Written by Dr. Minna Aslama Horowitz, IICM Research Fellow.
Dr. Luca Rossi, the senior researcher for the Italian National Institute of Public Health, visited the Institute for International Communication in February 2018. He spoke in several graduate classes and gave a public Guest Lecture on “The Making of the Contemporary Society: International Organizations and Global Development”.
Dr. Rossi sat down with us to talk about the most burning global challenges, his cosmopolitan education and profession, and his love for St. John’s University.
Q: Currently, you work in global development and health, in something that one could call “healthcare diplomacy”. What do you think is the biggest health-related challenge for humanity, for our world, right now?
LR: Technically speaking, I see there are several issues we need to consider to even begin to understand what we mean by “health” today. We have a misperception of what it means to be “healthy”. It is not a certain index that measures whether you smoke or you die young. It’s more global, complex, and would entail a great number of indicators.
But, to answer your question, there is a huge gap in access to health care. There are so many inequalities and discrepancies in who gets care. One example is basic hygiene that could be a preventative measure. Even in developed countries people are not fully aware of some basic concepts and practices of hygiene.
And then – this is my counter-challenge answer: We need a paradigm shift from what is a healthy life to what is a good life. This is not easy and would require serious considerations of ethical, financial, legal and so many other factors. I can’t provide a solution right here and now. But, as an example, we should shift research foci somewhat and start to determine how, when people get old, they can be a part of the society in a decent and dignified way, and interact with the social system. See, until one hundred years ago we were trying to find formulas to live three hundred years. Then we understood that was not working.
So perhaps if we shift the paradigm we can start to research what makes us happy; we will not focus on health but on good life. What does that consist of? How can we guarantee that to as many as possible?
Q: You are a true renaissance person: You have a PhD and several Master’s, ranging from journalism to psychology to public health. You went to Columbia and Harvard. You have lived or worked in over 80 countries. That is rare in today’s world where we tend to specialize. Yet, our global wicked problems need multidisciplinary solutions. So, would you embark in a new field of study now, what would it be?
LR: To be honest with you, it would be a field that would not offer me economic scales of evaluation, or legal scales of evaluation. I have been very much involved in those fields. And most fields today rely on these fields, on indicators. Everything is based on cost or efficiency. Sure, these measurements can work when one implements a project.
But, I noticed, they don’t offer solutions in the long run. How can we explain one billion people living in hunger if these disciplines were so exact? We need rethinking around indicators. So I would probably choose something much more related to liberal arts. I would choose something with creative approaches to life.
Q: You frequently lecture in our Rome campus and now we are lucky to have you here in New York. Tell us about your experiences with St. John’s University. How did the connection with us start and what specifically do you work on with St. John’s?
LR: I was very happy to start the work at the Rome campus 11 years ago. I was collaborating with Caritas International, the famous Catholic organization working on international development, and that’s how the connection with St. John’s begun. I teach in the Master’s program on Global Development and Social Justice. We have very intensive class sessions, nine hours a day, for several weeks every year. I really like to work with St. John’s. I appreciate the community of the professors and faculty; it is friendly and welcoming. I would love to increase my involvement and come to the New York campus more often!