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A precise definition of Global Health

My first Global Health header.

I will not put forth my own definition; I will give you the definition as given by a paper published in the medical journal The Lancet in 1993. I will try to sum up the three-page report into a one-post definition which I hope that you can embrace and spread further; because as the report states clearly:

”…if we do not clearly define what we mean by global health, we cannot possibly reach agreement about what we are trying to achieve, the approaches we must take, the skills that are needed, and the ways that we should use resources.”

And, as you might understand, this paper did state a clear definition, but in order for you to understand it and remember it, you need to take in the background as to why that definition has been stated (and further on, why it was published by such a renowned journal as The Lancet).

Now, the background.

Global Health is a mixture between public health and international health. The latter two are very wide in their own definitions, but they share these components:

  1. Focus on populations rather than individuals with preventative measures favoured over clinical
  2. Targeting the unprivileged and poor, aiming at equity of access to care
  3. National multidisciplinary efficiency
  4. Need for multinational cooperation

Now, I will try to unveil these four points in more concrete descriptions.

1. There is a need to understand that generalisations to some extent is the only effective way to get an overview of the public health situation in countries that lack an effective health sector. Hence, one very often have to consider populations rather than individual cases (exception: epidemiology). In addition, it is much cheaper to prevent disease than having to cure it; hence, one often talks about preventative measures over clinical treatment – this does not mean that one does not provide healthcare to already sick and ill, but that we must learn to prevent epidemics in order to restrain costs so that we can treat a constrained number of patients.

2. It is clear that it is mainly the poorer classes of society that are struck by disease, that is a universal tendency. So, Global Health tends to focus primarily at the middle classes and lower and works for social equity in the access to healthcare.

3. Multidisciplinary? It involves the cooperation between different parts of society, not just the health sector. It calls for the collaboration between research, economics, business, etc. in order to bring about effective health promotion throughout society (ex: how micro loans can help bring families greater income, leading to education of the children, better diet and hygiene, and better housing – hence better health).

4. Yes, public health today transcends national borders. That means that one country’s health problem very easily can become another country’s problem, and with the transport systems of modern day, the risk of epidemics is high. Also, it is a fact that the crippling of one country will limit that country’s commerce and trade with other countries, hence holding back progress all over the world.

So, that are the four general principles that I could pick out from the essay. From this, the authors of the essay established this definition:

”Global health is an area for study, research, and practice that places a priority on improving health and achieving equity in health for all people worldwide. Global health emphasises transnational health issues, determinants, and solutions; involves many disciplines within and beyon the health sciences and promotes interdisciplinary collaboration; and is a synthesis of population-based prevention with individual-level clinical care.”

So, conclusively, we have found a general and universal description of Global Health, where it is a result from intertwining public health with international health. If you want a clearer description than this, please read the paper here: http://www.nshrf.ca/sites/default/files/common_definition_attachment.pdf



This entry was posted on 10 mars, 2012 by in Global hälsa/Global Health and tagged , .



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