The Geopolitical Importance of the WHO

Public health is vital to maintaining a healthy economy.

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In 1958, the Soviet Union proposed a global effort to eradicate smallpox, a disease that kills roughly a third of those it infects, including 300 million in the 20th century alone. On Dec. 9, 1979, it was completely eradicated. This public health triumph – perhaps the greatest in the history of mankind – would not have been possible without the efforts of the U.N.’s World Health Organization, which coordinated the immunization campaign. The magnitude of this achievement – removing a microbe from existence – cannot be overstated. (click to enlarge) Past Glories As a general rule, for an infectious disease to be eradicable, there must be a way to treat or prevent it (e.g., with a vaccine) to stop it from spreading. It also helps if the disease has a limited host range and does not survive inside other animals or in the environment. Smallpox infects only humans, which made it an ideal target for eradication. Currently, at least five infectious diseases are on the cusp of eradication: polio, measles, mumps, rubella and dracunculiasis (Guinea worm). But science, technology and public health policies aren’t enough to do the trick. There must also be political will, which plays the vital role […]

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Alex Berezow
Alex Berezow joins Geopolitical Futures to analyze the impact of science, technology, and public health on geopolitics. Dr. Berezow is a prolific science writer who has written over 1,000 articles, many of which appeared in major news outlets. He is also a monthly columnist for the Puget Sound Business Journal and a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors. Currently, Dr. Berezow is also Vice President of Scientific Communications at the American Council on Science and Health, a consumer advocacy non-profit whose mission is to debunk “junk science,” promote evidence-based policy, and separate exaggerated health scares from legitimate health threats. He is also a Non-Resident Fellow at the Council on Strategic Risks. Previously, he was founding editor of RealClearScience (of the RealClearPolitics family of websites), and he served as assistant editor of RealClearWorld, where he specialized in European affairs. Dr. Berezow holds a PhD in microbiology from the University of Washington.