This article reports findings from an applied case study of collaboration between a community-based organization staffed by community health workers/multicultural health brokers (CHWs/MCHBs) serving immigrants and refugees and a local public health unit in Alberta, Canada. In this study, we explored the challenges, successes and unrealized potential of CHWs/MCHBs in facilitating culturally responsive access to healthcare and other social services for new immigrants and refugees. We suggest that health equity for marginalized populations such as new immigrants and refugees could be improved by increasing the role of CHWs in population health programs in Canada. Furthermore, we propose that recognition by health and social care agencies and institutions of CHWs/MCHBs, and the role they play in such programs, has the potential to transform the way we deliver healthcare services and address health equity challenges. Such recognition would also benefit CHWs and the populations they serve.
The 4-year (2007–2011) Revitalizing Health for All international research program (http://www.globalhealthequity.ca/projects/proj_revitalizing/index.shtml) supported 20 research teams located in 15 low- and middle-income countries to explore the strengths and weaknesses of comprehensive primary health care (CPHC) initiatives at their local or national levels. Teams were organized in a triad comprised of a senior researcher, a new researcher, and a ‘research user’ from government, health services, or other organizations with the authority or capacity to apply the research findings. Multiple regional and global team capacity-enhancement meetings were organized to refine methods and to discuss and assess cross-case findings.
Most research projects used mixed methods, incorporating analyses of qualitative data (interviews and focus groups), secondary data, and key policy and program documents. Some incorporated historical case study analyses, and a few undertook new surveys. The synthesis of findings in this report was derived through qualitative analysis of final project reports undertaken by three different reviewers.
Evidence of comprehensiveness (defined in this research program as efforts to improve equity in access, community empowerment and participation, social and environmental health determinants, and intersectoral action) was found in many of the cases.
Despite the important contextual differences amongst the different country studies, the similarity of many of their findings, often generated using mixed methods, attests to certain transferable health systems characteristics to create and sustain CPHC practices. These include:
Well-trained and supported community health workers (CHWs) able to work effectively with marginalized communities Effective mechanisms for community participation, both informal (through participation in projects and programs, and meaningful consultation) and formal (though program management structures) Co-partnership models in program and policy development (in which financial and knowledge supports from governments or institutions are provided to communities, which retain decision-making powers in program design and implementation) Support for community advocacy and engagement in health and social systems decision making
These characteristics, in turn, require a political context that supports state responsibilities for redistributive health and social protection measures.
primary health care; health for all; community health workers
Canada has been regarded as a model global citizen with firm commitments to multilateralism. It has also played important roles in several international health treaties and conventions in recent years. There are now concerns that its interests in health as a foreign policy goal may be diminishing. This article reports on a thematic analysis of key Canadian foreign policy statements issued over the past decade, and interviews with key informants knowledgeable of, or experienced in the interstices of Canadian health and foreign policy. It finds that health is primarily and increasingly framed in relation to national security and economic interests. Little attention has been given to human rights obligations relevant to health as a foreign policy issue, and global health is not seen as a priority of the present government. Global health is nonetheless regarded as something with which Canadian foreign policy must engage, if only because of Canada’s membership in many United Nations and other multilateral fora. Development of a single global health strategy or framework is seen as important to improve intersectoral cooperation on health issues, and foreign policy coherence. There remains a cautious optimism that health could become the base from which Canada reasserts its internationalist status.
PMID: 24977037 CAMSID: cams3831
global health; foreign policy; Canada; security; trade; development; human rights; global health diplomacy
The idea for this survey emanated from desk research and two meetings for researchers that discussed medical tourism and out-of-country health care, which were convened by some of the authors of this article (VR, CP and RL).
A Cross Border Health Care Survey was drafted by a number of the authors and administered to Canadian physicians via the Canadian Medical Association’s e-panel. The purpose of the survey was to gain an understanding of physicians’ experiences with and views of their patients acquiring health care out of country, either as medical tourists (paying out-of-pocket for their care) or out-of-country care patients funded by provincial/territorial public health insurance plans. Quantitative and qualitative results of the survey were analyzed.
