Jun 19, 2020 in Informative

Global Health Issues: Communicable Disease Prevention, Challenges, and Solutions

Global health encompasses many areas of health concern worldwide. Globally, people face various issues on a daily basis since these issues affect their health negatively and threaten their overall survival. Some of these matters include air pollution, the shortage of health workers, climate change, and mental health traumas among others. One of the most crucial areas in global health is communicable diseases. Although the diseases are prevalent in low socioeconomic areas, they put all people at risk because they spread through human interaction. For example, the contact of body fluids between individuals and breathing infected air are the factors that lead to the rapid spread of communicable diseases. If not controlled and managed, the diseases present various complications to individuals, prompting them to seek medical attention. Consequently, the health care system becomes burdened, which leads to an increased demand for health workers, increased national budget to manage diseases, and the rising challenges to the pharmaceutical industries when people develop resistance to drugs. Therefore, preventing these diseases is a significant step in the improvement of global health. This paper analyzes the disease transmission cycle and three levels of communicable disease prevention; it examines two challenges to the prevention and offers appropriate solutions.

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Disease Transmission Cycle

It is important to understand the disease transmission cycle to apply the three levels of prevention. The disease transmission cycle is a series of steps that a disease-causing organism must undergo in the process of causing a disease. The organisms are also living things that need somewhere to reproduce. Therefore, they can live in an inanimate or animate environment that becomes a reservoir for infection. For instance, the organisms can live in a car, in rodents or a human body.

When a communicable disease infects a person, the animal, place, or human, from which it originates, is called a source of infection. The way an organism leaves the source (the infected host) and infects a new susceptible host is called the route or mode of transmission. However, each disease organism has its route of transmission. Some communicable diseases have one mode of transmission, while others have numerous routes of transmission. For example, HIV can infect a person through sexual intercourse, while sharing sharp instruments that come in contact with the infected blood, or during childbirth. These modes of transmission play a significant role in how the communicable diseases spread in the community, thus helping health workers to know the target of disease prevention. For instance, some disease-causing organisms are spread through food and water, while such vectors as snails and mosquitoes spread other illnesses. 

Notably, every transmission cycle is made up of three parts - the source, the transmission route, and the susceptible host. The source could be an infected person, animal, or a place. The transmission routes could be a direct contact, vectors, a contaminated food and water, blood contact, or airborne transmission. Finally, the host is an individual who has little resistance to a particular infection. For instance, the person may never have had contact with the disease; therefore, he or she has no immunity against it . Additionally, some individuals, who are immunosuppressed due to HIV/AIDS, and those, who take cancer medication, can be susceptible hosts. From understanding the three parts of a transmission cycle, it is appropriate to apply the three levels of preventing the spread of diseases in the community. They comprise of primary prevention, secondary prevention, and tertiary prevention.

Levels of Prevention

Primary Prevention

This approach is the most important in managing communicable diseases. It is also called the true prevention of disease. The actions of primary level of prevention are carried out before the illness or the dysfunction has occurred in the body. Most importantly, these activities interrupt the transmission of disease-causing organisms to the susceptible host, thus increasing the resistance to infection. 

The first step is immunization against a particular disease. When there is mass vaccination in the community (herd immunity), people develop resistance to diseases. Eventually, the percentage of infected individuals in the population reduces. Additionally, mothers must be counseled on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for six months. Evidently, breastfeeding stimulates the immune system of the infant, making the infant more resistant to various ailments. Moreover, there should be the immunization of domestic animals and pets. When dogs are immunized against rabies, they do not spread the infection to humans. Although rabies continues to be a health concern in developing countries, it has nearly been eliminated in developed countries. Finally, the vaccination of domestic animals is critical because it ensures the production of safe food to be used by the ever-growing population.

The second step in primary prevention is ensuring that people embrace healthy habits such as hand washing. Most people are unaware of proper hand washing techniques. Therefore, health workers must take the initiative to educate the public on the proper hand washing. Having clean hands can prevent many diseases because people touch many surfaces and later, they touch their food with dirty hands. For instance, some diseases, such as pinworms and hepatitis, spread through fecal-oral contamination. Hands become a medium of the transfer of organisms from the anus to the mouth either directly or indirectly. If people do not know how to wash hands properly, various pathogens remain on their hands and they are later ingested. Therefore, the community should know how to wash hands with warm running water, add soap to their hands, and rinse their hands well, then dry with a clean towel. This technique ensures clean pathogen-free hands. Another most important step in ensuring hand hygiene is by washing hands after visiting the toilet. When an individual visits the bathroom, they touch surfaces that may contain the germs that can cause bloody diarrhea.

Thirdly, safe and clean water prevents people from contracting a wide range of diseases. Diarrheal diseases, hepatitis A and E, and Leptospirosis are spread by contaminated water. The spread may occur due to drinking contaminated water or coming into contact with dirty water; thus, while drinking dirty water, people can get such diseases as Cholera, Typhoid, and dysentery. Significantly, when an individual with diarrhea does not wash hands and then shares food with other people, the spread of the disease is inevitable. Similarly, if someone with dysentery defecates in a river and people use the water, they are likely to suffer from dysentery and other related communicable diseases. Therefore, clean and safe water ensures the hygiene of the community, thus preventing them from contracting various diseases.

