From Fear to Hope in Global Health

06/15/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011


Global health feels different to me these days. It feels like there's been a change recently in the emphasis in global health from "find the SARS virus where it's lurking" and "put everyone on AIDS treatments" to "track and prioritize the diseases that are important every year" and "build a system to treat all the problems of our patients."

Looking back, so much of the last decade seems like it was dominated by fear. Fear of anthrax in envelopes. Fear of smallpox in the hands of terrorists. Fear of SARS virus spreading. Fear of a looming pandemic of flu. And it seems like we prioritized responses to the rare and unusual - building flu vaccine capacities to meet our needs in a pandemic and tracking previously unrecognized viruses - rather than making headway against the world's most common - and preventable - diseases.

Maybe it's nothing. But it seems like global health leaders are back to focusing on the basics like fighting pneumonia, diarrhea, and malaria; improving maternal health and nutrition, and strengthening basic health care delivery systems to reach everyone child, mother, citizen. Global health funders are saying that they don't want to fund "single disease" efforts anymore. And the more that they align their spending with this approach, the better it will be for millions of people around the world.

What do you think? Are we really seeing more of a focus on saving lives by focusing on common things and mundane systems, instead of finding the rare but deadly virus? Does global health now feel different to you than it did five years ago? Post a comment and let me know.