Global Health × Cultural Differences = A Work In Progress

Authored By:

Imani R.

Global health is the prioritization of improving health for all discounting country borders. Involvement in global health varies throughout the world depending on a country's cultural values. Political, economic, and social values and beliefs of a country may sway the way they respond to global health crises. For example, a huge factor in global health response is religion, such as with the polio situation in Pakistan. In Pakistan several years back, there was a polio outbreak, where religious figures very publically and violently opposed the vaccination of polio victims on religious counts. Preachers in Pakistan mistrusted the polio vaccinations and physically injured some of those committed to eliminating polio via vaccinations. 

Before coming to Berlin, I was unaware of how strenuous the mechanisms of global health were. Depending on one country's cultural beliefs and values, which may completely differ from another country's, mistrust and conflict are bound to occur. I never realized how difficult it may be to organize a united effort against a disease, even when it is a common problem in several countries. If affected countries or even countries that have the ability to make a difference do not see eye to eye because of cultural differences, the global health effort may be greatly stunted.

One thing I have made several encounters with while in Berlin is culture shock. Just seeing the many many differences in everyday life here in Berlin in comparison with day to day life in the United States, it is not hard to imagine cultural rifts that might inhibit global health efforts in the case of an outbreak. It is hard to think that any global health effort even exists when imagining all the different cultures in the world and how easy it would be for countries to find fault with each other, especially in a high stress setting such as during outbreaks. I do not think I ever realized all of the cultural differences that have been overcome in the name of global health.

After learning more about global health and observing the culture difference not only between Berlin and the United States but also between just the two halves of Berlin, I am now able to see global health as the unifying factor it is. Even though efforts to eradicate various diseases is not perfect on a global scale, there have been several positive results from the global health efforts that exist. When confronted with disease, the goal of global health helps bond the different cultures of the world into a force that can do almost everything. Although the obstacles in achieving global health are many, it is not a shock that cultural differences have been overcome to get the world to where it is today. Without the common goal of global health, the world would be a very sick and dying place.