Why global health?

Health is both a human right and an important driver of household and national economic development. Individuals with better health earn more, do more and raise their children better. Across communities and nations, this adds up to fuel social development and economic growth.

Investing in health is thus a powerful tool in global efforts for reducing poverty, stimulating economic development and enhancing health and well-being.

Great progress has been made in global health since the launch of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000, followed by the Sustainable Development Goals (2015-2030), but billions of people still struggle with poverty-related health problems.
Many fundamental problems still impact on public health in low-income countries, such as poor nutrition, poverty, lack of clean water and sanitation facilities, limited education and overcrowding. In addition, antimicrobial resistance and emerging infectious diseases outbreaks are emerging threats.

Substantial inequalities

There are substantial inequalities in health outcomes and disease burdens between the richest and the poorest countries, as well as between the richest and the poorest within a society.

For example, 16 million people living with HIV do not have access to treatment and one in four have experienced discrimination while accessing health care.

Women and children continue to be disproportionately affected by disease and ill-health. Six million children under the age of five still die from preventable diseases every year and 300.000 women die during pregnancy or from complications arising from childbirth.

New public health challenges

The world also faces new public health challenges such as chronic diseases associated with smoking, alcohol, obesity and pollution. Many of these are traditionally classified as «western» problems, but are now on the increase in low- and middle-income countries, causing a double disease burden.

The same countries simultaneously facing disease of poverty and life-style are also hardest hit by the shortage of health personnel, a global crisis that “will have will have serious implications for the health of billions of people across all regions of the world”, according to the WHO.

Meanwhile, emerging infectious diseases like Ebola highlight the need for global cooperation to tackle and limit outbreaks. The high levels of mental ill-health also cannot be ignored.

Increased urbanization, migration, conflict and climate change drive the change in economies and lifestyles that people face and the conditions that determine their health.

Looking beyond health care systems as delivering individual services is increasingly important. National health systems must also develop public health capacities and the ability to engage and regulate the private sector to increase private investment in health and ensure effective private health markets that promote public health.

Published 21.02.2018
Last updated 23.02.2018