When I first clicked on this YouTube video link, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But once the video started playing, I quickly realized it’s a scripted (but entertaining) demonstration of vaccine cold chains featuring Hans Rosling with a cameo from Bill Gates. The topic of the video is how cold chains function and the challenges in getting vaccines through an uninterrupted cold chain to those who need them. Using juice, containers, and glasses, Rosling answers the question “What percent of 1 year old children receive basic vaccines?” In the spirit of World Immunization Week, which ended yesterday, take a few minutes to watch the video.
After watching, I did a little digging to find out more about Rosling and the Gapminder Foundation, which produced the video. Turns out this video is the first in a series of “Demographic Party Tricks” that are part of the Foundation’s Ignorance Project. The gist of it is they’re on a mission to cure ignorance when it comes to key global development trends and statistics.
I spent a significant amount of time on their website exploring their various data sets, labs, and interactive graphs. Some of my favorites are:
- Africa is Not a Country (a personal pet peeve of mine)
- The Wealth and Health of Nations
- Stop Calling Them Developing Countries
- The River of Myths (sound familiar?)
Click here to take a look around. You may learn a thing or two! And let us know which sections of the site you like most in the comments below.
The Guardian recently posted an interview with Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina. You may know his name from the popular satirical essay “How to Write About Africa” or his commentary on the new laws in Nigeria and Uganda targeting LGBTI groups, but if you’re unfamiliar, he’s an opinionated, outspoken, and often controversial figure (especially when it comes to development in Africa).
In the interview, Wainaina speaks about stereotypes in development and the failure to align aid with the reality of Africa. He talks about the imbalanced, unsustainable power relationships between the West, African governments, and civil society. He calls for a restructuring of these relationships, and says it must come from Africans. I’d like to hear more about his ideas on exactly what it takes for Africans to shift power in an effective way, but he didn’t go into details in this interview. Also, according to Wainaina, it’s within the political sphere that change can happen and because civil society has “become anti-politics,” it’s missing the mark.
His blunt criticisms and his definition of the word community – someone utterly powerless upon which power is being imposed – made me laugh. If you work in development I’m sure you’ll agree that there’s some truth to everything he said, but as with most generalizations, they don’t apply to all aid, civil society organizations, or African governments. I can think of many counterexamples.
Click here to watch the video and share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
As most of you probably know, last week the Gates Foundation released their Annual Letter addressing three myths that Bill and Melinda Gates believe are blocking progress for poor people all over the world. Previous letters focused on the Foundation’s annual activities, so it’s quite a change that this year’s letter cites examples and data from around the world to disprove the following:
Myth 1: Poor countries are doomed to stay poor
Myth 2: Foreign aid is a big waste
Myth 3: Saving lives leads to overpopulation
Overall the letter is a very optimistic one, painting a bright picture of the future for the world’s poor and sick. It includes a combination of videos, infographics, and a lot of quotables which I’m sure we’ll see in other places. If you haven’t had a chance to read through it yet, I encourage you to take some time to do so. It’s worth it.
In terms of global health and development, it’s easy for us to lose perspective on how much progress is actually being achieved and for that reason I can appreciate the optimism in the letter. However, I see the letter as more of a cautionary piece or call to action, warning people against believing all the “bad” development news in the media. I don’t think it will truly dispel any of these myths, but it’s done a good job of raising interesting questions, starting conversations, causing controversy, and spurring critical discussions around the three myths and their related topics. In fact, the letter has resulted in a lot of global health professionals and others sharing their opinions online so join the conversation by reading the letter, watching the series of short videos here, and posting your reactions and comments below.
Side note 1: For those who are interested, Bill Gates went on Late Night with Jimmy Kimmel last week to talk about the letter.
Side note 2: Bill Nye the Science Guy is featured in one of the videos that focuses specifically on global health and child mortality and two members of the cast of the MythBusters TV show are featured in another video.
There are tons of examples of how technology is transforming global health, including this recent video from The World Bank.
The Pacific region contains many countries with populations spread across large distances and the Kingdom of Tonga is one of them. Containing 170 islands, Tonga has unique development challenges. According to the video, there are only about 55 doctors in Tonga serving a population of 100,000. Medical assistants and nurse practitioners serve the areas outside the main islands, thus access to doctors is limited. Also, Internet in Tonga is very expensive and provides limited bandwidth.
To address these two issues, The World Bank, along with its partners, constructed an 827 kilometer underwater fiber optic cable that connects Tonga to the Southern Cross Cable Network via Fiji and helps improve Internet services. So what impact does this have on healthcare? Increased bandwidth allows hospitals and health professionals to get what they need, improves information collection, leads to better diagnoses, and allows them to liaise with partners overseas to ensure best treatment for patients.
We all recognize that technology has a strong impact on many aspects of our lives (for better or worse). The benefits associated with the intersection of technology and healthcare is very interesting and becomes even more interesting when you examine the effects it has in rural versus urban areas. This video clearly highlights work done in rural areas where access is a huge problem. Watching it reminded me of an article I read in the New York Times last year about a failed MNCH project. The project failed because researchers took a model that was successful in rural areas and tried to replicate it in an urban setting.
That said, when it comes to global health, some people believe there are greater gains to be had in rural areas where successes are “easier” to achieve and measure. What is your opinion?
On December 19, the United Nations (UN) posted this compilation video highlighting major events, crises, and successes around the world. The video details the UN’s work throughout 2013 to “negotiate peace, instill hope, and define a sustainable future for all.” The first half of the video focuses largely on peacekeeping efforts, but around minute 10 it becomes more global health-related. From that point on, the video covers topics such as poverty, hunger, sanitation, and the environment. I would like to see a similar 2013 recap video from the World Health Organization. In the event they create one, we will post it on this blog.
What are some major global health crises and milestones that could be included in a 2013 recap video? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
UPDATE: As promised, here is the 2013 year in review video from the World Health Organization. Some topics were crowdsourced using social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook.
One thing I see missing is Ethiopia reaching MDG 4. And more generally, updates and progress towards the health-related MDGs. Did you contribute to this video through Facebook or Twitter? What else do you think should have been included?