By: Shawna O’Hearn, Phd (c), MSc (OT), MA, Director, Global Health
April 10, 2020
In less than 3 months, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone across the globe. As I write this, nearly 1.9 million people have been confirmed to have the infection and nearly 120,000 people are known to have died from the coronavirus. As we manage and eventually bring the pandemic under control, there will be a profound change in global health.
First, we will no longer need to demonstrate and explain the interconnections of global health across the globe. Perhaps one of the most significant impacts that we need to understand and explore further is the significance of the determinants of health. We are witnessing the importance of investing in health as essential to investing in the economy. In addition, we will see health being re-positioned on the political agenda as the public is aware of governments’ role in health.
From an education perspective, the last decade has been witness to unprecedented growth in global health programs in North America at post-secondary education institutions. After the pandemic, I suspect global health will become more popular and attract large number of trainees to disciplines such as public health, epidemiology, infectious diseases, and data science. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it imperative to train all students for a global state of mind and we will see global health filtering into all disciplines strengthening the significance of the interrelatedness of the determinants of health.
With respect to global health leadership, there has been a push to reflect inclusivity. Before the pandemic, global health was typically led by experts (predominantly men) in high-income countries (HICs) failing to address reciprocity and bi-directional partnerships. With the COVID-19 pandemic, low and middle income countries (LMIC) seem to be handling things better than HICs which have more resources and global health experts. Will there be an openness from HICs to learn from LMICs?
Covid-19 has taught us that health is the basis of wealth, that global health is no longer defined by Western nations and must also be guided by Africa and Asia, and that international solidarity is an essential response and a superior approach to isolationism. We may emerge from this with a healthier respect for the environment and our common humanity.
lona Kickbusch, Gabriel M Leung, Zulfiqar A Bhutta,
Malebona Precious Matsoso, Chikwe Ihekweazu & Kamran Abbasi
The current pandemic highlights inequality while revealing an interconnected global society. Viruses don’t respect national borders, and the rapid spread of this disease is due, in part, to the ways power and privilege play out in the provision of healthcare worldwide. We must not be afraid to discuss and explore the difficult conversations that underline power and privilege. We must include those who live at intersectional social locations, such as race, indigeneity, age, (dis)ability, gender/gender identity, sexual orientation, refugee status, class and religion in our planning, policy development and health care delivery.
Yet the examples from recent history do not demonstrate lessons learned: the Ebola crisis in three African countries in 2014; Zika in 2015–6; and recent outbreaks of SARS, swine flu, and bird flu. Academics who studied these episodes found that they had deep, long-lasting effects on gender equality. In her book Invisible Women, Caroline Criado Perez notes that 29 million papers were published in more than 15,000 peer-reviewed titles around the time of the Zika and Ebola epidemics, but less than 1% explored the gendered impact of the outbreaks.
Women in Global Health (WGH) is an organization, built on a global movement that brings together all genders and backgrounds to achieve gender equality in global health leadership. They are promoting five asks to help confront power and privilege, which undermine global health by preventing women from contributing equally to the fight against challenges like COVID-19.
- Include women in global health security decision making structures and public discourse
- Provide health workers with safe and decent working conditions
- Recognize the value of women’s unpaid care work
- Adopt a gender-sensitive approach to health security data collection and analysis
- Fund women’s movements to address critical gender issues
For more information:
- Five Asks for Gender-Responsive Global Health Security
- Operation 50/50 list of women health security experts
- Delivered by Women, Led by Men: A Gender and Equity Analysis of the Global Health and Social Workforce
To assist you in our common goal to save lives in the midst of this global, public health crisis, there are many resources from around the world. Over the next months, we will provide key resources in relation to global health and COVID-19 with a particular lens on our programs and the unheard voices impacted by the pandemic.
Please reach out to the Global Health team if you would like to discuss pandemics and global health. We miss seeing you and look forward to virtual engagement over the next few months.
In the meantime, keep an eye on York University’s Global Health portal for equity related information on COVID-19
Dahdaleh COVID-19 Global Health Portal
- The Beta Portal provides regular updates and is structured around five topics. As the pandemic develops, so does our understanding, and the Portal may need to be revised in the future. Our commitment is to offer the highest quality of information and insight available at this time.