Tapping Our Trans-Local Potential for Change

Posts tagged ‘Questions’

Diasporas and Global Health

Professor James Busumtwi-Sam speaks at the Engaging Diasporas in Development dialogue "Poverty reduction and economic Growth" Photo: Greg Ehlers.

This post was written by James Busumtwi-Sam, Member of the Project Management Team and Project Advisory Committee as well as Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science at Simon Fraser University.

What is health? According to the 1946 WHO constitution it is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Today this definition is widely accepted, as is the notion that, in addition to its biomedical and technical elements, we should be concerned with the broader social determinants of health as shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels. This broadened understanding of and approach to health reflects increased awareness that health issues are affected by factors traditionally considered outside the health sector. Globalization and the proliferation of non-governmental actors and institutions (public and private) strongly influence the ability of national and local authorities to protect and promote public health, but profound health disparities exist across the globe. Situating health within the context of broader social determinants provides a better understanding of the sources of health inequities.

The absence of equity in the provision of health services is considered to be one of the major impediments to achieving positive health outcomes. The WHO’s 1998 World Health Report Health for All in the 21st Century, linked good health to the advancement of human rights, greater equity, and gender equality among other things. Social determinant of health generate health inequalities. An emphasis on health equity implies that need — not income/wealth, power and privilege — should be the major determinant of health-care access and ultimately of health outcomes. This notion was embodied in the 1978 Alma Ata Declaration. However, the profound disparities in health opportunities and outcomes across the world today, indicate quite a divergence between recognizing a ‘right to health’ in principle and in practice.

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What is Poverty?

A farmer in West Bengal returns from ploughing the fields. Photo: Douglas Olthof.

This post was written by John Harriss, Director of International Studies at Simon Fraser University.

I can well imagine many readers reacting to this question along the lines of ‘What a silly question. Isn’t it obvious?’ Well, yes, it is, at least on one level. ‘Being poor’ surely means ‘not having enough’, or ‘being deprived’? But not having enough of, or being deprived of what? The obvious answer to this question is probably ‘Not enough money’. But then that only raises the question of ‘Not enough money for what?’ ‘Not enough money’ for some people, clearly, might be a fortune for others. This is particularly obvious when we think across societies. Poverty in our own society might still mean having all sorts of things, like television sets, fridges and motor cars that a poor woman in Lesotho, say, probably can’t even dream of. So answering the question ‘what is poverty?’ really is a bit more complicated than we might think at first.

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