The People’s Health Movement (PHM) is a vibrant global network bringing together grass-roots health activists, public interest civil society organizations, issue-based networks, academic institutions, and individuals from around the world, particularly the Global South. Since its inception in 2000, the PHM has played a significant role in revitalizing Health for All (HFA) initiatives, as well as addressing the underlying social and political determinants of health with a social justice perspective, at global, national, and local levels. The PHM is part of a global social movement—the movement for health. For more than a century, people across the world have been expressing doubts about a narrowly medical vision of health care, and calling for focus on the links between poor health and social injustice, oppression, exploitation, and domination. The PHM grew out of engagement with the World Health Organization by a number of existing civil society networks and associations. Having recognized the need for a larger coalition, representatives of eight networks and institutions formed an international organizing committee to facilitate the first global People’s Health Assembly in Savar, Bangladesh, in the year 2000. The eight groups were the International People’s Health Council, Consumer International, Health Action International, the Third World Network, the Asian Community Health Action Network, the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights, the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation and Gonoshasthaya Kendra. All these groups consistently raised and opposed the selectivization and verticalization of Primary Health Care (PHC) that followed Alma Ata leading to what was called Selective PHC (i.e., not the original comprehensive PHC). These groups came together to organize the committee for the first People’s Health Assembly and then to form the Charter Committee that led to the People’s Health Charter, which finally led to the actual PHM. Within PHM, members engage critically and constructively in health initiatives, health policy critique, and formulation, thus advancing people’s demands. The PHM builds capacities of community activists to participate in monitoring health-related policies, the governance of health systems, and keeping comprehensive PHC as a central strategy in world debate. The PHM ensures that people’s voices become part of decision-making processes. The PHM has an evolving presence in over 80 countries worldwide, consisting of groups of individuals and/or well-established PHM circles with their own governance and information-sharing mechanisms. It additionally operates through issue-based circles across countries.
Ravi Narayan, Claudio Schuftan, Brendan Donegan, Thelma Narayan, and Rajeev B. R.
José Gomes Temporão and Carlos Augusto Grabois Gadelha
The health economic-industrial complex concept was developed in Brazil in the early 2000s, integrating a structuralist view of the political economy with a public health vision. This perspective advances, in relation to sectoral approaches in health industries and services, toward a systemic approach to the productive environment, focusing on the dimensions of innovation and universal access to health. Health production is seen in an interdependent way, recognizing that the different industrial and service sectors have strong articulations that need to be integrated. The shift toward a universal care model that focuses on human and social needs requires a productive knowledge base that favors promotion, prevention, and local and permanent healthcare, requiring new productive patterns of goods and services and innovation. Therefore, these dimensions are not conceptually apart from each other, considering an analytical and political point of view. The production, care, and sustainability of universal health systems are understood in an integrated and systemic way. Within this vision, a cognitive leap is presented in relation to the traditional health economics, linked to the allocation of scarce resources, to a vision of health political economy that favors the development, expansion, and transformation of the health system and its economic and industrial base. Health is conceived as a moral right of citizenship and a vital space for the development of countries (and for global health), generating social inclusion, equity, innovation, and a possibility for the cooperation between countries and peoples. The Brazilian experience is an exemplary case of association between the development of theoretical conception and its implementation in the national health policy that led to the link between economic development policies and social policies. It was possible to advance both conceptually in terms of a vision of health and social well-being and in contributing to a new paradigm of public policies. This perspective allowed the guidance of guide industrial development and services toward the human needs and universal health systems, considering the challenges brought by the context of an ongoing fourth technological revolution.
Maria Helena Machado, Renato Penha de Oliveira Santos, Pedro Miguel dos Santos Neto, Vanessa Gabrielle Diniz Santana, and Francisco Eduardo de Campos
The greatest challenge in the development of universal health systems worldwide is to increase organization, training, and regulation of the health workforce (HWF). To accomplish this, the World Health Organization (WHO) has pointed out several strategies utilized since the beginning of the 2000s. One of the world regions with the greatest internal HWF disparities is the Americas, more specifically Latin America and the Caribbean. Brazil is another of the countries in this region that presents great inequities in its HWF distribution, although its Unified Health System (Sistema Único de Saúde, or SUS), created after 1988, is one of the largest universal health systems in the world. It is worth noting that Latin America, the Caribbean, and Brazil historically have high levels of social inequality and have recently become regions severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite some advances in the formation and distribution of HWF in Latin America and the Caribbean in the last 10 years, structural problems persist in the health systems of several countries in this region, such as Brazil. The COVID-19 pandemic aggravated some problems such as the distribution of specialized health workers in intensive care units and the precarious working conditions in several public health services that were organized to face the pandemic.
