The following definition was published in the Lancet in 2009 by J.P. Koplan et al:
“Global health is an area for study, research, and practice that places a priority on improving health and achieving equity in health for all people worldwide. Global health emphasizes transnational health issues, determinants, and solutions; involves many disciplines within and beyond the health sciences and promotes interdisciplinary collaboration; and is a synthesis of population-based prevention with individual-level clinical care.”
In understanding the meaning of global health, it is helpful to take a closer look at several key components of this definition.
While health is often thought of in a physical or health care context, its meaning is much broader. Health refers not only to the absence of illness, but also, as defined in the 1946 Constitution of the World Health Organization, “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being.” Improving health requires attention to all three of these parts, as well as equal emphasis on prevention and care.
Everyone should have the opportunity to live a life that supports good health. However, vast differences in people’s environments, resources, and social statuses affect the choices available to them. Achieving equity in health means addressing social and environmental determinants and eliminating disparities in health systems and health care access. These efforts should be focused not only in far-away places, but also among vulnerable populations in Rutgers’ surrounding communities.
Reaching Beyond Borders
Global health deals with health issues and determinants that are transnational, meaning they affect multiple countries. Examples of health issues that transcend borders include infectious diseases that travel between countries, as well as noncommunicable diseases and conditions that affect many populations around the world. Climate change and pollution are health determinants that affect everyone, especially the poor and vulnerable.
Global health issues involve a complex interplay of factors, many of which exist beyond the confines of a clinic. They must be approached from multiple angles: cultural, economic, environmental, infrastructural, political, social, and technological. The involvement of many disciplines, both within and beyond the health sciences, brings the perspectives needed to achieve comprehensive solutions.
No one sector or organization can achieve global health solutions on its own. The complexity of the problems involved requires alliances that bring together different perspectives, organizations, and skills. By building partnerships that exchange knowledge and capabilities among countries and stakeholders, including those most affected by these problems, we are more likely to reach practical and long-term solutions.