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Opinions: Health System Funding; Malnutrition Assistance; Social Dimension Of HIV

Health System Funding Can Address ‘Silent Killers’

“For too long, global health funding has gone to diseases like AIDS with the most vocal lobby groups and not to the diseases with the greatest need,” Philip Stevens, a senior fellow at International Policy Network, writes in a Business Daily opinion piece. “Meanwhile, diseases that kill many more remain in relative obscurity,” he writes. “Fortunately, things are beginning to change,” he observes. “The U.N. has started pleading for funds to improve health systems, so that ‘silent killers’ such as pneumonia and diarrhoea can be better tackled.” According to Stevens, “Better healthcare systems also make it easier to manage HIV patients, who tend to have other health problems” (11/16).

Malnutrition Assistance Should Take Priority Over Global Warming

“Global food aid is at a 20-year low. Prices soared in 2008, partly because rich countries’ biofuel mandates – designed to fight global warming – have meant that land once used to grow crops to feed people is now being used to grow crops to feed cars,” Bjorn Lomberg, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, writes in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece. “Investing in malnutrition assistance helps countries … because it reduces the burden that malnourished people place on health systems. Spending money on HIV prevention and treatment is a highly effective use of aid money. In economic terms, these investments have benefits that far outstrip their costs,” Lomberg writes. Though a recent Oxfam report says that “developed countries should both increase aid and spend more to pay off countries that will suffer the worst of global warming. … the harsh truth is that resources are limited. Money spent on global-warming policies is likely to reduce the funds available for food aid.” Lomberg concludes, “It is therefore immoral to focus resources on doing a small amount of good in the distant future” (11/15).

Western Public Health Lobby Must Recognize Social Dimension Of HIV In Africa

In a Dallas Morning News opinion piece, Travis Kavulla, a Phillips Foundation journalism fellow and former Gates scholar in African history at Cambridge, examines African beliefs of “causation” and their relation to HIV/AIDS. Kavulla writes, “Africa’s AIDS crisis runs too deep and wide for a solution to be based solely on treatment. The ultimate goal is to prevent HIV’s further transmission – and that’s squarely in the hands of the individual, informed by his cultural and religious beliefs. … The public health lobby answers this question by saying, essentially, ‘Start using condoms.’ This is the narrow-minded response … As long as this attitude persists, Western policy will remain discordant with the realm of cause and effect within which Africans are operating.”

“The only lasting solution to AIDS in Africa will come through behavioral change,” Kavulla writes, adding that the “Western public health lobby … must stop imposing its own agenda on Africa. … The sooner the donor community realizes this, and reorients its policies to fit African realities, the better” (11/13).