Today we’re thrilled to introduce you to Mary Margaret Maddox. Mary Margaret is a current pharmacy student at William Carey University School of Pharmacy. She’ll be graduating with her PharmD in 2022. She’s very passionate about monitoring health inequities and promoting healthcare to the most vulnerable of populations and has kindly agreed to share her research and knowledge on the topic in honor of World Health Day. Check out her blog post below!
What is World Health Day?
World Health Day was first established on July 22, 1949. So, you may be wondering why it’s observed on April 7?
The origination of World Health Day came from the formation of The World Health Organization. Its objective was to implement international health alignment, entirely autonomous from any government leadership. The proposal for this organization was ratified on April 7, 1948. So, we now celebrate World Health Day on the original founding day of the organization itself.
Since 1950, World Health Day has celebrated diverse themes and promoted numerous messages. The focus is typically to promote global participation in and awareness of public health issues affecting all communities. Some of the health-related discussions that’ve been emphasized over the past 70+ years have included polio, diabetes, midwives, nurses, mental health, and even climate change.
No matter the message, the overarching annual theme of World Health Day is a focus on advocating for both world health and personal health. In other words, we must acknowledge and cultivate personal health before we can further the health of others.
Building a Fairer, Healthier World
This year’s theme for World Health Day is “building a fairer, healthier world.”
I believe this message comes at a unique and inspiring time within the current global mindset. COVID-19 has, and forever will, impact the way we think and interact. The pandemic has decimated communities, yet, at the same time, has forced a global pulse to be inevitably present.
This virus has forced us (the entire world) to recognize our similarities regardless of the landscape or time zone we’re in. It has also supplied us with an opportunity to scrutinize and reflect on the many health care discrepancies and inequalities within the current global setting.
Examining the U.S.’s health care delivery is a conquest given the breadth of its landscape. The cultural and geographic amalgams that construct America often lead to negligence of multiple communities. In other words, underserved populations exist in excess within the U.S., but may remain hidden to the inattentive eye. Underserved populations in the U.S. aren’t a defined population, but rather an aggregate of factors including, age, educational backgrounds, locations, and much more.
To examine health care outside of the U.S. is even more challenging. The disparate levels of external influences from government systems lead to difficulties in evaluation and implementation of health care to individual countries.
The WHO provides Global Health Observatory data, which analyzes the number of medical doctors per 10,000 people in each country. As I reviewed the data, a considerable number of countries had concerning ratios. A few to mention include:
- Ethiopia (2018) – 0.77
- Ghana (2019) – 1.06
- Afghanistan (2016) – 2.78
- Malawi (2018) – 0.36
- Somalia (2014) – 0.23
This information is disheartening and proves that there’s work to be done! Regardless of cultural or political alliances, we each have a responsibility to promote the health of ourselves and the communities both near us and around the globe.
This year’s World Health Day theme draws our attention to the current inadequacies faced within the global health care environment, now we must identify the solutions.
A Pharmacist’s Role
Pharmacists have a unique opportunity to play a critical role in voyaging the path to building a fairer and healthier world.
Regardless of the setting, the health care role of pharmacists or student pharmacists usually results in a very personalized relationship with patients. Pharmacists often have the time and desire to better get to know their patients, community, and health systems at large. They’re constantly striving to optimize patient care—through non-pharmacologic options, medications, education, counseling, and more.
Pharmacists are also always looking for ways to optimize patients’ health and the delivery of health care. I believe this is a distinguishing factor that separates pharmacists from other health care specialties that focus on the singular treatment patients need within a specific moment in time.
Given all of this background, it becomes very clear that this year’s World Health Day theme resonates soundly with professionals in the field of pharmacy. Pharmacists have the ability to use their skills, knowledge, and personal connections to create better, more progressive patient care deliveries—especially to the most vulnerable of populations.
Additionally, student pharmacists also have an amazing opportunity to serve as advocates for these communities. Student pharmacists can utilize the learning environments they’re in currently to develop innovative ideas for improvements in global healthcare.
What Can You Do to Help?
The best way to help lessen health care inequities around the world is to pursue a career in health care, or—more specifically—in pharmacy!
Pharmacists interested in making real change within health care in the U.S. can seek out employment opportunities and experiences in geographic landscapes where medical interventions are most needed, like inner-cities and rural areas.
Becoming a pharmacist takes time, though. In the meantime, there are many actions you can take today to better your involvement in the promotion of health equality. Here are just a few:
- Communicate – set up a round table or community meeting to discuss and promote health care interventions for community, family, and self
- Promote your own health – research past World Health Day themes to ensure you’re caring for your own health – sleep hygiene, exercise, diet, and mental health are all important examples
- Volunteer – find an organization that aligns with your goals in promoting healthcare equality and devote your time to that cause
- Thank your health care providers – acknowledge those around you that work each day to promote the health of others
- World health day. (2021, March 18). Retrieved March 25, 2021, from https://nationaltoday.com/world-health-day/
- World health day 2021 – building a fairer, healthier world. Retrieved March 25, 2021, from https://www.paho.org/en/campaigns/world-health-day-2021-building-fairer-healthier-world
- Medical doctors (per 10 000 population). Retrieved March 25, 2021, from https://www.who.int/data/gho/data/indicators/indicator-details/GHO/medical-doctors-(per-10-000-population)