Global Health Experts Explain Buzzwords They'll Use in 2023

If it feels like there's one crisis after another, there's a term for that
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 18, 2023 5:08 PM CST
Global Health Experts Explain Buzzwords They'll Use in 2023
The dry bed of the Arkansas River stretches toward the rising moon on Jan. 5 in Deerfield, Kan. The river in western Kansas is mostly dry after decades of extensive groundwater use and periodic droughts.   (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

There's no time to lose in addressing major issues and problems in global health and development, so it would help to know what everyone's talking about. To that end, NPR asked experts to explain a few of the sometimes-baffling terms about serious subjects that they expect to be in heavy rotation this year. Here's a sampling:

  • Aridification: The expanding gap between the demand for water and the supply available. "It's different than drought, which is temporary," Jennifer Pitt wrote in Audubon. "Aridification is here to stay." That could lead us, a UN scientist says, "in the most extreme example" to a situation with 75% of the world's population in drier conditions by 2050," requiring major adaptions by humans. Or, Barron Joseph Orr said, the world could avoid the worst "if we keep climate change to 1.5 degrees."
  • Zero-dose children: Those who have not had a single vaccination—not for diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, or other standard shots. The global total of zero-dose children was estimated at 13 million before COVID-19 and could be as high now as 18 million. "We lost 30 years of progress in 3 years," said Lily Caprani, a UN health advocate. The term can carry a broader meaning. "It's a proxy indicator for a child living in a community deprived of clean water, health care and nutrition," she said. Such communities often are where outbreaks of contagious diseases begin.
  • Polycrisis: A familiar catastrophe taking place in a different way. The crises we're going through "have always occurred," said professor Danny Ralph of Cambridge University, adding, "What has changed is the rate at which these chaotic events are hitting us." The term helps keep us from thinking, "'Don't worry, we'll fix this problem and get back to normal,'" he said. Increased global connectedness helps the damage and fear caused by a crisis to spread quickly, per NPR. A report issued last week by the World Economic Forum offered this definition: "A cluster of related global risks with compounding effects, such as the overall impact exceeds the sum of each part."
More terms can be found here. (Read more global health stories.)

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