Bridging the Gap

We have a problem, and the problem comes in the form of a term that Dr. Paul Farmer describes as “structural violence.”  In order to understand how to fight off infectious disease outbreaks in the future, we need to look at almost a completely seemingly unrelated phenomenon associated with disease: social inequality.  This is explained with the idea of structural violence.

Structural violence, according to Dr. Farmer, is more or less an accumulation of wealth in one part of the world and an accumulation of misery and poverty in another while both exist in the same political/economic system.  An example of this would be the modern Ebola example, where Americans rarely deal with cases of Ebola and most African villages are continuously plagued by it.  What is prevalent here is the idea that one society is more technologically advanced/wealthy and one is the opposite, basically, for whatever the reason may be.  The key here is to somehow bring the level of quality of medicine up for the less fortunate group.  A lot of this is happening now, but an increased effort needs to be brought forth in order to truly kick these constant outbreaks.

Dr. Farmer spoke of how much the difference in quality and medical practices were in quarantine zones between the African nations and the United States.  He described us as a very clean, thorough approach to making sure that the problem was fully contained to the greatest extent, whereas the other nations looked at weren’t properly taken care of or investigated (Farmer 2014).  As a medical society that has successfully combated outbreaks, we must send teams over-seas to educate these people on proper protocol and techniques to minimize the chances of an outbreak as well as effectively fighting the disease itself.

In the fight against Ebola and disease, the most important tool is knowledge.   Ebola hadn’t been seen anywhere near West Africa before, so people knew little about the disease, how deadly it can be or how to prevent its spread (Mercy Corps.  2015).  We as the more knowledgeable society with this aspect of disease need to spread the knowledge and inform West African nations, as well as everyone around the world, about the terror that is Ebola.  This accounts for all diseases, really.  Knowledge is the first step in being able to overcome something, and it’s lacked in more places than not.  Without really saying it, Dr. Farmer would probably agree with this approach of spreading knowledge, and that’s why it’s my approach.  Teach a man to fish.

“Quick Facts: What You Need to Know about Stopping Ebola.” Mercy Corps. February 16, 2015. Accessed August 5, 2016.
Dr. Paul Farmer on African Ebola Outbreak: Growing Inequality in Global Healthcare at Root of Crisis. Produced by Amy Goodman. Performed by Dr. Paul Farmer. Democracy Now! August 24, 2014. Accessed August 9, 2016.

2 thoughts on “Bridging the Gap

  1. You use some very good examples when describing structural violence around the world. There is a direct correlation between wealth and technological advancements in a society. Luxuries are designed for the wealthy, and the medicine and technology designed to prevent these outbreaks are treated as luxuries. This should not be the case; this knowledge should be available to everyone. There are two simple methods to control outbreaks like Ebola. There is the prevention approach, and then in the event an outbreak occurs, the containment and treatment approach. When outbreaks like Ebola happen in nations around the world that are less wealthy than the United States the method that is most commonly used is the containment/treatment method. The main problem with this method is that the disease can still spread very quickly even as people are being treated. You suggest that the most important tool is knowledge and I agree. If people know how to recognize an outbreak, then they can take the necessary steps to prevent the spread of the disease to others in the population. Knowledge is something that can be provided at a minimal cost. It is expensive to send doctors and medical supplies, but knowledge can eliminate the need for these by preventing the outbreak before it starts.

  2. I agree with you that educating the citizens and doctors in poor countries is critical to helping prevent and contain infectious disease. I also think that a huge problem is the governments found in many poor countries in Africa. Without trying to be too receptive from my previous comment I’ll share what a I was told for the reason there are no entrepreneurs from those countries either. The governments of many African countries are so highly corrupt that it is not the lack of resources and access to knowledge it is the governments lack of concern for its own citizens. Those countries receive billions of dollars in aid every year, yet no progress is made. That’s because the government doesn’t use the given financial resources for the intended purpose. Rather than use the money given to them on building healthcare infrastructure or educating citizens and doctors they spend it on themselves and illegal activities. Then they wait for other countries doctors to fly over and provide medical expertise even though they were given tons of money. Based on the definition of structural violence those countries fit the bill perfectly. Corruption is so rampant throughout their government and society that it causes all kinds of harm to its citizens.

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