GUEST COLUMN

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Community Health

Meet Our Featured Guest Columnist:
Dr. Jack Geiger

is a founding member of Physicians for Social Responsibility and established the first community health centers in the United States.

Q: How did you first get involved in health and human rights issues?

A: I've been involved in civil rights and human rights for 65 years, since I first started as a teenager in 1942. That was in college in Madison, Wisconsin, and I ended up working with Bayard Rustin and A. Philip Randolph on the first planned march on Washington, which not many people know about, the threat of which produced FDR's executive order banning discrimination in defense plants. A year later, I was one of the people who started, I think, the second chapter in the country of the Congress of Racial Equality with Jim Farmer and it has just gone on in one way or another since then.

Meet Our Featured Guest Columnist:
Ying Lowrey

served as a barefoot doctor as a teenager in China and Tibet. Although the system is no longer used there, she remembers it as an innovative and effective way to provide poor families with basic health care.

Q: How/why did you become a barefoot doctor?

A: It's a very typical Chinese thing; they have some village, they give something like this: one village kid gets some education, gets some training, they provide a service over there. And then people just find out that's very useful, and then especially when the government finds out this kind of service is very beneficial for the people, so they just quickly spread out over the country... In general probably each village had one barefoot doctor.

Meet Our Featured Guest Columnist: David Sack

is a former director of the International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research, Bangladesh.

Q: What does "health and human rights" mean to you?

A: The most fundamental human right is the right to survive and to lead a healthy life, and this is especially true for children who are most vulnerable. It only takes a serious illness in the family to understand how this event takes precedence over all other concerns.  It would seem that the true nature of humanity is to assist others who are sick or injured, so it seems strange to have to claim health as a "right." It should be "human nature" rather than a "human right." 

Meet Our Featured Guest Columnist:
Dr. Jeremy Kark

is the son of Sidney and Emily Kark, pioneering physicians who developed a model approach to community health in South Africa in the 1940s.

Q: What does "health and human rights" mean to you?

A: I have opted to respond in the name of my South African-born parents whose own parents and grandparents emigrated from Lithuania from 1878 onwards to escape the repression, persecution and pogroms experienced by Lithuanian Jewry. They were drawn by the possibility of a better life for their families to countries such as the USA, South Africa and Palestine. Sidney (born in Johannesburg in 1911) and Emily Kark (1913) were acutely aware, as were many of their cohort, of the systematic injustice and exploitation imposed by the white-dominated system on indigenous Africans. These young people acted in many ways--some through political activism, assuming leadership roles in the liberal movements of South Africa. Sidney and Emily, both medical students at 'Wits' (the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg) in the 1930s, channeled their energies into ways to rectify massive inequalities in health, which they believed had underlying political and consequently social determinants.

Meet Our Featured Guest Columnist:
Dr. Farag Elkamel

is dean of the school of communication at Ahram Canadian University, Egypt. He specializes in the use of the mass media to promote health messages. In 1983, he launched a television campaign to promote Oral Rehydration Therapy, a treatment for dehydration. The campaign is considered one of the most successful educational projects ever undertaken—during the first four years, the number of children dying from diarrheal diseases more than halved.

Q: What does "health and human rights" mean to you?

A: Women and children are commonly the weakest segments economically and politically, especially in less developed countries. They are at the same time victims for numerous health problems that have several causes, including this exact weakness.

Meet Our Featured Guest Columnist:
Dr. Carl Taylor

is professor emeritus in the department of international health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He was part of the team of global health experts that wrote the research documents for an historic meeting at Alma-Ata, in 1978. At the time, more than half of the world’s people did not have access to affordable, local health services and many were without the basic needs for survival. Delegates laid out a vision to improve daily life and bring health care to all.

Q: What does "health and human rights" mean to you?

A: Bringing health and human rights together expresses a sincere response to the deepest hopes of the billion people in greatest need around the world. The phrase should be more specific, Good Health Is A Fundamental Human Right.  Everyone has some kind of health but for the poor, health is usually also poor. But poverty in money is only part of the real life causes along with many other influences such as behavior and habits, which are often even more important. The Rich often also have poor health since their diet is rich with the wrong kinds of luxury and quick foods and they don't get enough exercise.  


Meet Our Featured Guest Columnist:
Dr. Jack Geiger

is a founding member of Physicians for Social Responsibility and established the first community health centers in the United States.

Q: How did you first get involved in health and human rights issues?

A: I've been involved in civil rights and human rights for 65 years, since I first started as a teenager in 1942. That was in college in Madison, Wisconsin, and I ended up working with Bayard Rustin and A. Philip Randolph on the first planned march on Washington, which not many people know about, the threat of which produced FDR's executive order banning discrimination in defense plants. A year later, I was one of the people who started, I think, the second chapter in the country of the Congress of Racial Equality with Jim Farmer and it has just gone on in one way or another since then.

Meet Our Featured Guest Columnist:
Dr. Juan Manuel Canales Ruiz

Dr. Juan Manuel Canales Ruiz is a physician, epidemiologist, and health and human rights advocate. For over twenty-five years he has worked with indigenous populations in conflict-affected regions in Mexico and Ecuador. He has founded community health and education programs and currently works at the Hospital San Carlos Altamirano in Chiapas, Mexico. Dr. Canales Ruiz is the 2006 recipient of the Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights.

Q: What does health and human rights mean to you?

A: Health has been a banner of the fight for social movements in the past and by the unionists, generally the organized population. Public health services should be of good quality and with human warmth, so that the patient has confidence and won't be mistreated by those who work in hospitals, health centers, and health clinics.
In the past century after two world wars where human rights of the civilians were violated, the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Men and Women had to be written, spelling out all human rights. Governments around the world are signatories of the Declaration, thus are obligated to comply, upholding all human rights, [including the right to health].