"Global Health is an area for study, research and practice that places a priority on improving health and achieving equity in health for all people worldwide."

As physicians of the future, we must be aware that health and illness are not merely biomedical concepts, but rather embody also the psychological and social spheres of individuals. Our actions as health professionals and advocates can be really effective only after abandoning the biomedical paradigm in favour of a new, holistic approach to medicine.

Evidence shows that diseases not only have proximate causes (e.g. obesity and unhealthy diet for coronary heart disease, or smoking for lung cancer), but also ultimate ones (e.g. socioeconomical status, level of education, profession, organization of local healthcare services, etc.). This means health is determined by a wide variety of elements, from genetic and personal factors (age, sex, hereditary factors, personal lifestyle, etc.) to living and working conditions and more general socioeconomic, cultural and environmental factors. These are the so-called "Social Determinants of Health".

Even though medical technology is improving enormously, improving health for all is becoming more difficult in our globalized and extremely interconnected world, and inequalities in health and society are widening. Climate change, Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), Mental Health and Migrants’ Health are only some examples of Global Health challenges of the modern times.

Through IFMSA exchanges, medical students have the possibility of spending one month abroad and work in a different sociocultural context and health system. By improving our awareness of the main present global health issues and paying attention to sociocultural determinants affecting people’s health, we can become competent and sensitive physicians who are able to effectively take care of their patients and promote health in all its aspects.

For all these reasons, implementing Global Health in our exchange program has become an important priority for IFMSA.

Tommaso Pomerani
SCOPE General Assistant 2016/2017