Sharing Bioimaging Tech for Stronger Global HealthBy Rodrigo Brugada | Thu, 06/17/2021 - 14:29
Technological advances are enhancing our understanding of the human body but this technology is not equitably reaching every corner of the world, warns the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
While many analytical techniques give results by proxies, nothing beats directly observing what is happening and how. Current emerging technologies are reaching unfathomable levels of detail and complexity, making visualization of the live interactions within tissues and cells a reality. As time passes and these technologies become widespread and more well-established, more options for preventing, identifying and treating the disease will become available.
The caveat is that the distribution of these technologies will likely be unequal and skewed towards wealthier countries or individuals, hindering their potential benefits while reproducing preexistent inequalities, as explored in an article published in PLOS ONE. Right now, the developed countries, mainly North America and Western Europe, devote significantly more resources to R&D. In more impoverished regions, such as Africa or Latin America, this spending lags behind, according to UNESCO. This means that developing nations will likely have more challenges developing groundbreaking technologies while also having difficulties accessing them.
This lack of funding, compounded with other systemic barriers that impede adequate health and R&D, is both a cause and a result of the enormous inequalities in global health. Having an unequal distribution of resources and access to technology, both as novel technologies or as tools for improving existing ones, harms the countries that lack them. This harm usually comes in the form of neglected diseases, such as vector diseases transmitted by mosquitos, that typically do not affect wealthy countries.
Bioimaging technologies have many uses and usually have a great potential for impact. An example comes in imaging SARS-CoV-2 to understand its pathogenicity and the inflammatory response to it, thus enhancing knowledge about COVID-19. This highlights the importance of bringing access to more people, mainly in developing countries.
Several international networks help experts connect worldwide and leverage their collective power to ensure access to funding and instrumentation. An important example in the case of Mexico is Latin America Bioimaging. And while these networks are promising, as stated in The Guardian, “healthcare innovations will not cure global health inequality, political action will.”