World Health Organization

Topic 1: Addressing Differential Access to Healthcare Amongst Distinct Cultural Communities

An effective system of healthcare should serve a population without bias or discrimination. Health disparities are “differences and/or gaps in the quality of health and healthcare across racial, ethnic, and socio-economic groups” [1]. According to the the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, “health services, goods and facilities must be provided to all without any discrimination” [2]. The unequal abilities of underserved populations to access healthcare is therefore a correctable violation of human rights. 

While complete equity is often unattainable in practice, there are many examples of systemic discrimination within healthcare systems that significantly isolate certain populations from high-quality healthcare. The reality that life expectancy in Canada is significantly lower in Indigenous populations when compared to national averages indicates that these communities are underserved by the healthcare system. While additional factors are present, a main contributor is the fact that healthcare is less accessible to these communities. This can be due to geographical distance, underrepresentation within the healthcare profession, and systemic racism that prevents an accumulation of trust between the communities and healthcare providers. Similar issues arise in other countries with large minority populations. In countries with privatized healthcare like the United States, systemic racism in other aspects of life like employment status can manifest healthcare inequities [3]. If someone is unable to find a job and therefore is unable to obtain health insurance, it is evident that they will be more hesitant to access healthcare. In a different example, India’s difficulties in providing healthcare to rural communities creates a divide between rich and poor communities rather than between cultural groups [4]. 

Due to the complexity of the causes behind disparities in healthcare access, it is impossible to solve this problem with a single solution. However, try to focus attention on improving access and reducing discrimination at the point of care within a community.

 

Sources and Resources for Further Reading:

[1] – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3540621/

[2] – https://www.ohchr.org/documents/publications/factsheet31.pdf

[3] – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4194634/

[4] – https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2021/02/whats-the-future-for-healthcare-in-india/

 

Topic 2: Controlling the Generation and Spread of Zoonotic Diseases

While the original source of the SARS-CoV 2 virus is not definitively known, the most widely supported theory is that the virus initially spread from bats to humans. When a virus is able to spread from an animal to a human, it is referred to as “zoonotic transmission”. With the rise of factory farming and limited health and safety standards in food markets, zoonotic diseases have been becoming more and more common for decades [1]. Therefore, the global health community is presented with the challenge of limiting and containing these spillover disease events.

The contributing factors to the rise of zoonotic pathogens are varied and require unique solutions. The frequency of human-wild animal contact has increased due to deforestation and loss of natural habitat. Some estimates say that the rate of zoonotic spillover events has tripled over the past decade due to this habitat loss [2]. Therefore, it is important to consider the health consequences of continued deforestation, especially in areas where surveillance for zoonotic diseases is difficult due to remoteness or lack of resources. It is also important to improve global capabilities for disease surveillance and containment. For example, in the first days of the COVID-19 pandemic, it took several weeks for the global community to determine that the virus was capable of human to human transmission [3]. In order to contain the spread of zoonotic diseases and to avoid future pandemics, the general consensus is that the global health community must devote more time and resources into surveillance and containment of diseases [4]. Finally, it is important to determine responses to diseases that are appropriate and can balance politics with science. When information is inadequately communicated to the public, health-related messaging can become polarized and end up putting people at risk. The intense debate surrounding masks demonstrates this; even in areas hard-hit by the pandemic, many refused to follow health guidelines that may have helped stop the spread of the virus [5]. In the future, it is important for the global health community to communicate directly and ensure that misinformation is limited in the interest of public health. 

As evident by the last year and a half, controlling zoonotic diseases is no easy task. Because of the interconnected nature of the global economy, once a disease is transmitted between humans it can be difficult to track or slow down. However, by focussing on the principles of prevention, surveillance, and global cooperation the WHO has a significant role to play in ensuring the health of the global community is protected. 

 

Sources and Resources for Further Reading:

[1] – https://brocku.ca/brock-news/2021/06/u-k-brock-research-shows-people-resist-factory-farming-as-contributor-to-disease-outbreaks/ 

[2] – https://www.understandinganimalresearch.org.uk/news/research-medical-benefits/the-increase-in-zoonotic-diseases-the-who-the-why-and-the-when/

[3] – https://www.bbc.com/news/world-52573137

[4] – https://www.bmj.com/content/373/bmj.n1234

[5] – https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/anti-mask-rally-calgary-1.5820904