Over the past century, there have been substantial improvements in health outcomes on a global scale, as reflected by universal reductions in maternal and child mortality and increases overall life expectancy. These achievements have been made possible through robust investments in scientific and technological innovations such as improved water and sanitation measures, vaccinations and anti-microbial medications. Likewise, public acceptance of disease control as a possibility and collective responsibility and the subsequent establishment of public health organizations and agencies to guide and deploy these interventions (e.g. the World Health Organization, the US Centers for Disease Control, GAVI - the Vaccine Alliance), have been equally transformative.
Despite these accomplishments, significant challenges remain. Improvements in health outcomes are incomplete and unequally distributed across age, gender, class, race and geography, with Low and Middle Income Countries significantly trailing wealthier countries. Advances in treatment options for diseases like HIV/AIDS or TB, combined with the proliferation of non-communicable diseases (including mental and neurological disorders), have generated a swath of new challenges when it comes to management of chronic conditions, pain and disability. Meanwhile, widespread misinformation, mistrust in health institutions, and political polarization are hampering the uptake of health services (e.g. vaccine hesitancy), and threatening to derail some of the collaborative scientific and political processes that made the global health gains of the 20th century possible.