“People need to know what to do to protect themselves” – IGHN Conference 2022

January 10, 2023

IGHN Conference Key Correspondence Summary 2022

By Ciara Keating

“People need to know what to do to protect themselves”

A simple yet powerful statement that was made by Dr. Margaret Fitzgerald during the Irish Global Health Network conference 2022. One major theme floating through the knowledge-rich conversations that were had over the 48 hours (about 2 days) was that of inclusivity. Accessing healthcare is not a one size fits all. It is a major area of global health which we often do not dissect to an entity. Collectively, those attending the conference could see the need for a systems approach to addressing global health systems. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has uprooted major gaps in our global health systems. The deaf community’s experience in accessing health information, specifically during the pandemic, was not one that was experienced by all. Pamela Molino Toledo, executive director of the World Federation of the deaf powerfully expressed how “the cultural linguistic rights of the deaf community were not protected during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Populations felt trapped during quarantine period of the pandemic, however, they were protected. Yes, they were in quarantine for protection against COVID-19 but the deaf community and those of marginalized communities were not protected. Dr. Julian Eaton highlighted this when he spoke on COVID-19, reiterating how badly the ability to communicate was deterred. This events themes highlighted that protecting the global community’s health requires systems thinking approach. An understanding of the layers that make up the global health systems and its’ population is vital to achieve global health resilience. 

Adaptation and communication were vibrant themes that appeared among speakers. Researchers standing on the outside looking in is not sufficient. We cannot research people, we must research with them. Going hand in hand with communication and adaptation is inclusivity. Coordination with the various global communities to address problems within the global health system is needed for global health resilience e.g., the global south. Journalist Sally Hayden spoke on her recent publication of her direct experience speaking with Libyan refugees. Sharing the experiences of those held captive in the detention centers, systemic resolutions are much needed. Hayden emphasised the need to communicate with those directly effected rather than those reporting on the issues at hand. A prime example of looking past those reporting to get a true picture is the corruption within the system. The EU migration policy being loopholed by the EU in collaboration with the Libyan Coast Guard is unheard of by many. It is not daft to say that wool is being pulled over the eyes of the global north when it comes to a series of global health issues. 

Overall, when it comes to accessing healthcare, there are disparities. Global health systems are complex. We cannot address issues within in the system without completing full evaluation of the issue and communicating with those affected. Coming back to Dr. Margaret Fitzgerald, “How resilient are our health systems if we are discussing resilience?” she asks. We cannot continue to ignore the flaws within a system built to protect and expect solutions to be produced. 

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