Proper housing and environmental hygiene are fundamental in preventing the spread of communicable diseases. Many infectious diseases, such as scabies and various fungal infections, are spread through close contact between the infected and the uninfected people. Most often, people in developing countries are infected by such diseases. These infections can also spread in the overcrowded places such as schools and other social gatherings. To prevent the spread, people need to live in spacious houses and ensure clean surroundings. Possibly, the infected individual can be isolated and treated before they join the family when they recover.

Proper food handling and adequate nutrition must be embraced in preventing communicable diseases. Before cooking food, the ingredients must be thoroughly washed because of the surfaces they might have touched. Additionally, some food products, such as meat, must be cooked thoroughly because most types of raw meat have the bacteria that can cause various illnesses such as Taenia Saginata and Taenia Solium. Therefore, people must only consume meat that has been already checked for bacteria and bury or incinerate infected meat. 

Lastly, communicable diseases can be prevented by controlling vectors. Various vectors, such as mosquitoes, tsetse flies, and sandflies among others, cause diseases that can be avoided. According to World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 3.3 billion people are at risk of malaria. Additionally, the disease causes the death of 453,000 under-five children globally. Malaria is a vector-borne disease, and therefore, it is vital to control vectors to achieve proper health globally. Some of the ways of controlling vectors include using insecticide-treated bed nets, using screens in houses, cleaning drainages and water disposal systems, clearing bushes around houses, and using larvicides. Other measures include the use of baited flytraps, the treatment of infected dogs and rodents, and putting on long sleeved clothes. 

Therefore, health workers must carry out health education and campaigns in implementing primary prevention strategies. In developing countries where resources are limited, funded programs can steer the prevention process. In the case individuals develop the diseases, secondary prevention is applied.

Secondary Prevention

This prevention strategy aims at preventing the development of complications in the people who are already affected with diseases. In the management of communicable diseases, the early detection of new cases of illnesses leads to the interventions that can be carried out to prevent the risk of the infection spreading further in the population. The primary goal is to cure the disease completely in the early stages when the cure is still manageable. Screening can be done in communities to identify any new cases of infection. For instance, screening services can target the people who are assumed to be at risk. For example, screenings can involve homeless people who are at risk of contracting TB. Then, mass treatment campaigns are initiated. When the infected individuals recover, it prevents pathogen transmission to susceptible hosts. Consequently, the disease is cured in its early stages. At this level, the community also receives education regarding the disease. Individuals are taught how to modify their behavior to avoid the recurrence of the disease. They receive the information on how to implement the strategies at the primary level to prevent them from developing infections. Most importantly, individuals that have the diseases with a potential to generate an epidemic are quarantined, treated, and educated on how they can prevent the risk of transmission to other people.

Tertiary Prevention

Tertiary prevention comes in when the disease has caused permanent disability. The goal is to limit the severity and the disability in the early stages of the disease. In the community, medical treatments can be used to prevent the worst outcome of diseases. However, the disease causes residual damage in some individuals, leading to permanent damage and thus, the need in rehabilitation. At this point, some therapies can be done to patients to improve their quality of life, but the spread of the disease is inevitable. For example, an advanced spread of polio in the community causes some children to have acute flaccid Paralysis. Such children might be taken to rehabilitation for physical therapy. Although paralyzed children may have a significantly improved quality of life, it will have no impact on the spread of the virus in the community. However, tertiary prevention benefits society and the individual. For instance, people under rehabilitation might still contribute immensely to the benefit of society.

Challenges towards Prevention of Communicable Diseases and Their Solutions

Despite several efforts to curb communicable diseases, various challenges exist. The first challenge is the problem of social hostility and stigma. In some communities, there is social hostility towards serious illnesses due to lack of information. For instance, some parents hide children with acute flaccid paralysis, fearing mockery from the public. Consequently, a child fails to receive early attention and becomes a threat to other children due the ability of polio to spread. Furthermore, most people with HIV/AIDS feel stigmatized and they can share the negative opinions of other people about them. Considering the fatal illnesses that are already a stigma to the victims, most people find a reason to hide their condition and thus, continue spreading the diseases. To solve this problem, special campaigns must also target the awareness of some communicable diseases. People must be aware of how the infectious diseases spread and know that keeping secret about one case of disease might be dangerous to the community. Additionally, it is paramount to offer advice on the early seeking for medical care after noticing some symptoms.

The second challenge is the changing threat of communicable diseases. For example, the emergence of HIV/AIDS and other deadly communicable diseases, such as Ebola, serves as a reminder that contagious diseases are a major threat to people globally. Therefore, the public health systems must be proactive in screening and identifying any changes in the pattern of diseases in the communities.

Conclusion

In conclusion, communicable diseases face many people globally. They are important in global health because they challenge even the best public health systems. Therefore, preventing diseases is a significant step in addressing global health issues. There are three levels of prevention. They include primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention. Primary prevention is preventive, secondary prevention is curative, and tertiary prevention is rehabilitative. Although all the levels are significant, primary prevention is the most appropriate one because it prevents diseases before they develop. Finally, various challenges face the efforts towards the prevention strategies, but health care agencies can always be vigilant to address those challenges.

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