Those who speak the loudest are the ones heard. To be perfectly honest, although I have had classes focused on development and on global health concerns, the concerns my courses focused on and I focused on, were on those health concerns that are “the sexiest” or have the most advocacy behind them. Thinking about development, how humanitarian efforts fund-raise, the problems which receive the most attention and most aid are those which do not discriminate between people or geography: HIV/AIDS, TB, cancer(s), Ebola, influenza (flu). All off which effect thousands to millions of people annually – HIV, for example, has a global incidence (newly effected) rate of just over 2 million people annually. Another category of global health agendas which receive the most aid are those that are considered solvable but deadly: malaria (which is highly geographical), malnutrition, water borne diseases and other water sanitation issues. One in four children (under five) are underweight globally caused by undernutrition, just under one billion people live below $1.25 a day, only about half the world’s population has continuous access to clean water supplies. Most of these ailments are captured in global development agendas – they are specific goals within the Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development Goals – and often they are the very issues that “for one penny a day, you can ensure…” yada, yada.
In my mind, regrettably, I often associate the most tragic and preventable diseases with the Global South (whereas cancer is a western ailment). In courses focusing on the MDGs (and moving into the SDGS), the interventions were primarily in the developing world, although they are not only meant for underdeveloped nations. HIV/AIDS is mostly addressed in Sub Saharan Africa, and Malaria and TB are addressed in Africa and South Asia. Previous courses in HIV/AIDS and Ebola predominately focused on East Africa. With such focus on specific ailments, to me they are large and they do indeed plague the world. Noting that my views are skewed towards my particularly region of focus (East Africa) and my interest in public health interventions, or projects aimed to reduce the spread of specific diseases (and thus the ailments that receive the most attention and interventions), these particular ailments are not all-inclusive, and may not even include the biggest global health concerns.
The most pressing issues to me, are calculated in two ways: which affect the greatest amount of people and which effect individuals the most (the sniffles verses bleeding from one’s pores). Of course, this impact calculus considers these two questions and the combinations therein to “rank” or prioritize health concerns. Now consider the ailments I wrote down, they leave out mental health concerns along with less fatal diseases. As you’d expect from someone with an economics background, nonfatal diseases are far less pressing because death “outranks” poorer quality of life. In answering the question of what ails the world, I only included what I find to be the most pressing global public health concerns. I’m unsure I could “rank” the most pressing issues any further.