Solving Wicked Problems

Each wicked problem is a unique hurdle that must be solved holistically and can take on many forms. Wicked problems are constantly evolving due to advancements in technology, globalization, and emerging infectious diseases. Solving wicked problems must be a worldwide effort and is the only way to achieve One Health. 

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What Are Wicked Problems?

Wicked problems are complex and multifaceted challenges that are difficult to define, understand, and solve due to several factors, such as:

  • Opposing governmental agendas: It’s very difficult or impossible to get governments, countries, and economies to agree on what constitutes as a wicked problem and what issues need to be prioritized.

  • Lack of resources: Impoverished countries lack the financial, environmental, and healthcare resources they need to overcome wicked problems. Determining which issues to focus on when there are several to choose from causes more conflict.

  • Lack of education: Lack of education about disease, environmental best practices, and more, creates a barrier for communities without proper resources to fight wicked problems.

These are just a few examples of wicked problems, but without global collaboration, these issues will only persist and worsen. 

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How Wicked Problems Affect Global Health

Wicked problems are detrimental to each aspect of One Health: people, animals, and the environment. They don’t just affect poor economies in underdeveloped countries, but have the potential to cause catastrophic damage at each economic level, in every country across the planet. 

Since no one is safe from wicked problems, they have a significant impact on overall global health. Emerging infectious diseases are more difficult to reduce or mitigate without proper global alignment on best practices, so it’s imperative that all governments and cultures agree to support One Health efforts. 

However, it’s incredibly difficult or impossible to have alignment with competing governmental agendas, differentiating healthcare systems, educational and social inequities, and more. Without cohesive global health efforts, there is a large risk for economic downfalls and emerging infectious diseases. 

Examples of Wicked Problems in Action

It’s difficult to determine how to prioritize solving wicked problems, but an understanding of some of the most detrimental issues is key to making the best choices in healthcare and environmental practices. 

Here are some examples of wicked problems and their effect on global health:

  • Climate Change: Climate change poses a significant challenge as it involves a wide range of issues, including greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, energy production, and global cooperation. Addressing climate change requires complex solutions and coordination among various sectors and nations which is difficult to align on due to cultural values, governmental agendas, economic stability, and more. As the earth’s climate changes, our ecosystems will erode and not be as productive, which will affect the overall environment and cause catastrophic failure to global economies. 

  • Healthcare Access: Ensuring equitable access to healthcare is a complex challenge. It involves issues such as affordability, availability of healthcare facilities, geographic disparities, and socioeconomic barriers. Developing effective and sustainable healthcare systems that provide quality care is essential for many reasons, such as mitigating emerging infectious diseases, ensuring workforces are not disrupted to keep economies running and collaborating, and having the right medications available to not overuse or misuse drugs that can pollute the environment. 

  • Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR): The misuse and overuse of antibiotics causes a great deal of imbalance in the medical community and environment, and is one of the most common and detrimental wicked problems. It’s essential to properly understand when an infection is viral or bacterial, so that medical practitioners know when and when not to prescribe antibiotics or antifungals. If there is an over prescribed case, the host can actually build up an immunity to the drugs, rendering them ineffective when the host needs them the most. AMR is so common because many healthcare professionals don’t have access to enough information to determine whether or not an antimicrobial is the right solution. Additionally, ecosystems near hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities are polluted by these drugs, which affects the animals and humans living in the area. Solutions must be created so that humans, animals, and the environment are not negatively affected by drugs that can save lives if used properly. However, global misalignment occurs when some countries and economies don’t have the resources or information to make more effective decisions. 

  • Misalignment on One Health: Worldwide collaboration in global health efforts is key to One Health and mitigating wicked problems. However, agreeing on global health priorities, environmental protections, health systems, and more, is easier said than done. This is the case for many reasons, often to do with an economy’s resources, a country’s education inequality, environmental protections, and various other factors. Healthcare systems must be strengthened worldwide to stop emerging infectious diseases in their tracks. AMR mitigation must become a worldwide effort and better environmental efforts must be in place for all major world powers to support smaller countries and their ecosystems.
On a dark background, a female scientist holds one of Biomeme’s diagnostic tests and platform.

How Biomeme is Tackling Wicked Problems 

We offer innovative testing and technologies that give real-time, rapid results so healthcare practitioners have the information they need to make the right decisions faster. Whether it’s testing water for antimicrobial pollution or determining a patient’s host response, we offer innovative molecular diagnostic testing solutions to even out the economic disparages in even the most rural communities. 

Our state-of-the-art labs offer the insights healthcare professionals need to determine best practices for better aquatic and environmental health, where there are issues, and how to determine priorities going forward. The field readiness of our tests offers all ecosystems, communities, and economies diagnostic testing at a molecular level and rapid results, helping One Health efforts overall.

Other Organizations and Programs Committed to Solving Wicked Problems

Many organizations and programs have taken efforts to solve wicked problems around the world. They implement different strategies and approaches to do so through collaborative governance, systems thinking, education, policy and regulation intervention, and more. 

Organizations must think on a global scale to collaborate effectively with different governments, especially those with opposing agendas. It’s up to these organizations to implement programs to educate stakeholders, the public, and other organizations to follow suit and make the most informed decisions for better global health. Investing in research and development, leveraging emerging technologies, and exploring novel approaches to problem-solving is key to making strides and solving global issues. Here is how other One Health organizations are working in conjunction with Biomeme’s efforts to solve wicked problems:

  • CDC: The CDC employs a range of strategies to help solve wicked problems, including:
    • Research and analyze data to determine the scope and impact of a problem.
    • Collaborations with government agencies across the globe.
    • Bringing in experts from varying disciplines to have a comprehensive understanding of a wicked problem and approach to a solution.
    • Educates and communicates effectively with the public on health risks and preventive measures. 

  • WHO: The WHO addresses wicked problems in global health through various approaches:
    • Coordinating efforts among member countries and collaborating with other international organizations by facilitating information sharing, harmonizing policies, and promoting collaboration to tackle complex health challenges.
    • Develops and promotes international norms and standards in areas, such as disease surveillance, healthcare quality, and emergency response by establishing guidelines to keep global consistency.
    • Technical expertise and support to countries facing health challenges and improving public health infrastructure, which is vital in addressing complex problems effectively.
    • Conducts research and compiles evidence to inform policies and interventions.
    • Responding to global health emergencies and managing crises by coordinating international efforts, mobilizing resources, and providing technical support during outbreaks, natural disasters, and other health emergencies.

  • FDA: The FDA protects and promotes public health by regulating various products, including food, drugs, vaccines, medical devices, cosmetics, and more. The FDA addresses wicked problems in several ways:
    • Develops and enforces regulations to ensure the safety, efficacy, and quality of products within its jurisdiction.
    • Sets standards and guidelines that manufacturers and distributors must adhere to, reducing risks associated with complex health issues.
    • Conducts risk assessments to evaluate potential hazards and adverse effects associated with products.
    • Promotes scientific research and innovation to address complex health challenges by collaborating with researchers, academia, and industry to develop new technologies, therapies, and approaches to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases.
    • Collaborates with various stakeholders, including other regulatory agencies, healthcare professionals, industry representatives, and patient advocacy groups. 

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