“We need to define Good Life!”

IMG_8898Written 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!

5 thoughts on ““We need to define Good Life!”

  1. I’m impressed with the Dr. Luca’s encounter with the students. His answer to the question on what he thinks is the biggest health-related challenge for humanity is very apt. In Ghana, and I will say in almost all developing countries, sanitation and hygiene related sickness are very high. These are preventable cases. Typically, Accra is full of filth and one major cause I have figured is the lack of dustbins at strategic points to drop refuse so people are compelled to drop their waste anywhere. The result? People are dying from Malaria than HIV/AIDS and Cardiovascular diseases, there is perennial flooding due to chocked gutters, Cholera outbreak every year, smelly environment etc. With a good collection system at source and proper disposal, malaria cases will be minimal. This will reduce government’s bill on healthcare, people will live long and healthy lives and in dignity.

  2. I’m so glad to come across this informative interview with Dr. Rosi. He has such wide experience and deep knowledge that I had the opportunity to tap into when he taught us (MA Global Dev’t & Social Justice class ’17) in Rome. We had intensive 9 hour a day class sessions that were fun, interactive and highly educative.
    Understanding Global Development is like being provided a special pair of lenses through which you look at issues around you. Everything is interconnected and we can make positive changes.
    Lets keep the conversation on Global Development alive!

  3. Very interesting interview!
    I agree with Luca that a lot people lack the constituents of good hygiene regardless of where they are located in the world. I also believe that the world needs to shift the focus more onto what constitute a good life.
    He has such a nice personality. I had such a great time in his class during my master’s program in Global Development and social Justice at the SJU. His incredible sense of humor and creative style of interacting with students made his classes very relaxing and enjoyable although they were packed.

  4. Dr Rosi is a person truly committed to global development and he believes youth could drive the social change. We should always keep in mind that education is the key word for health prevention especially among vulnerable groups in developing countries and higher education should be open and available for everyone. International cooperation dealing with global health should collaborate with locals trying to make them achieve their sustainable goals, not just imposing our western know-how but giving them support by all means.
    Students involved in healthcare in order to be active citizens, creators, and problem solvers, they also need meaningful opportunities to express their opinions and pursue their ideas. Often, solutions for youth empowerment are not driven by youth. But when given the opportunity to speak up, youth can drive community-specific solutions from the bottom up, become critical actors for social change.

  5. I couldn’t agree more with Dr Rosi as human we focus on things that are almost impossible to achieve than little things we must do in our daily lives to live long. Health is becoming expensive. First step is preventing health related problems by our little acts of hygiene. A good life is living healthy which encompasses good personal hygiene which Luca spoke about. Growing up in Africa as a child we were told by our elders that a tidy home environment and surroundings keep you away from the hospital. I was lucky to be taught by Luca as a cohort at Rome campus. He imparted with his rich knowledge in global development issues ranging from a variety of topical issues that legislators and world regulators fail to see.

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