Globalization And Poverty (Extra credit I)


I really enjoyed watching Stephanie Blacks Life and Debt film in this class.  It really opened my eyes as to how globalization affects developing countries such as Jamaica. What I discovered through this video is need for transnational policies that govern and maintain standards for trade and business in the world. Many times, as seen in Jamaica in this video, manufacturers and company owners from developed countries open companies in developing countries because of the lack of regulation and the cost effectiveness. They do not provide adequate compensations to the worker, and do not provide right working environment and conditions. The poor residents have no choice then to give in to the excruciating long hours, inhumane and subordinate treatment because if they rebel, the company owners will just move to a different area or a different country, and they will have no job at all. The companies take advantage of the developing countries’ resources both human as well as other. Not only this due to lack of technological advances in developing countries, many fields, agriculture being widely talked about in the video, have not been industrialized. The developed countries with their big factories and plantations can mass produce products giving them more marginal profit. This makes it cheaper to import goods then to produce them at home in developing countries. This is the case in Jamaica where despite the abundance of farm land and resources, farmers cannot match the price of imported goods, hence have no way to make a living anymore. Moreover when companies in developed countries compete with companies in developing companies, the later always lose because they cannot mass produce and don’t have resources to match the “standard” of quality, as mentioned by one of the banana company’s owner in Jamaica in this video. In Globalization and Poverty: Oxymoron or New Possibilities? published in Journal of Business Ethic, data collected by UN illustrates that although there has been an expansion in exports and imports from 1990 to 2004, there has been almost no economic improvement in the developing nations, other than “moderate development nation-states” which consist of solely China and India.

 With the extent poverty and disease are tied together, the fact that developed countries are getting richer as result of globalization on the expense of developing countries is an important issue. Since Tuberculosis (as illustrated through links posted in other posts) strikes usually the poorest in the society, there is a need to address how globalization is adding to poverty of the poorest.

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Hope for A Healthier World

Throughout this course, I had the opportunity to not only learn about various topics and themes in global health, but also to explore them in-depth through reading and researching specific case studies. For my podcast proposal, my group chose the topic of MDR-TB in prisons in Russia. With my increasing knowledge of factors influencing TB, methods of treatment, and the effects of TB, it became clear to me from Paul Farmer’s first-hand interviews of prisoners and officials in Russia that the increase in TB and MDR-TB in Russian prison systems was due to an intersection of factors stemming from structural violence.  The most compelling part of the problem is that these prisoners often lack access to the means for proper treatment. The fact that prisoners with MDR-TB are given utterly ineffective treatment, for the sake of being cost-effective, is essentially equivalent to reducing a human’s right to health to a financially-dependent condition. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being  of himself and his family. In Russia, as in almost every other country in this world, both developed and under-developed, this is a right that has not been fully realized.

However, the proper interventions do exist, it is simply a matter of reorganizing our priorities to include the individual’s right to health as one of the foremost and necessary needs. By banishing immodest claims of causality and recognizing that reforming healthcare requires structural changes, not just band-aids, we can work towards achieving effective and long-term reform in international healthcare.

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Human Rights

Paul Farmer reaffirms the indivisibility of Human Rights: the political and civil rights in one hand and the social and economic rights on the other hand. The latter are an essential part to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Farmer deplores that little progress has been made in the application of these rights and when human rights are linked to health rights, violations of these rights are endemic. The mechanisms of human rights violations are pathologies of power fueled by structural violence, which is at the basis of inequality. The dimensions of health care inequality are astonishing. Haitians and Chiapas farmers are claiming for their economics and social rights.

Farmer is concerned with moving ahead with the agenda. He believes that the association of Public Health and medicine to the Human rights agenda could be mutually beneficial. Such an agenda should focus on the poor and should be “coherent, pragmatic and informed by careful scholarship”.

As opposed to structural violence Farmer has developed a concept of pragmatic solidarity as a strategy for effective intervention.

Pragmatic solidarity is a “rapid deployment of tools and resources to improve health and well being to those who suffer from structural violence.”(Farmer 220).  It adds a material dimension to solidarity,

It takes a stand by the side of the afflicted who live and die “on the edges.” It adds action to sentiments through international cooperation with community-based organizations and deployment of services to provide pragmatic assistance as needed by the people who are suffering the most.

For more details about Paul Farmer’s work with TB patients in Russian jails here is the site for PIH Russia.

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Social and Economic Rights

In the last chapter “Rethinking Health and Human Rights” of his book Pathologies of Power, Paul Farmer addresses the  need to rethink human rights beyond just legal attributes. He demonstrates the importance of social and economic rights through examples from Haiti and Russia. In Russia, what led to the spread of MDRTB is the unavailability of second-line drugs.  The international community insists the need to provide “cost-effective” solution to this problem, which often means the second-line drugs are not provided as the are too expensive. But Paul Farmer argues, what is the point of having drugs if they are not going to cure the disease.  The case of tuberculosis is great example of how social and economic rights are just as important, and even more in today’s globalization era, as legal and political rights. People who suffer with tuberculosis are prisoners, poor, and alcoholic, as mentioned in Treating Multidrug Resistant Tuberculosis in Tomsk, Russia . By providing only the “cost effective” drugs, we are denying them their human right to be cured. In the world of inequality, the medical and scientific advances  don’t reach the poorest, usually the ones who are in the dire need for them. There is a need to address these issues, as Paul Farmer’s Partners in Health does in Haiti, that lead to the persistence of diseases like Tuberculosis.

