In a speech delivered last week by the Associate Dean of BYU's College of Life Sciences, Benjamin Crookston, Ph.D. shares some observations on some surprising yet significant health advancements made internationally over the past several decades. He also outlines five steps he feels anyone can take to help address health challenges both in Utah and abroad.
If the prognosticators and commentators commonly found espousing their truths on many mainstream media outlets are to believed, health conditions globally are worse than they have ever been.
In reality, such commentary and prognostications are false.
In fact, during his 25 July 2023 devotional address titled "The Hopeful Change in Global Health," Dr. Crookston challenged such commonly held beliefs head-on:
"... amid pandemics, wars, and natural disasters, it is easy to believe in a narative of Doom and Gloom. This can be especially true in a world increasingly viewed through sound bites. Social media, the internet, and other platforms have the ability to intensify short messages for better or worse....
"However, I am thankful to report that despite our seemingly unprecedented local and global challenges, the sky is not falling. The gathering clouds are not our only forecast. There is, in fact, a very good chance of sunshine. This is not simply a glass is half-full perspective. Rather, recent history suggests that the world is getting far better than most people realize."
He then went on to explain that in many of the world's most vulnerable locations people are "living longer and fuller lives."
For example, Dr. Crookston shared a number of global healthcare facts that I found both surprising yet hopeful:
- The number of Childhood Deaths around the world has dropped by over 60% since 1990, from nearly 13 million annually 32 years ago to ~5 million in 2022.
- Similarly, in the same timespan, global Maternal Mortality (the death of mothers during pregnancy), has dropped from over 500,000/year to ~287,000 last year.
- In 1966, roughly half of the planet's population lived on the equivalent of $2/day (in today's dollars), what is typically seen as Extreme Poverty. But by 2017, Dr. Crookston explained, that number has dropped to approximately 9%.
If accurate, this would mean that the number of individuals living in Extreme Poverty around the world has dropped by over 1.0 billion, from 1.7 billion to 682 million.
Clearly, this is a number that is still way, way too high given the general level of wealth and prosperity on a global basis.
But 1.0 billion fewer is nonetheless 1.0 billion fewer.
Other global healthcare advancement factoids shared by Dr. Crookston during his presentation tied back to 2004, the year many of last year's freshmen were born. Specifically, since 2004,
- HIV deaths have dropped by over two-thirds;
- Malaria deaths have declined by approximately one-third; and
- Tobacco use has decreased by roughly 30%.
"While not meant to to be exhaustive," Dr. Crookston stated, "these health statistics are combined to provide a hopeful view of the world that is contrary to the gloom that many may be persuaded to hold. This news is a reminder that ... really important things, like maternal and child survival are not just getting better, they have dramatically improved."
Five Steps Dr. Crookston Suggests Anyone can take to Address Local and Global Health Concerns
During the latter half of his presentation, Dr. Crookston centered his remarks on outlining and detailing five actions he believes anyone might take to help address health care concerns, whether at home or abroad.
Although I will not go into detail about the particulars behind his five steps were, I do outline them in headline form below:
- Choose to Love Others.
- Choose to Understand.
- Choose to Change.
- Choose to Support.
- Choose to Participate.
I recognize that there may be some readers that will choose to reject Dr. Crookston's message of hopefulness and encouragement simply because of his position at Brigham Young University and its relationship with its sponsoring organization, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
And if that is the case, that is certainly their right.
However, I suggest that to do so would entirely miss what I believe to be the purpose of Dr. Crookston's presentation, which is, simply:
Much of life is, actually, getting better.
To that end, I invite all to watch and listen to his 30-minute speech in its entirety, which you can do below, even if you do so at 1.5X or 2.0X speed.
I am confident it will be worth your time.
I hope you agree.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: For those not familiar with its practices, Brigham Young University typically holds an hourlong devotional each Tuesday morning from 10am to 11am throughout the calendar year.
As expected, many of the speakers at these devotionals come from the leadership ranks of both the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as administrators and faculty of BYU. And yes, many topics of such addresses are specifically focused on matters of faith and religion.
However, the university also regularly hosts visiting dignitaries, scholars, and leaders of industry as speakers during such devotionals, and yes, many of these presentations are not focused on religion or matters of faith.
As someone who helps train professionals on how to improve their skills as presenters and public speakers, I can honestly say some of the best speeches and presentations I have ever studied have been delivered during these BYU devotionals.
To that end, I invite you to learn for yourself. DLP