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Article

Disability and Rural Health  

Rayna Sage, Genna Mashinchi, and Craig Ravesloot

The ways in which disability impacts people and their health in rural places are a result of the interaction between the person and the rural environment in which they live. Disability is defined as ongoing difficulties engaging in daily activities and social roles due to physical or mental conditions. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UN-CRPD) implemented policy in 2008 that recognized that disabled people are worthy of autonomy and dignity. The social and physical environment are constructed in ableist ways that make it difficult for people with disabilities to realize their independence and this is particularly true in many rural places. Person–environment fit and urbanormativity (the favoring of urban spaces at the expense of rural ones) are important concepts in understanding the experiences of rural disabled people. There is little existing research regarding the epidemiology of disability and rural health, but rural people report higher and earlier rates of disability than urban people and rural places have higher rates of older adults with higher rates of disability. Furthermore, rural people with disabilities experience various secondary health conditions and higher rates of mortality compared to urban people with disabilties. The lack of access to health care and advocacy help explain some of the differences in health outcomes when comparing rural and urban people. The disability rights movement led to the creation of different types of advocacy and service organizations across the globe to address these disparities. An important way to improve the experiences and health of rural people with disabilities is to ensure they have access to quality and dependable in-home services and community-based rehabilitation, which currently tend to be under-funded with dramatic worker shortages in many rural places. A final promising approach to improving the health of rural disabled people is through evidence-based health promotion programming that targets early indicators of health problemsand recovery and health-sustaining efforts following a health problem.

Article

Firearm Injuries and Public Health  

Linda Dahlberg, Alexander Butchart, James Mercy, and Thomas Simon

An important function of public health is to prevent injuries or to lessen their impact when they occur. An estimated 251,000 people worldwide die each year from a firearm-related death and many more suffer nonfatal injuries with consequences that can last a lifetime. Firearm injuries, which include those that are intentionally self-inflicted, unintentional, or from an act of interpersonal violence, are heavily concentrated in the Americas, driven largely by firearm homicides. Firearm-related deaths and injuries disproportionately impact males and younger populations and are associated with factors such as access, substance use, adverse childhood experiences, involvement in high-risk social networks, drug trafficking, density of alcohol outlets, and neighborhood and social disadvantage. While progress is being made to understand firearm injuries and how to effectively prevent them, much more needs to be done to improve the availability and timeliness of data; apply the knowledge that is generated to effectively reduce firearm-related injuries, deaths, and costs; strengthen the scientific infrastructure; and move countries closer to achieving the violence-related targets in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

Article

Health Information Systems and Migrant Health in Europe  

Louise Biddle, Kayvan Bozorgmehr, and Rosa Jahn

Ensuring the health of migrants and access to appropriate health services presents a challenge to health systems in the age of global migration. Reliable and timely information is key to decision-making in all sectors of the health system to ensure that health system goals are met. Such information is even more important among a mobile, sometimes rapidly changing, dynamic and heterogeneous migrant population. While health information systems (HIS) are crucial for effective functioning of other health system blocks as well as for evidence-informed decision-making, they are often sidelined in health system policy and development. Looking across the World Health Organization (WHO) European Region, HIS for migrants are deficient both in their overall availability and their integration into regular monitoring structures. Less than half of the 53 member states routinely report health data for refugees and migrants. Most of the routinely collected data on migrant and refugee health can be identified in countries with strong population-based records, with some good practice examples of well-integrated and high-quality health monitoring surveys, disease-specific registries, and “parallel” HIS in migrant-specific settings. Overall, however, HIS in the WHO European Region are not able to provide data of sufficient quality and comparability to be well integrated into regular health monitoring structures. The reasons for this can be highlighted by five key barriers to improved information systems for migrant health: barriers in recording data, standardizing data collection, harmonizing migrant indicators, producing high-quality data, and sharing information. Better integration can be achieved through increased multilateral collaboration for the harmonization of indicators, strengthening of governance frameworks for data-sharing and protection measures, and the increased use of currently underutilized data collection mechanisms, including health monitoring surveys and medical records from refugee reception facilities. These steps will remain essential for the adequate planning and provision of needs-based care for refugees and migrants.

Article

Migrant Health in Refugee Camps: A Neglected Public Health Issue  

Manuela Valenti

There are 1 billion migrants in the world today, which means that one in seven of the world’s population are migrants. Of these, 272 million are international migrants and 763 million are internal migrants. It is estimated that around 70 million of the world’s migrants, both internal and international, have been forcibly displaced. Many things force people to leave their homes in search of a better future: war, poverty, persecution, climate change, desertification, urbanization, globalization, inequality, and lack of job prospects. Migrants remain among the most vulnerable members of society even when their living conditions improve after migration. Migrant women and children are a particularly vulnerable group and have a great need for basic and preventive health care. Many refugees and migrants are young and in good health, but hard living conditions and difficulty accessing basic health care can affect their state of health. Many of them face inhuman journeys during migration and live in refugee camps with very low standards of hygiene; when they find a job, they are often exploited. All these things can also affect their mental health. Migrants struggle with similar challenges as other marginalized groups when it comes to access to health care, but they face the additional barriers of mobility, language barriers, cultural differences, lack of familiarity with local health care services, and limited eligibility for publicly and privately funded health care. Governments should provide affordable preventive and basic health care to refugees and migrants not only because it is a human right but also because in the long term it can lower the costs of the whole health care system.

