Bad medicine

A note from the editor

Dinyar Godrej

Puberty is a strange affair. I spent a large part of mine at the foot of our record player transfixed by a voice.

While working on this edition about healthcare and health inequality and how they are bound up with economic inequality, a verse from a song from that time, ‘All My Trials’, has been on repeat in my head. In Joan Baez’s doleful, piercing soprano, it goes: ‘If living were a thing that money could buy/ Then the rich would live and the poor would die...’

Such well-worn truths when put so simply appear little more than clichés. But inspect the complexities of the debates around the divided health of our divided world, and beneath all the intricacy there’s that bedrock of inequity that still needs breaking up.

My attention has been drawn many times by my British colleagues to what has been happening to the National Health Service (NHS) in their country. A service conceived in the spirit of providing reliable, free-at-the-point-of-delivery care to all is now suffering fragmentation and marketization. There’s even a new political party, the National Health Action party (, with the impetus coming from healthcare professionals, launching this month to campaign for restoring the original principles of the NHS.

Speaking of party politics, in news that will be old hat by the time you read this, Hugo Chávez has been re-elected president in Venezuela (something that was accurately predicted on our website by Jody McIntyre, guest editor of last month’s edition). The country’s all-out effort to bring healthcare to marginalized communities, with members of those communities being trained up as medics, will continue. Here you will find an article about the country that pioneered this vision of care – Cuba.

In the name of equal opportunities coverage, our Worldbeater this month is about those heroes of the one per cent, the Koch brothers.
And the suspense is killing us about what kind of showing the Booker-shortlisted author Jeet Thayil, who talks robustly about the work of writing in our interview, will make. That decision will happen, annoyingly for us, just as this edition goes to the printers.

Dinyar Godrej for the New Internationalist co-operative.

The big story

Resting for a bit, after treatment by doctors at the Daawad hospital in Eyl, Somalia, before beginning the return journey home.

Resting for a bit, after treatment by doctors at the Daawad hospital in Eyl, Somalia, before beginning the return journey home.

Frederic Courbet/Panos Pictures

Bad medicine

Inequality squeezes both how healthy we are and the healthcare we get. Time to get past it, believes Dinyar Godrej.

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Leela is in her sixties and works seven nights a week.

She has been employed to look after Preeti, a woman in her eighties with dementia. Leela keeps her safe through the night. Her duties involve preparing her charge for bed, then hours of fitful half-sleep, when she springs from her mattress on the floor if Preeti wakes (she often does), the morning lavatory run, including the hand-washing of any soiled clothing and sheets, the daily bath. At nine in the morning, her shift ends.



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Indian novelist Jeet Thayil.

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