Today I’m talking about evolutionary philosophy and how it applies to global health. Even if you’re not interested in medicine or global health, I talk about the importance of asking ‘why’ with everything you do. Don’t float through life. Figure out why you’re here and what is important to you. Take a step back and think about how AMAZING it is to be alive and have the ability to adventure through life and learn. One of the coolest things in life is viewing something through someone else’s eyes. Seek that out and find bliss in that every day.
What exactly is ‘Global Health?’
An article from NCBI defines global health as ‘an area for study, research, and practice that places a priority on improving health and achieving health equity for all people worldwide’ (check out the full article here!). This is certainly an all-encompassing definition. I always defined global health as a field of medicine that puts more emphasis on treating diseases and conditions that transcend the borders of one country. This means focusing on diseases that are affecting a large amount of people world-wide.
I recently watched a a Ted Talk by Dr. Stefano Vella. He defined global health as a way to unite the world together to provide healthcare to everyone and rid the world of inequality. I really love how he incorporates uniting forces into his definition. While I saw global health as a field of medicine, he takes it to the next level. Global health is one sector in the fight against inequality. We can only truly accomplish this goal if we ‘unite forces.’
Uniting forces not only involves sharing knowledge once it is obtained, but it also means seeking opportunities to involve more people when gathering and implementing that knowledge. In terms of global health, this means working with others to eradicate infectious diseases and provide better access to healthcare world-wide. Working together is the key. Many organizations and programs want to go out and set up short term clinics in developing countries. Most of the time, their intentions are noble. Unfortunately, this is unsustainable and can actually cause more harm than good. Beyond that, people from developed countries have the tendency to come in and provide healthcare the way that they see is best rather than working with healthcare providers in the area. The goal is to work together to create a sustainable system.
I could go on about sustainability, but I want to focus on the current definition of global health in this post. If you want to read more about sustainability, check out my previous global health posts here.
Evolutionary Philosophy and Inherent Human Traits
I personally believe that we will never be able to completely rid the world of inequality. However, I do believe that we have the ability to close the gap. But why? Are humans inherently selfish or inherently kind? That is a huge question, but I believe that thinking about it will help us understand what it means to fight inequality. As a human race, we started out inherently selfish (it was evolutionarily advantageous to be so!). The goal was to survive long enough to reproduce. However, an argument can be made that people are also inherently good. From an evolutionary perspective, working together with people ensured the overall survival of the species. This brings us to the ‘Bio-Cultural Evolutionary Pyramid’.
The theory is that an individual is likely to benefit from those that they are closest too. Thus you would go out of your way to be kind to your family because they would do the same for you. If you step outside your immediate circle you may still benefit from each other. You aren’t likely to reap the benefits of being kind to someone that you would never see again. This is just one theory from an evolutionary perspective of why people are kind to another human or not.
The more we advance as a species, the more we start to care about things towards the top of the pyramid. I certainly do not believe that people are only kind to each other because they are expecting something in return. Perhaps a long time ago, that was the reason why we decided to help each other out. But now we have cultures and society and the desire to rid the world of inequality while also living a fulfilling life.
The Fight Against Inequality
Okay so enough evolutionary philosophy… how does this apply to global health? Well my point is that we developed from creatures who were only concerned with surviving. Then we discovered it was advantageous to our survival to work together and be kind to each other. Somewhere along the way bigger groups collaborated together to conquer neighboring groups. Whether this be evolutionaryily advantageous or human nature getting the best of us is another debate, but the point is that through all of that, people still have an innate desire to help other people. Throughout history we have developed from only wanting to help those in our tribe, to wanting to help those in our country, to wanting to help those around the world. Global health is one part of our fight against inequality and humans wanting to help those around the world.
If we change the definition of global health to one piece of the puzzle to lift everyone else up, we might be able to get a lot more accomplished. Instead of viewing global health as a field of medicine, we need to look at it as a vector to equality. With this definition, it is easier to see how we need to work together. Equality is not accomplished via one group taking over another group. It is obtained by working together to share knowledge for the benefit of all.
Well this post certainly took a turn off the beaten path down a road of philosophy and human nature. But I believe that thinking about these types of things are so important. No matter what kind of career you want to go into, ask yourself: ‘Why?’ What is important to you in life and how do you want to live your life to continuously seek out that meaning?
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