Key Long-Term Challenges in Global Health
Young Leaders for Health has identified ten priorities, covering a wide range of issues. YLH wrote this list of key long-term challenges to underline that there are no shortcuts to a healthier world. I. Change In Discourse One of the main, overarching barriers to making health more accessible and our health systems more equitable and inclusive is the current mode of discourse. Hence, the way we, societies worldwide, talk about health needs to be ‘updated’. Health, as we at Young Leaders for Health believe, is not only a fundamental human right and an investment, it is also a political choice. Speaking of political choice, the discourse related to health also needs to change within government, within the state. Therefore, we at YLH are of the opinion that the state should also convene from within so that, hopefully sooner than later, various government entities recognize that they collectively need to work on all matters health-related; looking at the United Nations Agenda 2030 - health is not only SDG3 but encompassed in every single one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. II. Government As The Entrepreneurial State Governments need to comprehend and be encouraged to think and act as entrepreneurial states. By doing so, this will allow governments to ensure public wealth creation. Public wealth, defined as the sum of public assets owned by the government, which we at YLH regard as the key ingredient for securing the welfare of citizens. III. Health Financing Needs To Be Rethought The way we finance health interventions, disaster and risk management operations is somewhat outdated. Even though we need to continue investing in R&D when it comes to medicines, we also need to invest more in the building of an empowered, inclusive and accountable health workforce. Hence, we should invest less money in disease specific financing because what we currently have is a disease treatment system, not a healthcare system. In order to ensure a healthy society, resilient health systems need to be established that empower their people. By doing so the public is enabled to recognize that it too is in charge of its own health and well-being.
IV. Building A Strong, Happy, Inclusive And Healthy Workforce Coming back to the need to change discourse related to health: it is vital that the change in public discourse on health needs to start as soon as possible, i.e. children at a very young age need to learn that good health and well-being is a matter that concerns all individuals of society. Actively contributing to one’s own health and well-being as well as that of society at large is pertinent. Therefore, when we talk about e.g. nurses and caretakers we, as societies (and governments also play a key role here) need to finally start valuing the work of various occupations that actively contribute to our health and well-being. This is not only done by giving credit and recognition; an appropriate wage needs to be paid in order for the health workforce not to feel as though the burden of society rests on its shoulders and that it continues giving but hardly gets anything in return.
V. Climate Justice This is a challenge that thanks to movements, such as Fridays for Future, is on the health agenda. What needs to be addressed and tackled more is looking at our current production and consumption patterns, not only those related to our agricultural and food-producing sectors, but also transport, drug production and retail. The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries. In addition, the culmination of retail production and the extent of waste produced related to online shopping is enormous. Therefore, climate justice needs to be tackled whilst keeping a one health approach in mind. VI. Commercial Determinants Of Health This too is an overarching challenge, similar to how we invest in health and healthcare systems. Currently, we can see that it is primarily private interests setting the health-related agenda. We at YLH are by no means of the opinion that governments should not work with all sectors, including the private sector, but it is important to get the agenda setting and the implementation process right. Right meaning that public interests should be the main priority. This process should be supported by sectors, such as academia, civil society, international organisations, think tanks, private sector and foundations. As written in SDG number 17: we need to strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnerships for sustainable development by addressing public health needs first. VII. Digital Transformation For the past four years we at Young Leaders for Health have been studying the potential of the digital transformation. Whilst we are of the opinion that artificial intelligence holds huge potential for improving the healthcare sector and putting the individual in the center of the healthcare system, we continue to neglect addressing and ‘fixing’ who is designing our digital future. Various disciplines, cultural backgrounds and genders need to participate in the creation of our digital transformation. Furthermore, we would like to come back to our vision of the entrepreneurial state. The state should not be regarded and encouraged to continue acting as a market fixer but rather a market creator. Past, current and future developments in the digital health field show that a global infrastructure is being built which affects everyone. Therefore, for the sake of creating an inclusive society, free of structural discrimination (because if we look at societies worldwide, we must acknowledge that they are perpetuating structural discrimination everywhere one dares to see), governments need to ensure that the digital healthcare infrastructure that is being created is a public one, driven by public values, such as trust, equity and inclusivity. VIII. Leaving No One Behind When talking about leaving no one behind, we have to be truly inclusive. We need to talk about all genders, including individuals who consider themselves to be gender nonconforming. Because they too are an active part of our societies and have a right to be catered to.
IX. Mental Health At Young Leaders for Health we are currently focussing on understanding and tackling various mental health-related challenges. Apart from generating content related to this challenge, we are also conducting our annual Social Entrepreneurship Challenge on eHealth which will be tackling mental health next August in Berlin. Coming back to the mental health challenges that we, societies worldwide, face: mental health shall not only be treated, but also prevented. In addition, we have to disarm the stigma surrounding mental health. One possible way to go about this is to work on educational institutions. Many of them continue to perpetuate ‘ill mental health’ in people at a young age, which does not only tarnish their self-esteem and physical health but also disable them from thriving in life. Another aspect of mental health that needs to be addressed and tackled is social media and how they can be utilized to improve mental health, particularly that of youth. We need to address the deterioration of societies’ mental health accelerated by social media. X. Youth Engagement When talking about youth - young people - the majority of the world population - the next generation, it is vital that ‘power’ must be shared, and that respective contributions must be valued. Furthermore, young peoples’ perspectives and skills must be integrated into both the strategic design and delivery of health-related programs and policies, particularly when they affect their lives and communities. Hence, one shall not only call upon and involve youth for matters pertaining to advocacy activities, but also actively involving them in developing and implementing solutions to the various challenges (some can be read above) that we, societies worldwide, currently face and will continue to face in the years to come.