Resource detail

Resource ID 181
Title Emerging health issues: the widening challenge for population health promotion
Author Anthony J. McMichael and Colin D. Butler


The spectrum of tasks for health promotion has widened since the Ottawa Charter was signed. In 1986, infectious diseases still seemed in retreat, the potential extent of HIV/AIDS was unrecognized, the Green Revolution was at its height and global poverty appeared less intractable. Global climate change had not yet emerged as a major threat to development and health. Most economists forecast continuous improvement, and chronic diseases were broadly anticipated as the next major health issue.


Today, although many broadly averaged measures of population health have improved, many of the determinants of global health have faltered. Many infectious diseases have emerged; others have unexpectedly reappeared. Reasons include urban crowding, environmental changes, altered sexual relations, intensified food production and increased mobility and trade. Foremost, however, is the persistence of poverty and the exacerbation of regional and global inequality.

Life expectancy has unexpectedly declined in several countries. Rather than being a faint echo from an earlier time of hardship, these declines could signify the future. Relatedly, the demographic and epidemiological transitions have faltered. In some regions, declining fertility has overshot that needed for optimal age structure, whereas elsewhere mortality increases have reduced population growth rates, despite continuing high fertility.

Few, if any, Millennium Development Goals (MDG), including those for health and sustainability, seem achievable. Policy-makers generally misunderstand the link between environmental sustainability (MDG #7) and health. Many health workers also fail to realize that social cohesion and sustainability—maintenance of the Earth's ecological and geophysical systems—is a necessary basis for health.

In sum, these issues present an enormous challenge to health. Health promotion must address population health influences that transcend national boundaries and generations and engage with the development, human rights and environmental movements. The big task is to promote sustainable environmental and social conditions that bring enduring and equitable health gains.

Resource type Article
Source/origin External source
Record created 2014-07-12 13:45
Record updated 2014-07-12 13:45
Record editor Helen Parsons
Tags sustainability, transitions, globalization, health promotion
Subjects Population growth