Paul Lachine

The Forgotten Sick

The developed countries' view of the diseases of the developing world is that only three are important: AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. But other infections, with names that most Westerners do not know – and often cannot even pronounce – kill, blind, deform, and disable far greater numbers of people.

LIVERPOOL – The developed world is familiar with the global threats of viral infections that incite fear in both rich populations and poor. The pandemics of SARS, avian, and swine influenza have cost the global economy an estimated $200 billion. These threats emerge frequently and unpredictably from human contact with animals. Rapid response is required of governments, United Nations agencies, regulatory authorities, and the pharmaceutical industry for coordination, surveillance, and vaccine production.

But the poorest people – those who live on less than $2 per day – are often not considered important when a pandemic threat emerges. They do not contribute significantly to the global economy, and their countries’ health systems function on a tiny fraction of what advanced economies devote to their populations’ health.

Conversely, the developed countries’ view of the diseases of the developing world is that only three are important: AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. This stems from the power of advocacy constituencies and the recognition that these diseases might threaten the developed world. As a result, these diseases receive a disproportionate amount of funding for research and control, while other infections kill, blind, deform, and disable many more – the “bottom billion” – who have little access to health care.

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