The global response to bioterrorism and AIDS is increasing health system capacity in a way also useful if avian flu strikes, according to experts attending an interdisciplinary conference on Asian flus.
The bad news, however, is that vast disparities in health care systems still persist and, despite the expanding capacity in recent years, bird flu could still have a devastating impact.
“I think of what happens if avian flu comes to Lesotho. The mortality and morbidity would just be devastating,” said Jim Kim, who heads Harvard Medical School’s Department of Social Medicine and serves as the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Professor of Health and Human Rights in the Harvard School of Public Health.
Kim used Lesotho as an example of a nation hard-hit by AIDS where the response to the disease includes building health system capacity in a rural area.
Worldwide, Kim said, there’s been an enormous investment in recent years in fighting AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.
Kim was just one speaker at the “Asian Flus and Avian Influenza Workshop,” held at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Cambridge Dec. 8-10.