As long as organizations like A to Z continue to innovate new and accessible methods of prevention, there can be hope for a malaria-free world.

Kailee Nardi

Photo: Flickr

Climate Change and Public Health: A Crucial ConnectionPublic health and the environment do not, on the surface, seem like related topics, but their relationship is crucial to protecting all people and living things.

More and more scientists and health professionals are agreeing that the connection between climate change and public health is an area of increasing concern. As the effects of climate change on lessening biodiversity and worsening severe weather become more transparent, the changing environment is having dire effects, especially on impoverished populations.

While human health is now, by most metrics, better than it has ever been, ongoing planetary changes threaten to reverse this progress. These threats require a new approach to health research and policy called “planetary health.”

In broad terms, planetary health asserts that humanity cannot sustain itself while ecological life suffers. Like traditional public health, it defines health broadly, including physical, mental and social well-being. It therefore considers health not just on an individual basis, but across entire populations.

For example, nutrition is becoming a growing concern as water scarcity and social degradation continue as they currently are. Decreased biodiversity also limits how many crops people can grow as well as threatens the livelihoods of many – especially rurally based and often impoverished demographics. City dwellers and those in developed countries might not see immediate losses, but those who produce the least emissions while living in poverty will be at the greatest disadvantage.

Many health organizations are now recognizing this connection between climate change and public health. Child Family Health International recently vouched support for the Planetary Health and One Health Movements, each dedicated to applying a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach to address potential or existing risks that originate at an ecological level. The organization offers many programs under both movements to target a wide array of disciplines aiming to support planetary health, food waste reduction, low environmental impact diet, improved governance, efficient water usage, ending deforestation and family and city planning.

Even an influential medical journal has recently brought awareness to climate change and public health. The Lancet now publishes information about planetary health, focusing on climate policies and their health benefits. Global warming itself brings public health challenges – with tropical diseases like malaria expanding their range and storms or floods triggering sanitation problems. By discussing productive ideas like shutting down coal plants to cut greenhouse gas emissions and preventing people from getting sick or dying from breathing or heart problems, planetary health can turn into an entire field of study driven by educated minds.

Solving climate change and public health concerns is no easy feat. However, through a multifaceted perspective highlighting the important relationship between these two issues, global efforts to improve lives can better supporting everyone toward a more sustainable future.

Allie Knofczynski
Photo: Flickr