Scientific Progress & Solutions

I found the episode “Delivering the Goods” from the PBS series to be the most interesting video because of the context it provided for me within global public health initiatives in developing parts of the world.  As I watched the episode, I found myself recalling the interconnections between scientific progress and innovation and the implementation process of ensuring that all people have access to the health care they need.  It reminded me of an episode of “The West Wing,” political drama show from around a decade ago that followed senior White House staff members through the trials of politics and policymaking.  In this particular episode, staff was in negotiations with HIV drug companies about lowering prices for an AIDs ravaged nation.  A barrier to implementation was brought up within those negotiations — the complicated timing process associated with the administering of the treatment would be difficult to follow because there were few watches and clocks in this imagined nation.  While I personally didn’t believe this to be a valid argument for the targeted price increase for areas of the world that most need help to battle HIV/AIDs, I was surprised by the barriers I would’ve never imagined because of the privileges I have.  Similarly, before I viewed this episode, I didn’t realize how much more effective a motorcycle ambulance could be in certain environments compared to an entire ambulance vehicle because of the limited repairs required.

I particularly liked the episode because there are so many people with ideas and ways in which they’d like to positively impact developing nations, yet it often seems that their plans fall through, don’t account for something critical, or create stopgap solutions.   Based on this episode though, it seemed that Riders for Health had a detailed and structured plan for helping people use the motorcycle ambulances effectively.  My immediate reaction to the idea of motorcycle ambulances was “that’s a great idea!” with no thought to the upkeep and the complexity involved with ensuring that the motorcycles could be kept functional.  I appreciated the level of planning and training invested in by the couple who founded Riders for Health — what should riders do if the motorcycle breaks down? How should pick ups and call ins be monitored and regulated?  Because I’m interested in domestic and international public policy, I appreciated the perspective provided by the episode — it reminded me of the reasons why scientific progress must always be considered within a social and ethical context.  I think the content of the episode is especially relevant as we as a country work to reform and preserve our healthcare system, regulate drug companies, invest in renewable technologies, and wrestle with the way privacy and ethical questions involve themselves in technological innovation.

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