Global Health Cross-Cultural Comparisons

Many of the factors explored in American health also relate to global health such as:

  • Access to health education and care
  • Socioeconomic and racial disparities
  • Food or housing scarcity

Health disparities are also due in part to cultural factors that involve practices based not only on sex, but also gender status. For example, in China, health disparities have distinguished medical treatment for men and women due to the cultural phenomenon of preference for male children. Additionally, a girl’s chances of survival are impacted by the presence of a male sibling. Girls do have the same chance of survival as boys if they are the oldest girl – they have a higher probability of being aborted or dying young if they have an older sister.

In India, SES and gender-based health inequities are apparent in early childhood. Many families provide better nutrition for boys in the interest of maximizing future productivity given that boys are generally seen as breadwinners. In addition, boys receive better care than girls and are hospitalized at a greater rate. The magnitude of these disparities increases with the severity of poverty in a given population.

Additionally, the cultural practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) is known to impact women’s health, though is difficult to know the worldwide extent of this practice. Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female genital cutting and female circumcision, is the ritual cutting or removal of some or all of the external female genitalia. While generally thought of as a Sub-Saharan African practice, it may have roots in the Middle East as well. The estimated 3 million girls who are subjected to FGM each year potentially suffer both immediate and lifelong negative effects. Long-term consequences include urinary tract infections, bacterial vaginosis, pain during intercourse, and difficulties in childbirth that include prolonged labor, vaginal tears, and excessive bleeding (“Female Genital Mutilation”, 2019).

Globally, the poorest countries in the world remain the least healthy (CDC, 2018). In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) identified the need for multiple countries to unify in targeting health disparity and basic rights/needs. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a collection of 17 global goals set by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 2015 for the year 2030. According to the United Nations, the long-term target is to reach the communities farthest behind and most in need.

There are 169 targets for the 17 goals. Each target has between 1 and 3 indicators used to measure progress toward reaching the targets. There are many obstacles to realizing this global call to end human suffering, improve the environment, and ensure access to basic needs. Critics of SDG’s highlight the high cost of achieving even the initial target goals and suggest the plan is overly complex. Currently, world leaders continue to work with the United Nations in pursuit of global peace and prosperity to improve human health and well-being.


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Culture and Psychology Copyright © 2020 by L D Worthy; T Lavigne; and F Romero is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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