Dynamic Health Communicator, Master of Global Health graduate and Global Coordinator of NCDFREE for Europe & Africa, Jack Fisher, shares his optimism for the future of Global Health as crafted by the millennial generation.
I’m a millennial and I will be nearing my 40th birthday by the year 2030. By that time the Global Health world will have spent another 15 years tackling an array of challenges. We will know if we have managed to meet the health needs of the biggest migration of individuals into Europe since the Second World War. We will know if we have been able to adapt to the ever-changing face of infectious diseases and epidemics. We will know if we have managed to reduce premature mortality in chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, lung disease, and mental health, by 25%. We will know if we have been able to curb our anthropogenic activities contributing to climate change. The only certainty is that myself, along with an army of millennials, will play an integral part in the road to 2030.
This is already evident in the great advances seen within the global climate movement in 2015, leading up to the crucial Sustainable Development Goals.
Millennials took ownership and provided a key voice in leading the grassroots movement, addressing the wide variety of environmental concerns surrounding climate change. Our success is down to a number of reasons.
1) Millennials are aware that for many Global Health challenges, the time for action is now. We know that if we do not act with a sense of urgency, then some of the issues previously described, will result in widespread morbidity and mortality, with long lasting and irreversible consequences. Bearing this in mind, with time and a little brashness on our side, we enter with the mind-set of everything to gain and nothing to lose. We are willing to ask those difficult questions.
2) We are ready to walk the walk. Multidisciplinary action and efficient coordination among Global Health actors is essential but rarely demonstrated. 21st century Global Health millennials embody the variety of backgrounds and skills needed to tackle a range of multifaceted challenges. Our holistic perspectives and desire to work across disciplines and fields will be at the centre of efforts to improve global health outcomes.
3) Six figure salaries, grandiose titles or expert tenures do not drive us. What does is a sense of purpose: The want to make meaningful change in a prompt and timely manner. We are aware of our social responsibility to solve the issues left to our generation.
4) We have grown up with the technological advancements that are now integral to our society. It’s second nature for us to consume the array of instant information from around the world, whilst simultaneously communicating and sharing with our fingertips through social media. We also use these same tools to effectively organise and mobilise movements and minds through creative hashtags to online groups.
5) It’s not all online! We transform our words into actions. Millenials have consistently provided an integral part in mass social marches and movements for a range of societal issues. Offline we are also more versed to travel to new places, utilising travels platforms to connect and learn from new people and places. Failing that, due to time constraints or finances, we can always turn to Skype or Periscope (and eventually virtual reality) to connect us through our phones and tablets.
However, being a millennial doesn’t come without it’s downsides. We are the generation who is poorer for the global financial crisis. With mass youth unemployment across the world, it is often hard for millennials, especially those from low and middle-income settings, to get a foot in the door and implement their skills and passion. We are also the generation who feel disconnected by the political systems governing our nations. We are disillusioned by the broken promises of the politicians who often focus on the short-term impacts, rather than the essential long-term sustained goals.
Nether-the-less we are optimistic and determined. We can take inspiration from those before us who have achieved great progress in the HIV/AIDs, civil rights and gender equality movements. We can learn from the experiences of the GenX (37-48) and Baby Boomers (49-67), whilst bridging the generational gaps seen on the meeting tables across the globe. Further, we will address the cultural and technological gaps, to address the multitude of multifactorial global health challenges.
Therefore my message to us millennials is to persevere. Keep calm and continue pushing forward with our positive meaningful action. We are the ‘agents of change’. We cannot be ignored. After all, the future is in our hands.
Jack Fisher is NCDFREE’s Global Coordinator for Europe and Africa. He has a MSc Global Health from the University of Copenhagen.