For two decades, leaders in medical education have emphasized the importance of increasing diversity within the physician workforce to better reflect the general population, including people with disabilities. Historically, the barriers in medical education for the inclusion of learners with disabilities have been many. As we progress through the early 21st century, researchers are seeking to reduce or eliminate these barriers to improve access to medical school education by readily putting forth the value of disability as diversity. Inclusive and accessible learning environments for those with disabilities benefit all learners. Carrying these findings into the healthcare profession brings further evidence to show the concordance between patients and physicians with disabilities through the lived experiences of being a patient with increased empathy and patient-focused care. With the inclusion of learners and practitioners with disabilities, their lived experiences, and allies contributing to the environments and standards in medical education and the medical profession, significant contributions for equitable opportunities and improvements can be made that ultimately benefit all.
Kristina Petersen, Zoie Sheets, Satendra Singh, Zina Jawadi, Dawn Michael, and Lisa Meeks
Cost-benefit analysis of WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) interventions have traditionally focused on two primary benefits: improved health outcomes, usually measured as reduced diarrheal disease incidence, and reduced time burdens from collecting water, treating water, or traveling to open defecation or shared sanitation sites. However, there are also many other important benefits of water, sanitation, and hygiene interventions for policymakers and researchers to consider, such as improved nutrition and decreased stunting, improved cognitive development and educational attainment, and quality-of-life improvements for women. Reduced fecal exposure from improved WASH may decrease not only diarrheal disease incidence but also the risk of environmental enteropathy, a condition that reduces the nutritional absorptive capacity of the gut. Environmental enteropathy results in a range of outcomes associated with malnutrition, such as wasting, stunting, and anemia. A growing body of literature has explored the direct relationship between improved sanitation environments and stunting. There are mixed findings from these research studies, suggesting that intervention adherence and baseline sanitation conditions may be important to realizing any potential stunting benefits. The economics literature has documented a strong inverse relationship between childhood stunting and lifetime earnings. Reduced absorptive capacity from environmental enteropathy may also hinder cognitive development in children. Recent research documents a strong relationship between improved sanitation environments and cognitive development in children, though some studies find no relationship. Beyond cognition, improved health from reduced fecal exposure may also affect a child’s ability to attend school, and research shows a relationship between WASH environments and school attendance and enrollment. Monetizing the benefits of improved schooling in a low-income country context is challenging due to high variation in school quality as well as high rates of self-employment. Quality-of-life benefits for women are a third category of benefits that are often omitted from WASH cost–benefit analyses. Mostly qualitative research highlights that poor sanitation and water insecurity is associated with safety, security, privacy, and dignity concerns for women. While these concerns and experiences are difficult to quantify in many cases, they should not be ignored when considering WASH benefits.
Si Ying Tan and Jeremy Fung Yen Lim
Digital health technology has been adopted rapidly by countries as tools to promote good public health outcomes over the last decade. The COVID-19 pandemic that occurred since November 2019 has further accelerated the salience and relevance of digital health technology in tackling public health issues as countries start to implement movement restriction policies that pose a challenge to the physical delivery of healthcare services. Unarguably, the pandemic has elevated the significances of digital solutions to public health issues, which include improving access to an increased range of health services and the potential of cost-saving, maximizing population-wide health impacts through behavioral modifications, and controlling and managing public health emergencies. In general, digital technology in public health has three major applications—monitoring, decision support, and education. Monitoring is especially relevant in the context of effective disease screening and pandemic surveillance, decision support applies to the promotion of behavior modifications and resource optimization, while education serves to improve population-level health awareness and knowledge. Despite the promises of digital solutions to address various public health issues, there are unintended consequences that could arise consequent to their widespread applications, resulting in governance challenges and ethical issues in their applications, such as data privacy and erosion of trust, safety, cybersecurity, algorithmic bias, liability, autonomy, and social justice. To reap tangible benefits and positive impacts from large-scale deployment of various digital health solutions, countries need to anchor their national digital health policies or strategies by considering not only their benefits and applications, but also various governance challenges and ethical issues that could ensue during their implementations.
