Health and Social Justice Video Network

PIH has just launched its new Health and Social Justice Video Network:

The Network is intended to provide PIH and other organizations and individuals with a means of distributing videos that will inform and inspire a growing movement for health and social justice.

Be sure to check out:


The Old Salary Question

A few months back, a commentary on a NYT op-ed noted that the argument about whether people ought to be allowed to make good salaries while working with charity organizations is ultimately harmful to the work that needs to be done:

This is not something about which reasonable people should disagree. The attitude that professionals should not get paid what they are worth is poisonous to aid programs. Aid organizations have jobs to do. Doing that work costs money. They may be funded by donations, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have to pay for stuff! No one thinks that it’s immoral for NGOs to pay market rates for food, or plane tickets, or socks. Why is it worse for them to pay market rates for professional expertise?

Certainly, just as it is ridiculous to expect community health workers in poor countries to not be paid for their work, it would be ridiculous to ask that nonprofit professionals, managers and executives in the U.S. to not receive reasonable salaries as well.  The problem, arises when the driving motive becomes profit (though there may be a time in the future where Muhammad Yunus’ world of ‘social businesses’ rule the day, we have a long way to go in righting injustices from the past, first).  Taking a Kantian view of things, ultimately  it is the motivation that matters in ending poverty. Nonprofit work must be driven at the core by a sense of equity. When this fundamental motivation starts to get clouded by other things – be it personal ambition, money or the overwhelming state of the world that makes us think that some things “just can’t be done”- then we start to run into the problems we’ve seen so many times in global health, from the arguments a decade ago about whether Africans could receive AIDS treatment to today’s parallel arguments about why African mothers with H.I.V. should breastfeed.

Nonprofit professionals should get paid. But the reason for being a nonprofit professional must continue to be based in a sense of justice.

Recommendations for the New Administration

Six of the leading organizations in the fight for global health equity have come together to publish a white paper proposing a set of global health recommendations for the Obama Administration.  The paper focuses on how meeting the MDGs (which Obama has pledged to support) can help advance equity in global health:

The MDGs are well suited to serve as benchmarks of success or failure in achieving universal health equity. The inter-related dynamic of health and poverty underlines why any serious effort to eliminate poverty must place a strong focus on health, and why a focus on health best highlights the connections between the MDGs.

The paper highlights a number of key areas which the administration should drive forward improvements including:

  • Commit to a comprehensive approach to health
  • Address inefficiency in aid
  • Build local & national capacities of countries
  • Redefine foreign aid policy and goals (including the role of the U.S. Department of Treasury and IMF policies)
  • Recognize the full scope of human rights by ratifying a number of currently signed treaties  such as:  The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women,  The International Criminal Court, and The Kyoto Protocol

There is a long-overdue need for the U.S. to provide at least it’s committed share of 0.7% of its GDP to countries that actually need it. But, while achieving the MDGs are a good first step, what is ultimately needed is the type of foreign aid that reflects justice after years of structural violence and oppression of the world’s poorest by countries like our own.

(The six organizations who prepared the recommendations  are: Partners In Health; Harvard’s FXB Center for Health and Human Rights; Physicians for Human Rights; Health Alliance International; RESULTS; and ActionAid International.)


Welcome to the Students for Global Health Equity (SGHE) blog. Published by university students, the SGHE blog seeks to explore news and issues related to global health.

Follow us on twitter:

@jonshaffer @peterluckow