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

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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 healthInternational healthPublic health
Geographical reachFocuses on issues that directly or indirectly affect health but can transcend national boundariesFocuses on health issues of countries other than one’s own, especially those of low and middle incomeFocuses on issues that affect the health of the population of a particular community or country
Level of cooperationDevelopment and implementation of solutions often requires global cooperationDevelopment and implementation of solutions usually requires cooperation between two nations (binational)Development and implementation of solutions does not usually require global cooperation
Individuals or populationsEmbraces both prevention in populations and clinical care of individualsEmbraces both prevention in populations and critical care of individualsMainly focuses on prevention programmes for populations
Access to healthHealth equity among nations and for all people is a major objectiveSeeks to help people of other nationsHealth equity within a nation or community is a major objective
Range of disciplinesHighly interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary within and beyond health sciencesEmbraces a few disciplines but has not emphasised multidisciplinary approachesEncourages 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.