Saturday, May 30, 2009

Global Health: challenges and solutions

Problems .. food, pollution, climate change and conflict .. excessive numbers of humans on the planet, inequality, indifference and fraudulent banksters. The list is long..

National Geographic June 2009 has an excellent feature on the global food crisis. This mentions CAFOs in China, by the way, plus the eminent demographer Professor Tim Dyson, warning the the spectre of Malthus has not vanished. Adolescents in Pakistan are being reported as being used as suicide bombers to perform payback murders in feuds [I heard this on the BBC .. I hope this is exagerated - while I can't find that link, there is abundant evidence of the exploitation of children for such barbaric purposes, not only in Pakistan but also by the Tamils in Sri Lanka], while more certainly, child soldiers are common instruments of war, waged by adults in several parts of Africa, including Somalia. Problems are multiplying.


What about solutions? I suggest we start by tithing 10% of our effort and - if we can afford it - 10% of our wealth to these issues. The election of Obama is very encouraging, but the infestation of the media and web by climate change deniers is deeply disturbing. More on that later, in another post. Though, for a taste, see Michael Ashley's brilliant review of Ian Plimer's book "Heaven and Earth".

Meantime, please support groups that try to look at deep causes of our interlinked global crises. If you live in a high income country (the North) - see PS - unless in parts of Scandinavia or the Netherlands [countries that already exceed the target], ask your government to give 0.7% of its revenue to foreign aid, as they long ago pledged .. and not "phantom" aid as Action Aid calls it. This target has been challenged - but while I haven't read more than the abstract it is clear that high income countries can be more generous .. that is, if they want low income countries to catch up, which of course they don't..

And, please, be sensitive to the beliefs of others. Look for what you have in common with others. When I was a medical student at a Christian Mission Hospital in Nigeria, in 1985, a practice had just been ended, by which patients (even if not Christian) had to say a Christian prayer before undergoing surgery. I'm glad that practice stopped. Yet I don't think this means every cultural practice followed by others should be uncritically accepted. If it were we'd have to acknowledge the right for some societies to practice female genital mutilation, or to keep slaves, or to have housemaids with no names and no rights. Or even to practice waterboarding in Guantánamo.

While the naming and defining of universal rights is tricky, to say there are no such rights is clearly worse.

If any of you have an academic bent, please visit the Faculty of 1000 Medicine [global health] to see some interesting academic perspectives on global health (disclosure: I am one of the faculty members - but this position is voluntary; I get no royalties!)

bye for now,


PS I will try to post a link re the North and South shortly - Butler CD. The North and South. In: Hedblad A, editor. International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. New York: Macmillan Reference; 2007. p. 542-4.