The Worrying Paradox of Modern Medical Miracles
December 7th, 2018 12:00PM -1:30PM
Thomas J. Bollyky, senior fellow for global health, economics, and development and director of the Global Health program at the Council on Foreign Relations, will lead the luncheon conversation on The Worrying Paradox of Modern Medical Miracles. Mr. Bollyky, author of Plagues and the Paradox of Progress, will discuss how advancements in treating infectious disease have made the world healthier but paradoxically are leading to greater instability, as countries struggle to adapt health-care, education, and labor systems to the needs of larger populations. This meeting is cosponsored with the Council on Foreign Relations.
Lunch will be provided.
Thomas Bollyky joined the World Affairs Council and the Council on Foreign Relations on December 7th for a provoking discussion on why the world becoming healthier is not necessarily a good thing for all areas of the world. In his new book, Thomas Bollyky discusses the great progress that has been made in combating infectious diseases, and how developing countries now face issues of adaptation to larger and healthier populations.
Bollyky started the conversation with a presentation of how the world is getting healthier and the impacts better health has on developing countries. He began with the good news: child mortality has greatly decreased in regions across the world, and infectious diseases are no longer the leading killer for the first time in history. These results are attributed to different paths to progress: many developing countries have experienced population growth. In Niger, child mortality has declined with the decline of deaths due to infectious diseases and has expanded their life expectancy by 21 years. However, Niger still remains a extremely poor country, spending only $17 dollars per person, per year on healthcare and putting little effort into investing in infrastructure. Bollyky argued that urbanization is occurring differently than it used to, influenced less by migration and more by natural increases in population. Developing countries are not investing in building the proper infrastructure to support growing populations and the current rise in non-communicable diseases. The lesson of this paradox is that global health is still a priority, and that the fight between man and microbe is not over, according to Bollyky.
After his presentation, Bollyky moved into a discussion with Jacqueline Miller of the World Affairs Council expanding on the topics of his book. The discussion began comparing the different paths that countries like the U.S. and Niger have taken in building up their infrastructure. The United States built up clean water and sanitation systems well before infectious diseases were a global health issue, while Niger has been slower to adapt to their conditions. Niger has been forced to compete with countries with more developed economies and health care systems and has struggled to match up. Bollyky stated that the future in global health in developing areas starts with empowering state governments and improving accountability. While foreign aid is extremely beneficial, that alone cannot improve the health infrastructure.
The conversation briefly turned towards the topic of malaria, referencing the recent WHO report stating that the decline of the disease has stalled and that donor countries must double their financial efforts in combating the disease. Bollyky stressed that malaria cases are nowhere near the numbers we used to see, however there should still be concern over the stall in disease decline. The greater concern, according to Bollyky, is that the U.S. spends less than 1% of our budget on development aid. He argued that the best way to spend foreign aid is to use programs to be more responsive to the needs of developing countries. He referenced Uganda, and how most sub saharan healthcare systems are designed for chronic health issues. This focus leads to late detection of non communicable diseases like cancer, because developing areas do not have the tools or access to support a strong and accessible health care system. Global investments in greater tools to aid the bettering of health infrastructure are possibilities to approach the shifting needs of developing countries health care systems. Bollyky concluded the discussion conveying the message that miracles in global health occur when people whose lives are being saved by access to proper health care get to live a healthy and prosperous life.
About the Speaker
Thomas J. Bollyky is director of the global health program and senior fellow for global health, economics, and development at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). He is also an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University. Bollyky directed the first CFR-sponsored Independent Task Force devoted to global health, entitled The Emerging Global Health Crisis: Noncommunicable Diseases in Low- and Middle-Income Countries. He is also the author of the book Plagues and the Paradox of Progress: Why the World is Getting Healthier in Worrisome Ways.
Prior to coming to CFR, Bollyky was a fellow at the Center for Global Development and a director at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), where he led the negotiations on medical technology regulation in the U.S.-Republic of Korea Free Trade Agreement and represented USTR in the negotiations with China on the safety of food and drug imports. He was a Fulbright scholar to South Africa, where he worked as a staff attorney at the AIDS Law Project, and an attorney at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, where he represented clients before the International Court of Justice and the U.S. Supreme Court. Bollyky is a former law clerk to Chief Judge Edward R. Korman and was a health policy analyst at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Bollyky has testified multiple times before the U.S. Senate and his work has appeared in many publications including the New York Times, Science, and Foreign Affairs. Bollyky has served in a variety of capacities at the National Academy of Medicine, including as co-chair of its workshop on international regulatory harmonization and as a member of committees on strengthening food and drug regulation in developing countries and on the role of science, technology, and innovation in the future of the U.S. Agency for International Development. He has been a consultant to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a temporary legal advisor to the World Health Organization. In 2013, the World Economic Forum named Bollyky as one of its global leaders under forty.
Bollyky received his BA in biology and history at Columbia University and his JD at Stanford Law School, where he was the president of the Stanford Law & Policy Review. He is a member of the New York and U.S. Supreme Court bars.
The Boeing Company is an underwriting sponsor of all World Affairs Council Community Programs.