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Article

Research in diverse fields has examined how social and gender norms, broadly defined as informal rules of acceptable behavior in a given group or society, may influence sexual and reproductive health outcomes. One set of conceptual and empirical approaches has focused on perceptions of how commonly others perform a behavior and the extent to which others support or approve of the behavior. Another set of approaches has focused on how social norms emerge from structures of gender and power that characterize the social institutions within which individuals are embedded. Interventions intended to improve sexual and reproductive health outcomes by shifting social and gender norms have been applied across a wide range of populations and settings and to a diverse set of behaviors, including female genital mutilation/cutting, the use of modern contraceptive methods, and behavioral risk reduction for HIV. Norms-based intervention strategies have been implemented at multiple socioecological levels and have taken a variety of forms, including leveraging the influence of prominent individuals, using community activities or mass media to shift attitudes, and introducing legislation or policies that facilitate the changing of social norms. Recent advances in social and gender norms scholarship include the integration of previously disparate conceptual and empirical approaches into a unified multilevel framework. Although challenges remain in measuring social and gender norms and studying their impacts on sexual and reproductive health-related behaviors across cultures, the research will continue to shape policies and programs that impact sexual and reproductive health globally.

Article

Madeleine Short Fabic, Yoonjoung Choi, and Fredrick Makumbi

Sexual and reproductive health (SRH) surveys around the world, especially in low- and middle-income countries, have been and continue to be the primary sources of data about individual-, community-, and population-level sexual and reproductive health. Beginning with the Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices surveys of the late 1950s, SRH surveys have been crucial tools for informing public health programming, healthcare delivery, public policy, and more. Additionally, major demographic and health modeling and estimation efforts rely on SRH survey data, as have thousands of research studies. For more than half a century, surveys have met major SRH information needs, especially in low- and middle-income countries. And even as the world has achieved impressive information technology advances, increasing by orders of magnitude the depth and breadth of data collected and analyzed, the necessity and importance of surveys have not waned. As of 2021, four major internationally comparable SRH survey platforms are operating in low- and middle-income countries—the Demographic and Health Surveys Program (DHS), Multiple-Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), Population-Based HIV Impact Assessment (PHIA), and Performance Monitoring for Action (PMA). Among these platforms, DHS collects the widest range of data on population, health, and nutrition, followed by MICS. PHIA collects the most HIV-related data. And PMA’s family planning data are collected with the most frequency. These population-based household surveys are rich data sources, collecting data to measure a wide range of SRH indicators—from contraceptive prevalence to HIV prevalence, from cervical cancer screening rates to skilled birth delivery rates, from age at menarche to age at first sex, and more. As with other surveys, SRH surveys are imperfect; selection bias, recall bias, social desirability bias, interviewer bias, and misclassification bias and error can represent major concerns. Furthermore, thorny issues persist across the decades, including perpetual historic, measurement, and methodological concerns. To provide a few examples with regard to history, because the major survey programs have historically been led by donors and multilateral organizations based in the Global North, survey content and implementation have been closely connected with donor priorities, which may not align with local priorities. Regarding measurement, maternal mortality data are highly valued and best collected through complete vital registration systems, but many low- and middle-income countries do not have complete systems and therefore rely on estimates collected through household surveys and censuses. And regarding methods, because most surveys offer only a snapshot in time, with the primary purpose of monitoring key indicators using a representative sample, most analyses of survey data can only show correlation and association rather than causation. Opportunities abound for ongoing innovation to address potential biases and persistent thorny issues. Finally, the SHR field has been and continues to be a global leader for survey development and implementation. If past is prelude, SRH surveys will be invaluable sources of knowledge for decades to come.