Paulo Buss and Sebastián Tobar
The construction of the concepts of diplomacy and health diplomacy must consider their conceptions and practices, at both the global and regional levels. Health diplomacy is vitally important in a global context, where health problems cross national borders and more new stakeholders appear every day, both within and outside the health sector. On the other hand, regional integration processes provide excellent opportunities for collective actions and solutions to many of the health challenges at the global level. In the current global context, the best conditions for dealing with many health challenges are found at the global level, but the regional and subregional spheres also play essential roles. The region of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) consists of 26 countries or territories that occupy a territory of 7,412,000 square miles—almost 13% of the Earth’s land surface area; it extends from Mexico to Patagonia, where about 621 million people live (as of 2015), distributed among different ethnic groups. Geographically, it is divided into Mexico and Central America, the Caribbean, and South America, but it presents subregions with populations and cultures that are a little more homogenous, like the subregions of the Andes and the English Caribbean. By its characteristics, LAC has acquired increasing global political and economic importance. In the 1960s, integration processes began in the region, including the creation of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), Mercosur, the Andean Community, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Central American System, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO), the Sistema Económico Latinoamericano y del Caribe (SELA), the Asociación Latinoamericana de Integración (ALADI), and finally, since 2010, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños, or CELAC), which is the most comprehensive integrative organization. While originally a mechanism for political and economic integration, health is now an important component of all the abovementioned integration processes, with growing social, political, and economic importance in each country and in the region, currently integrating the most important regional and global negotiations. Joint protection against endemic diseases and epidemics, as well as noncommunicable diseases, coordination of border health care, joint action on the international scene (particularly in multilateral organizations such as the United Nations and its main agencies), and the sectoral economic importance of health are among the main situations and initiatives related to health diplomacy in these integration processes. The effectiveness of integration actions—and health within those actions—varies according to the political orientations of the national governments in each conjuncture, amplifying or reducing the spectrum of activities performed. The complexity of both the present and future of this rich political process of regional health diplomacy is also very important for global health governance (GHG).
Deisy Ventura, Jameson Martins da Silva, Leticia Calderón, and Itzel Eguiluz
The World Health Organization has recognized health as a right of migrants and refugees, who are entitled to responsive healthcare policies, due to their particular social determinants of health. Migrants’ and refugees’ health is not only related to transmissible diseases but also to mental health, sexual and reproductive health, and non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes. Historically, however, migration has been linked to the spread of diseases and has often artificially served as a scapegoat to local shortcomings, feeding on the xenophobic rhetoric of extremist groups and political leaders. This approach fosters the criminalization of migrants, which has led to unacceptable violations of human rights, as demonstrated by the massive incarceration and deportation policies in developed countries, for example, the United States under the Trump administration. In Latin America and the Caribbean, in particular, there have been legal developments, such as pioneering national legislation in Argentina in 2004 and Brazil in 2017, which suggest some progress in the direction of human rights, although in practice drawbacks abound in the form of countless barriers for migrants to access and benefit from healthcare services in the context of political turmoil and severe socioeconomic inequality. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and enhanced the effects of such inequality in the already frail health conditions of the most disenfranchised, including low-income migrants and refugees; it has both caused governments in Latin America to handle the crisis in a fragmented and unilateral fashion, ignoring opportunities to cooperate and shield the livelihoods of the most vulnerable, and served as a pretext to sharpen the restrictions to cross-border movement and, ultimately, undermine the obligation to protect the dignity of migrants, as the cases of Venezuela and the U.S.-Mexico border illustrate. Still, it could represent an opportunity to integrate the health of migrants to the public health agenda as well as restore cooperation mechanisms building on previous experiences and the existing framework of human rights organizations.
The term “global South” (or just “South” or “south”) refers to the diverse range of countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America that have a colonial past and are usually characterized by high levels of poverty and informality. The term global South has widely replaced other, similar, terms such as the Third World, developing countries, and low- and middle-income countries. Urbanization, in its narrow sense, refers to an increase in the proportion of the population living in urban areas; in its wider sense it refers to all the social, economic, biophysical, and institutional changes that result from and accompany urban growth, many of which have a profound impact on human health and well-being. The global South is the most rapidly urbanizing part of the world. Since about 2015, more than 75% of the world’s urban population lives in the global South. It is projected that by 2025, the urban population of the global South will be 3.75 billion (54.3% of the total population of the global South). Most of this urbanization is as a result of urban areas having higher natural population growth rates than rural areas, but migration to urban areas also plays a significant role. Although urbanization processes vary considerably across different countries in the global South (e.g., between different regions and between middle-income and low-income countries), there are a number of broad common trends: a rapid increase in the number of megacities (urban agglomerations with a population of more than 10 million), ongoing strong urban–rural linkages and increased blurring of “urban” and “rural,” increased urban sprawl and fragmentation, and growing intra-urban inequalities. There has been much debate about the nature of cities and urban life in the global South, giving rise to a body of literature on “southern urbanism,” characterized by case studies of everyday life. Urbanization processes in the global South have contributed to the growth and complexity of the burden of disease. Infectious diseases have continued at high levels due to poor environmental conditions in many parts of cities, particularly in informal settlements and other types of slums. Noncommunicable diseases are also growing rapidly in the global South, linked to changes in living conditions and lifestyle associated with urbanization. It is anticipated that the burden of disease in cities of the global South will continue to increase as urbanization continues, as a result of increased traffic injuries and respiratory disease resulting from increased numbers of motor vehicles; growing levels of violence due to growing levels of poverty and inequality in many cities; growing obesity as a result of changed lifestyles associated with urbanization; growing numbers of unsafe settlements in hazardous areas; and a high risk of infectious diseases. Climate change is likely to exacerbate these risks.