Jimmy Carter


NYTimes profiles a dragon slayer, Donald Hopkins, and his fight against guinea worm | 

A woman in Nigeria endures the painful extraction of Guinea worm
A woman in Nigeria endures the painful extraction of Guinea worm
Mike Urban, mikeurban.photoshelter.com

The NY Times’ Don McNeil has done a great profile of a global health champion, Donald Hopkins – the man who has led the successful campaign to rid the world of one of nature’s most disturbing parasitic diseases.

Guinea worm. I’ve written about this disease many times, seen people afflicted with it and years ago met a woman who was Nigeria’s last case. Jimmy Carter, whose philanthropy the Carter Center has sponsored Hopkins’ work, was recently talking about guinea worm with comedian Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. This painful, debilitating disease used to afflict millions of people every year.

Thanks to Hopkins and the Carter Center, it’s today down to few hundred cases remaining in the Sudan.

Jimmy Carter talks about eradicating guinea worm on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show | 

Jimmy Carter shows up Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show to talk about the Carter Center’s success at nearly eradicating guinea worm, a painful parasitic worm that used to afflict millions of people every year. Thanks to Carter’s team, there are now just hundreds of cases in South Sudan.

Ten years ago, I saw guinea worm in Nigeria. Here’s some of my earlier stories about the Carter Center’s work and Nigeria’s last case.

The most influential person in global health | 

Tom Paulson

Bill Foege in the hills near his boyhood home of Colville, Washington

Is Bill Foege.

This may sound like a personal opinion but it is, in fact, an informed, journalistic and observational if slightly gestalt statement of reality … insofar as I can tell.

I’ve covered global health as a journalist now for as long as it’s been a popular phrase and I would argue — with anyone, Bill Gates, Bono or Jimmy Carter if need be — that Bill Foege is probably the single most important person in global health.

The reason he has been so influential is the same reason so many people don’t seem to know who he is — or if you do know of him, how to pronounce his name.

It’s Fay-Ghee. Not Fogey. Or Foje.

You should know his name because he’s the guy who figured out the strategy that rid the world of smallpox — so far the only human disease ever eradicated. Foege is credited by Bill and Melinda Gates for helping craft their global health mission — a mission that now, arguably, sets the agenda for international health.

He was the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, appointed by President Jimmy Carter and stayed on for the first part of the Reagan Administration when the AIDS epidemic first emerged. His career in global health started half a century ago, when he and his wife Paula moved to Nigeria where he worked as a medical missionary.

Tom Paulson

Bill and Paula Foege's home in eastern Nigeria

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How Jimmy Carter became a serpent slayer and global health pioneer | 

Tom Paulson

President Jimmy Carter speaks at World Affairs Council 60th Anniversary event

Former President Jimmy Carter is in Seattle, having spoken last night at the World Affairs Council’s 60th anniversary celebration and speaking today at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation about Guinea worm.

Mike Urban, mikeurbanart.com

A Nigerian woman with Guinea Worm

Guinea worm is a human parasite that eats its way through the human body and emerges a year later, incapacitating people with the pain of completing its life cycle. It’s horrible.

I’ve seen people with Guinea worm in Africa. Over the years, I’ve also seen what Jimmy Carter and his team at the Carter Center have done to come close now to completely ridding the world of this horrific disease.

It’s a great story, and perhaps of much broader significance to global health than many might realize.

Earlier this week, the Gates Foundation, major pharmaceutical companies and others announced a major $$785 million push against “neglected tropical diseases.” This was celebrated by Bill Gates, World Health Organization chief Margaret Chan and others as a critical turning point in global health. The Carter Center got some of the loot, $40 million of it, to finish off Guinea worm.

But in one sense, this push against neglected diseases got a good first shove nearly 30 years ago by Jimmy Carter. One look at the Carter Center’s website shows they got to this point, of recognizing the need to fight neglected diseases, decades ago.

Diseases like river blindness, Guinea worm, parasitic (lymphatic) elephantiasis and schistosomiasis have been in Carter’s cross hairs since the mid-1980s. Continue reading

Gates initiative on “neglected diseases” advances cause, but neglects key questions | 

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today announced, together with more than a dozen drug makers and others, a new initiative aimed at fighting a select group of mostly developing world ailments called “neglected tropical diseases” such as river blindness, parasitic elephantiasis and others.

Uniting to Combat NTDs

These diseases affect an estimated 1.4 billion people, killing perhaps half a million a year, but have not been high on the global health radar screen. As Dr. Peter Hotez writes for Huffington Post, for only 50 cents per child many of these diseases may now be eliminated.

The new public-private initiative aims to rid the world of 10 of these diseases by 2020.

It’s widely regarded as a positive step forward for global health, but there are some important questions that went unanswered:

  1. What is a neglected disease? This is actually a hotly debated question in global health circles right now.
  2. Many think the solution to fighting diseases of poverty should be to focus on poverty as much as on disease. Will this initiative get at the root problem or just address symptoms?

We’ll get back to the neglected issues of neglected diseases in a bit. First, more on the news:

For this initiative called the London Declaration on Neglected Diseases, the Gates Foundation pledged $363 million to support research into new treatments. Drug makers like GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Johnson & Johnson and others have likewise pledged to step up research as well as to expand donation programs of medications to poor countries.

Others involved in the initiative include the World Bank, the United Arab Emirates as well as the U.S. and U.K. governments The total estimated commitment is $785 million. Continue reading

Jimmy Carter, Sudan, peace and the guinea worm | 

Former President Jimmy Carter is among the foreign notables — George Clooney, Sen. John Kerry, Enough‘s John Prendergast — in Sudan doing election watch duty as the southern half of Africa’s largest country appears likely to vote itself into becoming the world’s newest nation.

He’s also in Sudan because of a really awful parasitic worm.


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