The Latest Issues in Global Public Health Administration

The line between federally mandated and privately donated healthcare funding is definitive and drawn in the proverbial sand. It will likely take a lot of persuasive words and political sway for corporations to increase their CSR-related spending; and it will also take a small miracle for governments to contribute more to public healthcare funding—largely because they don’t have the funds they need to begin with. This scarcity of funding has led some governments, such as that of India, to mandate CSR giving from companies—specifically, only from companies making more than 10 million rupees (or about $131 million), annually.

If you feel like your impact in the United States will be limited due to a lack of relative need, you may want to consider the impact you can have internationally. If you do decide to take your social work skills and education abroad, you’ll be more of a global change agent than a social worker; since in many countries, policy change comes with more difficulty than here in the U.S. Part of the reason for this is because of the lack of infrastructure and resources with which to deal with natural disasters, hunger, and poverty. Therefore, the obstacles to faster progress regarding many of these issues are often political in nature, as opposed to purely logistical or technical. Some tasks you may help facilitate include adoptions, counseling of refugees, disaster relief efforts, and research into issues like quality of life and social justice.

Forbes recently published a progress update to the September 2015 set of sustainable development goals (SDGs), noting that a new operating system, rather than an incrementalism approach, is necessary in order for the goals to even come close to being met by the year 2030. Included in this vision of “new operating systems” are the principles of sustainable finance, smart partnerships, the fourth sector, and good governance. The fourth sector is especially interesting in light of any discussion of mandatory CSR versus optional corporate giving; rather than a hard distinction between public and private entities, a need is emerging for a happy medium that recognizes the public good as being of equal importance as corporate profits.

To get a better idea of the gravity of the public health crisis, worldwide, as well as the extent to which climate change and public health are connected, one only need look at the water shortage in places like sub-Saharan Africa. Tim McDonnell recently created a short film that provides a window into northern Uganda, which is dealing with a large influx of South Sudanese refugees fleeing the civil war still raging in their country. To give you a sense of the contrast between the severity of their drought conditions and our privileged position, here in the U.S., NPR points out how refugees line up each day for 15 liters (~4 gallons) of water—compared to the 300 gallons a day that the average U.S. family uses every day! Moreover, those four gallons must provide for all drinking, cooking, washing, and sanitation needs.

Looking at these statistics and the discrepancy between water availability in Uganda and the United States, it seems only fair that U.S. citizens should be limited in the amount of water we have access to, on an individual or household level. Should more strict public policies be implemented limiting the amounts of natural resources we are allowed to utilize, on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis? Similarly, if there are gross inequalities between the air quality in two different school districts in Arlington, Texas—with one school causing students and teachers to report symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, vomiting, muscle weakness, and cramps—shouldn’t a legal mandate be put in place to relocate students and staff to a toxin-free building?

This is where public administrators come in. Their role is to help determine the level of government involvement at both macro and individual levels: an example of a macro issue would include debating the appropriate level of funding for Zika virus research or CDC funding; whereas an example of the individual issue level would be consideration for mandatory vaccinations. Public administrators also act as consultants for lawmakers involved in the writing and passage of health policy-related laws—as well as the repealing or replacing of laws that no longer work. Lastly, they help to oversee as well as work alongside doctors to ensure that government regulations are being followed correctly.

Because governments often can’t pay for all public health needs—especially in a fiscally conservative political environment—corporate giving still plays a major role in helping to ensure that that gap between the haves and have nots is minimized. For example, Appnovation recently formed a partnership with WE (formerly Free the Children) to support the construction of a clean water system in Kanambu, Ecuador that will improve water quality and aspires to enhance the livelihood of the local community, as well. Although projects like this one are heartening, private funding can be unpredictable, sporadic, and impossible to regulate—unlike government funding subject to legal oversight, which is always a good idea considering typical human nature (far from perfect).

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What do you think is the proper role of government, when it comes to fair and equitable public health policies for all its country’s citizens? Share your thoughts in the comments section, below.

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