631 physicians responded to the survey. Diagnostic procedures were the top-ranked procedure for patients either as out-of-country care recipients or medical tourists. Respondents reported that the main reason why patients sought care abroad was because waiting times in Canada were too long. Some respondents were frustrated with a lack of information about out-of-country procedures upon their patients’ return to Canada. The majority of physician respondents agreed that it was their responsibility to provide follow-up care to medical travellers on return to Canada, although a substantial minority disagreed that they had such a responsibility.
Cross-border health care, whether government-sanctioned (out-of-country-care) or patient-initiated (medical tourism), is increasing in Canada. Such flows are thought likely to increase with aging populations. Government-sanctioned outbound flows are less problematic than patient-initiated flows but are constrained by low approval rates, which may increase patient initiation. Lack of information and post-return complications pose the greatest concern to Canadian physicians. Further research on both types of flows (government-sanctioned and patient-initiated), and how they affect the Canadian health system, can contribute to a more informed debate about the role of cross-border health care in the future, and how it might be organized and regulated.
Medical tourism; Out-of-country care; Cross-border care; International health care; Survey
It is widely acknowledged that austerity measures in the wake of the global financial crisis are starting to undermine population health results. Yet, few research studies have focused on the ways in which the financial crisis and the ensuing ‘Great Recession’ have affected health equity, especially through their impact on social determinants of health; neither has much attention been given to the health consequences of the fiscal austerity regime that quickly followed a brief period of counter-cyclical government spending for bank bailouts and economic stimulus. Canada has not remained insulated from these developments, despite its relative success in maneuvering the global financial crisis.
The study draws on three sources of evidence: A series of semi-structured interviews in Ottawa and Toronto, with key informants selected on the basis of their expertise (n = 12); an analysis of recent (2012) Canadian and Ontario budgetary impacts on social determinants of health; and documentation of trend data on key social health determinants pre- and post the financial crisis.
The findings suggest that health equity is primarily impacted through two main pathways related to the global financial crisis: austerity budgets and associated program cutbacks in areas crucial to addressing the inequitable distribution of social determinants of health, including social assistance, housing, and education; and the qualitative transformation of labor markets, with precarious forms of employment expanding rapidly in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. Preliminary evidence suggests that these tendencies will lead to a further deepening of existing health inequities, unless counter-acted through a change in policy direction.
This article documents some of the effects of financial crisis and severe economic decline on health equity in Canada. However, more research is necessary to study policy choices that could mitigate this effect. Since the policy response to a similar set of economic shocks has globally varied and led to differential health and health equity outcomes, comparative studies are now possible to assess the successes and failures of specific policy responses. This raises the question of what types of public policy can mitigate against the negative health equity effects of severe economic recessions.
Health equity; Global financial crisis; Social determinants of health; Austerity; Canada
Over the past decade, global health issues have become more prominent in foreign policies at the national level. The process to develop state level global health strategies is arguably a form of global health diplomacy (GHD). Despite an increase in the volume of secondary research and analysis in this area, little primary research, particularly that which draws directly on the perspectives of those involved in these processes, has been conducted. This study seeks to fill this knowledge gap through an empirical case study of Health is Global: A UK Government Strategy 2008–2013. It aims to build understanding about how and why health is integrated into foreign policy and derive lessons of potential relevance to other nations interested in developing whole-of-government global health strategies.
The major element of the study consisted of an in-depth investigation and analysis of the UK global health strategy. Document analysis and twenty interviews were conducted. Data was organized and described using an adapted version of Walt and Gilson’s policy analysis triangle. A general inductive approach was used to identify themes in the data, which were then analysed and interpreted using Fidler’s health and foreign policy conceptualizations and Kingdon’s multiples streams model of the policymaking process.
The primary reason that the UK decided to focus more on global health is self-interest - to protect national and international security and economic interests. Investing in global health was also seen as a way to enhance the UK’s international reputation. A focus on global health to primarily benefit other nations and improve global health per se was a prevalent through weaker theme. A well organized, credible policy community played a critical role in the process and a policy entrepreneur with expertise in both international relations and health helped catalyze attention and action on global health when the time was right. Support from the Prime Minister and from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was essential. The process to arrive at a government-wide strategy was complex and time-consuming, but also broke down silos. Significant negotiation and compromise were required from actors with widely varying perspectives on global health and conflicting priorities.
