Top 9 public health issues to be addressed for sustainable development

BuzzOnEarth is an online publication on environmental sustainability and human wellness, focused on creating positive impact. BoE aims to bridge the knowledge gap and act as a catalyst in accelerating sustainable development.

Introduction 

The goal of sustainable development has been one of the significant challenges. By the year 2050, countries aim to achieve all their goals for sustainable development. In this direction, many efforts and policies have been made by the governments, and individuals have also become socially responsible. Many goals have already been achieved to a certain extent, and many are being worked upon. Sustainable development is necessary for all sectors of society. It will provide for a better future for the upcoming generations while fulfilling the demands of the present generation. One such sector where efforts are constantly being taken and should be taken is the health care sector. Health care sector is quite humungous in India and is one of the costliest sectors to invest in. But to become sustainably developed, we need to address some significant public health issues. It needs to be understood that a healthy population will contribute effectively to nations economic development. According to a report by the World Health organisation, 80 per cent of the people are dying of non- communicable diseases (NCD) in developing countries. The people most affected by the NCDs are the younger age group lying below the age of 60. The statistics are alarming, and in developing countries where the healthcare cost is so expensive and have limited resources, these diseases take a toll on human and economic life. It thus becomes inevitable that we need to address such public health issues so that we can provide for our future generations to come. 

Why is it essential to address public health issues?

One of the goals for a sustainable environment has been providing good health and well-being by the year 2030. Along with this, clean water and sanitisation, climate change have also been essential goals to be accomplished. All such goals can be achieved with a proper healthcare plan and action. The public health challenges facing the world can be addressed by adopting a good health nutrition programme and policy. Thus, developing countries require investment in the public health care sector to deal with such issues and promote sustainable development. 

Major public health issues to be addressed for sustainable development

While we discuss the measures and our steps for eradicating the public health issues, we first need to know and understand the significant health issues which the world is facing today. Let’s discuss some of the health challenges faced by developing countries like India.

  1. Climate change and how it is affecting health- climate change has caused enough destruction in the past few years not only to the environment but also to the health of people across the world. Various human and natural factors have contributed to a change in climatic conditions and affected the environment directly and indirectly. It has caused many health issues like the risk of infectious diseases, deaths due to extreme weather conditions and fatalities due to natural calamities like floods and droughts. A study by the world health organisation revealed that nearly 150000 deaths took place in the year 2000 because of the health issues caused due to climatic changes, and the graph has been rising since then. The risk of getting prone to infectious diseases is relatively high. Diseases like malaria, dengue, high fever have been attributed to be caused due to temperature changes in the environment. Also, increased precipitation from rainfall causes floods which leads to contamination of the water and chokes the sewage lines, which leads to water-borne diseases. The smoke from the factories and industries is also polluting the environment, and around 7 million deaths have been reported due to air pollution. Therefore, climate change needs to be addressed as an urgent health risk for the environment.
  2. Creating a strong workforce for public health– To cater to such public health issues, a qualified and multitasking workforce must be employed. The force should be capable enough to deal with different communities, NGOs and other social enterprises to promote their public health services. Also, there is an acute shortage of health care professionals as they are underpaid and overburdened for the work they do. This is a risk to our health care industry and population. The statistics state that to ensure the proper functioning of the health care system, the world requires 18 million healthcare professionals by the year 2030. Also, healthcare professionals should be well educated and know various aspects concerning health, so that they can make people understand the need for public health care.
  3. Healthcare amidst pandemic and crisis- the sudden outrage of the coronavirus has made everyone very well realise the importance of a well-structured health care system and the value of the health care professionals. It is, therefore, necessary that the health care sector be well prepared beforehand for such outbreaks so that they can protect the lives of millions of people. Despite having one of the best healthcare facilities, Italy could not save half of the population from succumbing to the virus. This is because they were not prepared beforehand. It is therefore essential that the countries prepare themselves ahead of time and build preventive measures by investing in the health care sector. The diseases are also hard to cure in countries facing crisis or conflict. Even the necessary health care facilities could not be provided to the people at times because of the situations prevailing. It is thus imperative that not only medically but politically also solutions are sought to save the lives of millions of people.
  4. Inequality not only in income but also in health- You might have heard of the constant efforts being taken to reduce the income inequalities so that poverty can be eradicated but do we know the health inequalities that exist. By health inequality, we mean not providing similar health care facilities to all the segments of society. The rich strata of the community can get the best of treatments and facilities by giving money and donations. But poor people are not even given their basic health rights. The reports also suggest that there is an 18-year discrepancy in life expectancy between the people living in rich and emerging countries. It therefore becomes inevitable to provide good quality health care services to all the sectors of the society equally. For this, the countries should set aside 1 per cent of their GDP for primary health care services.
  5. Outdated healthcare technology- The Healthcare sector has progressed so well in developed countries and has new technologies and innovations being continuously done to improve the quality of life and health of people. Innovation and adapting to new technologies is quite necessary to treat and detect various diseases and problems. Therefore the developing countries need to upgrade their technology and improve their health care system. This will help in building a better healthcare infrastructure, and less population will die and recover from severe health issues. 
  6. Clean water and sanitation- Health care sector is facing an acute problem of healthcare surroundings that are clean and properly sanitised. It has become all the more necessary since the advent of the pandemic. Most of the health care facilities lack clean water and sanitation services which increases the risk of infection for the patients and the health force. The government hospitals especially lack these necessary facilities, and people’s life is at a higher risk. In many private hospitals, also the health care facilities are not up to the mark, and the risk of infections is at an all-time high. The instruments used for surgery and other checkups are also not properly sanitised and are kept like this only. They should be sterilised appropriately to reduce the risk of infection. It is, therefore, necessary that such healthcare issues be addressed urgently and ensure a clean and healthy environment for the people. 
  7. Limited access to medicines and vaccines- the healthcare services are so costly that they cannot be afforded by many people. The drugs are so expensive that many patients leave the treatment in between only. Right quality medicines are not made available to the people. The vaccines for many diseases are also not readily available and have to be procured from outside. Therefore, a need for making the medicines and vaccines available to the people is an issue to be addressed immediately. To save the cost of healthcare and also provide for patients with low income, generic medicines should be used, which are comparatively less costly and equally effective as the branded ones. Approximately, one-third of the world’s population doesn’t have access to quality medicines and vaccines which is endangering the lives of people. Thus, the need for better access to medicines and vaccines is essential.
  8. Food quality and production to be increased and improved– climate change has negatively affected food production and agriculture. The increasing temperature will lead to crop spoilage and reduce the nutritional value of the crop. Malnutrition is a familiar scene in poor people and will increase further due to droughts. The increased fuel cost will also make the food costly, which will become difficult for the low-income sector to afford. Diseases like diarrhoea and conjunctivitis have also increased because of poor sanitation and low quality of water. The studies suggest that by the year 2060, malnutrition will affect nearly 40 to 300 million people. Thus, the food issue needs to be addressed urgently. Also providing better and healthier food options can help in dealing with weight problems and obesity.
  9. Decreasing the risk of infectious diseases– communicable diseases have a higher risk of spreading and causing infections. Therefore, countries should have enough funds to provide advanced treatments, do proper research and development and decrease the deaths caused due to infectious diseases. The statistics state that around 4 million people are prone to extinction because of infectious diseases every year.

Conclusion 

At BuzzOnEarth our goal is to not just list the problems but talk about the solutions too! Something we tried to do in the aforementioned points. Hope that helped and if you feel that there is more to be done, you can always reach out to us!

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