- Early anti-vaccine hysteria. Cartoon of Edward Jenner administering cowpox vaccine to frightened young women, and cows emerging from different parts of people’s bodies.
- Wikipedia, James Gilray
Vaccines are widely, legitimately, hailed as one of medicine’s most powerful weapons in the fight against infectious disease. Millions of lives are saved, deaths prevented, every year using this simple tool that can cost as little as a handful of pennies.
Holy bang for the buck, batman!
So it’s unfortunate we know so little about how vaccines actually work. Not knowing has spawned a persistent anti-vaccine movement by those who fear, based on little hard evidence, the potential for harm caused by tweaking our immune system.
But not knowing is also causing some problems for the biomedical community.
“I don’t see how we’re going to ever develop effective vaccines against AIDS, TB or malaria without first gaining a lot more insight into how the immune system works – and how vaccines promote immunity,” said Alan Aderem, president of Seattle Biomed, a research organization that has been working on matters of global health since Bill Gates was a teenager. Continue reading
Most people might not think growing mushrooms could make the world a better place.
Most might not see natural disasters like the Philippine’s catastrophic Typhoon Haiyan (aka Yolanda) as a business opportunity.
But then, most people aren’t creative entrepreneurs looking for innovative and profitable ways to fight poverty and human suffering.
- Pitching Fargreen, a Vietnam-based business aimed at helping smallholder farmers, at the UW’s global social enterprise contest.
“Mushrooms were big this year, for some reason, as was disaster relief,” said Kirsten Aoyama, director of the University of Washington’s Global Business Center. Continue reading
Have you ever wondered how, and where, we (i.e., the U.S. government and American taxpayers) spend most of our foreign aid?
Would it surprise you to know we (unlike Britain and most other countries) categorize military deployments and arms sales as ‘foreign aid?’ Didja know our biggest check for ‘aid’ goes to wealthy Israel? Michael Truong at the US State Department did a great visual analysis of our foreign aid budget using Tableau. Go there and be enlightened. The images at the site are interactive.
- Flickr, by Rodrigo Senna
The push to expand access to life-saving drugs and vaccines in low-income countries is threatened by the lack of drug safety monitoring.
How so? Well, the standard approach to getting drugs out to the developing world has been for the pharmaceutical industry to first make a product it can sell to the rich world and, as costs go down over time, eventually distribute it to the poor. The problem with that approach is that the costs don’t always go down enough and many drugs or vaccines needed solely in poor communities simply don’t get developed.
It was this fundamental problem – which Bill Gates in the early days of his philanthropy identified as one of the world’s most deadly kinds of market failure – that helped launch the movement (and/or industry) we now call global health. Continue reading
There’s some big things happening on the energy front in Africa, thanks in large part to the Obama Administration’s Power Africa initiative.
If you want to know why this is such a big deal, and a big need, this post featuring seven graphic illustrations from Todd Moss and Madeleine Gleave at the Center for Global Development offers an excellent overview.
The authors note that 600 million Africans today live without power, seriously undermining their lives on all sorts of fronts – health, economic opportunity, safety and efficiency. But the solution won’t just be about bringing more power to the poor; Moss and Gleave make it clear rich countries need to make some changes as well.
Here’s one of the graphics from the post by Moss and Gleave:
Read the entire (short) post at CGD and take a look at the other six illustrations. A great and easy-to-digest overview of the global energy landscape.
- A South Sudanese government soldier inspects the body of a dead woman lying the street in Bor, Jonglei State, South Sudan.
South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, may be unraveling and one of the few journalists actually on the ground there says the media’s characterization of the conflict – usually done remotely, by telephone – is bit one-sided, if not off-target completely.
- Robert Young Pelton
- Machot Lat Thiep
“We’ve spent the last few days with Riek Machar and the so-called rebel forces,” journalist and author Robert Young Pelton said to Humanosphere by telephone today.
As we reported in late January, Pelton and a Seattle man, a Costco supervisor and former Sudan Lost Boy named Machot Thiep, are in South Sudan partly to truth-check the standard narrative. “What we’re seeing and learning is very contradictory to the official line.” Continue reading
- A sign outside a Ghana health clinic urging people seek care early.
Experts in the fight against poverty, like anyone, can sometimes miss the forest for the trees.
That may be happening in the increasingly heated debate swirling around the global movement for Universal Health Coverage. The gist of this global push, led by folks at the World Bank, Rockefeller Foundation and others, is to ensure everyone around the world has access to basic and preventative health services.
Now, people disagree on what is precisely meant by the term ‘universal health coverage,’ aka UHC, but the assumption is that increasing access to essential health care will improve health outcomes and also economic stability – especially for the poor.
Sounds like a good assumption, eh? Not so fast.
Experts in health policy, aid and development say there is insufficient evidence to support the claim that simply increasing access to services improves health outcomes. Which services are we talking about? What outcomes are the best measures? What do we mean by access? Experts say we need to better define terms and test assumptions before taking steps to improve access to health. Continue reading
- Celebrating the 2007 SuperBowl losers in Zambia
- World Vision
In case you haven’t heard, a Seattle football team named after a diurnal, fish-eating bird of prey won the Super Bowl.
And once again, World Vision will be seeking to mislead the poor of the developing world as to the true outcome by distributing to the far corners of the planet tens of thousands of T-shirts that proclaim the Denver Broncos as the 2014 Super Bowl champions.
This is a funny story, to me anyway. Not so for everybody, however. To begin with, I’m kidding about the intent of this annual clothing donation scheme. The Seattle-based (well, Federal Way) Christian aid and relief organization, one of the largest such organizations in the world which does great humanitarian work in some of the most difficult regions, is just trying to make use of clothing the NFL has banned from America.
The prohibited items are items of clothing that falsely proclaim the Broncos as winners of a game in which they were severely trounced by the Seahawks.
Every year, before the Super Bowl, NFL merchandisers print up something like 200,000 t-shirts, hoodies and caps declaring both sides in the contest champions. This is done so fans at the close of the game can immediately buy the winners’ gear. The clothing with the losers emblazoned on it gets donated to organizations like World Vision that, in turn, ship it to poor communities overseas.
In the aid world, this is called a “gift-in-kind” (GIK) donation or, for those critical of this kind of assistance, SWEDOW – Stuff We Don’t Want (coinage @Talesfromthehood). Continue reading