Autor: Elijah Paintsil
We’re trying to reach a consensus on a common definition of global health. Some of you have already contributed aspects of this: study, research. You guys talked about how to use data. Why is Brazil doing better than other neighboring countries? Why is Mauritius doing better?
So it’s study, research—and practice. That emphasizes what was said earlier by Christian: improving health, achieving equity in health, for all. That’s one definition of global health: whether you are for-profit or nonprofit, these are the attributes that we want to see you bringing to all. You set a minimum standard, minimum deliverables, that everybody should have.
But let us go back and look at our history. This is before the Middle Ages. And I don’t want to puncture your optimism or your ego, but we are not the first people thinking about global health. It really started way before us.
They were actually pretty occupied with public health in ancient civilizations—in Egypt, in Ethiopia, in China. They really had some sophisticated engineering capacity. The way they planned their cities or towns, they actually took into consideration hygiene and sewage disposal and really were very methodical how they grouped houses. So that is not new.
That was the time also that they started to think about disease causality. They started saying, “If we do this, it leads to that.” Unfortunately, that knowledge of health and well-being was deposited in one civilization only. It didn’t cross boundaries. It was really the isolationist view.
Now we move to the Middle Ages. And this is a period where people became more or less aware that, “It’s not enough for us to protect ourselves; we probably have to share with others in order to protect us.” During the 14th century plague, in Italy, especially, they had a way of letting other countries or other townships know that there is a disease—they use sailors.
And there were even situations where if a ship is coming to dock and they suspect that there’s somebody on that ship with the plague, the ship would not be allowed to come on shore—you stay on the high sea for 40 days. My understanding is that the word “quarantine” comes from an Italian word for 40 days.