DÄ internationalArchive43/2007Global theme issue on poverty and human development: Poverty and Health

Page-One Editorial

Global theme issue on poverty and human development: Poverty and Health

Dtsch Arztebl 2007; 104(43): A-2905

Baethge, C

This issue is devoted to the subject of poverty. It is a Theme Issue on a single topic, the relationship between social conditions and health. The acute onset of many types of illness and the prompt effectiveness of many forms of treatment tend to obscure the fact that disease is often the final result of a long history of social problems. The more we step back, the more obvious the interaction between living conditions and disease becomes. This is particularly true for children: thus, Thomas Lampert and Bärbel-Maria Kurth, in their article, describe the close association of low social status with obesity and mental abnormalities, as revealed by data from the German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Children and Adolescents (p. A 2944). By publishing this Theme Issue, we are participating in a joint project with a large number of international medical journals that will all be reporting on poverty and health in their current issues. The project, called the "Global Theme Issue on Poverty and Human Development," is the third so far in a series of Theme Issue projects on worldwide problems sponsored by the Council of Science Editors (an international organization of editors of scientific journals). In 1996, more than 200 articles in 36 specialized journals drew attention to the global threat of infectious diseases; a year later, in 1997, almost 100 journals addressed the subject of aging. This week, more than 230 journals will be participating in the Global Theme Issue project, ranging from JAMA and Nature to the Ghana Medical Journal and the Icelandic Journal of Nursing. Deutsches Ärzteblatt is taking part for the first time, and is the only German-language journal to do so (see http://www.councilscienceeditors.org/globalthemeissue.cfm). Sunna Gieseke (p. A2930) describes how St. Boniface's Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in Munich, has devoted itself to the care of the homeless. Meanwhile, a private, non-profit organization called "Armut und Gesundheit in Deutschland e.V." („Poverty and Health in Germany“) does its best to support the inhabitants of the "Zwerchallee" homeless settlement in Mainz on an even more comprehensive scale, as reported by Heike Korzilius (p. A 2918): health education, nutritional and vaccination counselling, sports, relaxation exercises for violence prevention – all of these programs are intended to help the homeless help themselves. It is an established fact that unemployment and illness appear together more often than they would be expected to by chance alone, but does unemployment cause illness or vice versa? This question is addressed by Andreas Weber and his coauthors in their review article (p. A2957). Another team of authors led by Walther Heipertz, head physician of the German Federal Labor Agency, explains how cooperation between physicians and insurance assessors can improve the situation of the unemployed (p. A 2957). Viviane Brunne of the German Research Network on HIV/AIDS shows all the ways this disease harms not just the immune systems of its victims, but also the national economies (p. A2932). Infant mortality in Germany is currently about 4 per 1000 births, a low level compared to many other countries' figures. Nonetheless, as Oliver Razum and Jürgen Breckenkamp point out (p. A2950), a social gradient exists within Germany: in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, for example, mortality among the newborn infants of foreign parents is more than twice that of German neonates. The situation is much more dramatic in many poor countries, and the authors, making an international comparison, describe the factors leading to high infant mortality. Poverty and Health: a regional topic and a global one, a challenge for society and for each and every physician. I hope very much that the articles in this Theme Issue meet with your interest. Dtsch Arztebl 2007; 104(43): A 2905