Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

From all of us at GlobeMed at Brown, Merry Christmas to all, Happy Holidays, and best wishes for the new year! 2013, we are ready...

In the meantime, don't forget about our Personal Giving Campaign! Bring out that holiday giving cheer and consider helping out our friends at U-Tena with the Kuza Project, which aims to expand a youth center built just this year for teens in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya.

<<Download an informational flyer (PDF) on GlobeMed at Brown and the Kuza Project here.>>
<<Read a bit deeper into our partnership and mission, and donate here.>>

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Not so much a hungry Thanksgiving...

I sat down this afternoon with a couple of friends earlier for a hearty (and free!) Thanksgiving lunch. Way too much turkey. Stuffing. Mashed potatoes, gravy, corn bread, green beans, and mac n' cheese that was seriously out of this world. I took too much for my appetite as usual, and having to put that extra slice of turkey in the trash bin put, too, a bit of guilty weight on my conscience.

I think it was because it reminded me of our GlobeMed Hunger Banquet we had last Friday. As part of Community Building, a bunch of us gathered in Arnold Lounge and chose our fates (excuse the blunt insensitivities). My slip of paper? Margaret, living in a broken home in Louisiana flooded countless times by Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, among others. The task was to figure out what income bracket we belonged to, according to a global scale.

We may or may not have eaten before the actual scripts...
I guessed middle class and was right--but there were quite a few of us who got pretty difficult scripts. What amazed me most was one that reminded me so much of my own mother, who immigrated here over a dozen years ago and started her first job as a bank teller. She earned a low-income salary by America's standards, but on the global scale, she would have been considered high! Although we could have taken into account costs of living in different nations and other socioeconomic concerns, this activity just goes to show how great global income disparities are.

What does it mean when we say, "25,000 people die each day due to hunger"? How does that number sit right with us? How does that number sit, at all? During the first few meetings of the year, our chapter members came to a consensus that health, including the nourishment of the body, is a human right. But after that, the question of who is necessarily responsible for providing food and other provisions lingers rather vaguely in the air. We must be careful how we address the concept of human rights. A GlobeMed critic brought up the interesting point of misinterpreting "rights" as a term for entitlement. However enlightening, the article fails to recognize the difference between GlobeMed's mission of combating hunger and that of combating desire unnecessary for survival. More turkey? No, thank you.

That's enough for me to think on at the moment. At the very least, I can say I am thankful for the company and the comfort I am surrounded by. It's really grown past a once-a-year appreciation since I discovered GlobeMed.

Happy Thanksgiving!
--Elaine Hsiang

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Human Rights

Malawi Suspends Anti-Gay Laws

Here's an interesting article regarding the position of human rights in Africa with regards to equality.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Culture and Health

                What does it mean to be “healthy”? The standards of health are heavily influenced by culture. Influenced by views of race, gender, and cultural values, various cultures interpret the same biological phenomenon differently.  For example, researchers Estroff and Henderson describe that Japanese women and American women perceive menopause differently: Japanese women do not describe experiencing hot flashes and emotional liability, as American women do. Such difference in experiencing the same process exemplifies how people’s beliefs on gender and in general culture shape our definition of health.
               With culture playing a big role on our perception of health, social diagnosis has emerged with increasing rapidly in our society. As a more notable example, people commonly seek Viagra in order to “treat” their erectile dysfunction. However, who can distinguish the healthy from the unhealthy in these instances? In another case, people label common feelings, such as feeling blue or shy, as diseases. Then, they attempt to label these “defected” feelings as depression and treat them with medicine. These attempts  demonstrate people’s obsessive nature to optimize themselves, an emerging process called medicalization. 

             The desire to eliminate natural imperfections in the human body fuels medicalization in our lives; medicalization is not so much driven by an actual illness, however. Researcher Conrad observes that medicalization is “driven more by commercial and market interests than by professional claims-makers.” Indeed, medicalization has been driven by consumers, biotechnological companies, the media, and our own perception of health. His observation demonstrates just how deeply social factors have been integrated in the process of determining health. Since health is influenced by factors other than biology, sociologists have some responsibility in analyzing the various impacts of medicalization. Their findings will allow entire communities, not only individuals, to be studied in terms of definitions of health. Estroff and Henderson value the “ability to view medicine in society, and society in medicine” because improving our quality of health is impossible without having a concrete social perspective on medicine. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

State of the US?

Hey y'all! While Globemed focuses on international health, I thought it would be interesting if we stopped for a second and thought of the state of our health care system. Last week when we were discussing the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, many of us were able to point out distinct "basic human rights" which were not afforded to everyone in our own country. That made me think of this video I stumbled upon before. Just some food for thought!
Have a great Halloween everyone!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Recommended books!

Hey Globemedders!  Interested in learning more about Global Health, outside of our awesome weekly Global Health U sessions?  Check out these two incredible books.  

