Health should not be used as a tool to gain control over already marginalized populations

Global health has reached new highs politically, publicly, and has witnessed large increases in funding in the recent past.  For many reasons, people are taking interest in global health.  Many might say, that no matter what the reasons this is a good idea and a great stride for global health.  I may have previously agreed.  Yet, I have learned that motives behind funding, new programs/initiatives, and health services need to be also be examined as those in power may be self-interested and seeking to maximize their benefit with little concern for those in need of better health services.

If global health was being addressed in terms of public health, as David Stuckler and Martin Mckee define it in their article, “Five metaphors about global-health policy,” then there might be more just systems and distribution of resources in place.  Unfortunately, Stuckler and Mckee find that global health is rarely approached in terms of public health, which aims to decrease the burden of disease worldwide with priority given to efforts that will maximize health effects.  Instead, global health is more frequently approached in terms of strategies for foreign policy, security issues effecting developed countries, charity for the most popular and sexy issues, or as investment for economic development.  Global health as public health, is the most logical and fair approach in my mind.  Yet, it is rarely the method used to analyze and deliver health services.

Global health is instead approached as a tactic and a tool in many instances.  Those in power view it as a way to gain more power, infuse their beliefs on various cultures, and obtain the support of targeted populations.  Feldbaum, Lee, and Michaud, point out in their article, “Global Health and Foreign Policy,” that there are instances when health interventions are used to gain the support of, or control over, local populations through the offering or denial of health services.  This idea conjures up a scenario in my mind of a man or woman needing urgent care for their child, walking to the clinic, borrowing money, and doing everything in there power to get to a doctor.  Finally, once they are there, service is not performed unless they sign a contract stating they support some politician or regime.  There is truly a physical reaction that I get when I think of health services as a political tool to mold people, communities and countries.

While at first appearance increased resources for global health might seem like an amazing idea, it is critical to look at the motives of those behind the funding and service delivery.  In stressful situations, when lives and health are at risk, people are very vulnerable and should not be taken advantage of.  Global health has tremendous abilities to make large strides in peace building efforts and international development.  People need to understand the power that comes with health, and use a more moral rather than strategic approach.


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