BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Archive for March, 2017

Population growth is defined as the increase in the number of individuals in a population. Globally, human population grows up to 75 million or 1.1% annually. Since 1800, world population has grown from 1 billion to 7.4 billion in 2016 and is expected to keep growing. Estimates show that the total population will reach 8.4 billion by mid-2030, and 9.6 billion by mid-2050.

Growth and changes in the characteristics of a population are factors that influence health, the quality of life as well as the scope and significance of public health programs. The rate at which a population grows affects the availability of basic needs required to sustain life. It also affects health care costs, short-term and long term planning of community health and medical facilities. Specific changes such as alterations in age composition, internal migration of racial or industrial groups, population density and urban-rural movement call for modification of related health programs so as to address current and existing problems created by these changes. The social and economic effects of a growing and changing population have long been recognized and are well documented in research.

As the world’s population continues to grow and humans exploit nature to meet their present needs, natural resources are depleted at a much faster rate than they are replenished. This invariable confers pressure on these resources, threatening public health as well as social and economic development. Although most developed economies consume resources at a rate faster than they can regenerate, developing countries- with rapid population growths, endanger natural resources on which they depend and pose irreparable harm. Many nations with rapid population growth have continuously demonstrated low standards of living, whereas nations with lower rates of population growth have shown high standards of living.

If the world population continues to grow at this rate, the world’s population is projected to reach 8 billion by the year 2025- in less than ten years. At that time, it is also projected that about 48 countries with 3 billion people will be faced with problems such as chronic water shortage. Moreover, in 25 years, human beings alone could be using up to 90 percent of all available freshwater and only 10 percent will be left for the remaining living things namely plants and animals. Recently, 64 of 105 developing countries have documented a population growth that is much more than the availability of food supplies. To meet the food demands of population pressures, these countries resort to over-cultivation, which unfortunately has degraded an overwhelming 2 billion hectares of arable land.

To preserve the earth and her resources for future generations, humans must practice sustainable development which requires slower population growth. Without this, humanity would potentially face deteriorating environments and ecological disasters including water shortage, soil exhaustion, trees and forest loss, air and water pollution, and degradation of coastlines. The following are steps in the right direction for a more sustainable environment:

  • Efficient use of energy
  • Better city management
  • Water resource management and fresh water protection
  • Harvesting of forest products
  • Preservation of arable land and increase in food production
  • Better management of coastal zones and ocean fisheries
  • Protection of biodiversity hotspots
  • The adoption of a climate change convention among nations
  • Stabilization of the population through good quality family planning services

The lack of an easy, centralized way to identify and link patients to their health data has resulted in the creation of numerous unrelated patient-identity numbers that overwhelm medical-records system in health care. More so, with health care organizations growing, merging, and forming affiliations, it has become increasingly important to create and use single unique codes of critical patient information called Single Patient Identifiers (SPIs). For this reason, there’s a requirement established by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to uniquely identify participants involved in the provision of health care services. In the same way, payer organizations have the responsibility of distinctively identifying and covering individuals, irrespective of how they’re identified in different provider systems.

Many current health service problems that complicate patient care and related communications can be solved when SPIs are used. Creating a system where each patient has their own SPI ensures that regardless of any physician they visit or anywhere their care team members is stationed, clinicians can easily access the information they need about the patient in an instant. This form of information sharing across teams and health systems will result in more efficient collaboration and care. It’s a given that the idea of primary care physicians or other health professionals being able to instantaneously access complete medical records of patients would improve care coordination, ensure effective patient care and ultimately reduce medical errors. Other benefits of SPI include:

  • Being a web-based, it allows for multiple users and ease of access to patient data
  • Maintains a centralized database which enables data integration and allows local systems to operate independently
  • Automatically creates a global, cross-indexing for record matching across different systems
  • Uniquely identifies patient records and flags potential duplicate records

It would certainly be wonderful to no longer have to fill out long medical history forms whenever one visits a new doctor. With SPIs, up-to-date medical records of any patient can be retrieved once the personal code is entered. Clearly, this will save patients a lot of time and frustration from repeatedly filling medical forms every time they see a specialist or new doctor. In addition, it will allow clinicians to devote more time to engaging their patients.

