Is it disrespect or disinterest? Too high-up to exchange with folks from the ‘bottom’? Too well-paid and too professional to collaborate with unpaid activists and their community based organisations?
Why is there such an enormous barrier between those who make global health policies and those who must live, or die, by their decisions? Why is there such a gap between their stated goals on “inclusive engagement” and the de-facto exclusion of affected communities from the decision-making processes?
Over the years, we have tried to connect with many public health professionals that make decisions that impact on our health and that of our communities. The aim is always to begin a dialogue on how to turn their noble words, like ‘leaving no one behind’, into realities on the ground through collaboration and cooperation.
Sometimes, we have had responses to our e-mails and start an exchange which is of mutual interest. We’ve established some ongoing relationships and a few direct collaborations, which has shown that working together as real partners is possible even within the top-down world of public health governance.
However, too often we have not had any replies to our correspondence. Too often attempts to establish contact are like a long one-way street that goes nowhere — a dead end. Gentle reminders have proved to be a waste of gentleness. We are not alone in being disempowered and disheartened — many other community activists and NGOs are becoming jaded by public health experts that say “we need to hear the ‘voices’ of the community” yet make it impossible to actually do so in real terms. The hypocrisy of those at the ‘top’ is eating away at the good will of engaged folks at the ‘bottom’, which discourages the local public participation that should be central to efforts to improve health and well-being on the ground.
The impact of ‘Ivory-Toweritis’ threatens us all. While it predominantly infects those high-up in the health system hierarchy, it causes the most vulnerable around the world to suffer. It must be diagnosed and treated urgently if the health related targets of the UN’s Agenda 2030 will be achieved.
Fortunately, there is a cure, and it is both simple and inexpensive — a daily dose of downward respect and a spoonful of understanding will open minds and diminish the symptoms, while an injection of the realities that public health users face will usually cure Ivory-Toweritis completely. Moreover, there is a vaccine available: being in direct contact with members of the community that health officials are paid to serve.
Although there is a cure and a vaccine available for Ivory-Toweritis, there is a severe shortage of diagnostic tools. To better assure that those infected can be identified and treated, a few of the members of the IMAXI Cooperative are now working on developing a examination to enable diagnosis — the Accessibility Assessment Test. Its aim will be to identify symptoms and monitor the evolution of the illness, while allowing for us to rapidly inform those infected of the results so that they can quickly seek treatment.
The first step is to conduct some further research to help us to design and develop this Accessibility Assessment Test. If you have ever felt sickened in your attempt to connect with the ‘higher-ups’, or suffered from either their disrespect or disinterest, please get in touch and let us know of your experiences.
We must End Ivory-Toweritis to achieve the SDGs and realize our right to health.
Please help support our Research Project: ‘All Aboard!’