My Conviction in Global Health


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Global health is an exceedingly nebulous field with the potential to encompass every issue under the sun within its bounds. It examines health and non-health issues, nationally and internationally, and analyses how they are threaded to the collective health of the global community.

My interest in global health was not an overnight occurrence. It stemmed from witnessing historical events of national and global concern in my country for over a span of a decade with the eyes of a medical student initially and later of a doctor.

At the time, the world seemed out of balance. It appeared that health was a right in some parts of the world while a luxury and a privilege in countries like mine. Pakistan is a lower-middle income country with several dilemmas among which most importantly, is a turbulent political history. A history that has made the road to health care chaotic since the country’s  inception in 1947 making health increasingly a privilege meant for a few.

“What makes these events worse for some countries was what intrigued me”

My observations, in connection with global health, began when Pakistan suffered a major earthquake in Kashmir in 2005. The health effects were seen over the coming few years which we were keen to observe as medical students. As these effects started to fade, the country suffered the worst flood in its history in 2010. These events had invoked global concern and humanitarian aid. One of the many things that went off track due to these events were the polio campaigns. The number of polio cases escalated and a national disaster turned into a global failure. Pakistan still remains one of the three countries where the disease remains endemic.

During my time as a house officer in a government hospital in Lahore in 2012, an epidemic of dengue fever emerged. At the same time, the pediatric population suffered an outbreak of measles in Punjab while the drought conditions in the Thar desert in Sindh claimed hundreds. These events were not the first of their kind in history. 2010 had seen dengue fever spread across many countries in Latin America and Asia Pacific. South Africa had suffered a massive measles outbreak between 2003 and 2005. Countries like Somalia and Ethiopia had gone through worse droughts than Pakistan. What makes these events worse for some countries and not so much for others was what intrigued me.

Amidst recovering from the flood, battling with an epidemic and dealing with a drought, Pakistan was also emerging as the largest host of refugees in 2012. Fragility and instability in one part of the world have the potential to spill over borders. Rising numbers of refugees was accompanied by rising in fragility overflowing from the next-door neighbor, Afghanistan. This along with on-going conflict in the northern and northwestern regions of Pakistan coupled with political instability changed the health statistics of the country drastically.

Health problems are global and no longer isolated

It was perhaps these comparisons and ability of consequences in one country to affect another, that ultimately led me to pursue a Masters in Global Health from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. During my stay in Stockholm, the Syrian refugee crisis became a global concern with varied effects across many geographical and political arenas and my conviction in what I was studying grew.

The world continues to be out of balance still. Certain parts of the world suffer disease and disaster more than others. People in certain regions are more susceptible to such events than in others. The world has shrunk and the adverse effects of one event have become contagious. To alleviate the inequities in today’s world I believe the health issues need to be dealt with using the global lens. Since health problems are global and no longer isolated, solutions should not be isolated either.

 

Sarah Khalid Khan Sarah Khalid Khan is a medical doctor from Pakistan and a news writer at GHNGN. Her interest is in global health, writing articles on health issues that merit global concern.  

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