A Quick Sneak Peek Into The Global Health Crisis-Why It’s Such A Problem & Present Solutions
What are some of the biggest problems in the world right now? Poverty? Climate Change? Inequality? Well, alot of these issues stem from not having proper global health systems around the world. I know, sounds a little crazy but hear me out here. Ensuring global health is the foundation of everything. How are people supposed to change the world or do anything if their health isn’t in tact?
To give some context, there are many issues related to the medical system, including things like sanitation, antibiotic resistance, even pandemics like the novel coronavirus.
The interesting thing is that if we reflect on the current state of our planet during the spread of the virus, there is a whole new side of our world that doesn’t get to experience that same medical care we do or even have basic checkups.
It really adds a whole new layer to thinking about global health issues and how our health really affects everyone regardless of your race, religion and other factors. Health is something we all have in common and we need more efficient systems in place which help to bring that to light for people less fortunate than us.
WHO revealed that over 45% of member states reported they had less than 1 doctor per thousand patients.
Safe to say one of the greatest challenges right now for global health is the supply ratio of doctors versus patients in developing parts of the world.
The supply of patients is increasing due to things like climate change and air borne pollution, but the actual amount of doctors is not increasing or sustaining the population of these patients.
Recently, there has been more call to action for interconnectedness through virtual doctor/patient sessions.
Current Advancements Addressing The Global Health Crisis
There are advancements being made in the field of telemedicine (subset of medical communication) which is a platform that allows for long-distance care between doctors, patients and other health professionals. This idea of telehealth was constructed for patients that don’t have direct access to doctors, for medical consultation or remote monitoring patients.
Sounds like the perfect solution right? Well, In 2016, researchers posing as patients used 16 different telemedicine apps to diagnose skin issues. What happened? Some of the online doctors misdiagnosed the researchers and gave them false conditions such as like syphilis, others were prescribed unnecessary medication, and two of the telemedicine programs used physicians who weren’t legally allowed (licensed) to practice in the area that the patient was located, which means that the regulation around this technology also needs to get better.
Misdiagnosis happens is always a risk when it comes to in person health care, but over facetime softwares, some issues that doctors run into is not having an ideal way to diagnose/treat patients, due to limitations. Doctors are often afraid of liabilities in case they diagnose a patient wrong using telemedicine apps.
When a telemedicine program cannot determine a diagnosis for the patient at hand, the patient may have to go to an ER or hospital to get further diagnosis and next steps, especially if a clinical exam is needed. These visits can also prove to be unnecessary and create larger costs for both the hospital and patient. Simply based on the lack of connectivity or in person contact through telehealth services (nothing that can substitute that).
Having lack of primary healthcare and universal medical assistance is why organizations such as WHO, Doctors Without Borders & UN health programs are in place, but there are only so many resources one can give to a country before it runs out, due to the lack of environmental care in these countries.
Portable MRI Devices-Bettering Diagnosis through new technology
Other companies such as Butterfly Network are working towards finding better solutions for diagnosis through telemedicine. When combatting global health issues, democratization of medicine and issuing it to the public has been a main factor as to why patients can get diagnosed easily and efficiently.
Butterfly Network develops small pocket sized ultrasound imaging devices and portable MRI machines to limit the amount of patients and resources in a hospital spent on MRI imaging alone.
Around 4.7 billion people around the world don’t have access to imaging devices.
Villages in the developing world cannot afford the same medical treatments in other parts of the world, and by extension, doctors cannot diagnose patients properly due to lack of imaging/3D visualization of their anatomy.
Even small wearables and devices like these can better the telemedical process of diagnosis by a little bit, until we can find more sustainable solutions of getting healthcare technology to the developing world.
Keep in mind that even during the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine has been a huge & popular method of connecting doctors to prospective patients as it is unsafe to step into a hospital. Obviously like mentioned, this does have it’s limitations as doctors cannot actually treat patients physically, but we can better the telemedicine technology we have today by introducing better connection and remote wearable devices to track a patient’s health/view their anatomy.
Doctors are even tuning in using telemedicine software into patient rooms at hospitals/clinics, so multiple doctors at a time can provide their expertise. It’s incredible to think about, especially since someone from a more developing part of the world can receive the advice of a clinical physician in top hospitals worldwide.
The UN’s Approach to Tackle Global Health Issues
The United Nations recently put out a list of sustainable development goals (SDG goals), and they listed good health & well being as a major goal they wish to tackle by 2030. Some of the goals prioritized within the global health sector were:
Providing better healthcare funding:
- Current financial models for healthcare funding include out of pocket payment, private insurance, employment based private insurance payment & government financing.
- For developing countries, most of their government structures experience corruption and as a result countries by extension suffer lack of proper funding for healthcare/primary healthcare systems.
Increased Access To Physicians
- As mentioned before, according to a WHO report conducted, over 45% of member states reported that they had less than 1 doctor per thousand patients.
- This goes to show that there is a problem with the demand to supply ratio of doctors versus patients in developing parts of the world. This is a main priority to scale technological solutions that provide more doctor to patient interaction.
Improving Sanitation & Hygiene
- Almost 2.0 billion people still do not have basic sanitation facilities and hygiene. One of the greatest threats to global health issues is not having proper sanitation systems as diseases can get transferred more easily such as cholera, diarrhea, Hepatitis A and more
We have alot of issues in our generation. That’s not new. From poverty to climate change to global health, we have a long way to go until we can solve these problems, but the good news is we now have the mindset and tools to be able to solve them.
That’s not a statement we would be able to make less than 50 years ago. We have new technology and innovation that allows us to think 10x bigger, not 10% bigger.
Hi👋! My name is Riya and I’m a 16 year old biotechnology enthusiast working at SickKids. If you enjoyed this article, feel free to connect with me on Linkedin or check out some of my other works at my portfolio.
Until next time,