SEATTLE — Global Health is a relatively new term, springing up with the rapid globalization of our now hyper-connected world. Unfortunately, it seems as though the term has been misconstrued to something other than its meaning, and this confusion comes with potential dangers.
We often think of global health as the health of those in distant, foreign countries. This thought process creates a dichotomy between “our health” and “their health.” The problem with this is that humans are naturally more concerned or invested in their well-being before others and especially before strangers.
How could we expect people to sacrifice time or resources that could be spent on keeping us healthy in order to keep others healthy? We couldn’t. Which is why we need to reframe the topic of global health. It shouldn’t be an us verses them, but an us with them.
While you cannot exactly look up global health in the dictionary, the definition that is given by the U.S. Commitment to Global Health incorporates all the necessary facets.
They define global health as “health problems, issues and concerns that transcend national boundaries, and may best be addressed by cooperative actions… and the goal of improving health for all people by reducing avoidable disease, disabilities, and death.”
This definition is key in shaping a holistic and ethical approach to health, here and abroad. If we continue to think of global health as the health of individuals living in far off countries, affected by different health issues, not only will we deny others our eager cooperation, but we also will limit our own benefits from collaborative health work.
Disease outbreak is no longer restricted to cities or even countries; ATAG claims that in 2012 there were more than 3 billion airline passengers. With the constant coming and going of people, it should be no surprise that diseases can spread like wildfires. T
his was clearly demonstrated by the recent outbreak of Ebola, which until it reached the U.S. was essentially ignored by Americans.
The U.S. proved their medical and heath care capabilities in their handling of the Ebola outbreak. However, they also revealed their blatant self-interest. There is no doubt that the reason the Ebola patients who received medical treatment from Americans had better results is because the U.S. is more equipped to handle disease.
The point, however, is not that we should focus more time or effort treating the sick in other countries because it is noble or even moral. The point is that we must focus more time and effort on collaborating and treating all the sick.
If we can study, treat and cure illnesses that occur outside our borders, there is a better chance that we can contain them or better treat them within our borders. Global health does not mean foreign health; it means collective health.
– Brittney Dimond