As primarily an exploratory study, this research sheds significant light on the global health policymaking process at the level of the state. It provides a useful and important starting point for further hypothesis driven empirical research that focuses on the integration of health in foreign policy, how and why this happens and whether or not it makes an impact on improving global health.
Global health diplomacy; Health and foreign policy; Whole-of-government policymaking
The Commission on the Social Determinants of Health and the World Health Organization have called for action to address the social determinants of health. This paper considers the extent to which primary health care services in Australia are able to respond to this call. We report on interview data from an empirical study of primary health care centres in Adelaide and Alice Springs, Australia.
Sixty-eight interviews were held with staff and managers at six case study primary health care services, regional health executives, and departmental funders to explore how their work responded to the social determinants of health and the dilemmas in doing so. The six case study sites included an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation, a sexual health non-government organisation, and four services funded and managed by the South Australian government.
While respondents varied in the extent to which they exhibited an understanding of social determinants most were reflexive about the constraints on their ability to take action. Services’ responses to social determinants included delivering services in a way that takes account of the limitations individuals face from their life circumstances, and physical spaces in the primary health care services being designed to do more than simply deliver services to individuals. The services also undertake advocacy for policies that create healthier communities but note barriers to them doing this work. Our findings suggest that primary health care workers are required to transverse “dilemmatic space” in their work.
The absence of systematic supportive policy, frameworks and structure means that it is hard for PHC services to act on the Commission on the Social Determinants of Health’s recommendations. Our study does, however, provide evidence of the potential for PHC services to be more responsive to social determinants given more support and by building alliances with communities and social movements. Further research on the value of community control of PHC services and the types of policy, resource and managerial environments that support action on social determinants is warranted by this study’s findings.
Primary health care; Health promotion; Social determinants of health; Health equity; Community health; Aboriginal health
Ethnographic evidence suggests that transactional sex is sometimes motivated by youth’s interest in the consumption of modern goods as much as it is in basic survival. There are very few quantitative studies that examine the association between young people’s interests in the consumption of modern goods and their sexual behaviour. We examined this association in two regions and four residence zones of Madagascar: urban, peri-urban and rural Antananarivo, and urban Antsiranana. We expected risky sexual behaviour would be associated with interests in consuming modern goods or lifestyles; urban residence; and socio-cultural characteristics.
We administered a population-based survey to 2, 255 youth ages 15–24 in all four residence zones. Focus group discussions guided the survey instrument which assessed socio-demographic and economic characteristics, consumption of modern goods, preferred activities and sexual behaviour. Our outcomes measures included: multiple sexual partners in the last year (for men and women); and ever practicing transactional sex (for women).
Overall, 7.3% of women and 30.7% of men reported having had multiple partners in the last year; and 5.9% of women reported ever practicing transactional sex. Bivariate results suggested that for both men and women having multiple partners was associated with perceptions concerning the importance of fashion and a series of activities associated with modern lifestyles. A subset of lifestyle characteristics remained significant in multivariate models. For transactional sex bivariate results suggested perceptions around fashion, nightclub attendance, and getting to know a foreigner were key determinants; and all remained significant in multivariate analysis. We found peri-urban residence more associated with transactional sex than urban residence; and ethnic origin was the strongest predictor of both outcomes for women.
While we found indication of an association between sexual behaviour and interest in modern goods, or modern lifestyles, such processes did not single-handedly explain risky sexual behaviour among youth; these behaviours were also shaped by culture and conditions of economic uncertainty. These determinants must all be accounted for when developing interventions to reduce risky transactional sex and vulnerability to HIV.
Transactional sex; Sexual behaviour; Madagascar; Modernity; HIV vulnerability; HIV risk; Globalization
Piroska Östlin and colleagues argue that a paradigm shift is needed to keep the focus on health equity within the social determinants of health research agenda.
