The final countdown towards achieving the 2030 Agenda: the contribution of health care professionals

(Credit: UN)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Thamires Manzano Fernandes and Ms. Abhirami Das, a 21-year-old, third year medical student enrolled in Rajiv Gandhi Medical College, India. She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Agenda 2030, a United Nations Resolution, is a plan of action to end the tyranny of poverty, hunger, and violence. The disparity in health care is the most ubiquitous of all inequalities having enduring effects on a nation’s economic and social development. It underscores the imperative role that medical professionals play in achieving the sustainable development goals set out by Agenda 2030.

As we ride the waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can no longer ignore the multiple epidemics that have plagued developing countries for years.  The war on malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis has been tiresome, arduous, and expensive, but we must march on. Accomplishing this goal involves encouraging research on communicable diseases, deploying more medical professionals to resource-deprived regions, and cooperate, guide and support governments in their policy makings. A major hindrance in the treatment of these diseases is antimicrobial resistance. The serendipitous discovery of antimicrobial drugs revolutionized medicine. Unfortunately, its indiscriminate use has engendered long-term consequences. Education of doctors and patients about the repercussions of the injudicious use of antimicrobial drugs is necessary to curb the spread of communicable diseases. 

Other important goals include combating racism and sexism. Discrimination based on colour often colours medical judgment. Race and gender are taken into account to reach an accurate diagnosis. Unfortunately, assumptions and bigotry take precedence. Prescription of insufficient pain medication, failure of doctors to empathize with their symptoms, and being labelled as “uncompliant” are a few of the vast number of impediments that women and people of colour have to overcome to receive the healthcare they deserve. It leads to chronic pain and loss of workdays which might plummet someone into poverty. Medical professionals must receive anti-bias and allyship training. Increasing the number of people of colour and women in pivotal leadership roles in medicine and management is key to addressing this pressing issue.

Many pregnant women, burdened by lack of job security, feel pressured to return to work as soon as possible after giving birth. The majority of workplaces are not inclusive of new mothers and their needs. Doctors must ensure women receive adequate and timely antenatal care, enquire about provisions for nutrition, provide emotional support to pregnant and lactating women, and campaign for maternity leave, changing stations in washrooms, lactation rooms and day-care facilities.

In developing countries, lack of resources, information, and access to healthcare creates an inconducive environment for mothers and children to flourish. Medical professionals need to introduce patients in underdeveloped areas to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education in simple, vernacular languages. Health care workers need to be sensitive to the customs and beliefs of their patients to ensure maximum acceptability. Emphasis on sexual rights and family planning empowers women to have agency over their bodies.

Let’s step beyond the clinic and heal the world from the inside.

About the author

Abhirami Das is a 21-year-old, third year medical student enrolled in Rajiv Gandhi Medical College, India. She is currently the Regional Director Assist for MSAI (Medical Students Association of India) and has organized numerous events to spread awareness about public health issues.

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