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Extra Credit: My Thoughts on #KONY2012

Last week, the slogan #KONY2012 went viral across the internet. Across Facebook, Twitter, news articles, and blogs, this campaign, which included a moving video message, was hard to miss if you went online even once that day. The campaign aims to stop Joseph Kony, a Ugandan militant, from kidnapping children for his army, the Lord’s Resistance Army.  By utilizing social media as a platform to spread awareness, the campaign aims to translate a social outcry into political action. This campaign claims that if the movement’s efforts succeed, it will be a testament to the positive influence that social media can have over the world.

Although I stand strongly with #KONY2012’s opposition to the activities of Joseph Kony, and I am also confident in the ability of social media to spread awareness of this message, I believe that there are aspects of this mission that have yet to be fully realized by its leadership, a non-profit group called Invisible Children . According to the video, the campaign hopes to use the pressures of social media, celebrity endorsements, and popular public opinion to pressure President Obama into maintaining the force of 100 U.S. troops sent to Uganda last year to track down Kony. I believe that although it has the benefit of a highly visible platform, the goal of Kony2012 is very simple, and was achieved within the week that the campaign went viral. The simplicity of the goal,to keep the troops in Africa on the hunt for Kony, set up the President for either a pass or fail outcome. It’s undeniable that this message has caught the interest of the President. However, now that the Invisible Children has it, it must demand more of the President, merely than to keep up his current efforts.

Invisible Children has the advantage of an incredible vantage point from which to influence foreign policy. For this reason, I believe that it needs to be more specific in its goal for KONY2012. Mainly, I think the organization must work to specify its demands of the President. For instance, the organization could push for the President to enlist a team of the best military strategists and thinktanks to devise an effective way to capture Kony. This effort does not need to be publicized to a T. THis is because the people required to devise and carry out this mission are specially trained. Although public awareness is good, it is specifics in policy and strategy that will get the job done.

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(Extra Credit II) King Corn

After listening to Professor Hannah Landecker’s lecture on epigenetics, I was inspired to go watch the documentary film, “King Corn”.  Ever since I took a freshman fiat lux seminar from Professor Landecker, over three years ago, I have been fascinated by the American food industry and I continue to keep up with the latest findings, for my own health and well-being.  I’ve understood the food industry to be disadvantages, in respect to health, for poor Americans, but “King Corn” shed new light on my understanding.  Now I realize that our food supply is a form of structural violence.  Not only do farmers face structural violence because the government subsidizes corn too much, but much of the American populace is forced to buy cheap foods that are packed with unhealthful corn products.  These calculated efforts by big food corporations have fostered an epidemic of obesity in our country.  Obesity is not just an issue of personal aesthetics, but rather a major health problem that is linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, organ failure, cancer, asthma, arthritis, and the list goes on.  But in 2007, researchers in Hong Kong published a paper that claimed obese individuals have lower risk for the development of tuberculosis.

TB is a devastating respiratory disease, but according to the Chinese researchers, “obesity is associated with a lower risk of active pulmonary tuberculosis in the older population of Hong Kong.”  However, the researchers mention that more research is needed to fully understand the mechanism behind this phenomenon.  Thus, it surprised me to come across this article in light of “King Corn” and all the other findings on the negative aspects of obesity, but the article does not change my mind about the harmful effects of the American food supply on our health.  The way in which corn controls our food supply is still an issue of structural violence, which needs to be dealt with rapidly.

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(Extra Credit) Farmer Ch. 9

Paul Farmer writes, “Sometimes we appear to step on the toes of those who have long been at work when we mean instead to stand on their shoulders.”  I find this comment very profound as I reflect back on everything we have learned this quarter.  Some human rights groundwork that has been laid in the past, but it has not amounted to much noticeable change in the world.  Part of the reason is due to the fact that human rights movements are a relatively recent occurrence.  Shortly after Farmer’s quote, he goes on to say that it has been argued these movements began with the Nuremburg trials in the mid-1940s.  In those 70+ years, mankind has made great technological advancements, but the realm of human rights seems to remain stagnant, or even fall at times.  Countries do not uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, even when those countries have signed onto the declaration.  This can be seen in the case of MDRTB in Russia, which Farmer writes extensively on.

Farmer breaks down four of the many violations of social and economic rights that Russian prisoners face and he explains the possibilities of intervention at each level.  This analysis is very enlightening because it shows the reader what mistakes are being made, but it also encourages hope.  Oftentimes, massive problems such as MDRTB in Russia seem too overwhelming, but Farmer doesn’t let the reader get away with that common cop-out.  He argues that the right interventions CAN improve people’s lives and all it takes is “rethinking health and human rights” to do it.  So perhaps the human rights mindset of the 1940s Nuremberg Trials needs a little tune-up that will fit the current day-in-age.  However, we should strive to stand on the shoulders of those past decisions, rather than step on their proverbial toes.

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