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Global Health Policy Issue: Africa

Introduction

The World Health Organization’s constitution stresses that health is an elemental right for all people. (Jacobsen, 2008a) This means that regardless of a person’s religion, race, political belief, social or economic condition, he or she has the right to proper health services. Death from preventable causes is high in Africa mainly because of existing infections, a poor diet and hostile work environments. In addition, the incidence of non-communicable diseases is on the rise in Africa such as heart disease and cancer. Thirdly, inequality in Africa between the rich and the poor also contributes to the developing health crisis. It is clear that as the situation worsens in Africa, the global community is affected because it not only brings to light the inequalities in health but also has a socioeconomic impact. (The ONE campaign, 2011a)

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Discussion

The health of Africa impacts the health of the world because of the heavy socioeconomic burden experienced in Africa, which is a significant part of the world’s population. Poverty is the lack of money or a certain amount of material possessions. It creates a breeding ground for disease and these diseases are less likely to be treated. Statistical evidence around the world indicates that one in six people live on less than one US dollar per person per day. (Jacobsen, 2008b) Most of these people grow food on small plots to provide for the household. This makes the individuals susceptible to disasters like floods and droughts at which point they will all starve. Poverty means that access to clean water is limited, vaccination services are not provided and curative drugs are out of reach. Many poor mothers die at childbirth and the poor people who survive suffer from disability, starvation, mental illness, stress or are drawn to substance abuse. Many poor communities have no access to electricity and this means they cannot store food properly since they have no access to refrigeration. This increases susceptibility to food-borne diseases. The lack of infrastructure for communication and transport makes access to health services and education an uphill task. Poor families have inadequate resources to meet their daily basic needs and this greatly limits the chances that they would spend money for disease prevention. (Who.int, 2011a) Preventive measures they cannot afford include purchase of treated bed-nets to prevent malaria or vaccination against common diseases. Inequality is another staggering problem which impacts health in Africa and hence global health. Differences are observed not only between countries but between population groups within a country. Richer people have better access to health services than the poor. In addition, they work at safer jobs, they can get proper nutrition and have previous injuries or infections treated. This makes them healthier than the poor people.

Illiteracy is another problem Africa faces with its health. Most people who cannot read or write fear facing ridicule. As a result, they usually stay at home when unwell until they are at the brink of death. They also have problems reading and understanding the dosages and timing required when taking medication and may not know when to return for more medication or for a doctor’s appointment. Maternal illiteracy has been strongly linked to poor child growth and nutrition. This has significantly increased child mortality and these mothers are incapable of giving adequate care to their families. These families are also usually large because these mothers do not understand contraceptive use. The root of the problem lies in the fact that in Africa, boys are more likely to get educated than girls and when these girls get to adulthood they face many health risks that educated women do not meet.

These health problems can be solved in Africa by implementing certain vital strategies. First, Africa must grow its economy. This can best be achieved by opening up to global markets. In Vietnam, the poor population fell from 75 percent in 1988 to 37 percent in 1999 because the country opened up to global trade.(African Diaspora healthcare, 2011) It is however important to point out that accumulating wealth is not adequate if poverty as a health risk is to be dealt with. Africa must be ready to promote equity and facilitate unbiased distribution of resources to address the health needs in the entire continent. To make this a reality, African countries have to deal with inequality in terms of access to personal health between the rich and the poor, between ethnic groups and between the urban and the rural population. This can be achieved through the developing fair and coherent national health systems which will channel funds from curative care in well developed urban areas to primary and preventive care in rural areas. (The ONE campaign, 2011b) This is because curative care in urban areas is more often than not costly, making use of advanced equipment. These resources could be better used to improve immunization practices, nutrition and a healthy environment.

Another vital solution is the creation of employment. A single wage-earner in a household is capable of keeping it out of poverty. (Jacobsen, 2008c) Rather than just provide income, employment comes with benefits for example health insurance and incase of accidents at work, the injured can be compensated. Some employers provide food allowances, schooling for children or provide housing and this would go a long way in ensuring proper health in a household. (Who.int, 2011b) Education is a suitable tool that can be used to solve Africa’s health problems. To this end, a revival of African universities is in order. African universities, especially those that train doctors and various other health professionals should focus on the research of African health problems. This will lead to the discovery of new ideas and information which will help eradicate the most pressing health concerns. In addition, education will mean that more people will become professionals and this translates to higher income. This will mean that more people will work in safe environments, will live in a less crowded house and will have access to adequate food. Literacy through education enables more people to access and make use of vital health information that may save lives. Literacy makes people more sensitive and careful since they will understand the importance of immunization or campaigns meant to screen for diseases. (Africare, 2011)They will also be able to follow instructions on medication containers or understand the benefits in a health plan provided by an employer. They will also be more aware of conditions that mandate hospitalization or when to go to hospital.

In conclusion, there is global inequality in terms of health service delivery. The situation in Africa is bad and many people die from preventable causes. The main problems that make health delivery a problem are poverty, illiteracy and inequality within African countries. The poor do not have access to primary health services like immunization and the treatment of preventable illnesses. The solution to these problems lies in economic growth through globalization. This will created the much needed employment and resources that will aid in the dissemination of health services to those who need it most. Education is also a critical aspect that will help solve the health crisis that is looming over African states and the African population.

Reference List

African Diaspora Healthcare (2011) Why mobilize the African Diaspora healthcare professionals? Web.

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Africare (2011) Improving lives and building futures. Web.

Jacobsen, K. H. (2008). Introduction to global health. Jones and Bartlett Publishers. Sudbury, MA, 39-54. Web.

The ONE Campaign (2011) The issues affecting global poverty. Web.

WHO. (2011) Afro Health Systems/Safety. Web.

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