Public Health

Public health is an area that I find very interesting. I have been doing self directed study in the area for my current affairs in the spanish speaking world course into forgotten diseases. I did a presentation on Chagas disease and Medecins Sans Frontiers' campaign to 'break the silence' on the disease.

The issue of equitable access to medicines seems to qualify as a complex problem in as much that there are so many parties with seriously conflicting interests. I understand the need for intellectual property but really can't get past an emotional point of view that there needs to be access for everyone to medicines to treat communicable diseases. Without really understanding the practical implications, I think that the idea that was raised in the tutorial about having a tiered system for TRIPS where drugs that relate to contagious disease that are a serious threat to global public health have different licensing laws. However, due to the seriousness and contagious nature of these diseases there is also a lot of money to be made from them and therefore, I imagine, not a lot of interest from companies such as Roche and GlaxoSmithKline in opening up the licensing.

Before even getting to this point though there is the massive complexity of the nature of diseases themselves as well as the unpredictable human reaction. The inconsistency of education and development in this areas was really confirmed by Kamalini Lokuge's story about traveling on the plane with a group of sick American students who didn't understand the reality of bringing H1N1 into an under resourced country.

In terms of looking at effective systems I think the take home message was that adapibility and effective communication (as well as financial resources) are key to having effective public health systems.

I had to go to an honours prep meeting and was disappointed to miss the first half of the public health tutorial. I think that Harriet and John really achieved excellent communication and reflection through modeling different ideas. Putting people in role plays really introduced empathy into the situation, which is something very necessary in public health.

Question: At what point do governments have an ethical responsibility to contravene trade laws and condone the manufacture of generic drugs?