I think I'm interested in global health now: My experience taking an introductory GHS course at Allegheny College

Thu, Dec 17, 2020 5-minute read

In my sixteen weeks of having the opportunity to take GHS 130, I have learned that health has many facets. These facets—each paramount—include social, political, economic, and scientific aspects. As an individual majoring in the field of biology, I have only ever really been interested in the microbiology of diseases. Since beginning my undergraduate education, I have been fascinated by viruses, protozoa, and bacteria, all of which can cause debilitating diseases to human beings. Understanding the transmission of diseases has always been something that I wanted to learn more about. In GHS 130, I was able to obtain a broader view and understanding of the aspects of health other than the biological facets. My comprehension of the healthcare industry, social determinants that affect disease burden, and the development goals that are associated with improving global health were extended.

On a practical level, GHS 130 taught me about the inner workings of insurance and health care. As a junior in college, I should absolutely have some understanding of this concept, but the principle of insurance—especially in the United States—is confusing. I was never able to fully grasp how insurance companies maintained business or exactly why they existed until my professor took the time to explain the details of healthcare. With such high costs related to routine checkups, surgeries, disease treatment, and other aspects of healthcare, I finally understand why insurance is so necessary to most people. The concepts of high-deductible and low-deductible insurance plans are now succinct in my mind, preparing me for when I will be choosing between healthcare plans.

Healthcare coverage, specifically in the United States, still seems like a broken system. I cannot understand why our country continues to employ a system that prioritizes the highest percentage of citizens. Private healthcare is inaccessible to the majority of Americans who are unemployed, working minimum wage, or completely unable to work. While there are programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, many US citizens are still left to pay ridiculous medical fees, or even to avoid treatment because of the extreme costs. Through learning about the healthcare system in the United States, I am fascinated by pursuing more information about the idea of universal healthcare. While this is a foreign concept to Americans, I think it could be interesting to learn more about universal healthcare and understand both its benefits and drawbacks. As an individual who has only experienced private insurance plans, universal healthcare seems like a fair compromise to ensure that every individual receives the aid they require and deserve. However, I realize that there must be specific reasons as to why universal healthcare is not currently available to Americans, possibly including governmental costs and responsibilities. In the field of global health, healthcare and insurance are essential to understand, as different countries employ various types of healthcare and coverage. It is a field that I am exceptionally interested in pursuing more after taking GHS 130.

One thing that I had never quite understood before taking Introduction to Global Health Studies was the displaced burden of disease on individuals living in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). Even as an individual who has traveled abroad, the risk factors associated with poverty have never really crossed my mind. This clearly demonstrates the privilege that I experience daily, being an individual who was raised in a high-income country. GHS 130 opened my eyes to how disproportionately disease affects individuals of low socioeconomic status. What I really came to understand this year was the burden of malnutrition in LMICs and how it is a risk factor for both communicable and non-communicable diseases. I had never quite realized how horribly malnutrition can affect lives, both physically, emotionally, and mentally. Learning about malnutrition greatly affected me. I cannot even begin to imagine how difficult it is to live without having access to proper nutrition and clean water. Through learning about malnutrition, I really would like to further explore the organizations that work to combat malnutrition in low and middle-income countries. Malnutrition is a significant facet of the global health and disease burden. I would like to investigate the practices that have been put in place and what organizations are working to provide proper nutrition all over the world.

I had always been aware that global organizations have plans set in place to combat the disease burden throughout the world. I viewed these plans as minor and lacking, possibly because I had never heard about any progress concerning disease burden. However, in GHS 130, I was able to learn a lot more about the statistics of global health and the goals that have been put in place to improve health globally. I find these sustainable development goals (SDGs), along with the corresponding targets to be both fascinating and an indicator of the action that is being taken against the disease burden. For the first time, since becoming interested in the broad view of health, I was able to understand the specific measures being taken to improve disease burden on a global level. I believe in a lot of ways that global health has to get worse before it can get better, in the fact that action is not taken until a visible need is seen. It seems to me that the United Nations is not working to prevent disease, but rather to combat pre-existing burdens. It is paramount to deal with the current state of global health, but what practices are we putting in place to encourage improving health across the world in the long-term? This question and the ideas that surround it is an area that I have grown to be passionate about. Looking to the future and guaranteeing a healthier world for new generations is a facet of global health that is essential. I believe that beginning the process of learning more about combating disease long-term and in the future starts with candid conversations with individuals in global health who know more than me. Looking to people with wisdom can assist in encouraging comprehension of global health management.