Generally, the social and economic development of a country is evaluated in terms of the country’s educational system, its energetic, economic, and military strength. Health—especially public health—is often considered secondary. But natural disasters, epidemics, and endemic diseases have proved that a country’s social and economic development will always be jeopardized when its medical system and its public health structure are staggering. The recent outbreak of Ebola in some parts of West Africa—Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone—which claimed thousands of lives as well as the problem posed by malaria in Africa, the issue of hepatitis in Asia, HIV/AIDS and cancer in the world, show that the development of a country is deeply conditioned by the health quality of its population. From that angle, it can be said that populations that enjoy adequate health conditions are able to stimulate and maintain sustainable development. Conversely populations with poor health standards are doomed to struggle and to see their development seriously impaired. Therefore, good health standards breed development, and bad health standards mean underdevelopment. No matter how rich one is in terms of energy, natural resources and the like, if one does not enjoy a good health, one cannot transform and develop her riches.
Fields of investigation including public health and bioethics can be particularly useful in backing up medicine, and in the same way development. In that sense Public health and bioethics help to deepen the reflection on how to improve the health conditions of a large number of people. Bioethics will especially enlighten medical practitioners, public health agents, law makers and political leaders as far as sustainable development is concerned. Bioethics will also be at the forefront of enlightening public debates concerning medicine, biomedical and technological discoveries. Advances in medicine—for instance human germ-line gene engineering and nano-biomedicine—can improve people‘s day-to-day-lives. Nevertheless, one needs to be alert on recent developments taking place in the biomedical fields of research and technological innovations such as, stem cells research, new procedures of disease control, and other experimentation on human subjects. In that sense, the task of public health professionals as well as bioethicists will amount to an evaluation of those new and highly sophisticated fields of investigation which have direct consequences on people’s lives and those of the subsequent generations. It is from that perspective that this book attempts at evaluating human germ-line gene engineering which represents a revolution in terms of people’s health standards including future generations. The book also goes on to assesses cultural and social determinants—especially with regard to autonomy—that can promote or impede better health conditions in society, particularly in the African continent plagued by all sorts of health calamities.
Armel SETUBI, SJ