Letter from the Editors

By Akhtar, Sarah; Balasubramanian, Aditya | Harvard International Review, Fall 2011 | Go to article overview

Letter from the Editors


Akhtar, Sarah, Balasubramanian, Aditya, Harvard International Review


Disease knows no borders, and in an international law system built on principles of sovereignty, this transnational threat poses new and often scary questions about the future of health politics. With health gains also representing a universal goal, world leaders are increasingly recognizing the diplomatic value of health investment as a tool of national security. For instance, the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan both employed health as a counterinsurgeney strategy', while the World Health Organization has been promoting "Health as a Bridge to Peace" programs in post-conflict environments.

Our symposium seeks to assess this relationship by analyzing both the politics of health and the use of health in policies. The four articles presented engage questions that cross disciplines, asking: how effective are international responses to local disease? Why has health been used as a tool of national security? How has globalization affected the nature of disease?

Julio Frenk, Former Minister of Health in Mexico, and Octavio G6mez-T3antes begin the symposium with an overview of the growing convergence of diseases generally confined to developed countries with those generally found only in developing countries in "The Triple Burden: Disease in Developing Nations." To address these multilayered challenges, Frenk and Gomez assert the importance of strengthening local, regional, and global initiatives designed to meet the Millennium Development Goals and ensuring a rational division of labor among all global health actors. HIV-AIDS is a prime example of a disease that bridges traditional developed-developing country disease boundaries and has been profoundly influenced by globalization. In "The Impact of Change: Shifting Global Architecture and HIV," Dennis Altman, a councilmember of the International AIDS society, provides an overview of recent responses to AIDS and evaluates the efficacy of international management strategies over the years.

Next, Leonard S. Rubenstein of John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health posits the relationship between health and diplomacy in "Instruments of peace: The Use of Health for National Security." His article critically evaluates the impact of health interventions on security, population allegiance, and region stability. In "Cholera vaccination in Haiti: Evidence, Ethics, Expedience," Partners in Health Founder Paul Farmer and a team of researchers focus in on the cholera epidemic that emerged in Haiti last year. Although the January earthquake brought global attention and resources to Haiti's health challenges, public health infrastructure and water access are, significantly lacking and require development alongside an integrated vaccination response to avert more deaths.

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