When there are clearly so many health problems facing the United States, why should we invest in the health of people across the globe? First, advancing health as a right for all, with a special emphasis on vulnerable and marginalized population groups, is a core value of the Brown University School of Public Health. There is an obvious ethical component to meeting the kinds of needs many of us take for granted in the U.S.—clean drinking water, basic sanitation, and basic nutrition. None of us wants to see infants dying from diseases that are easily cured with medication, and we feel a moral duty to make a difference to those populations with the fewest resources. But there are also broader, global considerations of our international public health work.
Diseases do not recognize political boundaries. The West Nile Virus, Zika, and the various strains of bird flu are but a few recent examples of viruses that rapidly spread across the world. Our health is clearly linked to the health of others. Our increasingly interconnected world means that not only our health, but our security can be impacted by disease outbreaks across the globe. HIV is an example of a disease with profound implications for economies in affected regions.
Another global challenge is not the spread of disease, but the spread of the Western diet. Characterized by over consumption of refined sugars, salt, and saturated fat, our fast-food lifestyle has spread across the world, endangering the health and well-being of populations as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity begin to dominate the globe. Professor Stephen McGarvey’s work highlights this problem and shines some light on the causes of obesity, and on opportunities for tackling this global epidemic.
As you will read in this issue of Continuum, faculty and students in the School of Public Health are dedicated to improving the health of populations, not just in Providence, but across the globe. We are motivated by a deep understanding of the interconnected nature of our world and our social consciousness to address the needs of the most vulnerable.
Bess H. Marcus, PhD
Dean, School of Public Health