This is a guest post from Wendy Johnson, a physician at the University of Washington with extensive experience working health issues in low-resource communities in Africa.
The UN High-level Meeting on Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) couldn’t come at a worse time.
While the delegates, disease experts and functionaries gather in New York to discuss how to create a more comprehensive global health agenda, political leaders in a smaller city to the south with much more power to set that agenda will likely be dismantling the infrastructure and funding needed to support the fundamental change needed – health systems improvement.
As this story from Reuter’s notes, all foreign aid, and especially the USAID budget, is under serious threat, both from the so-called “super-committee” on debt and the deliberations over current spending bills taking place in Washington D.C. According to the article, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Kay Granger is a proponent of deep cuts in aid who believes in limited programs that demonstrate quick impact and further U.S. national security.
This does not bode well for those at the UN meeting who will be arguing that the U.S. and other rich countries should make the long-term commitments necessary to address the disparities in NCDs such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer treatment in poor and middle-income countries. Continue reading →
As regular readers know, the title of last week’s “Can Seattle Save the World? (Poverty, Health and Chocolate)” was tongue-firmly-in-cheek, but also meant to raise some important questions. There’s a serious debate about the meaning and priority of “health” in “global health.”
"Can Seattle Save the World?" panel at Town Hall Seattle, featuring Tom Paulson, Bill Foege, Chris Elias, Wendy Johnson, and Joe Whinney
The event itself proved so popular that we moved it to a room three times larger than originally planned — and nearly packed the room. Not to toot our horn too much, but immediate feedback was enthusiastic. “Do it again,” was the most common response.
We’d love to.
In the meantime, we are belatedly offering a replay. Seattle’s municipal cable TV station recorded the event, and edited it for local broadcast on May 5th at 2pm. It’s now also viewable at the Seattle Channel website and embedded below.
We have a few photos of our panelists (alas, none yet of the magnificent domed room or of the audience — if you have your own photos, please share) at our Flickr site.
There’s a lot of interest in continuing the discussion. Some provocative audience questions included: How can the development community start talking about projects that are not working — without jeopardizing funding for the good projects? What sort of careers are there, or should there be, for the hundreds of college students now majoring in Global Health?
A comment and question stream has started at this earlier post (as well as on Twitter at #SEAsaves).
Johnson says that many of our international health efforts are “still based on the model of charity, like giving handouts to the homeless.” Too many of Seattle’s global health projects are based on technological fixes, she says, the magic bullet approach.
What’s needed, Johnson says, is a “new paradigm” for global health based on solidarity, on a recognition of our common bonds and interests, not charity.