Friday, October 30, 2009

Too much money for "glamorous" diseases?

I hope that Mickey Chopra, chief of health at Unicef, is being misquoted in the following lead of a story in the International Herald Tribune today:

JOHANNESBURG — Diarrhea kills 1.5 million young children a year in developing countries — more than AIDS, malaria and measles combined — but only 4 in 10 of those who need the oral rehydration solution that can prevent death for pennies get it.

“All the attention has gone to more glamorous diseases, but this basic thing has been left behind,” said Mickey Chopra, chief of health at Unicef, which is trying to put diarrhea back on the global health agenda. “It’s a forgotten disease.”

The online version of the story, from which I have clipped these grafs, has the following headline: " As Donors Focus on AIDS, Child Illnesses Languish." The headline in the Paris printed edition is just as bad: "With focus on AIDS, deadlier ills are forgotten." The reporter is Celia W. Dugger.

I say that I hope Chopra is misquoted because no health expert in their right mind would call diseases like AIDS and malaria "glamorous," certainly not for the adults and children who die of them or are left orphaned when their parents die (malaria is most certainly a major killer of children.)

But even worse, this attitude reflects the mind-numbing stupidity and cowardice of those who would play one disease off against another, when the truth is that governments around the world--particularly the richest, that of the United States--are spending way too little money on diseases of all kinds and way too much money on wars, armaments, and other harmful and wasteful expenditures. But no, let's blame the victims of their disease because the victims of our disease aren't getting enough help and support. Not only is this idiotic, but it is self-defeating: The people who hold the purse strings like nothing better than when we fight over the crumbs they throw our way.

Photo: A Nigerian AIDS patient.

Innocence still no excuse in Texas. Please read this remarkable story in The Austin Chronicle about attempts to retry a former murder suspect against whom there is no credible evidence. They even want to bring in some dog-sniffing junk science to help them do it. I guess ambitious politicians in that state can't go wrong by executing the innocent. (thanks to PG for spotting this item.)

It's time to file obstruction of justice charges against Dick Cheney. The evidence is in.


Anonymous said...

I don't think Chopra was misquoted, not is he stupid, a coward, or an idiot. He doesn't blame the vicims of any disease either. In fact he makes an important point. It's true that the big three (AIDS, malaria, and TB) get much more money than other diseases in relation to the suffering they cause.

This was
clearly demonstrated by a big study, published in PLOS, of how research money for neglected diseases is spent: see It showed that diarrhea, pneumonia and meningitis really do get pittance.
Also see this story about the paper--and especially make sure to check out the graph, which illustrates the huge disparities (susb. req.):

Chopra's not arguing that everybody should withdraw their money from HIV, just that the problem doesn't end there.

As to 'glamorous', that's probably an unfortunate word to describe any disease, but I think he just meant to say that these diseases get all the attention from western politicians and rockstars.

jqb said...

"I say that I hope Chopra is misquoted because no health expert in their right mind would call diseases like AIDS and malaria "glamorous,""

Eh? Chopra doesn't mention AIDS or malaria in the quote -- those words belong to the HT. I for one have no idea what diseases Chopra had in mind when he said "more glamorous diseases".

jqb said...

Also, I concur with Anonymous. You've attributed to Chopra an attitude that there's no evidence that he has. He blamed no victims, and he doesn't control the U.S. government's purse strings. "glamorous" means "creating or arousing excitement", and and his words are about common attitudes about diarrhea -- that it's something you get at a bad Mexican restaurant, rather than something that kills huge numbers of children due to lack of clean water supplies. Your greater point about the allocation of society's resources is valid, but it's aimed at the wrong target -- neither Mickey Chopra nor UNICEF are the bad guys, nor are they stupid, cowards, or victim-blamers -- if anything, they are the victims of undue blame here.

jqb said...

Apparently the HT article reflects the UNICEF/WHO report on diarrhea, released Oct 14, that notes on page 1 that diarrhea kills more children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined:

This does not appear to be a call for less spending on those other diseases. In fact, causal connections are made from HIV and measles to diarrhea.

john said...

One of the most common misconceptions of patients is that they can stop treatment of many chronic health conditions because on medication they are doing so well. Of the common medical problems we see in the office many are relatively easy to successfully manage with medications, but the medications do not cure the problem.

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