Article

Maya Chandrasekaran, Joseph Cook, and Marc Jeuland

Improved access to safe and reliable water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services in the developing world has many positive health and economic impacts. Two of the key channels through which such impacts manifest are (a) the reduced time burden for the household members, usually women, who are responsible for water collection and transportation, and (b) time saved from not having to defecate in the open, far away from living areas. WASH interventions can produce time savings for low-income households via several specific pathways—for example, through access to closer, more convenient, better quality water and sanitation sources; reduced cost of water delivery to the home; direct conveyance of water via reliable piped supply; or improvements that reduce the time costs of coping with unreliable supply. In existing studies, time savings arising from WASH interventions have primarily been elicited using one of three methods. The first is the time diary approach, which aims to reconstruct an individual’s time use on a recent or typical day. A second approach is direct questioning, where the time spent on a specific activity in a recent (or typical) time period—in this case water collection and WASH management—is recorded. Finally, researchers have begun to use the Global Positioning System and smartphones to track information related to individuals’ movements throughout the day and to determine how those locations map to community water and sanitation facilities. The time savings estimated in published works vary greatly, which may be due to differences in intervention evaluation methods, time elicitation strategies, geographical context, households’ baseline water situation, and the type of improved technology considered. Then, the value of time saved by individuals from use of improved WASH services depends on the opportunity cost of time—that is, the value of the next best use of that time. From a development perspective, alternative time uses for education or income generation may be of particular interest, but other time use (e.g., for leisure, other domestic work, or rest) may also contribute to enhanced household and individual welfare. Unfortunately, in contrast to a fairly robust time valuation literature, especially regarding transportation choices, there is relatively sparse literature on the reallocation of time savings, and its value, from WASH interventions. Many economic analyses therefore fall back on “rule-of-thumb” methods that assume that time savings are worth some fraction, typically approximately 50%, of the prevailing market wage rate. Two methods for time valuation could be used more extensively for valuing WASH-related time savings and burdens in middle- and low-income countries: (a) revealed preference methods based on choices made by individuals between time and other burdens and (b) structured stated preference trade-offs that yield time values based on respondents choices in hypothetical games. Given the shortcomings of the literature, researchers working in this domain should devote greater attention to reporting the nature of the pre-intervention WASH situation in their study setting, describing and validating time use elicitation methods, including, when possible, with objective measures, and more thoroughly considering how time savings are reallocated or contribute to household well-being and reduced poverty. Finally, when conducting cost–benefit analysis of WASH interventions, analysts should use their judgment and knowledge about the specifics of a particular water project when specifying time savings; however, 60% of baseline time spent appears to be a reasonable base case estimate for water supply improvements. For sanitation improvements, the evidence base is thin, but per person time savings of 5–10 minutes per day appears reasonable as a starting point. In each case, sensitivity analysis is recommended around these base case values. Specifically, the value of that time is unlikely to be worth 100% of the household after-tax wage in the policy site, so the analyst should test whether the outcome of a project appraisal would change if time is valued between 25% and 75% of the average after-tax wage rate or, absent that data, the local unskilled wage rate. If the project recommendation changes within this range, the analyst should consider investing in primary research in the policy site, most likely using a stated preference approach. Primary research may also be warranted if distributional consequences of the project (e.g., on women or on the poor) are a central focus of the intervention.

Article

Samuel Forjuoh and Guohua Li

Injury prevention encompasses all the processes, strategies, and approaches designed to mitigate any unintentional or intentional bodily damage from external causes, such as motor vehicle crashes, falls from height, or incidents resulting in deprivation of the two essential elements needed for the proper functioning of the body, oxygen and heat. The methods for developing injury prevention strategies have undergone a steady upward developmental trajectory since Hippocratic times. In particular, the past few decades have witnessed transformative innovations from a myriad of studies that focused on the best strategies to prevent injury from occurring and/or to mitigate the severity of injury when primary prevention fails. These methods, techniques, and processes for developing injury prevention strategies and interventions are generally classified as falling under the “6 Es” of injury prevention: education, engineering modifications, enforcement/enactment, economic incentive (equity), empowerment, and evaluation. The Haddon matrix is the primary conceptual framework for developing injury prevention strategies. Other issues that are germane to effective injury prevention include synergism of interventions and appropriate transfer of interventions across settings.

Article

Measuring the impact of a public health crisis in terms of mortality might seem a straightforward method to quantify its effect on the population because deaths are much more easily registered compared to other health outcomes. However, despite the intuitive appeal of this path, it is far from obvious how to best operationalize it, and all the most used methods have drawbacks that should be kept in mind. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, the major routes that have been considered are cause-specific death counts (and related measures such as case fatality rates), excess deaths estimates, and life expectancy decline. All the considered approaches have limitations: Cause-specific deaths are often subject to undercount or overcount issues with significant differences both between and within countries, excess deaths estimates may strongly depend on the baseline (there are several methods to estimate it), and life expectancy drop estimates (or estimates of years of life lost) also depend on the reference level used, which can vary substantially across countries. More generally, the issues of available data quality and standardization of age structure should be taken into proper account. Thus, the choice of which approach is worth using depends on the characteristics of the crisis that need to be evaluated and the type and quality of data available. Interestingly, the three approaches can also be combined so that some of their limitations can be mitigated.

Article

Global health, defined by the World Health Organization as “priority on improving health and achieving equity in health for all people worldwide,” is an expanded view of traditional public health. While utilizing many of the tools widely taught in schools of public health, its emphasis is both on reaching the poorest and most isolated populations and transferring knowledge and skills for their benefit. Extensive and continuous field interactions and collaboration with the populations for whom health interventions are intended to benefit are very important. Thus, immersion in local culture and society, language skills, and active listening are key attributes for a global health professional to acquire. These apply to local health workers as well as expatriates. A broad array of disciplinary insights, ranging from clinical medicine to social sciences, communication strategies, and team building, are often more valuable than a single technocentric expertise, enabling a more holistic approach to health problems. The ability to simplify suggested techniques and interventions and especially the ability to create a culturally understood logic behind biomedical explanations go a long way to establishing acceptance of health messages and advice. Introducing new ideas, habits, and procedures incrementally rather than in one large dose of instructions or training has more lasting impact on both trainees and the targeted population. Invariably, delegating both authority and responsibility to “lower-level” workers—that is, those closer to the people through tradition, familiarity, and geographic access—results in greater acceptability and uptake of desired behaviors. Learning in the field is best accomplished from observing and emulating mentor figures—those who best exemplify the attributes of a widely accepted and respected health leader. In time, one’s own role as a mentor for new recruits facilitates the transfer of attitudes and approaches that embody these important principles of global health work. In the end, one’s impact on communities will be measured by the people and institutions that one inspires and leaves to carry on the work into the future.