There remains considerable discontent between globalization scholars about how to conceptualize its meaning and in regards to epistemological and methodological questions concerning how we can come to understand how these processes ultimately operate, intersect and transform our lives. This article argues that to better understand what globalization is and how it affects issues such as global health, we must take a differentiating approach, which focuses on how the multiple processes of globalization are encountered and informed by different social groups and with how these encounters are experienced within particular contexts. The article examines the heuristic properties of qualitative field research as a means to help better understand how the intersections of globalization are manifested within particular locations. To do so, the article focuses on three recent case studies conducted on globalization and HIV/AIDS and explores how these cases can help us to understand the contextual permutations involved within the processes of globalization.
There is an emerging evidence base that global trade is linked with the rise of chronic disease in many low and middle-income countries (LMICs). This linkage is associated, in part, with the global diffusion of unhealthy lifestyles and health damaging products posing a particular challenge to countries still facing high burdens of communicable disease. We developed a generic framework which depicts the determinants and pathways connecting global trade with chronic disease. We then applied this framework to three key risk factors for chronic disease: unhealthy diets, alcohol, and tobacco. This led to specific 'product pathways', which can be further refined and used by health policy-makers to engage with their country's trade policy-makers around health impacts of ongoing trade treaty negotiations, and by researchers to continue refining an evidence base on how global trade is affecting patterns of chronic disease. The prevention and treatment of chronic diseases is now rising on global policy agendas, highlighted by the UN Summit on Noncommunicable Diseases (September 2011). Briefs and declarations leading up to this Summit reference the role of globalization and trade in the spread of risk factors for these diseases, but emphasis is placed on interventions to change health behaviours and on voluntary corporate responsibility. The findings summarized in this article imply the need for a more concerted approach to regulate trade-related risk factors and thus more engagement between health and trade policy sectors within and between nations. An explicit recognition of the role of trade policies in the spread of noncommunicable disease risk factors should be a minimum outcome of the September 2011 Summit, with a commitment to ensure that future trade treaties do not increase such risks.
Developed countries' gains in health human resources (HHR) from developing countries with significantly lower ratios of health workers have raised questions about the ethics or fairness of recruitment from such countries. By attracting and/or facilitating migration for foreign-trained HHR, notably those from poorer, less well-resourced nations, recruitment practices and policies may be compromising the ability of developing countries to meet the health care needs of their own populations. Little is known, however, about actual recruitment practices. In this study we focus on Canada (a country with a long reliance on internationally trained HHR) and recruiters working for Canadian health authorities.
We conducted interviews with health human resources recruiters employed by Canadian health authorities to describe their recruitment practices and perspectives and to determine whether and how they reflect ethical considerations.
Results and discussion
We describe the methods that recruiters used to recruit foreign-trained health professionals and the systemic challenges and policies that form the working context for recruiters and recruits. HHR recruiters' reflections on the global flow of health workers from poorer to richer countries mirror much of the content of global-level discourse with regard to HHR recruitment. A predominant market discourse related to shortages of HHR outweighed discussions of human rights and ethical approaches to recruitment policy and action that consider global health impacts.
We suggest that the concept of corporate social responsibility may provide a useful approach at the local organizational level for developing policies on ethical recruitment. Such local policies and subsequent practices may inform public debate on the health equity implications of the HHR flows from poorer to richer countries inherent in the global health worker labour market, which in turn could influence political choices at all government and health system levels.
Based upon a review of the literature, Robert Chad Swanson and colleagues present a set of guiding principles for health systems strengthening.
Health systems face challenges in using research evidence to improve policy and practice. These challenges are particularly evident in small and poorly resourced health systems, which are often in locations (in Canada and globally) with poorer health status. Although organizational resources have been acknowledged as important in understanding research use resource theories have not been a focus of knowledge translation (KT) research. What resources, broadly defined, are required for KT and how does their presence or absence influence research use?
In this paper, we consider conservation of resources (COR) theory as a theoretical basis for understanding the capacity to use research evidence in health systems. Three components of COR theory are examined in the context of KT. First, resources are required for research uptake. Second, threat of resource loss fosters resistance to research use. Third, resources can be optimized, even in resource-challenged environments, to build capacity for KT.
