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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

Since the 1970s, global goal setting to increase access to safe drinking water has taken a number of different approaches to whether water should be primarily understood as a “human right” or a “human need.” In the Mar del Plata declaration of 1977, states both recognized a human right to water and committed themselves to achieving universal access by 1990. By the 1990 New Delhi Statement, with universal access still out of reach, the goal was renewed with a new deadline of 2000, but water was described as a human need rather than a human right. This approach was coupled with an emphasis on water’s economic values and the need for increased cost recovery, which in turn increased the focus on, and uptake of, private-sector participation in the delivery of water and sanitation services across the Global South. A similar needs-based approach was adopted at the start of the new millennium in Target 7 of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), but during this decade a consensus on the recognition of the human right to water also emerged in international law. As the normative status and content of this right came to be better articulated and understood, it began to influence the practice of providing water and sanitation services, and by the end of the MDG process a rights-based approach featured more prominently in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of 2015. While the provision of water and sanitation services is multifaceted, the evidence of global achievements from the 1970s onward indicates that a rights-based approach increases the priority given to the social values of such services and focuses attention on the need to go beyond technical solutions to address the structural issues at the heart of water inequality. Going forward, approaches to the provision of water and sanitation services and the human right to water will need to continue to adapt to new challenges and to changing conceptualizations of water, including the growing recognition that all living things have a right to water and that water itself can have rights.

Article

Accounting for about 15% of the world’s population, persons with disabilities constitute a critical population. Despite a substantial knowledge base in disability and public health, persons with disabilities have been remarkably invisible within general global public health. Public health’s view of disability is shifting from regarding disability only as an outcome to prevent, to using disability as a demographic characteristic that identifies a population experiencing a range of inequities. Alternative models of disability reflect how disability has been viewed over time. These models vary in their underlying values and assumptions, whether the locus of disability is the individual or the environment or their interaction, who designates “disability,” and the focus of intervention outcomes. The United Nations flagship report on Disability and Sustainable Development Goals, 2018 documents that, as a group, the lives of persons with disabilities are marked by large disparities in Sustainable Development Goal indicators. These include increased likelihood of experiencing poverty, hunger, poor health, and unemployment, and greater likelihood of encountering barriers to education and literacy, clean water and sanitation, energy, and information technology. Overall, persons with disabilities experience greater inequalities, and this is particularly experienced by women and girls with disabilities. The COVID-19 pandemic and other disasters have highlighted the gaps in equality and consequent vulnerability of this population. Global disability data have improved dramatically during the decade from 2010 to 2020 with the advent of standardized disability question sets (Washington Group) and model surveys (Model Disability Survey). New studies from the Global South and North identify areas and strategies for interventions that can effectively advance the Sustainable Development Goals. This call-to-action outlines strategies for increasing visibility and improving wellbeing of persons with disabilities, particularly in the Global South. Increased visibility of the disability population within the global public health community can be achieved through active engagement of persons with disabilities. Improved collection of disability data and routine analysis by disability status can provide information vital to planning and policies. A twin-track approach can provide direction for interventions—inclusion in mainstream programs where possible, use of disability-specific and rehabilitation approaches where necessary. The article ends by outlining ways that multiple roles can increase the inclusion of persons with disabilities in global public health.

Article

Gerard Bodeker, Sergio Pecorelli, Lawrence Choy, Ranieri Guerra, and Kishan Kariippanon

The scientific landscape of wellbeing and mental wellness has developed significantly through interdisciplinary cross-pollination by researchers in molecular genetics, neuroscience, sociology, economics, including traditional and complementary medicine. The public health challenge lies in using this diverse body of scientific evidence to reframe wellbeing and mental wellness within a 21st-century global public health framework that incorporates evidence-based modalities alongside Western biomedical practice. Evidence on modalities, case studies, policy examples, and emerging directions in societal objectives in wellbeing and mental wellness are discussed in the context of a way forward that focuses on individual self-care, development of resilience, lifespan pathways for wellbeing, and a different economic calculus in framing public health priorities and policies.

Article

Luiz Augusto Cassanha Galvao, Volney Câmara, and Daniel Buss

The relationship between environment and health is part of the history of medicine and has always been important to any study of human health and to public-health interventions. In Latin America many health improvements are related to environmental interventions, such as the provision of better water and sanitation services. Latin America’s development, industrialization, and sweeping urbanization have brought many improvements to the well-being of its populations; they have also inaugurated new societies, with new patterns of consumption. The region’s basic environmental-health interventions have needed to be updated and upgraded to include disciplines such as toxicology, environmental epidemiology, environmental engineering, and many others. Multidisciplinary and inter-sector approaches are paramount to understanding new profiles of health and well-being, and to promoting effective public-health interventions. The new social, economic, labor, and consumption aspects of modern Latin American society have become more and more relevant to understanding the complex interactions in the region’s social, biological, and physical environment, which are essential to explaining some of the emerging and re-emerging public-health problems. Environmental health, as concept and as intervention, is simple and easily understood, but no longer sufficient to achieve the levels of health and well-being expected and required by these new realities. Many global changes such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and mass migrations has been identified as main cause of ill health and are at the center of the sustainable development challenges in general, and many are critical and specific public health. To face this development, other frameworks have emerged, such as planetary health and environmental and social determinants of health. Public health remains central to some, such as the improved environmental-health agenda, while others assign public health a relative position in a variety of overarching frameworks.