Panelists discuss solutions to global healthcare crisis
Published: Friday, November 16, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 16:11
SMU students, faculty and members of the general public joined three leading frontline healthcare workers for a human rights lecture highlighting global healthcare Wednesday, Nov. 14 in McCord Auditorium.
Tawanda Gumbo, a medical doctor, professor Joci Caldwell-Ryan and Save the Children representative Mary Beth Powers teamed up with the Embrey Human Rights Program, Save the Children and the World Affairs Council of Dallas-Fort Worth to discuss important issues regarding how to possibly go about changing the global healthcare crisis.
Around 8 million children die each year all over the world from preventable and curable illnesses — a statistic many might be shocked to hear. However, this figure is not new to SMU senior Samantha Matthews, who is majoring in human rights.
“There are a lot of [global] needs that people aren’t always aware of,” Matthews said.
Gumbo agrees. Gumbo, who received his medical degree from the University of Zimbabwe Medical School, said what kills children most often on a global scale are nutritional problems, pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria — all curable diseases, and ones that are manageable in a first-world country like the U.S.
Gumbo, however, stressed another crucial factor in children’s health.
“What is the most crucial thing for having children survive until the age of five is presence of the mother,” Gumbo said.
With AIDS, a disease transmissible from mother to child, now being a widespread health issue, maternal care is becoming an even more important issue.
“Maternal death and child death are linked,” Caldwell-Ryan said.
Caldwell-Ryan, who teaches women and gender studies at SMU, spent some time studying in Benin, Africa where she was able to see firsthand some of the healthcare problems faced by the global community.
She explained that the Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of six countries that account for one half of all maternal death. The statistic is very much the same for child death.
“We’re going to have to think of human rights when we think of child and maternal death,” Caldwell-Ryan said.
SMU graduate human rights student Yvonne Glass, who attended the lecture, agreed that something must be done to consider healthcare as human rights issue.
“When people think of human rights, they think of gay marriage, not health care,” Glass said.
Glass, along with Matthews, traveled to Rwanda through the SMU Embrey Human Rights Program this summer.
They both stayed after the program to visit an Rwandan orphanage called the Urukundo Home for Children where they were able to see some of the healthcare struggles that children face.
“When we were there, a few of the kids had health issues that the orphanage didn’t have money to deal with,” Matthews said.
Powers spoke about taking action. Powers, the Newborn and Child Survival Campaign chief for Save the Children, began by putting things into perspective.
“We don’t have to discover a whole lot of things to save children’s lives, we just have to get the care to them,” Powers said.
Save the Children is one of the world’s biggest independent humanitarian organizations, and has worked to reduce the child mortality rate by 40 percent. Immunization is one of the reasons why the organization has had such great success.
While the situation may not improve overnight, Powers said that more people are starting to look seriously at taking action on healthcare as a human right.
“It’s a domino effect,” Powers said.