Health and Climate
The Second Global Conference on Health and Climate met to set a new agenda for tackling health problems arising as a result of climate change. As the global state of climate shifts over the coming decades, this pantheon of experts, hosted by the government of France, hopes to address the way public health professionals deal with the resulting complications.

The objective of this conference was to demonstrate the commitment of the public health community to implementing the Paris Agreement, a historic treatise whose goals are to better treatment of the world and create a sustainable future.

With the Paris Agreement in mind, the countries committed to it should see a change in their public policy. The aim of the agreement is to make tangible changes through proper legal channels as quickly as possible. The right to health is at stake for many people, and this is precisely what the conference hoped to address in its talks of health and climate.

In response to the seven million people per year who die of pollution-related ailments such as strokes or lung cancer, the conference made it a goal to encourage countries to curb their pollution output. Thankfully, this recommendation aligns with the global goal to reduce greenhouse gases and carbon emissions.

Among other topics, the panel discussed how to best implement and use renewable and safe energy sources to improve health and climate. Additionally, to assist in best-promoting these difficult changes to countries, attendees of the conference made it a goal to calculate the economic benefits of switching to cleaner energy.

To further these aims, the WHO announced a focus on developing a new approach to health economics and climate change. They hope that by closely monitoring the changes in the policy of each country every five years, the world will begin to see health and climate improvements for not only the seven million affected by pollution-borne diseases, but by all earthly inhabitants.

Connor Borden

Photo: Zimbio

A career in public health can mean a lot of different things; public health professionals analyze and develop programs that improve or protect the health of people in all corners of the globe.

There has been an increased focus on international health, which generally means the health of people living in low-income or developing countries, as part of the public health equation because global health falls under the public health umbrella.

This holistic approach has lead to the creation of new jobs. As a way to prepare those who are interested in a global health career, many universities now offer global health degrees, which focus on understanding the health of populations in a global context and making worldwide improvements.

Arizona State University began offering a global health degree program about six years ago. The first graduate from their program, Mackenzie Cotlow, has since then used what she learned in the classroom in the context of improving global health.

After graduating, Cotlow started working with Doctors Without Borders in South Africa as a fundraising consultant. She helps inform the public about what the organization does and works to raise the funds necessary for its work to continue to touch the lives of those it helps.

Like many global health degrees, part of Cotlow’s major requirements was studying and working abroad, which she fulfilled in New Zealand and Fiji.

When students are given the chance to widen their worldview by gaining first-hand experience with how people in their academic or career field tackle similar issues, they can expand the collective action toward accomplishing the same goals.

Global health degrees can prepare students for a vast variety of career paths. The global health sector includes international development, social justice and health care professionals.

Emmanuel Kamanzi worked in Rwanda as a program officer for Partners In Health (PIH) for more than five years.

According to PIH, when asked what advice he has for those considering a profession in global health, he said, “Building health care platforms that deliver high-quality care to the most poor and vulnerable communities requires a collaborative workforce that can build partnerships…[and this] requires a deep understanding of the local context and extensive assessment of financial, social and political perspectives.”

Students and professionals in the global health field must continue to work to understand the needs of the communities they are working in and for.

Often solutions or programs that work within one community can be adapted for many other communities, but they must be tailored to the demands present in each unique community. That is why global health work relies on an in-depth understanding of the people being served.

As global health gains a larger presence in the public health sector, global health degrees come with excellent job perspectives and a way to learn the tools that can make for an incredible global health professional and a step toward accomplishing the life mission of improving health worldwide.

Brittney Dimond

Sources: Explore Health Careers, PIH, Arizona State University
Photo: Flickr


While aid for global public health programs skyrocketed just after the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were announced 15 years ago, aid has stalled in the past few years, according to a recent report by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).

The MDGs, a set of eight anti-poverty goals with broad international backing, expire this year. Because of them, there have been significant reductions in child mortality and broad treatment of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in the developing world. However, donors must realize that continued funding is necessary to sustain the progress already achieved and make further improvements in public health internationally.

The report from the IHME found that there was an incredible surge in funding after the MDGs were announced, jumping from 5.4% prior to 2000 up to 11.4%. In the past 15 years, this growth in funding amounted to a total of around $228 billion invested in health-related causes. However, that growth has essentially stalled and, in some cases, reversed—from 2013 to 2014, total spending on health even decreased by 1.6%.

This trend can probably be attributed to waning enthusiasm for health-related aid once the initial excitement of the MDGs died down and their 2015 deadline draws to a close. Additionally, it could be a symptom of more cash-strapped governments seeking to trim their budgets after the 2008 global financial crisis.

While overall funding for health went down between 2013 and 2014, a few national donors did manage to increase their contributions, including the United Kingdom, Australia and Japan. Nongovernmental organizations also modestly increased their funding, including UNICEF, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the African Development Bank.

Even modest changes in health aid funding would have a disproportionate impact on certain populations who have differing disease burdens. For example, 84% of funding for the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS comes from the United States. A small percentage decrease in funding for HIV/AIDS relief from the United States would have a much greater negative impact than a small percentage decrease from a smaller donor.

The IHME report, by describing flows of global health financing, reveals the need not only to maintain or increase aid but to diversify it also. Katie Leach-Kemon, a co-author of the study, said of HIV/AIDS funding that “diversifying the portfolio of financing sources for this area is crucial for safeguarding the progress made in combating the HIV epidemic.” Vulnerable populations would have access to more consistent aid if funding sources were spread more evenly across a wider variety of donors. That way, if funding trends continue to fluctuate, as they do in the report, those who typically rely on robust health aid programs, such as Ethiopia, Haiti and Kenya, will not find themselves cut off.

Health funding studies like the IHME report serve as excellent roadmaps that describe successes in global public health programs and reveal their shortcomings as well. Clearly, international initiatives with broad support, such as the MDGs, serve to jump start health aid. On the other hand, in the past five years, the incidence of tuberculosis was as high as 13% in some areas, HIV/AIDS as high as 20% and under-5 child mortality as high as 18%. Health aid has made huge strides in the past 15 years, but in order to continue reducing the global disease burden and improve the lives of people all over the world, funding has to be maintained.

– Derek Marion

Sources: Humanosphere, NPR, IHME, World Bank
Photo: Flickr