Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Perverted Priorities

You probably haven't heard of the World Health Organization's Commission on the Social Determinants of Health, but that's because your liberal media would rather spill tanker loads of ink telling you all about the latest heroic medical breakthrough by Godlike biomedical scientists -- you know, the one that will bring billions in profits to a drug company and maybe buy a few months of life for a lucky few people for a several tens of thousands of dollars apiece -- rather than telling you about how we could avoid a whole lot more sickness and suffering and death for billions of people really cheaply, although unfortunately there isn't a specific company that will profit from it so we don't do it. (Just thought I'd go with a Faulknerian sentence for the heck of it.)

I can't give you a link because the only report I've found is in subscription-only BMJ, but Deborah Cohen of that august publication reports:

The sudden global reduction in credit may lead to opportunities to rethink and improve global strategies to reduce health inequities, an international conference heard last week.

Michael Marmot, chairman of the World Health Organization’s commission on social determinants of health, said, "During the crises [the first and second world wars] there was social solidarity and the thought that we have to do things differently. The credit crisis is an opportunity to say are we going to do things differently." He was speaking at a conference entitled Closing the Gap in a Generation: Health Equity through Action on the Social Determinants of Health.

Professor Marmot pointed to the fact that Western governments had recently found hundreds of billions of dollars to support the banks and that the commission’s report early this year had put the cost of upgrading the world’s slums at $100bn.

"For one ninth of the money we put into saving the banks, every urban resident in the world could have clean running water," he said, although the will to tackle health inequity was lacking.

Indeed. But is the professor perhaps a bit naive? Here in the U.S.A. we managed to find a couple of trillion dollars to invade and occupy Iraq. We could have given every urban resident in the world clean running water for one twentieth of that amount. But is there even a remote possibility that an American president would make such a proposal, and is not the possibility even more remote that an American congress would approve it or the American people support it?

On the front page of the Commission's web site you will find the following statement: "(The) toxic combination of bad policies, economics, and politics is, in large measure, responsible for the fact that a majority of people in the world do not enjoy the good health that is biologically possible," the Commissioners write in Closing the Gap in a Generation: Health Equity through Action on the Social Determinants of Health." The report is available there free of charge. What is biologically possible, alas, seems to be socially impossible. I would be interested to hear what our Christian friends who are so committed to a Right to Life think about that.

1 comment:

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