The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Mark Almberg, PNHP communications director, 312-782-6006,

'Health Care Equity Key to Ebola Fight': Doctors, Nurses Petition Obama

Health Affairs Blog article highlights petition to President Obama from more than 1,400 health professionals who say Ebola epidemic is linked to global inequality – and that African nations will require sustained U.S. aid to build up their health systems


The spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa is inextricably linked to "the global inequality that underlies the poverty and dysfunctional health systems" of the affected countries and points to the need for sustained U.S. economic assistance to help control the virus and to aid in the development of Africa's health system infrastructure, according to an article published Friday at the Health Affairs Blog.

The article, titled "Health Care Equity Needed to Fight Ebola," is written by three physicians - Dr. Andrea S. Christopher, David U. Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler. Dr. Christopher is an internist at Cambridge Health Alliance and a fellow in general internal medicine at Harvard Medical School; Drs. Himmelstein and Woolhandler are professors at the City University of New York School of Public Health at Hunter College and lecturers in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

The authors recap and expand upon the arguments contained in a petition that was sent to President Obama in early April with 1,464 signatures from doctors, nurses, public health workers, educators and others in allied health professions.

After providing some historical background to the conditions that allowed Ebola to thrive in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea - including the decades-long practice of U.S. multinational corporations extracting valuable resources such as diamonds, rubber, iron ore and fertile soil from those nations without sharing the proceeds with the impoverished majorities of those countries - the authors call for several urgent remedial steps, two of which are as follows:

  • A commitment by the United States to provide $8.4 billion annually (the equivalent to a single day's health expenditures in the U.S.) to Ebola prevention and treatment efforts in West Africa, and to build up the health infrastructure in Africa.
  • The establishment of a public pharmaceutical company to develop drugs and vaccines in the public interest, given that private drug companies "failed to pursue an urgently needed Ebola vaccine because it offered little prospect of financial gain."

Coincidentally, their article appears on the heels of two prominent statements on the epidemic in the past few weeks, one by President Obama and the other by leaders of the World Health Organization, the latter also published at the Health Affairs Blog.

The text of the petition, which was circulated through physician email lists and which was hosted by Physicians for a National Health Program (but which was not its exclusive project), is available here:

Physicians for a National Health Program is a single issue organization advocating a universal, comprehensive single-payer national health program. PNHP has more than 21,000 members and chapters across the United States.