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HEALTH MEANS WEALTH



Published: Tue, January 8, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



HEALTH MEANS WEALTH

Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune: Want to save lives? Millions of them? Easily done.

So say 18 of the world's wisest economists and health experts, authors of a new report from the World Health Organization. All it would take to save many of the world's poor, the group says, is to pay attention to the diseases that most often kill them.

Paying attention of course means paying money. But if the world's rich countries spent just an extra one-tenth of 1 percent of their wealth on health aid, the experts say, they could save 8 million lives a year.

This news comes from the Commission on Macroeconomics and Health, convened by WHO to find ways to narrow the gap between rich and poor nations. But instead of mulling just about wealth, the commission zeroed in on health.

AIDS: Their analysis illuminates an oft-neglected truth about Third World poverty: Many people are poor just because they're sick. They're so hobbled by malaria, tuberculosis, AIDS and other diseases that they can't lift a finger or earn a dime. They haven't the energy to make a life, let alone a living.

Their prospects would brighten immediately if only they could get well. But recovery isn't possible, because poor nations can't afford even basic health care. They lack the money to invest in vaccination, treatment and epidemic control. They'd need many billions of dollars to run such programs.

Why not just give them the billions? The proposition is less outlandish than it sounds -- and, over the long haul, less expensive. Much of the death in poor countries is caused by just a few health conditions that can easily be treated or averted. If those conditions were habitually addressed, people who now die would live.

In fact, they'd do more than just live. They'd prosper, and their countries would prosper along with them.

That, more or less, is what the WHO commission concludes -- though it backs up the claim with numbers. According to the report, doubling annual spending on health in poor countries would generate a sixfold payoff in economic gains by 2020. The commission recommends that the increased investment be shared by all nations, but asks most of the richest: The United States, it says, should hike its spending on global health tenfold -- to $10 billion a year.

Pennies from U.S.: Given America's habitual antipathy to foreign aid, that number will likely stick in the congressional craw. But it shouldn't. The United States remains the stingiest well-off nation on the planet -- ranking dead last among aid-givers. Americans could certainly stand to give the world's poorest and sickest an extra penny from every $10 they earn.

IMMIGRATION POLICY DEMANDS REFORM

Dallas Morning News: Something smells suspicious at the nation's largest meat processor. A federal grand jury recently handed down a 36-count indictment against Tyson Foods Inc. and six current or former executives for smuggling illegal immigrants from Mexico to work at U.S. poultry plants.

That gave a headline to an indisputable fact: To the degree that our country has a "problem" with illegal immigration, it must be said that a major reason for that is too many U.S. employers eagerly reward them with jobs once they get here.

That is the view of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which recently shifted its emphasis from traditional work-site raids to a crackdown on employers who break immigration laws to bolster the bottom line. The indictment against Tyson, the largest of its kind and the result of an exhaustive 21/2-year INS investigation, is the fruit.

Fraudulent work permits: The $20 billion company, which supplies a quarter of the nation's beef, pork and chicken, is accused of paying an intermediary to scoop up illegal immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, transport them to 15 Tyson plants in nine states, and give them fraudulent work permits and Social Security cards to circumvent federal employment laws.

Tyson representatives say the company is not at fault and blame a handful of managers acting on their own. The managers may tell a different story when the case is heard Jan. 24.

It is understandable why immigrant workers are in demand. They work hard for low wages and rarely complain or unionize especially if undocumented. For employers who put profit first, the temptation to exploit that combination can be irresistible. But acting on it is criminal, and must not be tolerated.

Congress can send that message when it reconvenes later this month. As part of its post-Sept. 11 offensive to revise immigration laws, it should revisit the issue of how we can best enforce our immigration laws. Already on the table are competing proposals that would either restructure the INS or replace it altogether. Congress should sustain this new emphasis on workers' rights if not within the INS, then in another federal agency.




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