15 February 2009

Hair for Life

I was watching a keynote speech Bill Gates gave where he talked about two problems: malaria eradication and creating good teachers. During his talk he mentioned that more money is spent every year on hair loss products than on malaria research. I found that shocking (but I watch enough late-night TV not to find it surprising).

I understand that our society has stereotypes about baldness that can undermine a persons sense of self worth. However, it occurred to me that if we could divert even a fraction of the money that goes to the hair restoration industry into malaria research it would make a real difference in the lives of millions of people.

My own husband has a dome devoid of hair-- he had to grapple with what hair loss would mean to him at a young age. He decided not to worry about it and, quite frankly, it made him even more attractive as far as I am concerned (but then I am biased).

What if we could divert some of the money that goes to the cosmetics industry to disease research and prevention?

I'm not trying to single out just folks facing hair loss. There are many people (myself included) who spend money on products and services to make us look better (and thus feel better and more confident). Is there a way for those of us who are fundamentally healthy to pull back from our focus on 'curing' our imperfections and, instead, focus our money and an attention on those who could be saved from debilitating illnesses with proper research into the medical and logistic ways to halt the spread of disease?

Some facts about malaria (from Episcopal Relief and Development):

--a child dies from malaria every 30 seconds.
--malaria infects 500 million people a year.
--malaria kills over 1 million (mostly children and pregnant women).

--a one month supply of Rogaine, a tube of brand name lipstick, a jar of anti-aging cream all cost more than one mosquito net and the training to use it to help prevent mosquitoes from infecting a family with malaria.

And malaria is not the only disease out there whose eradication efforts could use a boost. So the next time I consider plunking down money for a new cosmetic I am, at the very least, going to match the funds with a donation to Nets for Life or some other group working to prevent malaria.

How much more beautiful or handsome will we be if we can walk through the world knowing we laid our vanity down on the altar of sacrifice and gave another person a chance at life?