Despite the forgoing, some groups- particularly privacy activists aren’t in support of SPI. They argue that despite the pros and importance of SPI or centralized unique healthcare system IDs, it would tremendously encourage commercial gain through the routine collection and selling of information from medical records without patient consent. As a consequence, more patients would lose trust in the confidentiality of health systems and hide health details from their doctors, resulting in a deterioration in care.

Like any major change, the debut of SPI is certain to generate heated arguments of pros and cons between proponents and opponents respectively. However, a common ground between these groups can be reached by ensuring that SPI, an efficient system in itself, can be successfully used without the invasion of patients’ privacy.

Disease surveillance systems are continuous, systematic and standardized information-based systems which involve the collection, analysis and interpretation of large volumes of health-related data obtained from a variety of sources. Surveillance data are used for different purposes including evaluating the effectiveness of control and preventative measures, monitoring changes in infectious agents such as antimicrobial resistance, supporting health planning, allocating resources within the healthcare system, identifying high risk populations or target areas and providing valuable archive of disease activity for future reference. To be effective, a surveillance system must be nationally standardized and made available at local, regional and national levels.

The importance of surveillance is well documented by World Health Organization and other international organizations because it is used for the planning, implementation, and evaluation of public health practice. It also aids the documentation or evaluation of interventions, provides information that serves as early warning for impending public health problems and monitors disease epidemiology to allow prioritization and inform public health policies and strategies.

The realization of the importance of disease surveillance systems increased in the late 20th century due to the emergence of human immunodeficiency virus and infectious diseases mainly new strains of influenza. Following this realization, some disastrous events further emphasized the need for surveillance systems in the early 21st century and raised awareness of the value of public health surveillance for national security. Given their tragic nature, these disasters further showed the need to share global responsibility for surveillance and disease control. Some of these events include bioterrorism using anthrax spores in 2001, 2003 epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), re-emergence of a panzootic of avian influenza A(H5N1) in 2005, and the sudden emergence of pandemic H1N1 in North America in 2009.

Disease surveillance systems are essential for the identification and prevention of new and re-emerging infectious and non-infectious diseases. It provides health information in a timely manner, enabling countries to have the information they need to prevent and fight outbreaks. The development and maintenance of effective surveillance systems have helped address several public health problems such as small pox and poliomyelitis, which were eradicated following the initiation of efficient surveillance systems that provided insight about the epidemiology and etiology of the infectious agent and disease. Given these facts, it’s no doubt that one of the major ways of addressing public health problems around infectious diseases both nationally and internationally is through the development and sustenance of effective surveillance systems.

Vital Statistics is the department of government registries responsible for the registration of important events such as birth, death, marriage, stillbirth and domestic partnership which occur in the country. Family events are key elements of genealogy and family history research and information from these statistics inform research, policies and other governmental decisions. Our lives as individuals are composed of events that occurred at different times such as birth, marriage and death. Vital Statistics Agencies are responsible for administering and enforcing The Vital Statistics Act, The Marriage Act, The Change of Name Act and processing disinterment under The Public Health Act. These Agencies register vital events and provide documents as proof of those events. The accessibility of the records held by these agencies are governed by legislations protecting privacy and these records are often held in perpetuity.

Historically, important events such as, baptisms, marriages and burials have been recorded in Church Records and Indexes. Subsequently, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, governments of various countries introduced the civil registration of births, marriages and deaths. The aim of vital statistics is to ensure the accuracy of information, trace the records relating those events, preserve the memory of the events and, if possible, obtain copies of these records. According to World Health Organization (WHO), a well-functioning civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) system has the mandate to register all births and deaths, issue birth and death certificates, and subsequently compile and disseminate vital statistics, including cause of death information. It may also record marriages and divorces. Examples of vital statistics include:

  • Birth
  • Death
  • Marriage
  • Domestic Partnership
  • Seperation and Divorce
  • Genealogy
  • Name Change
  • Sex Change

Sources of vital statistics include:

  • Hospitals
  • Adoption facilities and Orphanages
  • Parish Registers
  • Church Records and Indexes
  • Civil Registrations
  • Databases
  • Cemeteries and Wills
  • Virtual Exhibitions