Issues in Contemporary International Health

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Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes was once asked, When should the training of a child commence? A hundred years before birth was the reply. Indeed it is this perspective on life through posterity that underlies the maturing field of international health, embracing as it does a respon- sibility for and an awareness of the needs of all peoples. The concepts of international health are increasingly revitalizing modern medicine as it attempts to relieve mankind of the burden of disease. Curative medicine, once the paradigm, took a relatively benefi- cient approach to treatment. But epidemiological recognition of the fre- quency of disease on a global basis-and an appreciation of the vast number of those afflicted-evoked a humiliating backlash of awareness that curative medicine alone neither constrains disease nor permanently advances human health, happiness, or longevity. The growing reliance on truly international health strategies by national and international agencies, including the more definite and extended practice of preven- tive medicine, has provided the means to achieve significant gains in the quality of health in years to come. A redeeming feature of contemporary failures in science and medi- cine is that-once intelligently studied, analyzed, and evaluated-even these failed efforts may provide real insights that can mold our capacity and determination. So it is that, more than in any bygone age, the past ten years have seen the implementation of a sound and systematic in- frastructure for international health undertakings, thus paving the way for improved health for all.