The year 2020 was plagued with many distressing medical headlines. The world has been facing a devastating global pandemic since the start of 2020. The emergence of the novel COVID-19 has caused an estimated 2.5 million deaths worldwide, having infected approximately 110 million people worldwide. Most of the countries were unprepared to deal with the pandemic. The health care facilities and workers fell under immense strain due to the rising number of cases. The pandemic was not just a health crisis but an economic and education crisis in many countries as well.
However, thanks to the advancement of medicine and technology, progress was made in public health. Treatment plans were quickly made and implemented. The world saw the fastest vaccine progress in history. Professional health care workers advocated better mental health services. However, COVID-19 was not the only public health concern in 2020. There are health problems still prevalent in society. Issues like substance abuse, obesity, and mental health problems continue to increase in communities. Many of these issues escalated in the pandemic. The WHO (World Health Organization and CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) have outlined the following top health problems that can have severe consequences in 2021.
The pandemic placed the entire world in a state of a medical emergency. We saw front-line workers trying their best to navigate through a rising number of coronavirus cases. Professionals and scientists have been working around the clock to develop vaccines to lower the infection rate. The CDC implemented precautionary measures such as mask-wearing, hand-washing, and social distancing. Due to the pandemic, interest in community health increased around the globe. Advanced knowledge of public health care can enable the front-line workers to influence the local community. Earning an easily accessible degree in masters in public health online will equip health care professionals with the necessary knowledge to tackle recent medical challenges while simultaneously managing their careers.
COVID-19 is estimated to have increased the number of people facing serious food insecurity in 2021. Food insecurity and a lack of access to nutrition was a major cause of concern, even in rich countries like the United States. During Covid-19, incomes reduced substantially, and supply chains were disrupted. Higher retail prices lead to public households having to reduce the quantity and quality of their food consumption. Many communities did not have access to affordable and nutritious food. Low-income households thus suffered from hunger and malnutrition. Food insecurity can lead to chronic diseases in adults and mental and developmental problems in children as well.
Nutrition and physical activity were among the top health problems before the outbreak of the coronavirus. These problems were exacerbated during the pandemic. There were many changes in the lifestyle of the masses during the coronavirus lockdowns. People had to cut down on physical outdoor activities and consumed more junk food instead. This can turn into a serious health concern in 2021, as obesity increases the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer. Sitting at home during lockdown has worsened childhood obesity worldwide. Disrupted school schedules and access to more screen time have contributed to dangerous weight gain in children.
Mental Health Conditions
The physical health effects of COVID-19 continue to impact lives even today. However, the pandemic also took a toll on the mental health of people across the globe. The negative effects of social isolation and loneliness impacted people of all ages. Restrictions on social gatherings and working remotely increased feelings of depression and frustration among people. Many people suffered from stress due to fear of losing their jobs or not being able to see their loved ones. The growing elderly population was most strongly affected by social isolation as they were concerned about being restricted from seeing their distant family. Essential mental health services had been disrupted across the world due to the pandemic. We can expect to see more public health and mental health workers in the future who can provide people with mental health services, like counseling and therapy.
Prescription Drug Overdose
The ongoing stress resultant of COVID-19 has not only increased the demand for mental health services as people are struggling to cope but has also led to an increase in substance abuse as people are resorting to drugs. There are limited ways to manage stress now, which has also contributed to the rise in substance misuse. Lack of social interactions to vent out feelings has led people to try out drugs or consume them more often or in greater amounts. Furthermore, there was an increased risk of substance abuse during the lockdown as people turned to drugs in isolation. In addition to this, with people being alone at home, there is a higher tendency of overdosing, as no one would get to know in time to call for help.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had many devastating impacts and has led to a plethora of health problems for the world to face. As vaccines are rolling out in 2021, the onus on health workers will need to stay updated with the latest medical technologies. In addition, as medicine progresses to tackle current healthcare challenges, there is a need to adopt new approaches. In 2021, the work of public health professionals is needed more than ever before to take care of their communities and utilize their knowledge to build a more resilient future in global health.