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Cancer kills an awful lot of poor people, but they’re fighting back

Silberner interviewing a doctor who treats breast cancer in Haiti.
Silberner interviewing a doctor who treats breast cancer in Haiti.

I’m sick with a cold, so I suppose it’s fitting that we discuss disease on this week’s Humanosphere podcast. Who better to talk to than Joanne Silberner, who reported on health for National Public Radio for 18 years?

Silberner now teaches journalism at the University of Washington, but over the past few years, she’s also been reporting for PRI’s The World and other media on non-communicable diseases in the developing world. She points out that even though malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV are usually considered “the big three” killers in global health, cancer kills more people in low- and middle-income countries than all of those combined, according to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Traveling and reporting from Cambodia, India, Uganda, and Haiti (where I joined and worked for her), Silberner’s been up close and personal with impoverished patients afflicted by cancer, as well as fledgling but growing treatment efforts. These solutions are often amazingly simple, but getting people to overcome stigmas and use them is a challenge. Some treatments are exceedingly expensive – chemotherapy, for example – but health workers are trying to bring them to low-resource settings anyway.

I also ask her about getting journalism students interested in global health, whether Seattle really is the epicenter for the field, and about other neglected diseases, including diabetes, high blood pressure, hypertension, and mental ailments. In the headlines portion, I chat with East Coast correspondent Tom Murphy about his just-finished reporting trip to Kenya and challenges facing the widely-heralded One Acre Fund.

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About Author

Ansel Herz

Ansel Herz is a freelance multimedia journalist whose objective is to “go to where the silence is." His work has been published by ABC News, The Nation magazine, the New York Daily News, Al Jazeera English, Free Speech Radio News, Inter-Press News and many other publications. A Seattle native and survivor of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Ansel is producer of Humanosphere's podcast, among other things. You can contact him at ansel.herz[at] or follow him on Twitter @Ansel.