Global Health, Population Health, and Advocacy
Global health has been widely defined in the academic community. Koplan et al., for instance, define the concept as “an area of study, research, and practice that places a priority on improving health and achieving health equity for all people worldwide” (Beaglehole & Bonita, 2010). The UK Government defines global health as…
“Health issues where the determinants circumvent, undermine, or are oblivious to the territorial boundaries of states, and are thus beyond the capacity of individual counties to address through domestic institutions.” (Beaglehole & Bonita, 2010).
These definitions, including others, broadly focus on improving health and achieving health equity. Global health emphasizes collaborative efforts in addressing the complex social, economic, and political, and environmental determinants of health and the transnational nature of the issues: they transcend national boundaries. Therefore, cross-national responses are required to find solutions. Global health also features research to develop evidence-based policies and health promotion strategies to improve health.
Population health, on the other hand, focuses on factors and conditions that impact the health of populations over a long period. Kindig & Stoddart define population health as…
“an approach that focuses o interrelated conditions and factors that influence the health of populations over the life course, identifies systematic variations in their patterns of occurrence, and applies the resulting knowledge to develop and implement policies and actions to improve the health and well-being of those populations.” (Beanglehole & Bonita, 2010).
Population health has a special focus on societal behaviors, attitudes, and structures, which determine health. Variations in health status among groups are evaluated using the social determinants of health and interventions are then designed to eliminate inequities and enhance the health of populations. While global health focuses on transnational issues and actions, population health emphasizes on the health of an entire or a select sub-population. However, both disciplines work to improve health and diminish health inequities.
As identified by global health and population health, health inequities are prevalent among populations and countries. These include infectious or emerging disease, maternal-newborn mortality, human trafficking, insufficient healthcare, and lack of resources. These factors occur at different degrees. Inadequate healthcare workforce is another indicator of health inequities. As of 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that by 2035, the world will experience a shortage of 12.9 million healthcare professionals (WHO, 2019).These health issues can be solved through advocacy.
Advocacy is a major health promotion concept that helps to overcome barriers to population and global health. Advocacy addresses poor working and living conditions. The concept gained prominence from the Ottawa Charter on Health Promotion, which acknowledged that “political, economic, social, cultural, environmental, behavioral, and biological factors” can favor or harm health (WHO, 2019). These factors, according to the charter, can only be favored through health advocacy. Advocacy develops and maintains occupational health programs and it plays a significant role in shaping the political and social climate. Health advocates work with health systems or campaign for change in health programs to improve health and eliminate inequities. As a health professional, for instance, I can promote the social justice of equal care and treatment by ensuring that everyone accesses care whenever in need. I can actively collaborate with legislators and professional leaders to identify and implement policies that eradicate disparities related to literacy, illiteracy, discrimination, and other factors. On the issue of workforce shortage, for instance, more resources can be allocated for training of more healthcare professionals and improving their compensation to minimize turnover.
Beaglehole, R. & Bonita, R. (2010, April ). What is global health?. Global Health Action, 3. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2852240/
WHO. (2019). Workplace health promotion: Advocacy. WHO. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/occupational_health/topics/workplace/en/index2.html