With the many advances in science and medicine over the last century, it is no surprise that overall global health has been positively impacted. From the discovery of penicillin to the creation of the X-Ray machine, dedication to healthcare and these advancements have proved beneficial for both scientists and patients. The following is a discussion of the top five improvements in global health trends and their impacts on the global health conversation.
Top Five Improvements in Global Health Trends
- HIV/AIDS is no longer the leading cause of death in Africa. There has been a long-standing notion that the transmission of HIV was among the worst diagnoses imaginable and, furthermore, that the disease was becoming more and more rampant in many areas, especially poorer ones. However, many advancements have been made for prevention and treatment, which include newer and more effective medications, sexual education and safer sexual practices. These advancements have been used in poorer communities in African countries, where the epidemic is the greatest in severity. Thankfully, the prevention and treatment methods have been so effective that HIV/AIDS is no longer the leading cause of death in Africa. This advancement not only impacts health but restores communities’ economic success with more resources available for infrastructure and households.
- Vaccines are more varied and accessible. Over the last century, vaccines have not only become more varied, as well as more accessible, but their usage has risen. While vaccines have prevented diseases such as measles, polio and smallpox, a vaccine recently came out in 2011 that protects against the shingles virus. The shingles virus is a painful, blistery skin rash that originates from certain strains of the chickenpox virus, which is most common among children. However, unlike the chickenpox virus, the shingles virus is a higher risk for contraction in elders. The shingles vaccine greatly improves quality of life and has already made a huge impact. While vaccines are less standard in more disadvantaged areas, improvements are being made to include more vaccinations for more people, oftentimes cost-covered by charity organizations such as UNICEF.
- Mortality associated with childbirth has decreased significantly. Both infant mortality and maternal mortality rates were historically high compared to modern day rates. These statistics are an outstanding improvement from 25 years ago when infant mortality rates were as high as six and a half percent of all births and maternal mortality rates were around four-tenths of a percent. In 2017, a mere one-third of a percent of all children born did not survive past one year and an even lower percentage of mothers died during childbirth (two-hundredths of a percent). However, due to an increased overall implementation of sanitary health practices globally, these percentages continue to drop. In developed countries, where per capita income is higher, sanitary practices are at their most prevalent. Meanwhile, the opposite is true for countries with lower per capita income where there is lessened sanitary practice adherence. This, in turn, allows for a higher survival rate of both infants and mothers, leading to more families to have fewer children as they know infants have a greater chance of survival.
- Diabetes is no longer a “life sentence.” As recent as one hundred years ago, by the time diabetes was detectable, a person had mere months or years to live. Among the amazing improvements in global health, specifically thanks to the discovery of insulin in 1920 and all the advancements made in treatment as a result, diabetes will now have little to no impact on a person’s life expectancy. While people living in impoverished nations may have a harder time accessing treatment, great strides have still been made and are being made to provide treatment to people in disadvantaged regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, including the provision of diabetes education.
- Water-related illnesses are reduced by better access to clean water. Clean water, once a scarcity, has been augmented by greater attention, funding and resources for water sanitation. There is a connection between poverty, health and reduced access to clean water, where poverty exacerbates the situation and makes clean water harder to access, adding an extra layer to both poverty and decreased health. Over the last 18 years, world access to clean water jumped from 76 percent to 91 percent. This improvement has prevented illnesses such as malaria, diarrhea and dehydration.
The above list merely scratches the surface of recent improvements in global health. There is much more left in the healthcare conversation and many more advancements that are being enhanced, discovered and yet to be discovered. Improvements in global health afford people the opportunity to dissolve their poverty, allowing them to live a longer and better life.
– Alexandra C Ferrigno