Claudio Schuftan, an advocate for the right to health based in Vietnam, sounded a pessimistic note yesterday in a discussion on research into the social determinants of health.
As participants discussed the best ways to ensure that research into poor living conditions and gender inequality is treated as a rigorous science, Schuftan asked us whether we “were living in a dream world”. His point was that the scientific community talks of the need for more evidence – but what about the political will?
This is an obvious point but one worth making again amidst calls for more evidence-based policies. First, we have a lot of evidence already for what works and what doesn’t. Second, all the evidence in the world will not convince a policymaker who does not see the political will to alter health-care policies.
This was the point that Carlos Morel, director of the Center for Technological Development in Health at FIOCRUZ in Brazil, made when I spoke to him about translating innovation from Cuba to the rest of the world.
Morel said that there would be little point in Cuba transferring knowledge to countries that don’t have the capacity to use that information. Cuba’s political dictatorship – in essence, its unswerving political will – is what ensured that it first developed a robust health system on which to build more advanced scientific institutions, he said.
Africa needs to find a way now to imbue its own democracies with that strong political will for healthcare reform.