Global Health

Sep 24, 2012, 5:09 PM EDT

On Sunday morning at the Blouin Summit, Dr. Barry Bloom from Harvard University moderated the discussion Global Health – Research, Budgets, Challenges with the following participants:
Dr. Todd Evans, Professor and Vice Chair for Research, Department of Surgery, Weill Cornell Medical College; Dr. Ihor Lemischka, Professor, Developmental and Regenerative Biology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine; Robert Orr, Assistant Under-Secretary General, Policy Coordination and Strategic Planning, United Nations; Dr. Yemi Adesokan,  Founder and CEO, Pathogenica Inc.; Dr. Larry Young, Director, Center for Translational Social Neuroscience, Emory University; and Dr. Shelia Ryan – Chairman, American International Health Alliance.

Dr. Ryan talked about the importance of health care access and capacity building, from South Dakota to South Africa. Later, in response to a question from an audience member, she said that telemedicine, or health professionals diagnosing and treating disease at a distance, often via wireless technology, can be key in this. She spoke about how gender inequality is at the heart of the AIDS epidemic in South Africa: Many husbands cheat, yet forbid infected wives to be tested. She said that comorbidities, such as depression and asthma, are prevalent. Food, exercise, stress reduction and interpersonal communication are relevant to preventing, education, referral patterns and fighting disease.  
According to Robert Orr,  scientists and the UN have some solutions but they do not apply them. He talked about the “needless” and “inexpensive” deaths due to health problems that are “easy to solve”, and about how the UN is talking to developing countries about noncommunicable diseases. The leaders of those countries often think those are diseases that affect only people of the West.
Dr. Bloom inquired about genetic therapy. Dr. Evans said that the potential is there; it needs to be developed and applied. We, unlike fish and amphibians, cannot regrow our parts easily. Dr. Lemischka said that genetically-induced pluripotent stem cellsfrom blook can regenerate daily. This tissue can be used to regenerate same or around 200 different cells. Everyone agreed that more funds are needed for research. Dr. Bloom opened up a discussion on the amount of money for drug development that goes into large clinical trials that often fail. Dr. Adesokan said that personalized medicine would require smaller, more targeted clinical trials that would require less funding.  He also pointed out the importance of preventing hospital infection. Funds, detecting drug resistance and innovation are needed. Genetic technology can be of great use here as well.