On Friday, 3:30-6 pm, UW Health Sciences Hogness Auditorium, historian Anne-Emanuelle Birn gave the Stephen Stewart Gloyd endowed lecture, “Philanthrocapitalism, Cooption and the Politics of Global Health Agenda-Setting.”
The words “global health” usually conjure images of health workers vaccinating children in Africa, major initiatives aimed at getting anti-HIV drugs or anti-malaria bed nets out to people in poor communities across the globe or any number of other noble efforts aimed at fighting diseases of poverty.
Most don’t think of global health as a means to also advance corporate or political agendas.
But Anne-Emanuelle Birn does and on Friday, at a UW symposium, she explained why.
Birn’s a historian who literally wrote the book on global health! (Well, okay, she’s first author on the 3rd edition of it … known as the Textbook of International Health). The popular narrative of global health, she says, is too often a simplistic portrayal of the field as a charitable enterprise largely devoid of political and economic power or social conflict.
“There’s an incredible amount of naivete and lack of knowledge about all this,” said Birn. “To begin with, it’s important to recognize that philanthropy emerged in the United States in the early 20th century as an alternative to the welfare state.”
That’s important, she explained, because it provides a lens through which to evaluate the strategies and choices made by philanthropists to advance their goals. Continue reading