How politics, economics intersect with global health interventions

How politics, economics intersect with global health interventions

Dr. Nora Kenworthy first became interested in public health while working as an EMT rural Massachusetts in college. As an EMT, she observed the vast social inequalities of the region. Many of the people that she interacted with were not being supported by the social systems that had been put in place for them. Observing these social and health disparities led her to peruse a career in global health.

Mistreated book coverKenworthy, now an assistant professor at the UW Bothell School of Nursing & Health Studies, recently published a book, Mistreated: The Political Consequences of the fight against AIDS in Lesotho. It examines how politics and economics intersect with global health interventions and the resulting consequences.

The book focuses on the HIV crisis in Lesotho, a country where the HIV prevalence rate is greater than 40 percent. She spotlights several heavily impacted HIV+ communities, including garment workers in one of Lesotho’s largest export industries.

“The very rapid ‘scale-up’ of HIV treatment in Lesotho had these striking social and political consequences – people lost faith in the government, they lost trust in each other, they felt that all these other social and health needs were being ignored,” she said, adding that the loss of faith in the government has led to political instability in Lesotho.

Global health interventions would have a more profound effect on citizens and their government if social, political, and economic consequences were discussed and taken into consideration, Kenworthy said.

“I hope that this book will push us to think about global health interventions not just in terms of their clinical or health impacts, but in terms of their social and political impacts,” she said. “We need to ask ourselves, ‘how can we not only treat and cure diseases, but also address and alleviate social and political ills?’”

Kenworthy teaches several courses at UW, including the social dimensions of health (BHS 302), critical perspectives on global health (BHLTH 423), and narratives of health and illness (BHLTH 497 E). She is currently developing a global health minor with other UW Bothell faculty that they hope to begin offering next year.