May 04

Health Care and the Trouble with Borders

05/04/2021 2:11PM | Quote of the Week | Public Health


Our Quote of the Week highlights a reality that has been laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic: that ensuring the health and well-being of people must involve a level of collaboration that is more powerful than any local policy and that transcends political borders.

Speaking at the 1997 World Health Organization Conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, Sargent Shriver spoke about the links between "physical health and economic survival". Making connections between violence, poverty, poor health, and financial instability, he stressed that all sectors of society must work together to tackle these challenges so that we may ensure that children grow up in healthy, safe, environments. He also emphasized the need for international cooperation to tackle these issues, which would allow for broader, more creative explorations and solutions. And in stressing this need, he pointed out that we are all interconnected -- a fact that no border or boundary can change.

The basic principle that we are all connected and that we must view that connection "dramatically, profoundly, and courageously" guided Sargent Shriver throughout his life. Whether he was working to expand the "citizen diplomacy" of the Peace Corps to more and more communities abroad, or creating War on Poverty programs that would strengthen individual communities inside the US, or bringing Special Olympics to countries as diverse as the former Soviet Union, China, Tunisia, New Zealand, and South Korea, Sargent Shriver's unwavering belief that we are all connected allowed him to solve problems, resolve conflicts, and build institutions in ways that would not have been possible otherwise.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, our leaders are tackling many of the same issues that Sargent Shriver spoke about in this speech. It is short-sighted to believe that we can protect those we perceive of as “our people” and close our eyes or even our borders to shut out the struggles of our neighbors, because those problems will not disappear. Indeed, because we are all connected, those problems will only grow larger, and they will come to affect all of us sooner or later. We must, therefore, have the courage to face everyone around us with the attitude that we are all connected, even in moments of difficulty. We must have this attitude, and we must support leaders who also adopt this approach.

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