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Build Change: Pioneering engineer works with communities to protect homes from disasters

For today’s Humanosphere podcast, we’re talking with Elizabeth Hausler, CEO and founder of Build Change – a non-profit organization based in Denver, Colo., that works around the world to prevent deaths from earthquakes or other disasters that lead to homes collapsing.

As engineers like to say, or say even if they may not like to say it: “Earthquakes don’t kill people; buildings kill people.”

The point of this axiom is that deaths from quakes or other disasters are often the result of poorly constructed, or inadequately constructed, buildings that collapse under stress. Hausler became a civil engineer after assisting her father with his stone masonry business outside Chicago. As a woman in a male-dominated profession, she learned early to trust in her own judgment and perspective.

Executive editor Tom Paulson met with Hausler at the Skoll World Forum in Oxford where she was one of four winners of the prestigious Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship this year. Dr. Hausler has won a lot of awards and recognition for her approach to preventing death in disasters. But before we get into the details of what makes Build Change such an interesting project, we learn a bit more about Hausler as a person – and how her experiences led to a more creative, economical and culturally appropriate approach to preventing disaster deaths around the world.

As usual, before we get to the interview with our guest we review some of the news highlights in the Humanosphere this week. Paulson and I begin with a story about the Trump Administration’s proposal to reduce spending on foreign aid and merge the U.S. Agency for International Development (as a possible prelude to actually eliminating USAID) within the State Department. Our correspondent Tom Murphy also reported on the quick bipartisan rejection of this proposal by many in Congress.

In the good news category, we also noted a story by Lisa Nikolau about new findings showing that an old drug could save the lives of many thousands of women who suffer severe bleeding in childbirth. It’s a fascinating story about an inexpensive drug, called tranexamic acid, that’s been around for decades. What’s new is a study of 20,000 women that found that death was reduced by 31 percent if the treatment was given within three hours after the start of bleeding.

Finally, we noted two examples of what some may say is a disturbing trend of governments around the world restricting civil society organizations to operate within their borders, from those advocating for democracy and press freedom to even impacting such powerful organizations like the Gates Foundation, as reported by Joanne Lu, attempting to simply improve health among the poorest people.

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About Author

Imana Gunawan

Imana Gunawan is Humanosphere's social media manager and podcast producer. A University of Washington graduate in journalism and dance, Imana's interests include underrepresented communities, the intersection between politics and culture, global-local issues and the arts. She can be reached at @imanafg on Twitter or