Universal Health Care Series: The National Security Argument
Filed under: public health, social change, Social Marketing | Tags: detection, disease, drug resistance, epidemics, health care, health care policy, infectious disease, national security, policy, prevention, public health, public health surveillance, surveillance, tuberculosis |
Fences and security checkpoints versus pathogens. David versus Goliath. While it seems that one side has the brute strength and power to counter the other, we all know how the second conflict ends.
The flu epidemic of 1918 killed one-fifth of the world’s population in about two years, resulting in more deaths from the epidemic than World War I. Our interconnected society makes epidemics more likely to occur with the ease of mobility within countries and in between them.
A recent epidemic scare happened in 2007 when Andrew Speaker, after receiving a diagnosis of drug-resistant tuberculosis, proceeded to travel overseas and back on commercial flights for his wedding and honeymoon. Speaker was already out of the country when before authorities realized that he was infected with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, which is the most difficult strain to treat.
Fortunately, no one was infected; also fortunately, Speaker was diagnosed and authorities were informed that he was infected. Imagine what could have happened if Speaker could not have seen a doctor.
Imagine a situation where a patient has a bacterial infection but never goes to see a doctor because they can not afford the visit. The patient would continue to pass through the general population, infecting others. Public health officials would have greater difficulty finding the source of the infection because there would be so many more cases.
Imagine a situation where a patient actually sees a doctor, but in a crowded emergency room. The doctor, overwhelmed with cases, quickly diagnoses the bacterial infection and prescribes penicillin. The patient takes the medication, but the bacteria becomes resistant to penicillin. His condition worsens and he can spread a drug-resistant strain to others.
Imagine a situation caused that as a byproduct of his socioeconomic status, the patient lives in conditions that are ripe for the spread of infections: close quarters and poor ventilation. Poverty also compromises the strength of one’s immune system, leaving the body open to infections and once infected, the body can not fight infections well.
1) Universal health care provides a greater likelihood of early detection to curb infections before they grow too quickly. Early detection is a key advantage in controlling epidemics and preventing deaths. Earlier detection also helps to reduce the likelihood that drug-resistant strains develop in the general population.
2) Increasing access to health care allows health care professionals to identify patients at risk and intervene to offer ways to reduce the risk of infection.
3) Universal health care enables consistent access to proper treatment. Treating infections with the wrong medication or with an insufficient dosage can cause the pathogen to mutate, creating drug-resistant strains.
Preventing epidemics should be a priority of paramount concern if the government actually wants to ensure national security. Implementing universal health care is an important step in the right direction.