BOSTON (AP) — The best way to combat the health challenges facing the world is through “networks of cooperation” that rely on the resources and talents of a wide range of groups and individuals, former President Bill Clinton said Thursday.
And while those bent on destruction, like the terrorists who attacked a mall in Nairobi last month, may be able to claim momentary headlines, their actions will be far outweighed by those who work day in and day out to improve the lives and health of those most in need, Clinton said.
“We are living in an unprecedented era of interdependence, but that only means that we cannot escape each other. Divorce is not an option,” Clinton said. “We are all bound together.”
Clinton made his remarks after being honored with one of three Centennial Medals during the Harvard School of Public Health’s 100th year celebration.
Clinton recalled the death of Elif Yavuz, a senior vaccines researcher for the Clinton Health Access Initiative, who was killed in the attack on the Westgate Mall. He said that despite the murder of Yavuz, who was eight-months pregnant, her work and that of others like her is winning the trendlines in improving world health.
He also said that the Somali Islamic extremist group al-Shabab, which claimed credit for the attacks, relies for their funding in part on the illegal sale of ivory taken from poached elephants. The killing of African elephants is a key issue for the Clinton Global Initiative. Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton earlier this year announced a new push aimed at helping end ivory trafficking.
The couple’s daughter, Chelsea, received the Next Generation Award, which recognizes an individual under 40 whose commitment to health inspires young people to make “health for all” a global priority.
Chelsea Clinton, who is vice chair of the Clinton Foundation and is focusing on the group’s health initiatives, said young people can bring a unique energy to the biggest problems facing society.
“To make change, you have to have some fundamental dissatisfaction, and I think young people are disproportionately qualified to do that,” she said. “I think we haven’t succumbed yet in general to cynicism or inertia or patience.”
Clinton said one of her current projects is bringing attention to the care of young people in the juvenile justice system in the U.S. She said despite the fact that on any given day there are 53,000 juveniles in the system nationwide, no state has specific nutritional or physical activity guidelines for children in their custody.
Also honored Thursday were Dr. Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank Group and co-founder of Partners in Health, and Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, former prime minister of Norway and director-general of the World Health Organization.
Kim urged those attending the ceremony to find the most intractable problem they can, and then tackle it.
Dr. Julio Frenk, dean of the faculty at the Harvard School of Public Health, described the recipients as “boundary-crossers” who refused to be limited by the status quo.
The school was founded in 1913 as the Harvard-MIT School for Health Officers.