Making a Difference with Individual Patients-Health Equity, Power, and Dignity

By Nathan Douthit

   At another session of CUGH’s Annual Meeting, Richard Horton, Editor in Chief of the Lancet, debated Cheryl Heaton, director of New York University’s Global Institute of Public Health, on the subject: Equity is the defining objective of global health in the 21st century. Heaton argued in favour of the motion, saying that our past neglect has created high reservoirs of need around the world. She made the point that equity creates hope and optimism in vulnerable populations, which turn motivate their ability to bring about change.

   While Horton agreed that equity is a valuable and admirable goal, he argued that global health, as it is currently framed, makes this impossible to achieve. He argued that global health “is not about equity; it is about power”, with power held by the privileged. He continued “before there can be equity, individuals must have liberty and power over their lives.” Further, liberty requires that all humans be recognized for their dignity. Dignity affirms that every individual is an end unto themselves; not a means to our ends. “Without dignity, there can be no equity.” Horton concluded that our obligation is to challenge authorities that deny liberty. We must discharge this obligation if we are to see the dignity of individual patients recognized.

   BMJ Case Reports is committed to recognizing the dignity and worth of individual patients. Our case reports focus on patients at the center of clinical medicine and global health. While our clinical case reports highlight the challenges of dealing with disease, our global health case reports shed light on the determinants of health and disease: the environments in which patients live and work; education and financial well-being; access to healthcare; local and national politics; instability and conflict; the practice of corporations and industry; and, ethnic and cultural histories. Our authors argue for better living conditions and improvements in health at the level of the individual – working towards global health one patient at a time. Each patient is an end unto themselves. We encourage our authors to work with their patients in writing each global health case report and want to be not merely a repository of global health problems and solutions but a repository of patient voices from across the world.

   BMJ Case Reports invites authors to submit global health case reports that give voice to individual patients and uphold their dignity. These reports should examine the determinants of health:

  • The effects of culture and environment
  • Education and literacy
  • How occupation may exacerbate or cause disease
  • The effects of conflict, disaster, migration and poverty
  • Access to healthcare
  • The interventions and innovations put into place in global health to treat individual patients.
  • The disproportional effect of social determinants of health on vulnerable communities

   Manuscripts may be submitted by students, physicians, nurses and allied health professionals to BMJ Case Reports via the submission system. For more information, review our guidance on how to write a global health case report and look through our online collection.

Competing Interests

None Declared