Paul Seifert

Extreme Health

By Paul Seifert

We now know who will be the next president of the United States.

This election year highlighted the extremes of political ideology and led to acrimonious debate. Each campaign tried to paint its opponent as inhabiting the far end of the political spectrum.

The politicians might learn a lesson from public health. To solve public health problems, we have to recognize the extremes but also work in the middle. There are several ways to attack malaria, for example. Some advocate altering the genetic code of the mosquito so it cannot transmit malaria. Others say expanding the use of bednets is the answer. It's not an either/or situation—both methods should be pursued energetically. Consider our cover story on gun violence in America. Some would like to ban guns altogether. Others would love anybody to tote around a firearm at any time. The reality is that neither of these positions will be realized anytime soon. The Center for Gun Policy and Research has shown how you can work within the extremes and have a very positive impact. The Center has demonstrated how to keep guns out of the hands of criminals as well as how to prevent accidental gun deaths.

In my mind, it doesn't matter which side of the aisle you sit on regarding individual issues if you stay focused on delivering the best solutions to problems. In our story on the Center for Public Health and Human Rights, we have seen how our researchers are helping Burmese health workers save the lives of ethnic minorities displaced by a brutal military regime that cares little for human rights.

This December, we will be celebrating the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of International Human Rights, which recognized the individual's fundamental right to health. We at the School celebrate this document and are committed to fully realizing its aspirations for the health of every human being.

As the new U.S. president will no doubt soon learn, there is not one clear or easy way to solve many of the problems that we face. As we move forward, I hope that we can secure the best possible health for all individuals and achieve other successes for the common good.

And that is only going to happen if all of us—even those on the extremes—work together.