Somewhere in my years of study and work experience I realized that there are today problems and tomorrow problems. At the outset let me say yes, the WHO can use reforms. For example, it is too much under the control of the donor countries, and big donor politics can sway it sometimes to suit their purposes. As a result it cannot always do what is best to fulfill its own agenda. But that is a tomorrow problem.
The WHO created in 1948 has 192 member countries and works to serve them all. Its agenda is global and it has been instrumental in eradicating smallpox and just about eradicating polio, which a century ago devastated many young lives and families when it was an epidemic. Here’s the today problem. The idea proposed by the current administration to withdraw its funding will hurt the organization and its work. In an era where pandemics are likely that is far from wise, because germs and viruses don’t recognize borders, and in future we may need the organization and its resources more than we may presently anticipate. To be fair WHO warned the administration in January of the coming pandemic, and while some say it could have done it sooner, had it been tougher on the country of origin, China, fact is its warnings were ignored. Yes the US is the biggest donor, and China the second biggest. At the same time that the US has threatened to cut off all funds, China has pledged $2 billion. So if the US leaves, the organization will continue and will continue with China having an even bigger voice. If the administration carries out its threat China will be better off, the US worse off, and a needed global organization weakened and made that much more in need of reform.
58 out of every 1000 Native American households lack plumbing. For whites the numbers are 3 out of every 1000 households. That means no running water, no going to the tap or flushing the toilet as most of us take for granted. Two organizations, Dig Deep and the US Water Alliance, recently issued a new report showing that some 2 million Americans lack these basic amenities and that Native Americans are more likely to be without than are any other group. Take someone like Darlene Yazze. She has to drive 9 miles to the community house of the little town of Dennehotso near the Four Corner Region of the Navajo Nation to get her water. She uses a large key which she has to plunge in the basin containing the water, turn it so that it opens the valve so that the water can run into her container. The water is not free and she was told the price is now going up. That is for drinking water only. To water her animals she needs to go to a windmill 5 miles away. There is no water there for the present which may or may not be a good thing because that water is contaminated by arsenic and uranium stemming from the nearby uranium mines. Even though they use it for animals although they will probably eventually eat those animals. The result is a much higher rate of cancer—in a region where healthcare availability is sparse.
While the report and
the interest of the authoring organizations offer some hope, the problem is far
from being resolved. It is estimated that it would cost about $200 million to
provide water access and sanitation across the Navajo Nation. Somewhere within
the increasing number of billionaires in the US, one could perhaps, or even
ought to, come forward and give the needed $200 million.
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
- Fragile and Vulnerable Settings (drought, displacements)
- Anti-Microbial Resistance (including diseases like TB)
- Ebola and Other High Threat Pathogens (we already know what
- 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)
There was a lot to be concerned about in 2016, and it was no different for public health, the Zika virus, the bombing of hospitals in war zones, more diseases becoming resistant to antibiotics. Yet, there were public health good news too, and good news is good news, it’s important to underline it. There was the training of giant rats to detect tuberculosis. They had previously been trained to detect landmines, but were retrained to sniff out the mucus from people with tuberculosis and can be almost Continue reading “Good News In Public Health”