Population ageing: a global health crisis?
Population ageing: a global health crisis?

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Population ageing: a global health crisis?

3.1 ‘Global health’, ‘international health’ and ‘public health’

In addition to the term ‘global health’, you may have come across ‘international health’ and ‘public health’. As Table 2 shows, these terms are not be confused with global health. This table will help you to distinguish between these terms; it summarises key differences in relation to their geographical reach, level of cooperation, the extent to which they embrace individuals or populations, their views about access to health and their disciplinary approach.

Table 2 Comparison of global, international and public health

  Global health International health Public health
Geographical reach Focuses on issues that directly or indirectly affect health but can transcend national boundaries Focuses on health issues of countries other than one’s own, especially those of low and middle income Focuses on issues that affect the health of the population of a particular community or country
Level of cooperation Development and implementation of solutions often requires global cooperation Development and implementation of solutions usually requires cooperation between two nations (binational) Development and implementation of solutions does not usually require global cooperation
Individuals or populations Embraces both prevention in populations and clinical care of individuals Embraces both prevention in populations and critical care of individuals Mainly focuses on prevention programmes for populations
Access to health Health equity among nations and for all people is a major objective Seeks to help people of other nations Health equity within a nation or community is a major objective
Range of disciplines Highly interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary within and beyond health sciences Embraces a few disciplines but has not emphasised multidisciplinary approaches Encourages multidisciplinary approaches, particularly within health sciences
(adapted from Koplan et al., 2009)

In essence, Table 2 demonstrates the distinctive breadth of the concept of global health, with respect to its geographical reach (transcends national boundaries), the extent of the cooperation required between different countries (global), its objectives (prevention in populations, clinical care of individuals, health equity for all) and its disciplinary nature (highly interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary).

Integral to global health are the transnational factors that influence and shape health (for example, the marketing of tobacco). These transnational influences mean that global health issues often arise because of the way different countries are interdependent. It is therefore important that solutions to global health issues need to be addressed through collaboration between countries across the globe (Frenk et al., 2014). Indeed, when using the term ‘global’ in this course, the emphasis is on interdependencies between countries; as well as taking a comparative perspective of differences between countries.

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