Future challenges for global public health professionals

Working in global public health provides a unique opportunity to make a positive impact in our global society and to transform the livelihoods of populations around the world. 

What is global public health? 

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines public health as: “the science and art of promoting health, preventing disease, and prolonging life through the organised efforts of society.”   

Global public health plays a pivotal role in safeguarding populations around the world from illness and disease, and improving both their physical and mental health and wellbeing. 

Public health covers a range of areas, including: 

  • Nutrition 

  • Sanitation 

  • Disease prevention 

  • Access to healthcare services 

  • Access to adequate clean water and food 

  • Smoking, alcohol and drug use 

International organisations such as the WHO, as well as other organisations and governments worldwide, can help to inform and guide global public health policy. They can also help with research, education and health initiatives to aid in ensuring communities have access to essentials such as adequate clean water, nutritious food, and vaccines.  

What are some examples of global challenges for public health professionals? 

Here are 3 current and future challenges for global public health professionals: 

1. Climate change 

Climate change is undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges we face today as a global society, with major impacts on our environment, the sustainability of our planet, and our health and wellbeing. 

The WHO estimates the health impacts of climate change will equate to somewhere between US$2-4 billion per year by 2030, with areas that have “weak health infrastructure” – predominately in developing countries – least able to cope without assistance to prepare and respond. 

Acknowledging climate change as a key area that requires urgent global action, the United Nations (UN) has global agreements and frameworks in place to guide international progress on climate change.

These include the Sustainable Development Goals, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement. These aim to aid in reducing global emissions, effectively adapting to climate impacts, and financing required adjustments. 

2. COVID-19 and future global pandemics 

The COVID-19 global pandemic had far-reaching devastating impacts on global public health and presented unprecedented challenges for governments, organisations, populations and public health systems worldwide. 

The WHO reported the COVID-19 pandemic was likely to halt two decades of global progress towards Universal Health Coverage, adding that before the pandemic, over half a billion people were already pushed or further pushed into extreme poverty because they had to pay for health services out of their own pockets, and that the pandemic was likely to worsen the situation. 

In addition, according to a UNICEF report, over 39 billion in-school meals were missed globally since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic due to subsequent school closures.  

The COVID-19: Missing More Than a Classroom report stated around 370 million children worldwide – many of whom were reliant on school meals as a key source of their daily nutrition – missed on average 40 per cent of in-school meals since COVID-19 restrictions shut down classrooms. 

These are just some of the examples of the serious adverse impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had on global public health. Consequently, the threat of another global pandemic and acting now to take measures to prevent and be better prepared for such a threat is an important challenge for global public health professionals now and into the future. 

3. Inequalities in global public health 

The COVID-19 pandemic brought somewhat greater public attention to the inequalities in global public health that exist in our society today. But inequalities in public health continues to be a major challenge for global public health professionals, both prior to and following the pandemic. 

As the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reports, large inequalities exist in health status and life expectancy across population groups and within OECD countries. These inequalities in public health are linked to many factors, including differences in exposure to health risk factors and access to healthcare, and, as the OECD highlights, can have “severe consequences on the goal of promoting inclusive growth.” 

This makes the persistence of inequalities in global public health another pressing challenge for global public health professionals. 

How can an MSc in Global Public Health help you address these challenges? 

An MSc in Global Public Health can empower you with the specialist skills, knowledge, and expertise you need to address these global public health challenges and make a positive impact. 

As an MSc Global Public Health graduate, you’ll be equipped to tackle complex issues in the global public health field, and to work in health policy and health service delivery at local, national, and international levels, and in governmental and international bodies and NGOs. 

Queen Mary Online's MSc Global Public Health will help you confidently address current and future public health challenges and empower you to make a positive difference:

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Topics: "Global Public Health MSc"

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