Department: Editor's Memo
Many diseases affect people across the world, establishing a common denominator for health-driven cooperation and strategies to improve the quality and longevity of life for affected populations. Via a resolution from the United Nations General Assembly on December 18, 2008, members acknowledged that sickle cell disease (SCD) was a global public health problem and was to be considered a public health priority in several areas of the world.1 The resolution called for cooperation and partnerships to increase access to healthcare for those with SCD for education, funding, and research.
The first designated awareness day occurred in February 2009 with little notice or participation from the healthcare and public communities. 2019 marks the 10th anniversary of World Sickle Cell Day. June 19 is recognized globally as the official day for communities and organizations to partner in developing events and programs to raise awareness of SCD.
Addressing SDC and other global health threats
SCD is the most prevalent genetic disease worldwide. Approximately 500,000 infants are born each year with this hemoglobin disorder. Complications from SCD can be debilitating and often fatal, and 50% of those affected will die before 5 years of age. SCD is found primarily on five continents: Africa, Asia, North America, South America, and southern Europe.1 Organizations such as the World Health Organization, the CDC, American Society of Hematology, and the US Department of Health and Human Services have support efforts to address SCD as a public health priority. However, many other diseases pose global health threats as well.
Governments, healthcare systems, and public health and medical professionals work daily to fight diseases that pose global health threats. Large measles outbreaks in France, Israel, Ukraine, and the Philippines were linked to measles outbreaks in the US over the past decade, secondary to exposure during international travel, infected individuals traveling, and susceptibility to measles in unvaccinated individuals.2 Deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases have traditionally been a global priority.
My March 2019 editor's memo addressed the ongoing struggles with tuberculosis (TB) around the world.3 Problems of misdiagnosis, coinfection with HIV and other chronic conditions, poverty, and international travel are some factors contributing to the ongoing battle against TB. Noncommunicable diseases are also a global health concern; ischemic heart disease remains the number one cause of death worldwide.
I started this editorial discussing SCD, which is being recognized this month through awareness campaigns. SCD was the topic of my doctoral dissertation, so I stay informed about scientific progress toward a cure and prevention efforts through public education. NPs are vigilant about diseases that are prevalent in the populations they serve and learn to confidently manage these diseases. Because people travel worldwide to and from the US and move around locally, it is important to also consider diseases that are uncommon to a practitioner's specific geographic area when someone presents with an illness. Global health is everyone's responsibility, and awareness is a key component. NPs can impact global health in ways beyond disease management.
Jamesetta A. Newland, PhD, FNP-BC, FAANP, DPNAP, FAAN