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Laurie Garrett, Senior Fellow for Global Health on the Council on Foreign Relations, discussed the health of the world at Tuesday’s BYU Forum. Garrett argued global health is in danger of declining because of nationalism. She said that nations must continue to work together in order to keep humankind healthy.

Garrett shared research showing how global health has improved dramatically in the last few hundred years. This is due, in large part, to nations’ globalization. With globalization came increased financial resources that were allocated to combat disease and other health issues. 

“[This] means that intervening with health works,” said Garrett.

Global health has also improved with the invention and distribution of vaccines. 

“Globally, we are close to reaching some of the most audacious targets for vaccinating children all over the world and bringing down child mortality,” Garrett said.

Garrett has traveled all over the globe, including to continents during disease outbreak like Africa during the Ebola crisis. She has seen the positive impact of vaccinations. 

“We can forecast saving another 23 to 24 million lives with continued mass vaccination just within the next few years,” Garrett said. 

Despite these incredible improvements, the globe is now in a health crisis because of a number of different reasons. Garrett said if these reasons are not addressed, the plight of our planet will worsen.

“We are now in a very challenging time politically,” Garrett said. She referred to President Trump and Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom. Much of the World Health Organization’s funding comes from these two nations, and the current leadership has shown signs of retracting or reducing funding, Garrett said.  

Garrett said the world is building up “financial and literal walls” that are leading to a weakening of globalization. This stems from a reluctance toward immigrants and refugees and a rise in populism, nationalism and isolationism.

Garrett encouraged nations to come together, stay global, have smart national and global governance and avoid hording medical resources. She said many of the recent global health issues (disease, lack of vaccinations, antibiotic resistant microbes, microplastic in the water and more) are “supranationalist issues,” meaning that these issues are bigger than just one nation and transcend boarders and therefore need to be addressed by nations working together. Nations need to work together to keep the globe and its occupants healthy.

“Instead of thinking ‘America first!’ think, ‘Planet first! World first!’” Garrett said.

Garrett pleaded with the students at BYU to fix the problem of nationalism in their generation.

“What we need now, and what I need your generation go come up with, is a kind of Globalization 2.0,” Garrett said.  

She said the world needs globalization that tackles these issues in an engaged global group to transform the planet into a positive direction. Garrett said we need innovation in government and organization, and to use ideas that come from the bottom up. Her greatest admonition for the students was to reject isolationism.

“If we can’t get there, I’m afraid we are going to face a very grim future for not just your grandchildren but for you.”

Next Devotional: Brian K. Ashton, Sunday School General Presidency

The next BYU Devotional will be December 5 at 11:05 a.m. in the Marriott Center. Brother Brian K. Ashton, second counselor in the Sunday School general presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will speak.