Health diplomacy

I am back again, after a long hiatus. Well, the months flew fast and I stopped gasping on how quickly half a year went by.

Lots to say, but in this post, I will just record one of my more serious engagements in the past few months. I happened to take a course on global public health, purely by chance, as is typical of courses you enjoy the most. It was not listed for my program and I spotted it by accident.

It was a superb introduction to the way health policies of countries get affected by trade. It took a few days to make connections between trade and its implications on health. You will find more on the course here. It was interesting to see  the differences in governance and motives of  the WTO and the WHO, and more importantly how they have repeatedly come together to address common issues of interest. The choices that nations have to make acceding crucial policy space in order to trade with the world, even as they struggle to protect public health concerns, was the crux of the discussions in class.

Only recently, this predicament was encapsulated in a superb piece of reporting by an old friend Adi Narayan, for Bloomberg Businessweek. So here is the deal: it has been reported that India is an epicentre for new superbugs – multidrug resistant bacteria. Not surprisingly, the government did not exactly come clear on this and in fact weighed down on a brilliant microbiologist who brought it to the world’s attention. Why? For fear of jeopardising the big ticket medical tourism industry in India. Read the Bloomberg story here: Drug-Defying Germs From India Speed Post-Antibiotic Era. This is a story that will scare you. I do not know what is more lethal, the new germ or India’s barely existent public health infrastructure.

Have put up my work for the course here, which essentially deals with how trade has impacted access to medicines: A presentation on how bilateral trade impacts access to medicines (Free Trade Agreements and how they subvert the flexibilities enshrined in the TRIPs agreement) a policy brief on how trade contributes to the spread of  non-communicable diseases and what countries must do and an analysis of the FTA negotiations between EU and India, and what it means to public health.

All of this, beautifully (if I can use the word) ties into what I am doing over the summer. Working on a paper on risk cultures and governance in emerging economies at the International Risk Governance Council (IRGC) on the EPFL campus in Lausanne.

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