Threats to Global Health
Mankind can often feel a state of invincibility. This might be due to ignorance or denial that one could become sick, but global health is constantly experiencing threats. Some of the biggest threats to global health include pollution, diseases and fragile locations. For people who live in developed and booming economies, this may mean nothing. However, those living in poverty are often in direct contact with the threats that can sometimes be fatal.

Air Pollution

Air pollution is one of the most widespread pollution problems and kills nearly 7 million people a year. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nine out of 10 people breathe in contaminated air.

The most common forms of air pollution are smog and smoke. Smog can come from factories, industrial areas or vehicle emissions. The worst cases of smog often occur in major cities that have large populations. For example, several of the most highly polluted cities in China because of the population density and a large number of factories. Xingtai, named the most polluted city in the world, has a population of nearly 7 million.

Smoke is also a common air pollutant largely due to the large population of smokers. Inhalation of heavily polluted air can cause stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and acute respiratory infections.


Noncommunicable or noninfectious diseases are illnesses that do not transmit from one person to another, and in fact, people cannot transmit them at all. They include a wide number of disease but some of the most significant ones are stroke, cancer, diabetes and heart disease. The World Health Organization recognizes noncommunicable diseases as one of the biggest threats to global health. Air pollution can cause some forms of diseases, but environmental factors, lifestyle choices or genetics cause noncommunicable diseases.

According to WHO, noncommunicable diseases are the leading cause of death in the world as well as one of the biggest causes of poverty. In fact, 15 million people who have died from noninfectious diseases were living in poverty. This is often due to poor sanitation conditions as well as the inability to receive proper health care to treat said conditions.

Fragile Locations

Fragile locations are places that have poor sanitation, famine, drought or conflict (war or corruption). Living in fragile locations can lead to several complications especially due to poor health care. Often countries that have high unemployment and poverty rates are fragile locations. This is because the fragility of areas can put a risk on people’s health that may disable them or put them on the streets. Living in fragile locations can also increase the risk of developing noninfectious diseases.


Nearly 36 percent of the world’s population lives in extreme poverty. When dealing with global health threats, a vast majority of those in need of care either cannot afford it or access it. People living in poverty frequently face the challenges of poor economic stability, poor or nonexistent health care and a weak education system. lack of education in developing countries can also lead to recklessness when caring for those with diseases, both noninfectious and infectious. According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, ODPHP, strategies that aim to increase the economic mobility of families may help to alleviate the negative effects of poverty.

Organizations’ Help on Global Health

The CDC closely monitors and researches global health threats and ways to prevent and respond to them. Whenever there is a serious global health threat, the CDC is on the front line to aid in recovery, however, aid is not always helpful. According to the CDC, 70 percent of the world’s countries report that they are not prepared to face an outbreak. However, the world can do its part to prevent air pollution by smoking less and relying more on economically friendly means of travel. Although people cannot alter genetics it is important to avoid factors that may cause noninfectious diseases. For those in fragile locations, organizations like the CDC and WHO are attempting to provide aid and support to those in need.

Threats to global health are everywhere. Some threats are inevitable but others are man-made. It is important to regulate and reduce people’s ecological footprints so global health can experience improvement as a whole.

Sarah Mobarak
Photo: Flickr