World Health Organization

Dear Delegates,

It is with a great deal of excitement that I welcome you to the World Health Organization at HNMUN 2018!

My name is Connor Bitter, and this year I have the pleasure of returning to the WHO as the Director, previously having served as its Assistant Director at HNMUN 2014. Here at Harvard I have been an officer of the Harvard College Canadian Club, a manager for the Harvard Varsity Men’s Basketball team, and a mentor with the Philips Brooks House Association. I’m currently putting the finishing touches on a senior thesis, where I explore a possible new transcription factor for the dopamine transporter in rats and mice. I’ve also worked in various fields, including education, media, music, information technology, and consulting.

This year, the WHO will consider two incredibly important topics in the global health community today: Antimicrobial Resistance and the Effects of Climate Change on Human Health. These subjects are of the utmost importance, not only due to the potential and likely imminent harm to well-being each brings but also because of the complexity of solutions to the problems they present.

To combat each issue, the global community (you!) will need to draw from both the science behind the issues and current policies to implement creative, sustainable solutions for generations to come. In considering Antimicrobial Resistance, you should strive for solutions that ensure the long-term viability of current or new treatments while considering the effects such policies may have on the access, distribution, and cost of drugs, especially in developing countries. The Effects of Climate Change on Human Health is a broader topic; you may choose to focus on specific subtopics outlined in the study guide (e.g. changing infection patterns of insect-borne disease), or you may take a higher-level approach and produce comprehensive solutions covering multiple subtopics.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions you may have. I look forward to meeting you soon!

Connor Bitter
Director, World Health Organization
Harvard National Model United Nations 2018

Topic Area A: Antimicrobial Resistance

Most diseases in humans are caused by microorganisms such as bacteria, parasites, and fungi. As such, modern medicines often target whichever organism or organisms are producing the problem. This strategy has been effective; for example, vaccines have prevented millions of deaths worldwide each year, and antiretroviral drugs have improved the lives of HIV/AIDS patients so much that the disease is now considered, in many cases, chronic instead of terminal.

However, disease causing microorganisms can also evolve to become resistant to medications, rendering them useless or less effective. Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is one of the foremost global health issues of our time. Many believe that, in the best-case scenario, new drugs will need to be developed to adapt to the evolving microorganisms; in the worst-case scenario, modern medicines could become completely ineffective and humans could be left vulnerable to diseases which are currently treatable.

The international community must come together to combat AMR, ensuring that current and future treatments remain viable. It must furthermore recognize the differential impacts AMR may have on developing countries and countries in more arid or tropical climates.

Topic Area B: Effects of Climate Change on Human Health

Health effects of climate change are not often a topic of consideration when thinking about the environment or environmental policy. However, climate change has a potentially large impact on human health and well-being; the WHO expects climate change to cause 250,000 deaths per year starting in 2030. Warming can cause deaths from extreme heat or drought, water-borne diseases could be transmitted in new or more recurrent ways, and extreme weather patterns may become more common. Such effects would be vastly different in different areas of the world, as more extreme climates are likely to be more affected by rising temperatures.

Together, the global community has a responsibility to combat climate change and its many effects, including those that directly affect human health. To this end, an effective plan to combat climate change must incorporate and directly address the imminent consequences for human health, and developed countries must recognize their role in assisting developing nations and those nations in vulnerable climates.