A scan of the KT literature examined organizational resources needed for research use. A multiple case study approach examined the three components of COR theory outlined above. The multiple case study consisted of a document review and key informant interviews with research team members, including government decision-makers and health practitioners through a retrospective analysis of four previously conducted applied health research studies in a resource-challenged region.
The literature scan identified organizational resources that influence research use. The multiple case study supported these findings, contributed to the development of a taxonomy of organizational resources, and revealed how fears concerning resource loss can affect research use. Some resources were found to compensate for other resource deficits. Resource needs differed at various stages in the research use process.
COR theory contributes to understanding the role of resources in research use, resistance to research use, and potential strategies to enhance research use. Resources (and a lack of them) may account for the observed disparities in research uptake across health systems. This paper offers a theoretical foundation to guide further examination of the COR-KT ideas and necessary supports for research use in resource-challenged environments.
Global health financing has increased dramatically in recent years, indicative of a rise in health as a foreign policy issue. Several governments have issued specific foreign policy statements on global health and a new term, global health diplomacy, has been coined to describe the processes by which state and non-state actors engage to position health issues more prominently in foreign policy decision-making. Their ability to do so is important to advancing international cooperation in health. In this paper we review the arguments for health in foreign policy that inform global health diplomacy. These are organized into six policy frames: security, development, global public goods, trade, human rights and ethical/moral reasoning. Each of these frames has implications for how global health as a foreign policy issue is conceptualized. Differing arguments within and between these policy frames, while overlapping, can also be contradictory. This raises an important question about which arguments prevail in actual state decision-making. This question is addressed through an analysis of policy or policy-related documents and academic literature pertinent to each policy framing with some assessment of policy practice. The reference point for this analysis is the explicit goal of improving global health equity. This goal has increasing national traction within national public health discourse and decision-making and, through the Millennium Development Goals and other multilateral reports and declarations, is entering global health policy discussion. Initial findings support conventional international relations theory that most states, even when committed to health as a foreign policy goal, still make decisions primarily on the basis of the 'high politics' of national security and economic material interests. Development, human rights and ethical/moral arguments for global health assistance, the traditional 'low politics' of foreign policy, are present in discourse but do not appear to dominate practice. While political momentum for health as a foreign policy goal persists, the framing of this goal remains a contested issue. The analysis offered in this article may prove helpful to those engaged in global health diplomacy or in efforts to have global governance across a range of sectoral interests pay more attention to health equity impacts.
Despite India's recent economic growth, health and human development indicators of Scheduled Tribes (ST) or Adivasi (India's indigenous populations) lag behind national averages. The aim of this review was to identify the public health interventions or components of these interventions that are effective in reducing morbidity or mortality rates and reducing risks of ill health among ST populations in India, in order to inform policy and to identify important research gaps.
We systematically searched and assessed peer-reviewed literature on evaluations or intervention studies of a population health intervention undertaken with an ST population or in a tribal area, with a population health outcome(s), and involving primary data collection.
The evidence compiled in this review revealed three issues that promote effective public health interventions with STs: (1) to develop and implement interventions that are low-cost, give rapid results and can be easily administered, (2): a multi-pronged approach, and (3): involve ST populations in the intervention.
While there is a growing body of knowledge on the health needs of STs, there is a paucity of data on how we can address these needs. We provide suggestions on how to undertake future population health intervention research with ST populations and offer priority research avenues that will help to address our knowledge gap in this area.
Globalization is a key context for the study of social determinants of health (SDH): broadly stated, SDH are the conditions in which people live and work, and that affect their opportunities to lead healthy lives.
In the first article in this three part series, we described the origins of the series in work conducted for the Globalization Knowledge Network of the World Health Organization's Commission on Social Determinants of Health and in the Commission's specific concern with health equity. We identified and defended a definition of globalization that gives primacy to the drivers and effects of transnational economic integration, and addressed a number of important conceptual and methodological issues in studying globalization's effects on SDH and their distribution, emphasizing the need for transdisciplinary approaches that reflect the complexity of the topic.
