In a feature for Now@NEJM, we ask the authors of the new Global Health review article series — all with different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives — the same set of questions.
Answers from Arthur Kleinman, M.D., of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School.
Dr. Kleinman is a co-author of the July 4 article, “Mental Health and the Global Agenda.”
What do you regard as the most significant triumph in global health within the past decade?
The most important development in global health within the past decade in my reckoning is the emphasis that is now put on implementation. I see this as a major contribution of people like Jim Kim, now President of the World Bank, and Paul Farmer, among others.
In the coming decade, which arena of global health do you feel warrants increased attention and awareness?
In the coming decade, I believe that global mental health is the field that warrants increased attention and awareness, and within this field, dementia among the elderly is going to be especially significant.
How can we best harness the revolution in IT to improve health outcomes in the developing world?
The IT revolution will help with certain improvements in health outcomes in poor countries by connecting medical academics and clinicians in the North and South and thereby improving standards and their application to actual cases. However, I don’t see the IT revolution helping with caregiving, which I believe will become a major concern worldwide as evidence accumulates that caregiving is worsening in our era owing to inadequate financial and intellectual support and the transformation of cultural values in our time. This will show the limits of IT as well as the crucially indispensable role of hands-on caring.
What are other ways for physicians to contribute to global health?
There is a movement today among undergraduates, graduate students, and medical and public health students to be engaged with global health. Many participants cannot devote full-time to global health involvements outside the United States, but increasingly they will find ways of contributing via short term travel, collaboration with practitioners and researchers in the developing world, policy and advocacy activities, and in other ways.