Organization for Global Health

Editor's Blog

11/06/08: Universal Health Care in California?

There are so many fundamental flaws with the current American healthcare system that render it unsustainable and unjust. 15.2 is the percentage of the US GDP spent on healthcare. 37 is the percentage of adults foregoing medical care because of cost. Over 45 million is the number of Americans uninsured at one point during 2007. 87 is the percent increase in premium costs since 2000. So what government policies are hoping to change this?

In California, the universal health care plan proposed under Senate Bill 840 would fundamentally change the private health insurance system to a single-payer system. Under this single-payer system, all residents would pay an affordable means-based premium and all residents would receive comprehensive health insurance for all medically necessary services. Furthermore, private insurance duplicating the public coverage would be proscribed. Sounds like socialized medicine? Importantly, hospitals and doctors would remain private and patients would still have the choice in finding the right person and place for health care.

SB840 was passed in both the California Assembly and Senate in 2008, only to be vetoed by Governor Scwarzenegger. In 2009, State Senator Mark Leno will be the new principle author of SB 840. On a national level, Congress Bill H.R. 676 is also in the works. WIth healthcare reformers finding a new ally in President Elect Obama, is change really in the air?


10/23/08: Rosenfield's Passion and His Legacy in Women's Health

Dr. Allan Rosenfield, an advocate for women's health and AIDS issues worldwide for more than 40 years, died last week of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Dr. Rosenfield leaves behind a legacy of positive change to global health. Throughout his career, the dean of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health worked on issues related to maternal AIDS-related deaths, women's reproductive health, human rights, and family planning. He spearheaded the school’s program to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmissions in the United States and abroad, which school officials say has assisted more than 500,000 women and babies worldwide.

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10/22/08: The10/90 Gap

Here we are at Stanford, one of the top research institutes in the world, but take a step back and consider the 10/90 gap: the fact that 90 percent of health research only benefits 10 percent of the world's population. Here's a videoclip introducing the concept.


10/17/2008: Food for Thought- A Lunch Conversation with Dr. Paul Wise

“Anger,” Dr. Paul Wise said, in response to a question about what inspires his contributions to global health.

You wouldn’t have thought physicians would be so angry these days. The very physicians who earn more than nearly all other occupations in the US and the world, the very physicians who are rewarded with improving, if not saving, lives everyday. But these angry physicians are the ones on the forefront of global health: the Paul Wise’s of Guatamela and Paul Farmer’s of Haiti that witness firsthand the troubling social disparities of our modern world in its most heartbreaking form: infant mortality.

 It’s seeing the kids sick and dying because of social reasons,” Professor Paul Wise elaborated. “There’s also something called statistical compassion that makes me angry. It’s looking at an infant mortality graph, and realizing that blip represents all the thousands of kids I don’t see. It’s the connection between your patient and that graph that gives rise to an anger that inspires and motivates me everyday.”

Those were among the many insights we heard during a one-hour lunch conversation with Dr. Paul Wise, an event where a handful of international students bombarded the famous pediatrician, epidemiologist, and leader in global health with questions. For those who aren’t familiar with Paul Wise, already a legend among the medical students interested in global health, he has been a Stanford Professor and pediatrician at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital for four years since moving from the East coast. Since his work in a remote town in Guatamela during his freshman year in Cornell that he continues today, Paul Wise has rubbed shoulders with Paul Farmer as vice-chief of the Division of Social Medicine and Health Inequalities at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, served as special assistant to U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Antonia Novello in the early 90s, and acted as a special expert at the National Institute of Health.

And here he was, literally inches away from us as he spoke between bites of his lunch. We continued to bombard with question after question, trying to pick his brilliant mind. One of the more interesting comments related to why he works where he does, notably overseas, a very relevant question often posed to us physicians in the US, where the health disparities are particularly striking. “My backyard is as far-reaching as I choose to draw its boundaries... Human rights apply to all, regardless of place and time... And this is my time to play whatever role I can."

As the lunch conversation gradually came to an end, Dr. Paul Wise relayed one last valuable lesson. “Follow your core values,” he advised. “Your time in school is about finding those values. Go out into the community and see what drives you, motivates, gets you angry.”

For Paul Wise, inequity is what drives him, through a strange paradox of anger and passion. Many years ago as Cornell undergraduate, Paul Wise became deeply moved by the abject poverty he saw in Guatemala and chose to become a Latin American major.  Today, he does health research in all fields- from genetics to health policy to technology. And the one consistent theme that relates all his academic research? Inequity. And who wouldn’t be interested in the role of social medicine, if you can see what Dr. Paul Wise sees every year, between those sick patients in underserved communities and those blips in graphs representing thousands more?

For those looking to become inspired and motivated, look no further than your own backyard. Cardinal Free Clinics is looking for volunteers to help provide medical care to undeserved communities in the Bay Area.

-Shane Shucheng Wong, SMS I

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