April 7, 2011 is the traditional World Health Day to celebrate the founding of the WHO in 1948. This year’s theme is the fight against anti-microbial resistance and the slogan is “No action today, No cure tomorrow.” It is a legitimate call to order, but to whom is this cry of alarm addressed? To the planet’s entire population or just those with access to anti-microbials? For, though antibiotics are wasted, this does not mean they are shared!
After having saved so many lives, antibiotics have become dangerous due to misuse in rich countries. This leads to not only inefficiency, but also to the emergence of resistant strains.
So to whom is this message addressed? Only the most affluent 25% of the population, even though it can always be argued that strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis resistant to anti-tuberculosis drugs already proliferate in poor countries and in areas of high insecurity in wealthy countries.
But we don’t always remember to state that drugs, antibiotics, antibacterials, or antivirals are often sold in deplorable conditions, in the streets or on the ground itself, in open air markets, with no control either over their production (falsified medicines) or their expiration date…
Next year, shall the 2012 World Health Day be universal
Key for effective and coherent global health, the WHO, “the World’s health beacon“, should have delivered a resolutely international annual message. This beacon however, functions oddly with occasional eclipses. The wave of epidemic influenza – the supposed health tsunami, which mobilized all the WHO’s forces around the H1N1 virus in 2009/2010 – was ultimately much ado about (a costly) nothing. There were no real objectives since the announced Apocalypse, fortunately, did not occur. This example is compounded by another one today: antimicrobial resistance. This issue also addresses industrialized countries whose populations are the least exposed to communicable diseases and yet, are nonetheless the best protected. Less disease and more medication, excessive consumption and waste, the path is well trodden and not confined to the medical world. It repeats itself in many other contexts.
Our wish for next year is that the theme for the 2012 World Health Day be universal, addressing patients from economically stable countries and those, in far greater numbers, from poorer countries.
It is not sordid realism to reiterate that the latter countries concentrate within their boundaries the billion starving human beings; a billion thirsty people; a billion and a half men, women, and children without access to sanitation; the eight hundred million illiterate individuals; and the two billion people without access to lifesaving surgery….
Perhaps this is an uncalled for controversy, a Manichean debate, but …
Blessed are those who are resistant to medicine,
for they at least have had access to them…
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