Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Global SOS for Health

According to the UNICEF,every year, close to 11 million children are dying due to preventable diseases. The figure is indeed a distress call. But it is just one of the worrisome epidemiological data being collected and analyzed byhealth experts from around the world.

This issue of Health Alert Asia Pacific discusses the global health situation, providing an overview of the health status of the global population. For the past 30 years or so, new diseases have emerged while diseases that have been eradicated or controlled before are resurging. The global community also got a scare when the Severe AcuteRespiratory Syndrome first appeared in China and quickly spread to other parts of the world. Authorities are also keeping a tight watch on the possible mutation of the bird flu virus.

It is ironic that the century that saw a number of significant achievements in the field of medicine is also characterized by too much death and sufferings. For example, despite the developmentof effective anti-retroviral drugs, thousands are still dying of HIV/AIDS especially in sub-Saharan Africa. To explain this irony, Dr.Prem John touches on the socio-economic and political determinants of health. Often, these determinants are deliberately ignored since discussing these would mean shaking the prevailing world order. He contends that unhampered globalization resultsin social inequities and injustices and compromises the people’s health.

The editorial provides a framework for an alternative discussionof health issues, such as the migration of health professionals and the impact of wars on people’s health. Dr. Wim de Ceukelaire also provided a critique of the Millennium Development Goals and compared these with the ideals of the Alma Ata Declaration.
Amidst the over-all gloomy scenario in the health front, there are also positive undertakings that are worth mentioning. An example of this is the effort of the Social Assistance for the Rehabilitation of the Physically Vulnerable (SARPV) to rehabilitate rickets patients in Bangladesh. The discovery of a high incidence of rickets in several districts in Bangladesh came almost by chance, but the research and rehabilitation programs that followed saw theparticipation of experts from around the globe.

Solving the global health crisis requires more than the realignment of funds and resources, or sophisticated technological advances.More importantly, there must be a strong will to confront and solve the social inequities and injustices that condemn the people to lives of abject poverty.

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