11 Pre-Conditions for Achieving Better Health and Lowering Mortality Rates

Gaza Jabaliya Refugee Camp 1
The bodies of victims of the October 31, 2023 Israeli bombing of the Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip are lined up outside the Indonesian Hospital in Gaza City. (Photo: Fadi Alwhidi/Anadolu via Getty Images)
  1. Achieving much higher levels of justice and equality, and meeting the basic needs of all people in a satisfactory way on this basis, is of the highest importance. Basic needs should be defined more broadly. In the case of food, for example, basic need means balanced, adequate availability of all essential nutrients in forms that are acceptable to people in terms of taste as well as cultural norms, without involving any serious hazards in producing and processing food. The regions and groups most affected by food shortages and other equally serious deprivations should get immediate attention.
  2. Minimizing the possibilities of war and civil strife as well as sanctions related to big power hostility is essential for meeting health needs and lowering mortality. To give just one example, the way in which life-saving medical  care could not be provided recently in Gaza to many seriously injured and ill persons despite the best and very courageous efforts of doctors and medical staff has shocked people, but there are many other, less known examples of this kind from war affected areas. Hospitals have been rendered non-functional in times when their services were most needed. In Iraq a very large number of people including children died just from the impact of sanctions. All weapons of mass destruction should be eliminated while disarmament must progress at all levels. Several countries which were made victims of large- scale use of chemical weapons (like Vietnam) or cluster bombs (like Laos) or depleted uranium (like Iraq) are still suffering from adverse impacts years or even decades later.
  3. Much more attention to protection of environment and biodiversity is essential for protecting health. Most people see this in the context of the very adverse effect of air pollution on health which is of course important, but the many-sided adverse impacts of serious global and local environmental problems including climate change are even more serious. Deforestation and loss of habitats for many animals can lead to spread of zoonotic diseases and pandemics as desperate animals enter human habitations more frequently.
  4. The health system and health research system, and in particular medicines and vaccines sector, should get rid of the ever-increasing, most unhealthy grip of big multinational companies, or else this grip will disrupt health and medical system  in very serious ways. This is not a sector meant for corporate control, this is a sector meant to operate in transparent ways and guided by public interest with the aim of taking medical care to all. The entire corporate controlled approach to health-care must end all over the world and must be replaced by an approach which is entirely decided on the basis of providing honest, affordable health care to all people in transparent ways, while also ensuring good salaries, pensions and all essential amenities to doctors and all medical staff, and additional incentives to those medical researchers who make important contributions, without subjecting the beneficial results of public-interest research to any restrictions.
  5. The growing influence of billionaires who are advancing big corporate interests in the garb of philanthropy should be curbed for protecting national health systems as well as preventing much mischief at global level.
  6. The WHO as well as all international health organizations which impact global health policies and directives should be completely free from the funding and interference of multinational companies as well as billionaires.
  7. Many new hazards increasing rapidly because of these being pushed with the technologies and products of high-profit, powerful corporate interests (one example being GM crops and high hazard herbicides and agro-chemicals pushed with them) should be checked on the basis of urgency. These hazardous products and technologies increase many serious health problems on a mass scale, a possibility that is increasing and must be curbed by taking suitable steps. High hazard research, including research involving possibility of lab-leaks, should be avoided as far as possible, or very carefully regulated.
  8. Food and farming sector is integral to achieving better health, but it is being harmed very seriously by the big corporate interests pushing for higher control of it along with pushing their high hazard technologies and inputs. This is at all levels—inputs, seeds, crops, processing and marketing and all of this involves changes that are often harmful for health, even though often publicized for dubious claims of health benefits. Food in natural forms is increasingly denied to people while a range of harmful additives and harmful products are fed to unsuspecting or helpless consumers. As big corporate interests or their front-persons take over more land, there are more landless persons and more hunger. The best way forward is agro-ecology based on small farmers.
  9. For achieving better health, high levels of consumption of alcohol and tobacco in all forms as well as abuse of all harmful, addictive intoxicants and drugs should be reduced very significantly in ways that learn from past mistakes.
  10.  Integral to achieving better health are better social relations at family and community levels, a very important aspect of which is improved gender equality and justice and increased attention to child welfare and safety.
  11. Improved transparency of health systems at all levels is very important, and instead of big-money backed voices managing unquestioned acceptance of what suits them most, independent voices and criticism must be heard and accorded the due importance.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Protecting Earth for Children, Planet in Peril, Man over Machine and India’s Quest for Sustainable Farming and Healthy Food.       


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