Beyond Survival: Working on Health & Wellbeing on the World Stage
At an event last week on advancing SDG3 on health, Dr. Nata Menabde stated that concerning the affordability and availability of medical diagnostics and treatment, we must, “think beyond survival.”
So what does that mean?
Since 2000, the mortality rate for children under 5 has been reduced by 44% . The global community has made significant efforts to combat child mortality and infectious diseases, support mental and maternal health, promote universal healthcare, and produce research and strategies to ensure healthcare for all.
Every woman, Every child
Children of educated mothers—even mothers with only primary schooling—are more likely to survive than children of mothers with no education. HIV is the leading cause of death for women of reproductive age worldwide. Recognizing the connection between a mother’s quality of life and the health of her children is a key factor in children’s health worldwide. Spearheaded by previous UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Every Woman, Every Child is a global movement involving governments, civil society, and the private sector in the campaign to prevent avoidable deaths of women, children, and adolescents and ensure that they prosper. This initiative brings full circle how the SDGs are all related.
Just Transitions to a Plastic Free Pacific is a coalition of NGOs whose work exemplifies the relationship between environmental issues and human health and well-being. Ocean pollution and climate change are just two major environmental problems that directly affect the health of humans. Sea life ingest the plastic, chemicals, and harmful substances that they are exposed to because of human waste, which can eventually return to humans in the form of an expensive seafood dinner. Sustainable ocean communities provide healthy food resources, employment, and better quality of life for people worldwide.
Accessibility does not only refer to the physical absence of a health institution or transportation to one. We all know that healthcare can get expensive. While we in the United States have been preoccupied debating about our own governmental leaders’ scramble to replace the Affordable Care Act, it coincides with a larger scale global issue: inaccessibility to healthcare because of unaffordability. Children born into poverty are less likely to live in a household with access to food security, education, and adequate healthcare, are more vulnerable to illness, and are almost twice as likely to die before the age of five as those from wealthier families. This accounts for the experience of 1 billion children worldwide (UNICEF), and 15 million children in the United States alone (NCCP). It is very common for people to opt out of health insurance or a trip to the doctor because of the bills they won’t be able to afford. Leaders in the health and science field often stress how universal healthcare is an essential pillar in achieving SDG3 and ensuring everyone gets the medical treatment and diagnosis they need-at a price they can afford.
People tend to prioritize physical resources and forget the importance of mental well-being. For example, though refugees can be at higher risk for developing mental health issues due to the trauma and persecution they have experienced, mental health is often an afterthought in refugee camps and resettlement.
Mental health awareness and treatment varies according to location and time. Various cyber bullying awareness initiatives have been gaining traction in recent years due to the new territory that the internet has provided for dangers of online bullying. (Some even highlighting the habits of the new president). In Nigeria, the Anti Bullying Campaign has created safe spaces for expression and education on bullying to curb prevailing vices such as drug abuse, domestic violence, cultism, insurgency, and even terrorism. These kind of programs promote the importance psychological health among youth, and educate them on the impact that mental health can have in their lives.
Maternal mortality has fallen by almost 50 per cent since 1990 but the movement towards good health and well being for all is far from over. According to the United Nations, more than six million children still die before their 5th birthday each year.
So when Dr. Menabde encouraged us to, “think beyond survival,” she was emphasizing prosperity. Every single person on the planet should have access to medical care and treatments. Every single person on the planet should have access to education. And every single child on the planet should have access the resources they need to become the doctors, scientists, and leaders who might cure the illnesses that claim the lives of so many each day.
As global citizens, we do not want people to simply survive, we want them to thrive.