Global Health Crises: Avoidable vs. Unavoidable

The swine-flu pandemic seems like the kind of story that essentially reinforces everyone’s pre-existing point of view. Alarmists get very alarmed. Non-alarmists get very non-alarmed.

I’m no exeception. Oddly enough, although I tend towards apocalyptic alarmism in all sorts of scenarios involving the breakdown of social order, I’m less responsive to alarmism over global pandemics. My hunch is that this particular one will get worse before it gets better, that it’s impossible to know how much worse, and that following every single new outbreak across the planet is more of a job for the WHO than for me. So I’ll carry on as before until new developments indicate otherwise.

The thing about the swine flu outbreak, though, is that it’s by and large unavoidable. This sort of thing happens, and once it does, there are measures we can take to limit the damage. But we can’t really prevent it.

On the other hand, the 200 Ecuadorians who just got sick from water contamination is a totally avoidable health crisis. Clean drinking water is the kind of thing we can provide relatively easily, and it’s the sort of development aid needed all over, not just in conflict zones. Which means that it doesn’t require a military component to be effective.

This is a pretty facile post for all sorts of reasons, but every now and then my inner idealist gets the best of me.