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Hidden Dangers: The Implications of the Global Health Security Agenda

Ebola Virus

The Ebola virus

This article was originally published by the Harvard International Review on 15 April 2016.

On the heels of the annual International Monetary Fund/World Bank conference and an Ebola-ridden year, the world is reminded of the significance of global health policy, not only for disease prevention but also for international relationships and the future direction of health care. Recent international health initiatives  have pragmatically stressed the importance of defense and economics. This slant, particularly in the relatively new Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), raises questions about future approaches to global health. The GHSA has acquired significant funding for outbreak response, but its treatment of global health as an international security issue rather than a humanitarian one warrants a cautious assessment. » More

Polio Wars: Conspiracy and Democracy in Pakistan

A doctor in Pakistan checking children for Polio vaccination. Image: CDC Global/Flickr

This article was originally published by OpenDemocracy on 18 September, 2015.

Between December 2012 and early 2015, 78 people were murdered and dozens of others injured because they tried to administer a polio vaccine to children.  They were killed because of a claim that the vaccines in their coolboxes were actually chemical devices in a western plot to sterilise Muslims.

These killings all took place in Pakistan, the archetypal ‘failed state’. What better evidence can there be that the country is a nest of terrorists than that it cannot stop the murder of medics trying to wipe out a deadly, crippling disease – all because of a conspiracy theory? » More

Health or Defense

Obama signs health care act

Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at the White House. Photo: Pete Souza/Wikimedia Commons.

Obamacare, now in its awkward early stages of implementation, is the American military’s ticket home. The completion of the last element in America’s welfare state –the last strand of the social safety net—is likely to end the security welfare system America provides for its allies.

There are four basic components to the welfare state: workman’s compensation (which covers job caused disability), unemployment insurance, old age insurance, and health care insurance.  Workman’s compensation in the US was accomplished early in the 20th Century by the states. Retirement (known as Social Security in the US) and unemployment insurance were enacted in the 1930s as part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal reforms. Opposition from the American Medical Association, the physicians’ lobby, prevented President Roosevelt from including health care in his reform package, and its enactment became an enduring Democrat Party quest. » More

South Africa’s Winnable AIDS Battle

Sign in Zambia, Africa, courtesy of Jonrawlinson /Wikimedia Commons

ERFURT – In the battle against HIV/AIDS, South Africa was for many years the perfect example of what not to do. Until recently, the government’s response to the epidemic, which threatened the country’s very lifeblood, was lackluster and foolish. But rising pressure over the past two decades – from civil-society groups, the media, and more enlightened politicians – is finally showing results. A disease that has inflicted profound social and economic pain, and dramatically reduced life expectancy, appears to be in retreat.

But a new UN report suggests that South Africa’s battle against the virus is far from over. The country has the world’s most severe HIV problem, with some 5.6 million citizens – more than 10% of the population – currently living with the virus. Every year, around 300,000 new infections, and 270,000 AIDS-related deaths, are recorded. HIV/AIDS patients are also prone to other infections: an estimated 70% of South Africans with AIDS also contract tuberculosis, while half of those carrying the HIV virus are expected to do so during their lifetime. Worse, a third of pregnant women – a highly AIDS-prone demographic – have been diagnosed with the virus, which can be passed on to their babies during childbirth. » More

Diagnostics for Global Health

Measles Vaccination in Merawi Province, Ethiopia, courtesy of DFID/Flickr

CORVALLIS, OREGON – In developed countries, most people take for granted that when they are sick, they will have access to timely diagnosis and treatment. Indeed, while the diagnostic process – which typically involves sending a sample of blood, urine, or tissue to a laboratory for analysis – may be cumbersome and expensive, health-care providers and sophisticated laboratories remain widely available. As a result, the disease burden in the developed world has declined substantially.

By contrast, in the developing world, millions of people die each year from treatable diseases like malaria, owing to the lack of sophisticated laboratories and alternative diagnostic tests. But there is reason for hope: Advances in the field of microfluidics have the potential to transform health care by allowing “gold standard” laboratory-based testing to be transferred to the point of care (POC). » More

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