With the start of April, there are many exciting events in the imminent future: warmer weather, blooming flowers, spring travels, and World Health Day. The World Health Organization (WHO) has spearheaded efforts to arrange for the annual celebration of World Health Day on April 7th, dating back to 1949. WHO hopes that the creation of this holiday can help highlight various health-related issues that are having a societal impact on a global scale. By bringing awareness and educating the general public on various health topics, WHO hopes to increase efforts to make a more equitably healthy planet for all who inhabit it.
Many of LIG Global’s efforts align with those of WHO. On their website, WHO describes themselves as leading, “global efforts to expand universal health coverage.”1 They are often leaders in addressing global health crises and commit themselves to science-based methods to address health inequities. Similarly, while on a smaller scale, LIG Global uses similar tactics and objectives in order to address health inequities in underserved regions. Through our various trips to locations including Cajamarca, Peru, Dajabón, Dominican Republic, Appalachia, Philippines, and more, we have teamed up with medical professionals in these regions to provide them with resources, education, and more healthcare providers in order to address the needs of these regions. Different economic, political, environmental, and social issues play into these evident inequalities in access to healthcare in these regions (and others) that, while oftentimes not initiated by the general public, have the greatest repercussions for the general public. By bringing together teams of healthcare professionals, volunteers, and friends & families who help donate to our efforts, we are able to not only provide high quality care to those in need, but also shine a spotlight on these issues that perhaps are not as well known or understood by those not directly affected by them. At the same time that we provide care to patients, we are able to spread the word of the efforts and needs of these regions to our own personal networks, in hopes of breaking down the disproportionate barriers to healthcare. Just like WHO, LIG Global hopes to use its platform to spread awareness and education while also providing active care and resources to those in need.
Every World Health Day has a specific theme that the WHO chooses to recognize, often to reflect one of the more pertinent issues plaguing the world in that specific year. The theme for 2022 is “Our planet, our health,” and recognizes the way in which climate change and environmental factors have both direct and indirect effects on our health. Most notably, we see that marginalized communities and those facing poverty are at an increased risk of health problems due to environmental factors. Some of the key environmental impacts on health that WHO cites are unhealthy air conditions due to fossil fuel burning, increasing obesity and cancer rates due to consumption of processed fast foods, increasing temperatures making mosquitos more apt at spreading disease, and the impacts of pollution on all lifeforms on the planet.2 While these are issues that certainly affect everyone on Earth, WHO emphasizes the way inequitable distribution of wealth leads to disparities in the extent to which these environmental issues impact the health of individuals. The effects of these environmental issues are felt oftentimes most strongly by marginalized communities within a region and those living in poverty. Grineski et al., for example, explains how Asian American immigrants living in poverty in the United States are at an increased risk of carcinogenic exposures from air pollution due to the fact that they tend to live in inner cities, where carcinogenic exposures are more likely.3 These issues are not only linked to America’s treatment of immigrants, Asian American culture (which shows that Asian American immigrants tend to live in similar regions to each other), but also to financial aspects (which can also be tied back to immigrant status in the United States). An individual with immense wealth is less likely to be found living in inner city regions, where carcinogenic exposures are prevalent, and more likely to be in regions where air pollution is lower and thus less likely to have a negative impact on one’s health. Similarly, they can afford other health-favorable resources (organic groceries, gym memberships, proper air filtration systems, etc.) to maintain their health.
While these health issues are undoubtedly alarming for those experiencing it first-hand, there are generational effects that have been demonstrated by the field of genetics. Epigenetics, the field which studies the direct effects of how one’s environment, consumption, and behavior can change their genetic makeup, has identified various ways in which exposures to unhealthy environments (eating extremely processed foods, BPA exposure, air pollutant and carcinogenic exposures, etc) can lead to changes in an individual’s genetics, that will then be passed on to their children. Therefore, WHO’s call to address environmental issues to improve health is a call for help for current and future generations.
Of course, these are not issues that can be solved in a day, but rather will take substantial time and will require collaboration and effort from individuals, organizations (like LIG Global), corporations, and governments. However, it is absolutely essential that these efforts are made to not only help eliminate health disparities between different groups, but to also have a lasting generational impact on the health of the planet.
Grineski SE, Collins TW, Morales DX. Asian Americans and disproportionate exposure to carcinogenic hazardous air pollutants: A national study. Soc Sci Med. 2017 Jul;185:71-80. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.05.042. Epub 2017 May 18. PMID: 28554161; PMCID: PMC5523857.