Global Health is Everyone’s Responsibility

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John Bagala is a recent graduate from the Faculty of Medicine, Gulu University who is passionate about Global Health. He is currently establishing the Gulu Global Health Society and is the Chair of the Students Network for Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI). Previously, he has worked with the Federation of African Medical Students’ Association (President), Society for Advancement of Science in Africa. He has contributed to the African Health Leaders “Making Change and Claiming the Future” and has served as an ambassador for projects furthering Global Health learning and research in Uganda and Africa as a whole.

The aim of global health is to bridge the gaps in existing health care systems across the world – in many low income nations, these systems are struggling, despite partnerships with organisations and governments from high income nations. If we are to have sustainable and palatable global health interventions there must be involvement of locals – they must be able to take on the primary responsibility and ownership of the problems that surround them.

Collaborations with high income nations are still important – these should be platforms for both parties to share ideas, expertise and learn from one another. On many occasions however, these collaborations and platforms for external support are misused.

In the case of many African nations, like my home nation Uganda, there are three key pillars that need to be erected:

  1. Building vibrant communities of academicians and researchers which are resilient and effective
  2. Gaining the trust of locals and empowering them to play a role in this process
  3. Good leadership and political will.

The African continent and its people are abundant in physical resources and social capital – if this is utilised effectively it can be used to bring about social and economic development, improving health systems and allowing future generations to flourish. For this transformation to occur we must prioritise research and innovation – a pivotal aspect of any form of development thats has been sorely lacking in many cases.

In Uganda, like many other African Nations, most people live below the poverty line and have less than a dollar per day to live on, so it is inevitable that many will not have had the basic level of education you and I take for granted – this is a barrier hindering development. However by listening to these people, making their ideas, concerns and expectations count, we can empower them to play a role in their own communities and slowly gain their trust. Building on the work done by academics and researchers – together both can advocate for improvements and demand that their leaders and policy makers are responsive and accountable.

We are now in the year 2015 – many goals specific to the global health agenda were set to be met by now, whilst some have been met and most have not – looking closely we see that different nations have moved at different speeds (with many still not any closer to meeting them) – one simply needs to look at the Millennium Development Goals to see the scale of this discrepancy.

Beyond the Millennium Development Goals, many African nations and policy makers have gone to great lengths in enacting health care improvement policies and signing numerous health focussed protocols, such as the Maputo Protocol and the ICPD; however, the challenges in implementation are rarely overcome.

Why are we repeatedly failing to deliver on these commitments? Is the task at hand too big and unmanageable?

We need to continually analyse our strengths, our weaknesses and the threats we face, and act accordingly.

The rapidly growing African population is a time bomb and faces many challenges, from the ever increasing levels of poverty, shortage of the basic needs (including healthcare), Malaria, HIV and Tuberculosis – diseases that continue to claim hundreds of lives. You do not need to be an academic or health specialist to appreciate this – the recent, highly publicised Ebola epidemic wiped out entire villages in West Africa.

All these observations leave questions ringing in my mind. What have we really learnt from these experiences? Will we simply let similar tragedies hit us time and again? The ongoing xenophobic attacks in South Africa (among other unrests), in-fighting and creation of divisions only serve to undo much of the progress we have seen.

We can only move forward if we remain united and at peace. We all share the responsibility to ensure equity in health for all people, both locally and internationally.

John Paul Bagala

One Response to “Global Health is Everyone’s Responsibility

  • Excellent post, succinct and to the point. Individual nations struggle providing their own health care and forget about integration into the global health system until there is a problem. We need proactive involvement not passive.

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