Threats to Global Health

WHO, the World Health Organization, has issued its annual report of health threats around the world and you’d think it would be dull reading—I suppose it would for those who don’t care what happens in the world. I found it instructive, scary, helpful, and informing about what our priorities ought to be. It is also a reminder that no country is an island. What happens far away affects us eventually. Here is the list. Please note the first threat, due to air pollution and climate change, and note too the threat coming from what they term here vaccine hesitancy. While it is true that some have the right to not be vaccinated, we must now ask when does that right contribute to a public health threat?

  • Air Pollution and Climate Change (yes!!!)
  • Non Communicable Diseases (e.g. alcohol, tobacco, diet)
  • Global Influenza Pandemic (will come but don’t know when and how strong)
  • Fragile and Vulnerable Settings (drought, displacements)
  • Anti-Microbial Resistance (including diseases like TB)
  • Ebola and Other High Threat Pathogens (we already know what happens)
  • Weak Primary Health Care (lack, access and cost)
  • Vaccine Hesitancy (something that is growing in the US)
  • Dengue (390 million infections a year)
  • HIV (still affecting many millions)

Yoga Training Glut?

In the Los Angeles area alone at least one hundred yoga teacher trainings began this month. It’s not a particularly demanding training assuming you are sufficiently expert with a number of poses. It only lasts a few weeks, save for the cost which can be quite steep—one I saw was $15,000—it can be available to a wide range of people. That’s a good thing, right? I am not sure. I began by looking at the name of those offering the training, 2 or 3 were unassailable experts, people with national recognition and as close to universal respect as one can in any given field. I couldn’t help but ask, how many are doing it out of commitment to their profession and how many are doing it for whatever financial gain? Then a bigger issue arose within me.  When one reads about the history of how yoga developed and why, one ends us with deep respect, and I count myself among those. Yoga is more than making your body conform to certain poses. Yoga is a way to understand the relationship between the visible and the non, a way to achieve some understanding, however small, about what lies beyond us.  That means that the teacher must be endowed with a certain wisdom to help the practitioner or would be practitioner of yoga move towards that greater goal. That is given to a few.  Perhaps that’s why when I look around at the proliferation of yoga studios, at the existing number of yoga teachers and at the projected increase in those numbers  I ask: Are we diluting a hallowed discipline, making it into an imitation of itself?

Resolutions Beyond Ourselves

Every January we make resolutions. It’s a ritual usually focused on ourselves, our health, how to better our lives. And usually those very resolutions require more effort than we may be willing to exert and so we let them slowly or not so slowly fade into the realm of what could have been. I wonder if we would be more willing to sustain the needed effort if the cause was something we believed in, a cause outside ourselves, something where we could contribute and where the very fact of our contribution would make the needed difference.  Here are examples. Please add yours and let us all work toward a cause–or causes to make this world a bit better.

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