Coughing Dragon, Sneezing Elephant: China, India, and Global Health Governance

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The recent H7N9 flu scare in China has shown once again that we live in “an epidemiologically interdependent world.” If so, the future of global health will depend mightily on the evolving policy choices and growing material capabilities of the world’s emerging powers. My insightful colleague Yanzhong Huang explores the implications of these trends in a fascinating new CFR paper, “Enter the Dragon and the Elephant: China and India’s Participation in Global Health Governance”.

That public health decisions made in Beijing (or New Delhi) may have consequences for us all should be commonplace by now, a decade after the outbreak of SARS and in the throes of the latest (bird) flu scare. While the H7N9 virus has not yet proven capable of human-to-human transmission, a mutation could easily occur to permit this—with disastrous implications, given the disease’s apparently high mortality rate. The result could be a global influenza pandemic, with potentially catastrophic economic, as well as human, costs. Epidemiologists estimate that humanity suffers one such pandemic on average each century—the last being the so-called “Spanish influenza” of 1918–1919 , which infected approximately a third of humanity and killed between 20 and 100 million people worldwide. We are, alas, due for another.

Source: Council on Foreign Relations (link opens in a new window)

Health Care
public health