Modern medical science has taken on numerous diseases and health risks in the last century, from polio to smoking to HIV/AIDS, and we in the U.S. typically assume that no problem is too great if we apply ourselves to it fully. But are we so focused on each specific threat that we lose sight of some even greater risks? Are we missing the forest for the trees?
A Wider Lens
If we look at health from a larger worldview, we can see many things occurring that are increasing the vulnerability of the world’s population. There are thousands of people fleeing political upheaval in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, attempting to get to Europe and other places. Around the globe, the impacts of climate change are placing pressure on food production, and there is shrinking access to adequate water, even here at home in the West due to the current drought. Under-nutrition is still a problem in many countries and communities. We face new and evolving diseases, and with the ease of travel pandemics are possible. We face increasing storms, rising sea levels, and increased pollution putting more stress on the world’s population. If all these trends continue and play out as some predict, we could be faced with catastrophic disruption as people around the world migrate in a desperate attempt to increase their security and wellbeing.
Can’t just focus on the science
If we are committed to health for all, we have a responsibility to be engaged in pushing for “No- or Low-Regret Policies” that attempt to address these political, economic and environmental issues. All of these issues ultimately affect health. The risks to the future are simply too great to ignore. If the health community provides strong leadership, the response to these threats will be properly framed as common cause to ensure the highest standards of health and wellbeing for all people. The response could guide us to reduced illness, enhanced community resilience, less poverty, greater equity, enhanced economic productivity and less pressure on health budgets worldwide.
So be involved, be vocal, and let’s work so that we can look back some decades from now with pride…and no regrets over actions not taken.