Health is a complex and immense beast. On both a local and global scale, there are arguments about the impacts of various issues, lobbyists championing their own approaches, limited resources and donor attentions, and different schools of thought informing any and all approaches towards health systems, diseases, disabilities, and access to care. In addition to these complications, there are also cultural and personal circumstances. Individuals cannot be ignored since people are by nature at the heart of health. That being said, I have identified the three most pressing global health issues.
Access to care is hugely important. Without access to the health system, what can an individual hope to do with an ailment beyond their experience? Within most health care systems around the world, there are people who are denied access, whether that be because of wait time in a public hospital, the “green screen” of a private health care system, or too few hospitals, doctors, and resources in a given area and population.
This inability to access care is often tied to class inequality, as health is not just what happens in a hospital, but also what happens the rest of the time. High rates of poverty are linked to malnutrition, hygienic problems, and drug use, all of which impact health in a serious way. Many people throughout the world live on less than two dollars a day, and/or in overcrowded areas with poor sewage disposal, and/or do not have enough to eat. All of these factors impact the health of the individual as well as speak to a systematic issue. There is a reason that the first of the Sustainable Development Goals is to eradicate poverty; by getting rid of poverty you are also well on your way to most other modern pressing issues.
The last issue I will discuss is mental health. Mental health may seem to be less systematic, but it should exist on an equal plane with other global health goals. Mental health is often overlooked because it does not seem to be as “pressing” as cancer or infectious disease. It is true that mental health may have a lower mortality rate (or at least a less traceable one), but I believe that the morbidity is probably comparable. It would be a mistake to think of mental health as less harmful than other factors that detract from global health. Mental health should be a top priority in coming years, both in terms of addressing them within the public health sector and raising public awareness of their prevalence and severity as a global epidemic.
To conclude, I would like to address the question “What ails the world?” as less specific to the heath domain. The world is an impossibly huge concept, even more so when you consider how many different meanings those words can have. In addition to poverty, war, disease, and other human ailments, there are oil spills, pine beetles, climate change, earthquakes, extinction. And while all these things are related to or caused by humans to an extent, that is because of the impossibly tangled nature of “the world.” To limit the world’s ailments to the scope of health would be to miss much of the bigger picture.
Image credit: http://www.dennisvanderheijden.com/humanitys-top-10-problems-next-50-years/