Global Health Trends – 2017 Edition

April 12, 2017

 

This is an update on short pieces I have done every few years on trends in the Global Health field.  You can see the 2013 update here and the 2011 version here.

From the work that I do with organizations engaged in global health efforts, as well as observing the global health arena, some of the trends I have been noticing in global health over the past few years include:

  1. More holistic thinkers and planners – We continue to see an accelerated understanding of the need for integration of issues and holistic strategies and approaches. Although systems are not yet in alignment, these discussions are also going beyond the integration of different strains of what has traditionally been considered part of the health umbrella, to recognize a broader ecosystem.  For example, the recognition that agricultural policy impacts nutrition which impacts disease prevention and treatment.  Since 2015, the adoption of the more universal Sustainable Development Goals has helped to fuel this movement towards more integrative thinking and planning.
  1. More focus on global health equity – This focus links to that above of thinking more holistically, and recognizes that poor health ties into other factors that go with impoverished environments, including lack of access to healthy foods and preventive care. If one just addresses disease and other health symptoms and not the underlying causes, people in marginalized communities will continue to be unhealthy and there will be little long-term impact from the resources allocated to addressing these problems.
  1. Impact assessment – As with other areas of civil society/social sector work, ways to better assess impact – how are people’s lives actually changed for the better (as opposed to more measurable but less impactful outputs – how many vaccines did we give, or courses did we teach) – are being more closely explored. Defining the impact organizations or initiatives are aiming for, what might visibly demonstrate the results of their work, and what kind of new indicators can be developed to track and assess the causality, is receiving increased attention.
  1. Multi-stakeholder collaborations – Although the global health field has many long-standing multi-stakeholder collaborations and organizations, we are seeing more analysis of these collaborations, what has been learned, and what changes might be beneficial going forward.  We are also seeing more private sector groups taking the lead on these discussions such as Impact2030.  A recent forum hosted by Pyxera Global had a number of business leaders discussing going beyond traditional donations via corporate social responsibility divisions, to a more active role to help improve the environment business needs to succeed that also improves the local community (e.g. skilled workforces, transparent governmental regulations, etc…) as well as contributing their supply chain knowledge.
  1. Including ‘developed’ countries as part of the global – Although we still have a lot of progress to make in this area, there is some increasing awareness that there are commonalities among many health issues faced by marginalized communities around the world and that ‘global health’ should also incorporate domestic health and should not just pertain to others ‘out there’.
  1. New and re-envisioned organizations and initiatives– As the focus transitions from global health as providing services, to many of the areas noted above – such as holistic approaches including prevention and global health equity – new and re-envisioned organizations and initiatives have entered the global health arena. Many of them are already beginning to make their mark in traditional ‘global health circles’.  They include: