Lessons learned for modern humanitarian health
Paul Farmer, Peter Drobac, and Zoe Agoos
A piece in the Washington Post last September observed that “For a Global Generation, Public Health Is a Hot Field.”[i] The generation in question was, of course, that of the primary readership of this journal. In the words of one American pollster, yours is the generation appositely termed the “First Global.” But even if this trend is new—and it seems to us that its scope is unprecedented—the collection of problems classed under the rubric of global health is not new, although there are many new twists (such as acquired resistance to antimicrobials, which could not have occurred prior to their invention and widespread use). The basic lineaments of the debates are not new, either, nor are efforts to affect the health of populations far from home. The issues facing those interested in global health are old ones; many of the institutions confronting these challenges are mature bureaucracies. Even the identification of ranking challenges—what historians of science have called “problem choice”—is constrained by social forces with roots in the 19th century and before.