On Dec. 18, The New York Times reported the passing of Halfdan Mahler, who led the World Health Organization from 1973 to 1988.
He and other colleagues from around the world provided leadership at an International Conference on Primary Health Care in 1978 in Alma-Ata, U.S.S.R. (now Almaty, Kazakhstan) that codified the declaration that “health, which is a state of complete physical, mental and social well being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, is a fundamental human right and that the attainment of the highest possible level of health is a most important worldwide social goal whose realization requires the action of many other social and economic sectors in addition to the health sector.”
This idea may seem to many to be a given, but it was not in the first three-quarters of the 20th century, and we continue to struggle to reach that goal today.
Perhaps with the passing of Mahler and other leaders at Alma-Ata, we should reexamine the thinking around the Alma-Ata Declaration and look at the progress we have and have not made.
We truly stand on the shoulders of these giants in global health and could benefit yet again from their thinking.
Linda Vogel Smith
Office of International
and Refugee Health,
U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services
Diversity of ideas
Do-gooders try to tell us every day how we should live our lives — everything from how we interact with our families to what we can or cannot say.
Many call this a cookie-cutter-society mentality that would dictate we would all be the same. Quite frankly, this has been tried before with complete societal failure.
Societies fail because governments try to control interactions of their citizens to the point of strangling civil liberties, freedom of expression and innovation. This turns society into a cauldron of people afraid of each other, and afraid to express themselves.
We see this every day. When was the last time you invited the neighbors over for dinner? Or said hello to a complete stranger while you were walking on a city sidewalk full of people? Chances are, if you did, you got a reaction like, “What does that person want?”
Fear of each other is the divisive nature of a cookie-cutter society, where people are afraid to do or say anything because of fear of reprisal from government or each other.
This is why many people leave the nations where they were born to seek freedom from oppression. Sound familiar?
A new KCI
I agree with Steve Rose concerning a new Kansas City International Airport (Dec. 18, 29A, “Kansas City Council must avoid a public vote on KCI upgrade”). For this area to meet the air travel needs of the 21st century, a new single-terminal airport is needed.
Is any organization taking a proactive stance on this that I could support? KCI isn’t as convenient as some think. It’s dark and depressing. So you can walk to the baggage carousel in three minutes, then wait forever for your luggage. You aren’t usually dropped off right in front of your gate, but have to walk left or right to find it.
Having traveled to seven continents and all over the U.S., I have been in many airports. Most are light and spacious with shops and eating facilities centrally located. Computer stations and charging facilities abound. Gates are on both sides instead of one side of a curved building where you have to keep walking to find bathrooms, coffee or magazines.
I like the plans for a totally new airport. We should avoid a public vote because a small minority of voters would decide for the majority.
The airlines say they need it and are willing to pay for it. Let’s do it.
Kids not for all
It is tragic that so many children lack good homes. I do think, though, that comparing adopting animals to children is comparing apples to oranges(Dec. 21, 12A, Letters).
Not everyone is motherish or fatherish, nor would they make a child’s life better.
Please don’t admonish caring people for loving and tending to homeless animals. Are we all to ignore homeless animals and adopt a child instead? I think not.
A letter writer Dec. 27 referred to “foreign nationals” with the statement, “The American taxpayer should not be expected to foot the bill for people who have no moral or legal right to be here.”
I would be interested in knowing exactly what bill and what moral right.
Also, he states we need to be selective in granting citizenship based on “our religious, moral and constitutional values.” Whose religious values — his? Be specific: Christian, Muslim, Jewish, agnostic, atheist? Moral values such as being honest, caring, compassionate? Or is he talking about LBGT issues?
Fortunately, we are all citizens of the world, sir.