Prayer is Good. Hygiene, Even Better

“The number of deaths resulted not only from gross inadequacies in available medical services but also from the failure of public health institutions to inform residents that cholera was likely to arrive and that patients must seek treatment immediately” (Briggs, 266)

I realize that most people, are enraged by such things as this quote – the high prevalence of preventable death – but this is the reason I am so interested in International Development. The human suffering of a single death is so vast, that to imagine the scope of world mortality is crippling. However, the knowledge that such a significant number of those deaths are preventable and unnecessary is unacceptable. Sometimes I stop and think how strange it is that I live and go to college in LA, that I live within running distance of the beach, that I have health insurance and easy access to internet, while so very many others have lives so drastically different, and more difficult than mine. I think of how lucky I am to simply be born into the privilege of the developed world where there is access to cutting edge technology, medicine, information, and services. Despite the fact that we are now in 2012, these are privileges not afforded to much of the world, and it’s infuriating!

My big thing as a development major is that the developing world should not be measured by the yardstick of the United States and other industrialized states. Success does not have to be mimicry of the developed, but it must be development toward the ability to sustain a country’s people in a way that families have enough food, access to health care, and are not victim to the spectrum of preventable diseases. There is such a thing as cultural relativism and the need to allow other societies to have the freedom to exist in their own way, I get that, but not at the expense of human life. Briggs calls hygiene the “quintessence of modernity,” which I believe to be true (2). Good hygiene is responsible for preventing many of the world’s preventable diseases, such as diarrheal disease. Without it, a society is crippled and less agile in adapting to the changes in the modernizing world. However, if a place is lacking hygiene, we should not see it as a process these countries must endure on the path of development. We must look at hygiene as an essential human need that we are responsible for providing if it cannot be provided by the people who need it. We need to have greater access to clean water and more education on healthy and hygienic practices, which is easier said than done, but should be of a highest priority.

One thought on “Prayer is Good. Hygiene, Even Better

  1. I also often think about how lucky we are to be going to school here in Southern California. Unfortunately, as students sometimes we get so caught up in our own lives and problems, that we lose perspective of what else is going on around the globe. We are so lucky to have access to simplicities such as education and health care, things that people around the world are dying without. With this great privilege also comes to responsibility to use your knowledge and voice to advocate for those whose voices are suppressed. When people use culture as an excuse for poor health, it is our responsibility to actually look at the root of the problem and to inform others of what lifestyle changes can be made to prevent and contain disease. Often, the solution is something as simple as proper hand hygiene. For us, washing our hands seems something obvious and is almost mechanic, but we must not forget our special privilege in having this knowledge, and should be adamant in spreading such information instead of withholding it on pretenses of cultural differences.

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