Anna Jarkiewicz and Mariusz Granosik
Defining global citizenship (GC) depends on the perspective undertaken. The academic literature on GC is divided into two theoretical approaches: normative and interpretative. The first of these can also be called the attributive approach, because it refers to specific attributes that indicate whether someone is, or is not, a global citizen. This approach emphasizes the importance of education, during the course of which appropriate skills, competencies, and attitudes characterizing a global citizen are shaped. In contrast, representatives of the interpretative approach do not concentrate on creating a list of attributes through the prism of which the concept of GC can be identified but, rather, try to recognize what meaning individuals and language users ascribe to the concept. Understanding what GC is and what meaning actors ascribe to it is crucial in this view. The adopted theoretical perspective also determines who is and who can be a (global) citizen. The education emphasized in the normative approach, and the related course of acquiring specific attributes, means that only adults are recognized as (global) citizens. Young people are only citizens in the making. Consequently, full citizenship is an exclusive social category that is acquired on reaching the age of majority. In the interpretative approach, both adolescents and adults are considered equally as citizens. This approach stands in opposition to the age-determined order and seeks to broaden analysis by breaking from a transitional life-stage paradigm that works to divide childhood from adolescence and adolescence from adulthood. In this approach, we do not become citizens but are citizens from the very beginning of our lives. Within this concept, shifting young people’s understanding of life by applying “citizenship” as an inclusive social category is necessary. Depending on what theoretical perspective is used, a diverse range of educational practices will be employed—global citizenship education (GCE). The normative approach is related to the idea of GCE and practical notions about how GC could be taught in educational institutions or learned in other settings. In the interpretive approach, the emphasis is on cooperation in creation, joint and democratic decision-making, from which no one is excluded, regardless of age, race, religion, gender, and so on. In the same way that globalization became the target of criticism, the idea of GC and GCE is generating increasingly more discussion. Some of its aspects refer to the neoliberal foundation of GC; in that context, GCE can be understood as a system of influencing individuals to adjust them to the economic expectations of contemporary markets. Also, the expansion of the GC idea to other continents forced educators to take into account the achievements of cultural anthropology and academics to conduct international comparative research. What in the normative conceptualization was considered a universal norm in light of intercultural studies began to be perceived as a neocolonial expansion of Euro-American culture. This raises a fundamental question about a better (less colonializing) variant of global education. One of many answers is critical global learning, focused on demystification of dominant global discourses, mapping local discourses to recognize their statuses, tracing individual or institutional narratives to collective “root” meta-narratives, and emancipation of those who are discriminated against or not recognized in their formal civil rights.
Ndola Prata and Karen Weidert
Adolescence, spanning 10 to 19 years of age, begins with biological changes while transitioning from a social status of a child to an adult. For millions of adolescents in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), this is a period of exposure to vulnerabilities and risks related to sexual and reproductive health (SRH), compounded by challenges in having their SHR needs met. Globally, adolescent sexual and reproductive ill-health disease burden is concentrated in LMICs, with sexually transmitted infections and complications from pregnancy and childbirth accounting for the majority of the burden. Adolescents around the world are using their voices to champion access to high-quality, comprehensive SRH information and services. Thus, it is imperative that adolescents’ SRH and rights be reinforced and that investments in services be prioritized.
Comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) is increasingly accepted as the most preferred way of structurally enhancing young peoples’ sexual and reproductive well-being. A historical development can be seen from “conventional,” health-based programs to empowerment-directed, rights-based approaches. Notably the latter have an enormous potential to enable young people to develop accurate and age-appropriate sexual knowledge, attitudes, skills, intentions, and behaviors that contribute to safe, healthy, positive, and gender-equitable relationships. There is ample evidence of program effectiveness, provided basic principles are adhered to in terms of content (e.g., adoption of a broad curriculum, including gender and rights as core elements) and delivery (e.g., learner centeredness). Additional and crucial levers of success are appropriate teacher training, the availability of sexual health services and supplies, and an altogether enabling (school, cultural, and political) context. CSE’s potential extends far beyond individual sexual health outcomes toward, for instance, school social climates and countries’ socioeconomic development. CSE is gaining worldwide political commitment, but a huge gap remains between political frameworks and actual implementation. For CSE to reach scale and its full potential, multicomponent approaches are called for that also address social, ideological, and infrastructural barriers on international, national, and local levels. CSE is a work never done. Current unfinished business comprises, among others, fighting persevering opposition, advancing equitable international cooperation, and realizing ongoing innovation in specific content, delivery, and research-methodological areas.
William A. Vega and Esther J. Calzada
Undermining educational attainment at any stage is a threat to life course health. A strong educational platform is required for adequate human development in the 21st century because it provides a foundation for lifelong knowledge, skills, and competencies that protect health. The importance of educational attainment for health has been acknowledged but remains understudied as an interdisciplinary issue. In US American society, unequal educational opportunity is a historical reality and is reflected in health disparities among African American and Latinx populations over the life span. Reform efforts have been initiated for decades, yet gains in educational attainment show limited progress and wide disparities in lifetime health persist. Educational attainment is a fundamental social determinant of health because it leverages higher income, improves the management of other social determinants of health, improves social skills, improves occupational life chances, and extends life expectancy. The reverse is also true. Low educational attainment that is intergenerational imperils human development by failing to prepare youth with the capabilities to overcome structural disadvantages and poverty, which themselves imperil development. African American and Latinx populations in the United States, who together represent nearly 100 million people and who will be the largest component of the majority-minority American population by the year 2046, confront a web of aversive social determinants, including poverty in de facto segregated communities, violence and trauma, toxic exposures, poorly compensated and often temporary employment, a lack of universal health insurance, racism, and sexism in their daily lives. Clearly, there are social, biologic, and psychological issues associated with the educational attainment and health gradient, and early childhood learning experiences represent a critically important opportunity for human potential by advancing cognitive performance, problem-solving ability, motivation to learn, and overall structural and functional brain development. Families from low educational attainment backgrounds experience the negative impacts of social determinants in their daily lives, and their children’s life chances are diminished by poorly funded schools with ineffective educational programs. Putative causes and potential responses to overcoming the historical problem of neglect have been identified, and there are promising efforts at educational system reform aiming to promote health with effective programs and comprehensive strategies that will close the gaps in educational attainment.