By Kunal Sood
When it comes to Global Health, there is no THEM, only US “
– GLOBAL HEALTH COUNCIL
Global health is an important phenomenon nowadays and an urgent social concern. A sick and ailing population across the globe has created geo-political instability and compromised our security. Mutating patterns of diseases that include the COVID-19 pandemic as well as other factors such as the lack of PPE in the field to protect our frontline global health practitioners have created tremendous challenges. We are in the midst of a global health crisis here and now. More than ever before do the fields of science, psychology, innovation and technology need to come together to create a better future for us.
Here are some of the most pressing global health issues we face today that we need to solve for with scientific and technological innovation:
Efficient and affordable access to effective healthcare: Good and affordable health services should be a human right and available within reasonable reach given the exponential innovation in the field of medicine to those who require them whenever necessary. It should be convenient, effective and affordable irrespective of one’s age, caste, colour, creed, sex, race or religion. Apart from easy access, there should be a safe, evidence-based protocol when treating the likes of a global health crisis from such communicable diseases like the current pandemic and rarer diseases like chikungunya. Additionally With the overall increase of illness like cancer, diabetes, and other non-communicable diseases worldwide, access to quality health care for all is essential in reducing health inequality and the road map in order to do this lies in using technological innovation and democratizing digital health for all
Environmental quality: The environment directly affects our health and plays a major role in our quality of life, longevity, and health disparities. Poor air quality is linked to premature death, cancer, and long-term damage to our respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Secondhand smoke containing toxic and carcinogenic chemicals that contributes to cardiovascular disease and lung cancer in non-smoking adults. Globally, nearly 25% of all deaths and the total disease burden can be attributed to poor environmental factors. Safe and clean air, land, and water are fundamental to a healthy community and a healthy environment. Smoke and pollution-free environment help prevent disease and even helps advanced medicine heal and cure other health problems. As an alternative today we have technologies such as HEPA and UV light air purifiers that can help control the high levels of air pollution and second-hand smoke to protect the ones we love and create a healthier environment by design
Mental health: Mental health problems have spiked given the recent lockdowns and although help is available we must deploy more resources and capital towards helping those that suffer. People with mental health problems can get better and many fully recover from depression and other forms of mental illness. Mental health includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act and often causes stress which is the underlying cause for many physical ailments as well. Our mental state often determines how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. Over the course of your life, if you experience mental health problems, your mindset, mood, and behaviour could be affected negatively. Hence it is vital to pay attention to your mental health and use health-based apps such as headspace or calm on your smartphone to help inculcate the practice of mindfulness to regulate your emotional wellbeing. Yoga is also known to do wonders for the mind, body and soul connection so find time in your daily routine to integrate mediation and yoga into your way of life.
Substance abuse: Substance abuse can be very harmful to your health given the hazardous nature of certain substances if overdosed, including alcohol and illicit drugs. Psychoactive substance use can lead to addiction and eventually in some cases leads to isolation and even death. The solution lies in legislating effective policies which influence the consumption levels and patterns of substance use to minimize related harm can significantly reduce the public health problem.In addition health interventions that use technology to track and alert health care workers in time to intervene in cases where one may overdose can save a life. Such interventions with technology can also be used for rehab once the patient is stable with the right kind of medical supervision can recover and restore their overall wellbeing.
Tobacco: Over 80% of the world’s 1.3 billion tobacco users live in low- and middle-income countries. The tobacco epidemic is the second biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing more than 8 million people a year around the world. More than 7 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke. Again here we must be able to use conscious media and technology to help change behaviour and quit smoking. Furthermore, we must create awareness around protecting those that suffer around smokers due to second-hand smoke.
Obesity: Obesity has become the number one epidemic globally outpacing even tobacco and is defined as the abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk of our health in all forms. Obesity is one side of the double burden of malnutrition, and today more people are obese than underweight. It is associated with a higher risk for serious diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and chronic lower back pain which affects one’s overall quality of life.
It is critical that we as a nation and planet take stock of both our personal and communal healthcare systems and personal wellbeing. There has never been a better time for us to launch a Global Health Revolution. We can light the spark that ignites a movement that doesn’t just save our planet but transforms humanity to usher in a new era of human prosperity and planetary flourishing. A place where technology truly serves all of the wonder and biodiversity that exists in our world. But most important make sure that every life counts and every human being matters.
(The author is Founder, We The Planet. Views expfressed are personal.)