More than 50 students and faculty crowded into the third-floor conference room at the Pardee House on Monday, March 24 for the inaugural Pardee Center “Future Challenges” lunch seminar, co-sponsored by BU African Studies Center, the BU Global Health Initiative and the BU Institute for Economic Development.
Titled “Disease and Development” the seminar panel featured Gerald Keusch, director of BU’s Global Health Initiative and Medical Campus associate provost for global health; James McCann, a CAS professor of history and Randall Ellis, a CAS professor of economics and president-elect of the American Society of Health Economists. The session was moderated by Pardee Center Director Adil Najam, the Frederick S. Pardee Professor of Global Public Policy and a College of Arts and Sciences professor of international relations and of geography and environment.
In a wide-ranging conversation, the panelists agreed that the solution to global health issues stretching well into the future will require an interdisciplinary approach and public-private partnerships that considers the biological, social, political and economic contexts of addressing disease and providing health care in developing countries. Human activities, such as agricultural practices and urbanization, were cited as a few of the many factors that affect health and disease patterns and need to be considered in overall health policy.
They also agreed on the need to move away from allowing wealthy, donor countries and institutions to set the agenda for how resources are used on health in developing countries; wealthy countries and donors typically will focus efforts on treating a few major diseases, while the priorities of local leaders may center on the need for public health infrastructure, such as safe drinking water supplies or improved health care service delivery.
And the panelists discussed the high costs of pharmaceuticals and medical devises in the U.S. health care system, in which a marginal improvement in benefit can have a disproportionately high increase in cost. In comparison, they spoke of examples in low- and middle-income countries where low-tech, low-cost prosthetics have been developed and serve people well.
“We are a paradigm of how not to do it” said Dr. Keusch. “We can’t simply export what we do here — it’s all backwards, it’s all wrong.”
A video of this seminar is available in the Multimedia section of this web site.
Read a pre-Seminar interview with panelist Randy Ellis here.
The next Future Challenges lunch seminar will take place on Monday, April 7 at the Pardee House. The topic is “Trade and Development.”