I spent a good part of this afternoon with the Campaign for Fighting Diseases for a panel discussion marking the launch of a new book titled Fighting the Diseases of Poverty. The Hudson Institute’s Jeremiah Norris moderated. While the problems are familiar — the developing world remains plagued by poor sanitation, a lack of access to drugs and medical technology, and relatively high rates of disease — the solutions weren’t.
The panelists emphasized that economic growth and the accumulation of wealth has helped improve public health and increase average life spans, even in the developing world. But serious disparities remain. The problem, however, isn’t necessarily the lack of some robust national (read: government) health care system as much as the following: the failure of supranational development organizations to measure results, the politicization of certain diseases, rationing of care, insecure intellectual property rights, and a lack of market dynamism. These factors combine to make people in poorer countries sicker and less able to access quality care.
Most of those in attendance were critical of the World Health Organization for its funding choices and the lack of accountability. The UN’s programs for dealing with AIDS and malaria were also criticized for waste and failure to care for patients. Norris in particular argued that as long as development is considered “our” problem (as in, the West’s) rather than a shared responsibility with the developing countries themselves, results will be bleak.
Both the discussion and the book were an interesting corrective to the Bono School of Thought that the only thing missing is that governments and international organizations aren’t spending enough money.
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