Climate change and fake news represent the biggest threat to human health in the next 25 years, according to a survey of health professionals worldwide.
The global study found that the overwhelming majority (98%) of health professionals want to see more cooperation to address the health challenges created by the climate crisis. It was perceived that the climate crisis went hand in hand with greater migration due to globalization, and 72% of respondents said that this led to greater resistance to drugs.
The study, conducted by the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (RSTMH) in the United Kingdom, surveyed doctors, researchers and other health professionals in 79 countries.
The resulting report, published on September 17, found that the disinformation of patients and the growth of opinions contrary to science exacerbate threats to the provision of medical care, especially in low-income countries.
A total of 91% of respondents said that governments and health agencies are not doing enough to prepare for the impact of climate change on health. A similar number, 92%, said that this challenge was coupled with the pressures that false professionals impose on health professionals, which, according to them, generated distrust of experience and evidence.
Tamar Ghosh, executive director of RSTMH, says such trends could be offset by better communication training for researchers and health professionals, especially in the poorest countries, where people with less access to technology may lack digital knowledge. to distinguish between reputation and fake News.
“Low and middle-income countries will have to counter this threat, since the crucial point of the era of ‘post-truth’ digital forest fires is that it falls to the responsibility of verifying stories about the reader, who could be a person without the time, energy or resources to do it, “he told SciDev.Net.
Anit Mukherjee, a policy researcher at the Center for Global Development in Washington, DC, believes that governments, NGOs and international health agencies need to improve the use of the same information channels trusted by patients, including social networks. “It is no longer a roadside sign,” he said. “Someone whom people trust needs to enter and use the same information and dissemination channels, and bombard them with good information, which can displace the wrong information.”
Despite concerns about false news, the more than 600 respondents felt positive about technology, with 95 percent of men and 83 percent of women reporting that they believe technology will improve the global provision of medical care.
However, about 68% of health professionals said the technology had increased the division of medical care between rich and poor countries, as it causes brain drain. About three out of four African doctors and two out of three Asians said they were worried that local doctors would move to richer countries, compared to only half of their colleagues in Europe.
“Technology is inevitable and should be used,” said Mukherjee. “But it will only work if you have the right basic health care mechanisms and design a technology that supports it.”
Respondents around the world were asked about the three main specific health challenges they expected to face in the next 25 years. Noncommunicable diseases, such as diabetes and cancer, were identified as the biggest problem, followed by drug-resistant and parasitic viral strains and emerging infectious diseases, such as Ebola. Meanwhile, many respondents were confident that conditions such as polio, guinea worm and blinding trachoma could be eradicated in the next quarter century.
Perhaps surprisingly, health professionals in the territories most affected by climate change and conflict were the most optimistic in facing these challenges. Around 63 percent of African doctors said they were generally optimistic about the future of medical care, compared with only 42 percent of those working in Europe.
The RSTMH issued five recommendations for global health based on the findings of the report: addressing the climate crisis, more collaboration in noncommunicable diseases, combating health inequality, prioritizing quality of life rather than prolonging life and ensuring that Health professionals have access to the latest technology.
To achieve the latter, the public and private sectors must work in partnership in research and innovation, says Ghosh. To ensure that new technologies really benefit health workers, companies must “work collaboratively with health professionals from the beginning, rather than seeing them as a final audience for the use of technology,” he added.