The focus of global health, of course, is really global sickness. Alanna Shaikh's new TED book, "What's Killing Us?," an overview / guide to 10 of the most major challenges, shows why the bugs are gaining competitive advantage (sometimes literally, i.e., antibiotic resistance) and how quickly even small local outbreaks can become international catastrophes. Shaikh's fast-paced no-nonsense approach neatly crosses the "specialties" divide that often dominates the discussion. The focus isn't Malaria, or Maternal Health, or Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), but all the above. The issues dovetail, which is why many of the answers in Shaikh's "What we can do" sections are similar: more funding to bolster public health infrastructure, more effective delivery of preventive health care, particularly for pregnant women and young children, and more investment in research for new / better / cheaper drugs and vaccines.
The good news among the litany of stacked odds is that there *can* be good news. But it will take a much broader general awareness of the issues and sustained international political will to make any long-term meaningful difference.
Shocking statistics and heart-wrenching details are seeded throughout:
* If you are a 5-year old in rural Mali, you've probably got worms
* One out of every three people on this planet is infected with TB bacteria
* More than one-third of all child deaths are linked to malnutrition
* 2 million children are left without mothers every year
* Only women routinely die to become a parent
* Based on current projections, antibiotics will stop working in 10 years. Completely.
And everything (really *everything*) is worse with climate change...
To those who work in the field or cover the issues, much of this may be familiar territory, but seeing the issues in aggregate is powerful. For those considering careers in health care public policy, Shaikh's book is a must-read primer.