How can we build a more equitable, sustainable, and resilient health system?

A blue neon sign that says 'For the world'.

Ahmed Hasan, Amandi Hiyare, Priyanka Multani

The second edition of Global Public Health Week is currently underway and will run from Monday the 3rd of April until Friday the 7th of April. Global Public Health Week is an initiative of the World Federation of Public Health Associations and the theme in 2023 is “Building a More Equitable, Sustainable, and Resilient Health System.”

Student and early career members of PHAA will be our future leaders in advocating for action related to this theme. In this Intouch article, three members of the PHAA South Australian Branch student subcommittee provide their thoughts on three of the specific sub-themes of Global Public Health Week.

Tackling the Climate Crisis

By Ahmed Hasan, recent Masters in Business and Public Health graduate from Torrens University, Adelaide

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report the global surface temperature has risen by 1.1°C since 1850-1900, which has an almost irreversible negative impact on the social and environmental determinants of health. Disappearing sea ice, dwindling glaciers, extreme weather conditions, heatwaves, and changing rainfall patterns are becoming a common feature making it hard for both human beings and animals to adapt to the change.

Climate change is resulting in a myriad of public health challenges. To tackle this crisis, the world must commit to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. This can be done by transitioning the economy away from fossil fuels to clean energy sources, which requires political commitment by all governments.

To accelerate political action, the climate crisis must be presented as a health crisis which shall have a greater public resonance. Secondly, communities can be educated and encouraged to properly manage forests and farmlands to help reduce emissions. Thirdly, measures should be taken to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change. This will require integrated efforts by governments, the civil society, academia, and non-government organisations.

Finally, on a personal level, we can all reduce emissions by reducing the amount of energy we use and switching to renewable energy. We can also help by eating more vegetables, switching to electric vehicles, spreading awareness, walking and biking, speaking up for corporate and political action, and reducing waste by recycling.



Empowering our Communities Protecting Minorities & the Most Vulnerable

By Amandi Hiyare, PhD Candidate (Epidemiology) at Flinders University

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have the oldest continuing culture in the world. Holistic concepts of health involving the social and emotional well-being of the whole community as well as connections to land, country, traditional healing, and traditional knowledge have been integral for maintaining Indigenous health for thousands of years.

Unfortunately, the impacts of ongoing colonising practices such as intergenerational poverty, geographical remoteness, systemic racism, deficit discourse, and exclusion from Westernised models of health have led to reduced engagement with primary healthcare (PHC) services for Indigenous Peoples globally. This has also resulted in health inequity for Indigenous Peoples worldwide.

Regular engagement with PHC, however, may help with early detection and prevention of chronic disease-related issues. Health data is a cultural and economic asset to Indigenous Peoples and is an important tool to identify, monitor and address enablers of PHC access. Past research has reported that research which engages the community and is owned and driven by the community results in a high degree of participation as well as increased health service access. Further, changing the narrative of PHC use research and increasing community control of this data also enables a more positive and engaging story to be told. As such, Indigenous community voices in PHC research must be privileged throughout the research process.


Making Health a Human Right

By Priyanka Multani, Master of Public Health student at The University of Adelaide

The UN Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights has declared that access to healthcare is a basic human right necessary for the employment of other human rights. Despite being one of the most widely recognized human rights, the “right to health” is also one of the most commonly misunderstood. All individuals deserve access to quality healthcare services that meet their specific needs, regardless of where they live or how much money they make —enabling them to live a life with dignity. However, in practice, how frequently do we witness this occurring?

Making health a human right is crucial in promoting equity and reducing health disparities. Access to affordable, easily available, and high-quality healthcare services can have a significant effect on the lives of individuals and communities and is an essential component in the fight against poverty and inequality. This not only encompasses physical health but also mental and social well-being. It’s therefore critical to address the social determinants of health, such as poverty, education, and social support, to guarantee that all people have the opportunity to achieve their full potential and lead satisfying lives. This is the responsibility not only of governments but also of institutions, communities, and society.


To find out more about Global Public Health Week 2023 or register for the week’s events, head to the website, and follow #GPHW2023 on Twitter.

Follow PHAA’s South Australia Branch on Twitter: @phaa_sa



Image: Jon Tyson/Unsplash

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