In this second article, we identify and describe several, often interacting clusters of pathways leading from globalization to changes in SDH that are relevant to health equity. These involve: trade liberalization; the global reorganization of production and labour markets; debt crises and economic restructuring; financial liberalization; urban settings; influences that operate by way of the physical environment; and health systems changed by the global marketplace.
Globalization is a key context for the study of social determinants of health (SDH). Broadly stated, SDH are the conditions in which people live and work, and that affect their opportunities to lead healthy lives.
In this first article of a three-part series, we describe the origins of the series in work conducted for the Globalization Knowledge Network of the World Health Organization's Commission on Social Determinants of Health and in the Commission's specific concern with health equity. We explain our rationale for defining globalization with reference to the emergence of a global marketplace, and the economic and political choices that have facilitated that emergence. We identify a number of conceptual milestones in studying the relation between globalization and SDH over the period 1987–2005, and then show that because globalization comprises multiple, interacting policy dynamics, reliance on evidence from multiple disciplines (transdisciplinarity) and research methodologies is required. So, too, is explicit recognition of the uncertainties associated with linking globalization – the quintessential "upstream" variable – with changes in SDH and in health outcomes.
This article is the third in a three-part review of research on globalization and the social determinants of health (SDH). In the first article of the series, we identified and defended an economically oriented definition of globalization and addressed a number of important conceptual and metholodogical issues. In the second article, we identified and described seven key clusters of pathways relevant to globalization's influence on SDH. This discussion provided the basis for the premise from which we begin this article: interventions to reduce health inequities by way of SDH are inextricably linked with social protection, economic management and development strategy.
Reflecting this insight, and against the background of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), we focus on the asymmetrical distribution of gains, losses and power that is characteristic of globalization in its current form and identify a number of areas for innovation on the part of the international community: making more resources available for health systems, as part of the more general task of expanding and improving development assistance; expanding debt relief and taking poverty reduction more seriously; reforming the international trade regime; considering the implications of health as a human right; and protecting the policy space available to national governments to address social determinants of health, notably with respect to the hypermobility of financial capital. We conclude by suggesting that responses to globalization's effects on social determinants of health can be classified with reference to two contrasting visions of the future, reflecting quite distinct values.
Canada is a major recipient of foreign-trained health professionals, notably physicians from South Africa and other sub-Saharan African countries. Nurse migration from these countries, while comparatively small, is rising. African countries, meanwhile, have a critical shortage of professionals and a disproportionate burden of disease. What policy options could Canada pursue that balanced the right to health of Africans losing their health workers with the right of these workers to seek migration to countries such as Canada?
We interviewed a small sample of émigré South African physicians (n = 7) and a larger purposive sample of representatives of Canadian federal, provincial, regional and health professional departments/organizations (n = 25); conducted a policy colloquium with stakeholder organizations (n = 21); and undertook new analyses of secondary data to determine recent trends in health human resource flows between sub-Saharan Africa and Canada.
Flows from sub-Saharan Africa to Canada have increased since the early 1990s, although they may now have peaked for physicians from South Africa. Reasons given for this flow are consistent with other studies of push/pull factors. Of 8 different policy options presented to study participants, only one received unanimous strong support (increasing domestic self-sufficiency), one other received strong support (increased health system strengthening in source country), two others mixed support (voluntary codes on ethical recruitment, bilateral or multilateral agreements to manage flows) and four others little support or complete rejection (increased training of auxiliary health workers in Africa ineligible for licensing in Canada, bonding, reparation payments for training-cost losses and restrictions on immigration of health professionals from critically underserved countries).
Reducing pull factors by improving domestic supply and reducing push factors by strengthening source country health systems have the greatest policy traction in Canada. The latter, however, is not perceived as presently high on Canadian stakeholder organizations' policy agendas, although support for it could grow if it is promoted. Canada is not seen as "actively' recruiting" ("poaching") health workers from developing countries. Recent changes in immigration policy, ongoing advertising in southern African journals and promotion of migration by private agencies, however, blurs the distinction between active and passive recruitment.