For many reasons, this decade is a time of rethinking many things. There is the impending turn of the millenium, an event packed with meaning. There is recent political history, which has changed the global structure of power in ways few could foresee, and there is an economic fluidity worldwide that makes every day unpredictable and the future uncertain. There are movements of people and surges of violence that seem unparalleled, and well may be. We are awash in change, and people everywhere are trying to understand that and read its implications. It is a time that provokes soul-searching: backward, into the lessons and achievements of the past, and forward, into ways for the future to be better.
The fields of health and social development are no exception. More specifically, events and conditions in the health sector point to the need to rethink some large issues. Nations everywhere are grappling with the economic and ethical dilemmas of achieving and maintaining healthy populations, since these are both cause and consequence of true development. Increasingly, the thinking is global, because there are comparisons to be learned from, connections that have implications, obligations to fulfill, and costs that are somehow shared.
As part of this dynamic, there has been an explosion of analytic documents, published since the start of this decade, that deal mainly, though not exclusively, with health in developing countries. The purpose of Global Health in Transition is to distill the essential elements from those efforts, discuss the major ideas they share and the thoughts they prompt, ask what those might mean for a next agenda in global health, and comment on the shifting context in which our current concepts of the ideal will proveor not provetheir adequacy for the future.