What is Health Equity? What is Global Health?
Health equity is often thought of as everyone having equal access to healthcare resources and information, but it is more than that. We also need to consider access to quality healthcare, as well as financial, cultural, and language barriers that may impede access. Different groups need different resources and information, so equity is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Health equity also needs to take environmental conditions into account. Poor sanitation or air pollution, lack of nutritious food, and distance to healthcare resources all play a part in understanding health equity. Global health looks at the health of populations in the global context, both improving health and achieving equity in health for all people worldwide, but also studying the impact of diseases, parasites, environmental issues, and other conditions that cross borders and impact health.
These two areas support each other because health equity encompasses local, national and global issues.
The American Medical Student Association states, “health disparities exist both on a global level – with some countries unable to afford life-saving HIV treatment or even condoms – and within our nation’s health care system, where we see persistent racial, ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in medical care and overall health.”1
How can Librarians help?
Librarians can support global health equity by providing relevant and accurate information resources equitably, making sure they are easy to read and use, and available in multiple languages and formats. We can target underserved medical professionals and patients, making sure they have what they need. This might involve advocating for open access and reliable free resources, encouraging translations of resources, helping people evaluate sources to make sure they are helpful. We can also help facilitate interprofessional collaboration, and collaborations within the community.
How can you engage in global health & health equity in your current role?
Listed below are specific ways librarians can get involved:
- applying for NNLM outreach grants for work partnering with underserved communities,
- finding global perspectives (non-US, non-English-speaking) in the information used when teaching health sciences students,
- collaborating on systematic reviews that involve health disparities,
- supporting the information needs of students doing placements or encouraging your library to gradually develop the capacity to collaborate with the global projects at your institution.2
What does the Hub do?
The Global Health & Health Equity Domain Hub fosters organizational and professional partnerships to improve the development, access, dissemination, and understanding of health information for and by diverse populations in the United States and globally to improve the health of populations. The Hub hopes to sponsor MLA programs, help with the sharing of expertise in global health and health equity, increase communications amongst groups with similar interests, and collaborate to support international library visitors.
Some of our current hub initiatives include:
- Work to provide information services on One Health3 to veterinarians, public health providers, and epidemiologists to help educate populations on food supply contamination, antimicrobial resistance, and zoonosis.
- Develop, or assist in the development of, health information guides that support programming in communities that experience racism, trauma, health inequity, and decreased health-related quality of life.
- Advocate for sustainable international health literature access.
As you can see, the Hub mission and initiatives intersect with many Caucuses. We would love to have more Caucus Delegates join us, to help lead and educate MLA members in global health and health equity projects.
*This article is based on the Global Health & Health Equity Hub Introduction & Discussion session held on Tuesday, February 9, 2021, part of Experience MLA. Hub Chair Kathryn Houk explained the mission and initiatives of the Hub, and then led a discussion that encouraged people to understand the importance of global health and health equity, both in and out of libraries, and consider how they might get involved through their own jobs. We set up an online collaboration site through padlet4 to collect ideas and comments attendees expressed at the session. We will be following up on some of these ideas on how the Hub can support librarians who want to learn more or be more active in Global Health & Health Equity.
- American Medical Student Association. Global Health Equity. https://www.amsa.org/about/mission-aspirations/global-health-equity/. Accessed Feb 27, 2021.
- Lackey M, Swogger S, McGraw KA. Building capacity in a health sciences library to support global health projects. J Med Libr Assoc. 2014;102(2):92-95.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One Health. https://www.cdc.gov/onehealth/index.html Accessed Feb 27, 2021.
- GH&HE Hub Experience MLA Event. padlet. https://padlet.com/kathrynhouk/rcjn0x67dy5ogiwz. Published 2021. Accessed Feb 27, 2021.