Today is
May 24, 25, 26 2007
Harvard University Humanities Center

Sponsoring Institutions:
Harvard University
Boston University
Northwestern University

Over the past two decades, debates shaping global health research, ethics, policy, and programs developed along two parallel tracks:

(1) a neo-liberal approach combining economics (liberalization of trade and financing; public-private partnerships; cost-effectiveness analysis), disease-specific and biotech programs (Global Burden of Disease, Global Fund, Gates Foundation Grand Challenges, IAVI), and security concerns (HIV/AIDS at the UN and the CIA) vs. (2) human rights, social justice, and equity frameworks combining a broader, more inclusive model of the determinants of health with an activist approach to global health governance.

Very recently, the two approaches appear to be converging around their focus on values to bolster arguments in favor of increased resource allocation for global health programs.

What has caused this recent migration from a rational, value-neutral, bio-tech approach to one which embraces global health as a global value?

Similarly, how are values in the current human rights, social justice, and equity literature different from the ethics debates of the 1990s?

Policy makers now freely admit that talk of values builds political support and consequently drives policy goals; yet these values are not necessarily clearly articulated, nor are they consistently applied or shared across diverse policy sectors.
Drawing on an interdisciplinary and international group of scholars and practitioners, this workshop will explore the emerging values discourse as it relates to global health priority-setting, policy, governance, practice, and research, focusing on case studies in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Global health values are under-theorized and lack concise definitions. For example: a social justice framework might claim equity, participation, and debt cancellation as core global health values; a disease-specific approach to global health might value objectivity in clinical research, accountability, and cost-effectiveness; a medical humanities discussion could focus on reciprocity, narrative, and reflexivity in building a bridge between global and local health; and participants in HIV/AIDS vaccine trials in resource-poor settings might value the presence of health research in their community for the resources it delivers, but find clinical trials strangely remote from local problems of more immediate concern.

How do we combine moral philosophy, applied (empirical) bioethics, economics, and public health? Local ethnographies, social histories and personal narratives animate local moral worlds for us.

How do we take those highly specific cultural contexts into account when we examine public health values and build theoretical frameworks for applying these values to improving the health of people in resource-poor settings?

How do we balance multiple, often conflicting, values to find consensus for setting the global health policy and research agenda? Where is the values debate going in global health and what can public health, the social sciences, and the humanities contribute to the discussion?