The Ohio State University
After the lecture, it remains clear that there are many health obstacles that stand in our way nearing the 21st century. If we are strictly going to talk about healthcare on a national level rather than a global one, we must consider health concerns only of the United States. We must assess the lifestyle and values of our culture. We live in a very fast-paced society valuing convenience. It has become a necessity in order to keep pace with busy lifestyles essential to maintain modern households. It has created a sedentary culture in which healthy habits are obsolete.
Obesity has been and remains a major health concern. Not obesity itself, but the co-morbidities often surrounding obesity such as heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, and diabetes. These conditions provide for major health concerns, including those as the growing cost of managing these conditions, public education needed to help patients cope with and control conditions, and accessibility to vital resources in managing these diseases.
Actions we as a profession can take to reduce the impact of such challenges may be as simple as providing ‘easy’ tips to help prevent/manage health disparities. Our culture has come to value easy, quick, ways to solve problems. We must then approach the population we wish to direct the same way. For example, swap out a soda for a glass of water, trade one meal a day for a salad, park furthest away in the parking lot, take the stairs instead of the elevator, ect. Providing incentives to prevent/manage conditions make healthy habits ‘worthwhile’ to a person’s time. Incentives keep in focus the values of our culture. For example, insurance companies can add discounts for healthy behaviors. Simple solutions have the potential to make a significant impact.
Anderson, D.R. The Scientific Rationale for Health Promotion. American Journal of Health Promotion. 19(3), p3-4, 2005.
Riegelman, R.K., & Garr, D.R. (2011). Healthy People 2020 and Education for Health: what are the objectives? American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 40(2), 203-206
The greatest health challenges of the 21st century are likely those outlined in Healthy People 2020 and are numerous in count. However, maybe the greatest challenge is to achieve the overarching goal of health equity and improving the health of all groups while eliminating disparities. I can’t say that I would begin to know how to go about this task as it requires a huge political undertaking, and thus the reason why it may be one of the greatest challenges; it appears neither republican nor democratic parties ever seem eye to eye. However, I believe Obama is trying to make an honest effort to overcome disparities when it comes to health coverage for all people, but I don’t think it is enough. I believe it also takes education to make positive changes and to create a healthier America. A model for professionals envision prevention education and integrated health outcomes to educate people from pre K-12 to communities, in order to improve people’s health and decrease disparity (Riegelman and Garr, 2011, p. 203). This group has outlined a framework to increase health education, and with an increase in education, this knowledge can pass to communities. A community knowledge of the public health system would then hopefully encourage participation amongst its members to act upon a governmental change in health disparity. In turn, I would hope future, health educated politicians would make real decisions based upon realistic inequalities and not party line partisanship, which is a huge factor and maybe why I think disparity and equality is one of the biggest challenges we face in the 21st century.
Riegelman, R.K., Garr, D.R. (2011). Healthy People 2020 and Education for Health: what are the objectives? American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 40(2), 203-206.
When I started to write about the health challenges of the 21st century, my thoughts initially went to obesity, diseases, aging and antibiotic resistant organisms. The more I thought about the question as it pertains to this era of rapid change and technological advances, I realized that the most challenging issues we face will take place on a global level. For what might be the first time in the history of humans, according to researchers at Columbia University (Fried, Begg, Bayer, & Galea, 2014), large-scale social influences are changing the basic living conditions and health requirements of populations within a single generation. The authors focus on four forces that represent the types of challenges that public health graduate students must be prepared to understand and address; globalization, rapid urbanization, aging populations, and disparities in health among different groups.
As air travel has exploded in the last century, populations are no longer primarily confined to one area. Globalization, described as the expanding ‘interconnectedness’ of thoughts, behaviors and resources on a global level, fuels the spread of such problems as infectious diseases and poor dietary practices that are linked to obesity and diabetes (Fried et al., 2014, p. 23), but can also aid in the spread of healthy messages that can promote public health. The migration of humans is a global pattern that can have profound influences on the health of populations and individuals, and a recent PLoS Medicine article on migration (Zimmerman, Kiss, & Hossain, 2011) suggests that migration is inevitable, and in order to make it as healthy a process as possible, policy and decision-makers must work towards coordinating action across policy sectors and borders. They also propose that health intervention should take place at each phase of the process of migrating, from pre-departure to return.
Rapid urbanization is another health challenge facing future generations. It is predicted that 60% of the global population will live in cities by the year 2030 (Fried et al., 2014). The urban population of the planet is expected to hit 6.3 billion by 2050, and this growth is expected to take place almost entirely in low-income areas (Alirol, Getaz, Stoll, Chappuis, & Loutan, 2011). Low-income urban areas are particularly vulnerable to the spread of infectious disease like HIV, tuberculosis, dengue and yellow fever and malaria because of the close proximity of the inhabitants, lack of sanitation and clean drinking water, and increased migration through the hub reas (Alirol et al., 2011). The authors of the previously cited review (Alirol et al., 2011) suggest that dense urban areas offer many opportunities for monitoring, control and prevention of disease. They offer solutions such as thoughtful planning and sensible expansion of urban areas, and they suggest that policy interventions need to be applied at every level, from the local communities all the way up to the global level.
The aging of the world’s population presents another health challenge for the 21st century. Humans are living longer, and it is predicted that by 2030, over 16% of the global population will be at least 60 years old (Fried et al., 2014). In developed countries, the segment of the population that has expanded most rapidly is those greater than 85 years (Christenesen, Doblhammer, Rau, & Vaupel, 2009). While the oldest of the older age groups are considered the most vulnerable to disability and chronic illness, research suggests that humans are living longer lives without experiencing significant disability. In considering the actions that we can take today to reduce the impact of the aging of our global populations, researchers (Christenesen et al., 2009) note that the aging process can be modified by early detection and treatment to control chronic illness. Public health efforts must focus on improving the living situations and care provided to the elderly with chronic health conditions, while preventing these ailments by promoting efforts to combat unhealthy behaviors like smoking and sedentary lifestyles.
Finally, intergroup health disparities among such subsets as race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and gender are on the rise globally and nationally and have been very resistant to significant efforts at intervention (Fried et al., 2014). Culture and economic status affect people’s perceptions of, interpretations of, and communication about health and illness, and also the types of social support available. Ultimately, culture can have a profound influence on the help-seeking behaviors of individuals, and according to the author of one of our readings (Arnault, 2009), the very nature of culture demands multidisciplinary research methods that combine ideas into working theories that can guide practice.
Alirol, E., Getaz, L., Stoll, B., Chappuis, F., & Loutan, L. (2011, February). Urbanisation and
infectious diseases in a globalised world. The Lancet, 11, 131-141.
Arnault, D. S. (2009). Cultural determinants of health seeking: A model for research and
practice. Research and Theory for Nursing Practice: An International Journal, 23(1),
Christenesen, K., Doblhammer, G., Rau, R., & Vaupel, J. W. (2009, October 2, 2009).
Ageing populations:the challenges ahead. Lancet, 374, 1196-1208.
Fried, L. P., Begg, M. D., Bayer, R., & Galea, S. (2014, January). MPH education for the 21st
century: Motivation, rationale, and key principles for the new Columbia public health
cirriculum. American Journal of Public Health, 104(1), 23-30.
Zimmerman, C., Kiss, L., & Hossain, M. (2011). Migration and health: A framework for 21st
century policy-making. Retrieved from
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