Global Health Issues Healthcare Providers Need to Know

Global health issues

Global health is a rapidly evolving field, and numerous recent worldwide crises have brought global health issues and their implications to the forefront of U.S. policy and clinical practice discussions. 

As with many big-picture health challenges, understanding precisely what global health is and how to operationalize global health solutions can be murky, even for experienced professionals. The reality is, global health challenges have the increasing potential to touch us all, and it’s more important than ever for nurses and healthcare providers to have a basic understanding of current issues and how to manage them. 

What is Global Health?

Global health focuses on improving health outcomes and pursuing health equity worldwide. It’s inclusive of all factors that may impact the health of regional and global populations, and is a full-spectrum approach that considers dynamics from large groups down to individual needs.

According to the World Health Organization, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Therefore, global health includes things like the impact of war on a nation and the people fleeing it, food insecurities or undrinkable water, drought, human trafficking, maternity and child death rates, economic instability, climate change, and environmental disasters

As a result, global health issues often have many layers of complexity affecting their outcomes, and healthcare professionals anywhere in the world may find themselves presented with patients affected by global health dynamics.

Global Health Issues and Clinical Practice in the U.S.

While the experience of famine and war may be foreign to many living in this country, the potential for global health issues to impact clinical practice in the U.S. is all too real. As a wealthy and healthy nation, we tend to be one of the places affected peoples look to for help and support. Health is increasingly becoming a transnational question, and our healthcare system is being impacted more than ever by global health issues. 

Refugee and Immigration Crises 

Almost 300,000 Ukranian refugees have fled their homeland with the goal of settling in the U.S. As they navigate the challenges related to housing and income, some will undoubtedly be in need of care. For nurses and healthcare workers, this may present unique challenges related to language barriers, previous medical care, and history, as well as physical and physiological trauma. 

Being prepared to manage cultural and language barriers is key for addressing global health issues in clinical practice. Hospitals and clinics need a network of resources they can lean on when challenges arise.

Natural Disasters

Events like natural disasters can impact the materials needed to offer proper care, and have the potential to create unique and unexpected challenges. In 2017,for instance, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and disabled a factory that manufactures IV fluids, one of the most widely used resources in hospitals. This prompted an immediate adjustment to how some medications were prepared and influenced clinical practice in the name of fluid conservation.

Keeping abreast of changing global conditions and their effect on important supplies is key for managing potential shortages and optimizing patient care. 

Health Pandemics

One of the primary challenges for international health organizations is the outbreaks of regional and global pandemics. HIV, COVID-19, malaria, and tuberculosis are ongoing problems in large parts of the world today, and diseases like Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever and Lassa fever continue to spread rapidly in areas with insufficient infrastructure for containment and treatment. 

As viral and bacterial threats manifest, the development and implementation of new vaccines, antibiotics, and healthcare protocols will need to co-evolve to keep pace. Given the nature of modern international travel, new pathogens have the potential to spread rapidly, and clinicians in the U.S. face the ever-present possibility of managing new diseases. 

Additional Factors

As more attention is being paid to global health issues, several topics are trending within the healthcare community that can guide best practices and create better outcomes. 

  • Mental health is one of the leading causes of disabilities worldwide. It is critical to be aware of the risk factors and implications of mental disorders across populations and familiarize workers with best clinical practices for supportive care.
  • Environmental events that include climate change and natural disasters are forcing populations from their homes and altering agricultural patterns. As people adapt and relocate, challenges with barriers to communication, new pathologies, and cultural complications may emerge.
  • Poverty has manifested its influence on health through varying life expectancies and mortality rates. It also affects access to care, as well as erecting barriers between patients and doctors such as transportation, family stress, and a perception of acceptance. 
  • Vaccines and routine immunizations are one of the most important contributors to improved global health. While international immunization programs have strengthened substantially, many social, financial, and geographic obstacles still remain.

The Role of Major Global Health Institutions

With the need for increased awareness of global health issues on the rise, major health institutions have become instrumental in recruiting international support. 

The World Health Organization constantly monitors global health threats and identifies potential effective responses. With clinical resources to fight the health crisis and a focus on educating the public, the WHO is instrumental in fighting global health issues. 

The CDC’s Global Health Center leverages its experts in health sciences to assist people throughout the world to live healthier lives, while tracking data on emerging diseases, travel, food and water security, and global protection. 

Everything comes at a cost in healthcare, and the World Bank is a unique partnership of five major institutions creating sustainable solutions to combat poverty and support developing nations. 

Understanding Global Health Issues

There are few formal opportunities to learn more about global health after entering the workforce, and greater knowledge and continuing education is crucial for closing the gap. To support healthcare workers in learning more about global health issues, Premiere offers Introduction to Global Health and Relevance to Clinical Practice at Home created by Mary Ellen Biggerstaff DNP, MPH, FNP, an expert in health education. 

By taking Introduction to Global Health and Relevance to Clinical Practice at Home you will receive an overview of global health concepts and become more aware of how these concepts impact clinical practice in the U.S.

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