There are many factors that can lead to a global epidemic or health crisis. Expanding international trade introduces new health risks. The distribution chain has resulted in potential international outbreaks secondary to foodborne infections, poor-quality pharmaceuticals, and even contaminated consumer goods. Moreover, there are health issues that affect us individually but in large enough numbers they represent a bigger issue, such as obesity and drug use. These 7 global health issues are ones to watch in 2017.
1. One Health -- Earlier this month the CDC promoted One Health Day. The idea was to bring awareness to the idea that the health of humans is connected to the health of animals and the health of the environment. This idea is becoming the cornerstone of a strong effort to affect public health, globally. This collaborative approach connects health experts all over the world — from all three areas, in an effort to prevent the control and spread of disease and streamlining the flow of information so that threats can be identified and responded to, more quickly.
2. Preventative Medicine and Non-communicable disease and injury prevention -- Besides being known as a former mayor of NYC, Michael Bloomberg has also made a name for himself lobbying for bans on sugary drinks. Now he is taking his show on the road. As WHO Global Health Ambassador for Noncommunicable diseases, Bloomberg is going after all the big issues in a big way. He vows to bring more attention this year to all preventable causes of death in the world, from cancer to car accidents.
3. Emerging diseases -- Occupational epidemiology is a new buzz word. The idea is to gather data on illnesses spread in the workplace to better understand the determinants and to help establish the steps that should be taken to reduce occupational risks. Illness costs the U.S. alone $576 billion a year. In addition, the WHO has listed these diseases as most likely to cause a global epidemic;
- Crimean-Congo fever - passed to humans from ticks found in Africa, Middle East, and Asia. There is no vaccine and it causes death in 40% of those who become infected.
- Ebola - Virus that causes hemorrhage throughout the GI system. There is no vaccine but two are in development.
- MERS Respiratory syndromes caused by viruses spread through contact with Camels and humans.
- Zika- officially declared a public health emergency. This disease is spread by mosquitos and causes the most harm to the developing fetus.
4. Pharmaceutical Outsourcing and Quality -- pharmaceutical outsourcing makes drugs more affordable. That is an undisputed fact, however, the concern is that the quality of these drugs continues to be an issue. The FDA created labeling requirements back in 2006 but the lack of oversight, quality control and transparency are coming to the forefront again.
5. Pollution/ Environmental initiatives are continuing to emerge. The goal is to substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from chemicals and contamination. There are an estimated 7 million deaths annually linked to air pollution, alone. In addition, air pollution contributes to deaths from other diseases such as heart disease, stroke, COPD, lung cancer, and respiratory infections in children.
6. Narcotic Drug Abuse - In 2016 The General Assembly of the UN met to hold a special session to address the global drug problem. The result was this 174-page report. In it, the vast scope of the drug epidemic is outlined;
- It is estimated that 1 in every 20 adults between the ages of 15 and 64 had used at least one illegal drug in 2014
-207,400 drug-related deaths in 2014
- only 1 in every 6 people with a drug use disorder seeks treatment
The group finishes by determining sustainable development goals which are being enacted across the world to combat the insidious abuse.
7. Telemedicine to Improve healthcare delivery. Many organizations are evaluating the effectiveness of telemedicine programs. These programs connect health care providers in rural communities of developing countries with physicians and practitioners in larger urban settings. The goal is to improve healthcare through technology. Telemedicine and eHealth can be the only healthcare provision available in some of the more remote areas of the world. SATMED is one provider that offers satellite based services in many emerging and developing communities across the world.
Global health issues are not limited to infectious disease outbreaks, they can be disease awareness, prevention, or global efforts to combat insidious killers like drug addiction and obesity. Perhaps even new technology that levels the accessibility to healthcare. The one common thread is that these global health issues represent challenges, the future is in the solutions.