Developing Global Health Strategies: Integrating Health Education and Action

Article excerpt

Globalization, war, terrorism, social instability, disease, poverty and environmental degradation are among the key challenges facing the world today. In the health arena, individuals, institutions and Governments are taking action to address issues of global significance, such as the HIV/AIDS pandemic and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), as well as bio-terrorism preparedness. To optimize these actions, there is a need for developing clear strategies for global health capacity-building at the national level. Envisioning adequate training for public health professionals is illusionary unless concerted action is taken to build their capacity.

The development, testing and validation of global health training and action are therefore necessary in integrating theory, practice and policy domains. The outcomes of such initiatives have the potential for facilitating learning and teaching on critical health challenges in the twenty-first century. Given the breadth of global health, it is imperative that academic and field practitioners recognize as strategies the intersections of information and communication technologies (ICTs), advocacy and social capital (networks, norms, mutual goals).

The activities of some UN agencies, such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Development Programme, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Population Fund, reveal the need for integrating training and action. The attainment of their goals requires knowledge and skills, including networking and advocacy. It is noteworthy that the UNESCO "Education for All" and the United Nations Literacy Decade have included health education activities as strategies for goal attainment and involved schools as academic partners and venues for service delivery, thereby illustrating such synergy.

Situated cognition (1) requires linking global health education to definitions and methods of measurement of concepts, such as human security. Freedom from pervasive threats to people's rights, safety or even their lives, sustainable development and health are clear when the role of health promotion is considered as a focus area of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014). The Decade emerged out of General Assembly resolution 57/254, which was adopted in 2002. The possibility of assessing its implementation bodes well for research exploring components of theory, practice and policy.

Assuming that social capital and ICTs are the principal sources for learning and action, teachers can develop lessons linked to available technologies, processes and outcomes, as well as existing strategies. …