Intended for healthcare professionals


Global health research

BMJ 2001; 322 doi: (Published 20 January 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:172

Global health research issue was not provocative enough

  1. Robin Stott (, consultant physician
  1. University Hospital Lewisham, London SE13 6LH
  2. University of Zimbabwe, PO Box A178, Avondale, Harare, Zimbabwe
  3. Institute of Epidemiology and Social Medicine, University of Münster, 48129 Münster, Germany

    EDITOR—The special issue on global health research1 certainly provoked me by failing to be provocative enough and by skirting round the fundamental issues. There is throughout the issue an assumption that research, when targeted and organised effectively, will play an important part in improving international health and health care, particularly of poor people. But how will strengthening the governance for global health research improve the unequal education provision, income distribution, and access to decision making, jobs, and food, not to mention environmental mayhem, which underlie poor health as well as poor health care? There is already overwhelming evidence on the antecedents to good health, and these need to be in place before good health care can be achieved.

    Is the well intentioned call for more and better health research not merely a smoke screen behind which health professionals can hide from these uncomfortable truths? The closest that the BMJ got to airing these issues was in the article by Bhutta,2 an article whose penetrating analysis was tamed by the conclusion that health research might provide a solution to the problems described.

    Are we all frightened of entering the political debate of the millennium—the debate on how to redress the balance between those who have and those who have not, a debate that goes under the umbrella of globalisation? Do we have to leave it to protesters at Seattle and Prague? Have we all forgotten the powerful …

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