ⓘ International health, also called geographic medicine, international medicine, or global health, is a field of health care, usually with a public health emphasi ..


ⓘ International health

International health, also called geographic medicine, international medicine, or global health, is a field of health care, usually with a public health emphasis, dealing with health across regional or national boundaries. One subset of international medicine, travel medicine, prepares travelers with immunizations, prophylactic medications, preventive techniques such as bednets and residual pesticides, in-transit care, and post-travel care for exotic illnesses. International health, however, more often refers to health personnel or organizations from one area or nation providing direct health care, or health sector development, in another area or nation. It is this sense of the term that is explained here. More recently, public health experts have become interested in global processes that impact on human health. Globalization and health, for example, illustrates the complex and changing sociological environment within which the determinants of health and disease express themselves.


1. International health governance

The World Health Organization WHO is the international body primarily responsible for regulating and governing health-related policies and practices across nations. While the WHO uses various policies and treaties to address international health issues, many of their policies have no binding power and thus state compliance is often limited. As a result, a Framework Convention on Global Health FCGH has recently been proposed as a global health treaty that would use stronger domestic accountability mechanisms including incentives & sanctions in order to close national and global health inequities. However, some scholars have addressed concerns regarding the FCGH, arguing that it would duplicate other global health governance efforts, lack feasibility, and have limited impact in regulating global health.


2. The role of academic institutions

Timothy D. Baker was the founder of the first academic department of international health in the United States at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 1959.


3. The role of NGOs

Much work in international health is performed by non-governmental organizations NGOs. Services provided by international health NGOs include direct health care, community potable water, vitamin supplementation, and mitigation of endemic and epidemic infectious diseases and malnutrition. Examples of NGOs dedicated to international health include:

  • CARE
  • Save the Children
  • International Medical Corps
  • Partners in Health
  • Oxfam
  • Pakistan Heart Foundation
  • The International Committee of the Red Cross
  • Project HOPE
  • Medecins Sans Frontieres Doctors Without Borders

3.1. The role of NGOs In harms way

These organizations often go in harms way to provide services to people affected by natural disaster or conflict. For example, Medecins Sans Frontieres has lost members in the Darfur area, and Care Internationals Iraq Director, Margaret Hassan a long-time Iraq resident with dual Iraqi-British citizenship was brutally murdered on the Internet by Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists for the "crime" of providing services equitably among Iraqis. International Medical Corps was begun in response to the suffering of the Afghan people after the Soviet invasion of 1979, and is adept at providing services in dangerous places see Attacks on humanitarian workers.


4. The role of international health NGOs in international development

Health-related NGOs also provide capacity development in areas of need; that is, helping nations develop sustainable domestic health solutions through training programs. An example of this type of aid is the Center for International Rehabilitation, which has provided rehabilitation training for Iraqi physical therapists, physicians, and rehabilitation clinic managers in Tuzla, Bosnia and Amman, Jordan. These trainees then care for amputees, spinal and head injury patients in their home country.


4.1. The role of international health NGOs in international development NGOs vs. missionaries

One important characteristic of NGO work is that, in the "pure" sense, they provide services based solely upon need, without political, ethnic, religious, or other considerations. Thus, strictly speaking, religious missionary organizations that perform services as part of a proselytizing or evangelical campaign should be separated from the NGO category and simply be referred to as religious missionary organizations. Some religious relief organizations do provide services more as a duty or "charity", however, without requirements for the recipients to attend any preaching, prayer or other religious preconditions.


5. Harnessing the power of technology

As NGO practice evolves parallel with technology, NGOs have developed more scientific and precise methods of assessment, planning and operations in humanitarian assistance and complex emergencies. One example is the Sphere Projects Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response. They have taken other new tools into the planning offices and field: in addition to the obligatory laptop computer, they typically rely heavily upon cellular and satellite communications, the Internet, and geographic information services, or GIS. These technological improvements allow them to better focus efforts in areas of need, respond to evolving crises, and predict future needs. Indeed, in a related effort, the United States Holocaust Museum teamed with Google Earth to establish baseline GIS photos of crisis-torn Darfur, updating them at intervals, and uploading them to the Internet for public access. Since Internet "surfers" can browse these images and see where once-present villages are later obliterated, this teamwork gave lie to the Sudanese claim that it was engaging in neither ethnic cleansing nor genocide.


6.1. American efforts in international health The U.S. Department of Defense

In another teamwork effort, the Assistant Secretary of Defense Health Affairs of the United States Department of Defense, as the DoDs senior medical officer, established the International Health Division. Since its inception, ACAIM galvanized the U.S. AIM community to action, highlighting the need for the formation of cross-disciplinary, bi-directional International Medical Programs IMPs that foster the sustainable development of AIM efforts while minimizing the deleterious effects of brain drain.

Another novel and unique aspect of ACAIMs overall mission and postulate is the need for healthcare institutions, both academic and non-academic, to recognize faculty efforts dedicated to International Medical Program development as valid expressions of academic contribution that should be granted credit equivalence with U.S. based medical outreach efforts. Within such proposed framework, faculty members would receive academic RVU based credit for international work, with academic tracks formally recognizing International Medical Program contributions as equivalent to any other academic or educational work.

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