School lunch programs like this one in China can combat malnutrition, but many poor nations can’t afford such programs.

The prosperity and security of nations depends on several factors – wealth, productivity, infrastructure, education, military power . . .  and the health of each nation’s population.

The Foreign Policy Association’s final “Great Decisions 2018” discussion at the Arizona Senior Academy focuses on Global Health: Progress and Challenges. It will begin at 2:30 p.m. Thursday (March 29) in the Academy’s Great Room.

Key global health challenges include diarrheal diseases, poor maternal health, HIV/AIDS, malaria, respiratory diseases, malnutrition, violence, and tropical diseases – each complicated by migration and local/regional strife.  Africa, parts of Asia, and poverty worldwide require priority attention.

But global health is distinctly different from most geopolitical issues. The geopolitics of nation states – America, Russia, China, Turkey, North Korea, and others – rely significantly on “hard power” (military and economic force) to succeed.

Global health relies on soft power – the strength and ability to attract and persuade.  In addition, global health is often beyond the control of individual states and requires financial and infrastructural resources beyond the capabilities of less wealthy nations.

Coordinated international efforts  have achieved noteworthy outcomes.  In the past quarter century life expectancy world-wide has increased from 65 to 72, deaths in early childhood have dropped by more than 50%.  Since 2000, deaths from HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa have decreased from 1.9 million to 1 million—still high, but a major reduction.  The death rate from malaria has dropped 60%.  Polio, afflicting 350,000 children worldwide in 1988, has dropped to only 11 cases in 2016!  Smallpox has been eradicated.

Public-private collaborations have been key, such as for dealing with the HIV/AIDS crisis, conquering smallpox, and mounting the Gates-supported Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization.

But while progress has been made in controlling communicable diseases, non-communicable diseases – cancer, heart disease, diabetes – are on the rise, further complicating the picture going forward.

Written by Ted Hullar, Academy Village Volunteer

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Global Health: Progress and Challenges: March 2018