March 12, 2013

Similarities: A Healthy Nation and Body

Kristina Talbert-Slagle, PhD,
  Photo by Peter Hvizdak / New Haven Register
Associate Research Scientist, GHLI

A healthy body, like a healthy nation, contains many systems that need to work together in order to defend against threats.  A breakdown of these systems will render both a body and a nation susceptible to invasion – be it insurgency or infection.  As retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal and I recently presented at Yale University, for both the body and a nation to fight off insurgencies, the internal systems must be well organized with a holistic approach to maintaining overall health and stability so the insurgencies cannot win the support of the population in a nation or take over the human body.

We identified and examined how threats to a country and human body are similar. As with the case of the AIDS epidemic and the war in Afghanistan, both are issues that would have benefited from early action and counterinsurgencies. Just as microorganisms infect the body of someone with AIDS by exploiting the unhealthy body’s resources to replicate and spread, insurgents in Afghanistan focused on gaining power in an unhealthy nation in the same way. Sustained stability is essential in both the health of a nation and the health of a body. In Afghanistan, stability is sought by keeping schools open, providing access to electricity, water, and sanitation and aiding farmers as well as in targeting insurgents. To combat AIDS, funding, education and research also prove key factors in building and maintaining health of the body.

When the body’s circulatory, nervous, musculoskeletal and immune systems all work together, it wards of multiple infections every day. When these systems do not work in coordination, the body can be overcome by an infection, as happens with untreated HIV infection leading to AIDS. Medical treatments and social determinants affect the success of the compliance and treatment among AIDS patients. By linking complex systems to fight insurgencies in a nation and infections in a vulnerable human body, we can fight off constant threats and rebuild health. To read a news article about this event, click here.

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