Health is just the tip of the iceberg.
We have made great advances in medical knowledge and technology. Yet each year, almost 6 million children still die, mostly from preventable diseases. Lack of education about hygiene, poor nutrition, and a shortage of trained medical staff create a situation where preventable diseases can spread out of control, like in the Ebola crisis of 2014 and 2015. Women tend to have even less education, and may not be allowed to see a doctor without a man present because of cultural customs. If she can see a doctor, poor roads can make it difficult to get to a clinic, if she can afford the fees once she gets there.
Addressing the root causes of poor health, including gender inequality, unequal access to services, and human rights issues is a more sustainable way to ensure good health for everyone, both locally and globally. Here’s how:
Equality and Power
Governments in developing countries often don’t have the money to invest in clinics and doctors, partly because international companies haven’t paid their fair share of taxes to their host countries. In some cases, governments have even been told to cut back on healthcare if they want to receive certain international loans. Years of under-funding and wage freezes in healthcare led to trained medical staff leaving to work in developed countries.
If the money lost through tax-dodging were spent on strengthening local health systems, we would be much closer to achieving accessible healthcare for everyone, regardless of social class, income, race, or gender.
Clean, safe water is the building block of life as we know it. Pollution from industry and from human waste is a major source of contaminated drinking water that causes sickness. More than 1/3 of people on our shared planet don’t have access to sanitation facilities, putting them at greater risk. As with many issues, those already experiencing poverty are most impacted.
By working to protect water sources, and to ensure clean water and sanitation services in every community, we can strengthen healthy systems that create healthy people.
Partnerships and Solidarity
Medicine is a big portion of health costs in developing countries. One way to make medicines more affordable is through global partnerships that encourage sharing knowledge to create cheap medicines, rather than brand name ones to be sold for big profits. Locally, social stigmas and misinformation around diseases like HIV/AIDS often prevent people from getting the treatment they need.
Learning about others and breaking down social barriers within and across borders is another important way to help tackle health challenges at their source.
Dignity and Human Rights
Health, including clean water, sanitation, and medical services is a fundamental human right. By working for human rights and supporting governments and community projects that put power in the hands of people, we are helping people to claim their own health rights, rather than making decisions for others.
As women face more challenges accessing essential health services than men, working for women’s rights and education is another powerful way to tackle local and global health challenges.