Posted by: nuismera | May 2, 2009

Global health

Charity, Neil and I attended a global health symposium today at Wash U. We had been excited for weeks because the title of the keynote address was ‘Moving from Charity to Justice’ and Dr. O’Neil had been to multiple countries from Tanzania to Uganda as a allopathic physician with a vision for social change. His 2006 book Awakening Hippocrates: A Primer on Health, Poverty, and Global Service will interest Rae for sure and perhaps some other pre-meds in our class interested in global medicine and social justice.

Dr. O’Neil stressed the importance of anaylzing the underlying causes of a problem- an idea found in Chomsky’s work and embodied by the work of partners in health and Dr. Paul Farmer. The other pillar of this two pillar strategy was to be found in liberation theology, more specifically Gustavo Gutierrez was cited and the preferential option for the poor as being central to this kind of global medical work. This was perhaps the coolest and most exciting talk I had been to since seeing Paul Farmer speak.

What does this have to do with the new atheists or our class? Honestly, not terribly too much other than the fact that my research this semester over terrorism involved this same kind of analysis, or going deeper to the underlying causalities of a problem rather than reaching or agreeing with the status quo pushing the easy answer. The example given was our stretching to relieve cognitive dissidence by saying “they” are poor because “they” are lazy. These easy outs allow us to not feel so bad when we’re living fatty and alleviate the tension when we’re confronted by the hard, cold numbers: 16,000 children die everyday from starvation. I’m currently enjoying an orange, a huge genetically engineered one that enjoyed government subsidies to be produced for $1 at Schnucks. The point is that whether you want to dedicate your life to solving poverty, or hunger, or questions of terrorism these problems are going to require more than just one approach, one “expert”, one methodology. Rather, if we are going to combat these problems we need a wider understanding of politics, economics, militarism, trade, etc.



  1. Amy, I really like the final sentiments of this post, the idea that it takes more than one kind of expertise to solve the biggest problems in our world today. This is a strong call for cooperation, an interdisciplinary task-force that must work together to end the injustices we face. One of the problems I see with this kind of proposal is the huge swell of pride that often accompanies those who know a lot about a particular subject. When anyone claims to be an expert, he or she is that much less likely to accept the input or ideas of anyone else. This is something we saw in the New Atheists – each arguing from his own soapbox, each citing another only when it reinforced his original opinion. It’s easier to counter one person than a united front, so perhaps the kind of cooperation you outline to fight global injustice might also work well for theists trying to offer their insights to atheists.

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