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The year 2020 has seen vast changes in the health landscape, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic being the most obvious. The way the global population receives and approaches healthcare has drastically changed. Not only have people begun to look towards new ways of accessing healthcare (the rise of telehealth being one specific example), they have also taken to new focus areas, such as avoidance of illness in contrast to treatment alone.
It’s quite certain that 2020 will have a lasting impact on global health for years to come. Let’s take a look at what changed in terms of world health in 2020 – from coronavirus, to the rise of preventive medicine and holistic therapies, to the way the global population is now looking at their health, and what the future may hold in terms of global health.
What does global health mean?
In the simplest terms, global health is the protection of health across the globe, without any attention being paid to national borders. This means that disparities in healthcare accessibility are to be reduced and overall health for the entire human race is improved in the name of protecting against global threats, such as the COVID-19 virus.
Global health is not only a way to describe the wellness levels of the global population, but rather the definition of how medical professionals study, research and practise within the global healthscape. Global health puts the improvement of health and health equity for everyone across the world at the forefront of the process.
World health in 2020 has been even more important than in previous years because of the pandemic. With over 1.5 million deaths and counting at the time of writing, and every country affected by the virus in some way or another, coronavirus has become a huge threat to global health. The world has continued to battle the virus by working together towards a vaccination, slowing the spread, and lowering death rates with the best care available.
What are some current global health issues?
COVID-19 may be the big health issue on everyone’s minds, but it’s not the only global health issue that has made an impact in 2020. Pandemics will always take precedence because of their ability to quickly tear through countries. Other global health issues are more subtle, but require the same level of care.
Misinformation can be classified as one such global health issue – for example, in regards to the efficacy of mask use in relation to COVID-19, or the required rush for a vaccine. Being misinformed leads to individuals making poor health choices, putting the global population at risk.
Climate change is also a big concern when it comes to world health issues because of the dire repercussions it can have. Things such as water, air and food quality can all be attributed to climate change, and in the worst cases can lead to early mortality rates and declining health levels across the globe.
Mental health around the world is also plummeting. It was reported in Time that suicide rates in the United States were at their highest since World War II. It was also reported that in the UK, people with no history of mental illness were developing issues during and after lockdowns. This jump in mental illness can be attributed at large to the pandemic, but a lack of healthcare access and treatment options is also a big culprit when it comes to these rising numbers.
Global healthcare spending 2020
With the heightened need for medical supplies such as ventilators, PPE and testing centres for COVID-19, one might assume that spending on global healthcare has increased this year. However, reports dictate that may not be the case. According to research published on IHS Markit, global spending has been stable throughout 2020.
The COVID-19 impact has also caused an unprecedented drop on global healthcare spending, according to The Economist. This is because many elective or non-urgent healthcare has been cancelled by patients looking to avoid medical centres, and by medical professionals to keep hospitals clear of patients in preparation for outbreaks.
What happens now?
With the pandemic still raging, and many other forms of healthcare put on the backburner, the future of global health remains unclear. However, there are some new trends taking over the health space that could lead to a healthier global population. For example, preventive medicine is being looked at as a promising method to help improve the health of global populations. By focusing on staying healthy as opposed to regaining health after illness, preventive care can help eliminate many health conditions driven by lifestyle factors.
The focus on sustainability has also been increased in 2020, driven by a push to restore the health of the planet – and thus the health of the global population. With health advancements and access to healthcare being brought to the forefront through the use of innovative technologies, global health could also reach new heights in the coming years.
Overall, a focus on global health will be more important than ever following the pandemic, including recognition that world health and sustainability initiatives are good for both the planet and its people.