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Opinions: Health And Living Conditions; H1N1, One Year Later; Global Water Shortages

Better Living Conditions Can Improve Health

Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Habitat for Humanity CEO Jonathan Reckford write in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution opinion piece about the need to “address the constant crisis families face daily in deplorable living conditions.” The authors reflect on several health problems associated with unsanitary and crowded living conditions both domestically and abroad. “More should be done through public, private and nonprofit partnerships to provide proper housing. … Pneumonia, for example, kills more children each year than AIDS, malaria and measles combined – nearly four children each minute. Many of those deaths take place in homes with crowded living conditions where bacteria thrive,” they write.

“Creating decent, affordable housing is not only the right thing to do, it’s smart and economical – saving health care dollars at home and promoting economic development internationally,” write Frist and Reckford. “Health initiatives in the U.S. and beyond must address the positive impact adequate housing has on good health. As Congress assesses U.S. foreign assistance, policy-makers should recognize the importance of shelter as a standalone issue, as well as a means to support other development outcomes, such as improved health,” they write (4/12).

One Year Later, What World Can Gain From H1N1

One year after the first recorded H1N1 (swine flu) death, Richard Wenzel, professor of internal medicine and a specialist in infectious diseases at Virginia Commonwealth University, writes in a New York Times opinion piece: “While the epidemic never became as deadly as we initially feared, it was not as mild as some experts now believe.” Wenzel contrasts the pandemic faced in the U.S. with the one in developing countries and writes, “What’s more, it exposed some serious shortcomings in the world’s public health response.”

“One year after its appearance, we continue to have many unanswered questions about the [H1N1] virus,” Wenzel writes. “Even as we work to solve these enigmas, we can try to prepare better for future pandemics. First, we need to approach disease control not as individual nations, but as a global community. … Second, we should rely not just on governments for reporting but on the cooperative efforts of international health organizations as well. … Eventually, we’ll also need to encourage farmers in developing countries to follow agricultural and safety practices that make it less likely that viruses will jump species” (4/12).

To Address Global Water Crisis, Countries Must Recognize Link Between Water Use And Environmental Care

In a New Vision opinion piece, Vinod Thomas, director general of the Independent Evaluation Group at the World Bank, and Ronald Parker, a consultant with the group, examine the growing need to address global water shortages. Thomas and Parker write, “If the growing water crisis is to be effectively addressed, actions will need to link water use with environmental care.”

“The World Bank is the largest official financier of water investments in developing countries,” with loan commitments over the past 10 years topping $55 billion, they write. “Yet the challenge remains of meeting today’s water needs while putting in place innovative strategies to address future requirements.” The authors go on to outline several areas in need of emphasis to help mitigate global water shortages before concluding, “Political support for reform is often hindered by serious gaps in understanding a country’s water situation. Better data, systematic monitoring and disclosure of findings are crucial to resource mobilisation and action. Knowledge sharing in turn supports the financial outlays and enables better results on the ground” (4/12).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.