Archive Page 2

Health Equity in New Orleans

There is an awesome post by Dr. Aaron Fox at the Social Medicine Portal highlighting how the two-tiered medical system in place in New Orleans before Katrina completely failed the poor of New Orleans, particularly those with chronic diseases.

In an early study of Katrina survivors, the impact of this impaired access to care is readily seen. 74% of the surveyed population reported a chronic health condition that preceded the disaster. Of this group, 21% needed to disrupt treatment due to barriers to care.

With more uninsured, and fewer sources of care for those without insurance, there was undoubtedly much avoidable suffering.

He continues his analysis,

The reason for health disparities by socioeconomic status or race in New Orleans is not limited to lack of health insuance, and insurance coverage alone without a strong primary care infrastructure would not have increased access to care, however, the two tiered health system that exists in Louisiana, and all across the United States, one that treats patients differently based on ability to pay, leaves a large percentage of the population at increased risk…

If we are going to build a healthy society in New Orleans, and across America, access to high quality affordable health care needs to be considered a right – not just charity.

GlaksoSmithKline Lowers Prices for the Developing World

Congratulations to Andrew Witty, the Chief Executive of GlaksoSmithKline for finally putting pressure on the pharmaceutical industry to make life saving medications more readily available to places of poverty. Not only will GSK provide medicines important for poor countries, but he will work to loosen the intellectual property stranglehold which allows western drug manufacturers to have sole production rights for a period of time, over the medicines they develop. The Gaurdian reports that GSK will:

• Cut its prices for all drugs in the 50 least developed countries to no more than 25% of the levels in the UK and US – and less if possible – and make drugs more affordable in middle-­income countries such as Brazil and India.

• Put any chemicals or processes over which it has intellectual property rights that are relevant to finding drugs for neglected diseases into a “patent pool”, so they can be explored by other researchers.

• Reinvest 20% of any profits it makes in the least developed countries in hospitals, clinics and staff.

• Invite scientists from other companies, NGOs or governments to join the hunt for tropical disease treatments at its dedicated institute at Tres Cantos, Spain.

I have to admit, this all seems really great, if long over due. Witty seems to get it:

“I think the shareholders understand this and it’s my job to make sure I can explain it. I think we can. I think it’s absolutely the kind of thing large global companies need to be demonstrating, that they’ve got a more balanced view of the world than short-term returns.”

It’s about time corporate executives look beyond their annual bottom line toward promoting a world that is more equitable. It is hard to tell how much of this is purely marketing. But, hopefully, it will be a start toward pressuring big pharma toward developing business models that don’t divide the world into “us” and “them”, but instead realize that we have a stake in each other’s health and well being.

Video for the Day

jonathan-mannHere is a short interview with the late Jonathan Mann, a giant in the field of health and human rights. He explains why the idea that health is a human right is distinctly American, and with proper leadership and vocabulary we will be able to achieve health equity.

Click here for the video.

CGIU 2009 – Jon’s Impressions

I thought that this year’s Clinton Global Initiative University was a really impressively run conference where I had the opportunity to meet an incredible number of equally impressive students who were passionate about making a positive change in the world. However, I can’t help but feel that there were many things missing. Sure, President Clinton showered us with praise for our commitment and energy, he paraded around his celebrity friends, and he threw one hell of a party, but I felt that what the events had in glitz and glamor, they lacked in substance and depth.

A frequent refrain was that the conference was an opportunity to focus on the “how”: how can we as students go out and build a better world. Unfortunately, the conference was completely lacking in any conversation of the “why”: Why is the world the way it is? Why is it that a person in Zambia is expected to live until their mid 30’s while the Japanese live to be more than 80? Why should we as students even engage in these issues?

I think that the question, “why?” must be the starting point for any well planned student led initiative in global health or development. This is because insightful reasons for why the world is how it is must inform and drive how we proceed with our intervention. If we fail to think about why the world is unequal, unjust, unsustainable, and unstable, then we are much more likely to create “solutions” that unintentionally perpetuate or reinforce the very harmful social structures that we are trying to dismantle.

I guess I just feel like these are immensely complex problems which will require equally complex solutions. The CGIU did not reflect this reality at all, and infact, it presented global problems as having relatively simple, one step solutions. If anything, the conference reinforced the idea that by the virtue of being young, American, wealthy, and powerful: we can walz in anywhere and simply fix stuff. Ivan Illich is rolling in his grave.

Clinton Global Initiative University

CLINTON NEW ORLEANSYour trusty student-bloggers just arrived in Austin, Tx for the second annual Clinton Global Initiative University. Hopefully, it will be an opportunity to meet,  network, and learn with a ton of smart and motivated university students who want to build a better world.

We’ll be trying to throw up a few daily posts about panels that we attend, interesting discussions that we have, as well as progress that we are able to make on our “commitment to action.” Our commitment to action is to create a student-led seminar at Northwestern titled “Student Engagement for Global Health Equity.” We’ll be discussing more about this as well over the coming days. Stay tuned!

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.

Quote for the Day

“But the poor person does not exist as an inescapable fact of destiny. His or her existence is not politically neutral, and it is not ethically innocent. The poor are a by-product of the system in which we live and for which we are responsible. They are marginalized by our social and cultural world. They are the oppressed, exploited proletariat, robbed of the fruit of their labor and despoiled of their humanity. Hence the poverty of the poor is not a call to generous relief action, but a demand that we go and build a different social order.”

Gustavo Gutierrez


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.

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