Article

The COVID-19 crisis—the most catastrophic international public health emergency since the Spanish influenza 100 years ago—provides impetus to review the significance of public and global health in the context of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) achievement. When countries unanimously adopted the 17 SDGs in September 2015, stakeholders had mixed views on global health goal SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-Being). Concern arose over the feasibility of achieving SDG 3 by 2030 when countries pursued its nine targets and four means of implementation with sixteen other ambitious global goals. Nonetheless, health surely cuts across the SDG framework: for instance, the underlying health determinants are expressed in many goals as is urban and planetary health. Although health (and its different constructions) is central to overall SDG achievement, SDG success depends on a paradigm shift toward whole-of-government policy and planning. Indeed, the 2030 Agenda echoes calls for a Health in All Policies (HiAP) approach to public health programming. This depends on another paradigm shift in public health tertiary education, practitioner training, and policy skills development within and beyond ministries of health. Added to this are the underlying problematics around SDG health financing, human resources for health, health target and indicator localization for equitable country responses that leave no one behind, strengthening civil registration and vital statistics systems for inclusive and accountable health implementation, and the sidelining of human rights from SDG metrics. While COVID-19 has derailed SDG efforts, it could also be the ultimate game changer for intergenerational human and environmental health transformation. Yet strong global health governance and rights-based approaches remain key.

Article

J. Jill Suitor, Yifei Hou, Catherine Stepniak, Robert T. Frase, and Destiny Ogle

Parents and children continue to impact each other’s lives across the life course. Intergenerational relationships affect older adults’ physical and psychological well-being in a multitude of complex processes. Contact and interaction with adult offspring, as well as both giving and receiving support and caregiving, can have either positive or negative effects on parents’ well-being, depending upon whether these experiences are perceived by the older adults as enriching, harmonious, and desired. Furthermore, the impact of parent–adult child relations on older adults’ health is shaped by social structural characteristics of families and individual family members, such as race, ethnicity, and gender, as well as by cultural contexts within and across nations. Generally, close intergenerational relationships characterized by high levels of contact and reciprocal exchanges of support positively affect older parents’ well-being, whereas tense intergenerational relationships characterized by adult children’s problems or disregard for older adults’ values and autonomy negatively affect older parents’ well-being.

Article

In many countries, Traditional Chinese Medicine has acquired a status similar to other historical healthcare systems that are not at all or only partially legitimated by modern science, such as Ayurveda and homeopathy. They all contribute in one way or another to the health of the public. And yet, Chinese medicine eludes inclusion in modern, global public health concepts. Its focus on the individual patient-healer relationship, its diverse non-Chinese terminologies, often developed by individuals regardless of the historical meaning of the original Chinese terms, and an increasingly uncoordinated development of TCM in China and the rest of the world, with heterogenous educational standards resulting in very different skill levels of practitioners, make it impossible to draw far-reaching conclusions and contribute generalizable suggestions for the continued improvement of global public health.

Article

Ashley van Niekerk

A burn occurs when cells in the skin or other tissues are destroyed by hot liquids (scalds), hot solids (contact burns), or flames (flame burns). Injuries to the skin or other organic tissue due to radiation, radioactivity, electricity, friction or contact with chemicals are also identified as burns. Globally, burns have been in decline, but are still a major cause of injury, disability, death and disruption in some regions, with about 120,000 deaths and 9 million injuries estimated in 2017. Low-to-middle-income countries carry the bulk of this burden with the majority of all burn injuries occurring in the African and Southeast Asia regions. Thermal injuries are physically painful and may leave disabling scars not only to the skin or the body, but also impair psychological wellbeing. Severe injuries often impose significant psychological, but also educational consequences and social stigmatization, with the consequent adjustments exacerbated by a range of factors, including the circumstances of the burn incident, the severity and site of the injury, the qualities of the affected individual’s personality, and the access to supportive interpersonal and social relationships. The contributions of: economic progress, enhanced environmental and home structures, energy technology, and safety education interventions have been reported as significant for burn prevention. Similarly, legislative and policy frameworks that support access to modern energies such as electricity, govern domestic appliances and heating technology, and control storage and decanting of fossil fuels are important in energy impoverished settings. The recovery of burn survivors is affected by the availability of specialized treatment, physical rehabilitation and psychosocial support to burn victims and families, but which is still limited especially in resource constrained settings.