Article

The Political Determinants of Health: A Global Panacea for Health Inequities  

Daniel E. Dawes, Christian M. Amador, and Nelson J. Dunlap

The political determinants of health create the structural conditions and the social drivers—including poor environmental conditions, inadequate transportation, unsafe neighborhoods, poor and unstable housing, and lack of healthy food options—that affect all dynamics involved in health. Globally, recurring examples of the role that these political determinants—through government action or inaction, and policy—are playing in health outcomes and life expectancy, particularly in under-resourced communities, can be observed currently as well as historically. Most notably, the political determinants of health are more than merely separate and distinct from social determinants of health: they serve as the instigators of the social determinants of health with which many people are already well acquainted. They involve the systematic process of structuring relationships, distributing resources, and administering power, operating simultaneously in ways that mutually reinforce or influence one another to shape opportunities that either advance health equity or exacerbate health inequities. Focusing on the political determinants of health homes in on the fundamental causes that give rise to, sustain, and exacerbate the social determinants of health that create and worsen the persistent and devastating health inequities that are observed, experienced, researched, and reported. By employing both a theoretical and practical lens to the amelioration of health inequities that continue to pervade communities across the globe, the article contextualizes many of the historic harms that have occurred throughout history, providing a unique perspective on the current state of affairs, and offering a tangible path forward toward a more equitable future. Furthermore, consideration of this new framework at all levels of government as it relates to improving health outcomes for any nation is imperative in order to eliminate existential threats for any and all populations.

Article

Prevention of Suicide  

Danuta Wasserman

Around 700,000 people take their lives each year worldwide. Suicide accounts for approximately 1.3% of all deaths and therefore represents a major public health problem. The global age-standardized suicide rate is 9 per 100,000 population, yet there are large variations among genders, ages, countries, and world regions. The stress–vulnerability model of suicidal behaviors has been proposed to explain how a diathesis, developed through the influence of genetic and neurodevelopmental factors in relation to perinatal, postnatal, and life experiences, interacts with different risk and protective factors that either decrease or enhance the individual’s level of resilience to stress and suicidal risk. Public health suicide prevention strategies include suicide means restriction, reducing harmful substance use, promoting responsible media reporting, public-awareness campaigns, gatekeeper trainings, school-based interventions, crisis helplines, and postvention. Mental health strategies comprise identification, treatment, and rehabilitation of persons in distress and at risk for suicide. Multicomponent strategies that use a combination of evidence-based methods from public and mental health sectors are recommended. Future work should aim at enhancing the quality of epidemiological data, improving the research on protective and ideation-to-action factors, expanding the quantity and quality of data coming from low- and middle-income countries, and evaluating the cost-effectiveness of different suicide prevention strategies.

Article

Religion, Aging, and Public Health  

Jeff Levin and Ellen Idler

Religion, in both its personal and institutional forms, is a significant force influencing the health of populations across the life course. Decades of research have documented that expressions of faith and the practice of spiritual pursuits exhibit significantly protective effects for physical and mental health, psychological well-being, and population rates of morbidity, mortality, and disability. This finding has been observed across sociodemographic categories, across nations and cultures, across specific disease outcomes, and regardless of one’s religious affiliation. A salutary religious effect on health and well-being is especially apparent among older adults, but is also observed across generations and age cohorts. Moreover, this association has been persistently found for various religious indicators, including attendance at worship services, prayer and other private practices, subjective feelings of religiosity, and numerous measures of religious behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, and experiences. Finally, a protective or primary preventive effect of religion has been observed in clinical, epidemiologic, social, and behavioral studies, regardless of research design or methodology. Faith-based organizations also have contributed to the health of populations, in partnerships or alliances with medical institutions and public health agencies, many of these dating back many decades. Examples include congregational health promotion and disease prevention programs and community-wide interventions, especially targeting the health and well-being of older congregants and those in less well-resourced communities, as well as faith–health partnerships in healthcare delivery, public health policymaking, and legislative advocacy for healthcare reform. Religious denominations and institutions also play a substantial role in global health development throughout the world, individually and in partnership with national health ministries, transnational medical mission organizations, and established nongovernmental agencies. These efforts focus on a wide range of goals and objectives, including building public health infrastructure, addressing ongoing environmental health needs, and responding to acute public health challenges and crises, such as infectious disease outbreaks. Constituencies include at-risk populations and cohorts throughout the life course, and programming ranges from perinatal care to maternal and child healthcare to geriatric medicine.

Article

Water Safety Plans  

Karen Setty and Giuliana Ferrero

Water safety plans (WSPs) represent a holistic risk assessment and management approach covering all steps in the water supply process from the catchment to the consumer. Since 2004, the World Health Organization (WHO) has formally recommended WSPs as a public health intervention to consistently ensure the safety of drinking water. These risk management programs apply to all water supplies in all countries, including small community supplies and large urban systems in both developed and developing settings. As of 2017, more than 90 countries had adopted various permutations of WSPs at different scales, ranging from limited-scale voluntary pilot programs to nationwide implementation mandated by legislative requirements. Tools to support WSP implementation include primary and supplemental manuals in multiple languages, training resources, assessment tools, and some country-specific guidelines and case studies. Systems employing the WSP approach seek to incrementally improve water quality and security by reducing risks and increasing resilience over time. To maintain WSP effectiveness, water supply managers periodically update WSPs to integrate knowledge about prior, existing, and potential future risks. Effectively implemented WSPs may translate to positive health and other impacts. Impact evaluation has centered on a logic model developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as WHO-refined indicators that compare water system performance to pre-WSP baseline conditions. Potential benefits of WSPs include improved cost efficiency, water quality, water conservation, regulatory compliance, operational performance, and disease reduction. Available research shows outcomes vary depending on site-specific context, and challenges remain in using WSPs to achieve lasting improvements in water safety. Future directions for WSP development include strengthening and sustaining capacity-building to achieve consistent application and quality, refining evaluation indicators to better reveal linked outcomes (including economic impacts), and incorporating social equity and climate change readiness.