Cutting for Stone is a novel written by Abraham Verghese, an Ethiopian born medical doctor and author.  It is a saga of twin brothers, who became orphans due to their mother's death in childbirth and their father's disappearance.   An unforgettable journey into one man's remarkable life, it is an epic story about the power, intimacy, and curious beauty of the work of healing others.
This book might be a special interest to premeds!

Sizwe's Test: A Young Man's Journey Through Africa's AIDS Epidemic, written by Jonny Steinberg, explores the AIDS epidemic in Africa, especially on stigma against the disease and how it can hinder access to treatment.  If you are interested in HIV/AIDS, look into this book during your spare time!

--Hwajin Lee

Monday, August 13, 2012

Open Heart Film

Check out the official trailer of "Open Heart," an upcoming docu-short--a crazy story about eight Rwandan children receiving the lifesaving heart surgeries that millions in Africa need...

(P.S. some of us actually helped work on this!)

For more info, check out www.openheartfilm.com

Sunday, June 17, 2012

GlobeMed at Community Day!

As Commencement drew near at Brown, Providence was in a glorious bout of summer weather. Some GlobeMed members and new friends participated in Brown's Community Day on May 20th, 2012, an event that was part of Senior Week at Brown. Local kids from Providence interacted with various Brown and Providence organizations to learn new things - from dance moves to facts about butterflies - and enjoy the day. The GlobeMed at Brown members who were still on campus brought paper and colored markers, while our new young friends brought their ideas and creativity.

Global Health U Coordinator Anna Makaretz smiles up from her creation-in-progress - a collection of colorful fruits and vegetables, no doubt connected to her expertise from her other secret identity: Vegetable Fairy! By the end of the day, the girls were experts in drawing lemon slices and strawberries too.

If you look closely at Anna's paper, you can see an awesome green leafy vegetable! Two sisters join in the fun and make their own pieces of art.

Changemakers-to-be pose with their creations!

The graduating seniors of GlobeMed 2011-2012: Ashlie Williams - GROW Coordinator (left), and Alina Kung - Internal President (right)... plus a new GlobeMed friend, Sarah (middle)!

It's been wonderful learning and growing with everyone this year. Have a great summer everyone!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

GlobeMed Global Health Summit 2012: Walking Together, Walking Far--Partnership as a Framework for Meaningful Action

"If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together." --African proverb

I've always been a fast walker. The way I've always seen it, the faster you walk, the faster you get from point A to point B, because what mattered was not the distance but your destination. But Summit...Summit couldn't have shown me more how wrong I was in my thinking, as nice and pretty my intentions were.

To be honest, I was a little lost and crazy before all of this. I came to Brown a chalk-full optimistic first-year (let's just stick "bright-eyed and bushy-tailed" in there), searching desperately for the people and the groups and the courses that would give me a chance to mold myself into someone I actually wanted to be. Let me just say that being aware of global health disparities was not exactly on my list. It was too broad. Too much. Between the impoverished and the comfortable I knew I'd have to walk worlds before I could effect change. And then there was GlobeMed, and after the intriguing yet ever-confusing info sesh I attended near the start of the fall semester (Models? Framework? Flowcharts?) I decided there was something more to this movement for health equity than just what I could do and how many shoes I would run down.

Small groups 11 & 12 at our final discussion!
Partnership--if we are greater than the sum of our parts, then there's definitely something about the GlobeMed network that speaks to humanity. I think that was one of the most prominent lessons I learned at Summit. From Melissa Covelli's opening keynote on eradicating the 1% (of polio cases, excuse me) to the three intense workshops I attended on FACEAIDS, PIH, "big pharms" and pharm labs, the overarching model of their partnerships with those struggling took, roughly, the form of "asking what they need." GlobeMed isn't just another non-profit whose mission is to dump tons of food or medical supplies in a needy community and calling it a good day's work. It's a network of students looking to start a conversation with other people around the world, to learn about differences in an attempt to foster global health equity--because we believe everyone deserves access to healthcare and the right to a healthy life. I know word choice changes how we see things and I know I'm biased; and it's not to say that quick goodwill trips don't do any good. But all of these presentations, including other colleges' globalhealthU track 3 talks, really overturned how I thought about my own aspirations. Getting from point A to point B wasn't the point at all. Sure, raising money and sending that money to U-Tena is one of our biggest goals at our Brown chapter, but the conversation doesn't stop once that money is transferred. There's accountability, constant updates, and GROW--always, always more to do before we reach our next goal, and the way we get there is what truly sets the course for helping others help themselves. And making friendships! Not as the typical white-supremacist, "this is what we're going to give you and this is what you should do with it," but friends, partners, forming a global community.

Selling Kenyan bone jewelry :)
Speaking of friends...Hwajin and I made so many at the conference! There were hoards and hoards of other students so actively involved and in love with the GlobeMed mission, and it was so stimulating to not just get to know them as people, but brainstorm ideas to better our chapters, find common ground on issues, and even start pretty heated debates on morality and the like. Personally, I found it so amazing, how the first thing I could talk about with someone within five minutes of meeting them was the marriage of conventional hospital births with the comfort of homes in an effort to celebrate birth, as a human right, even in those countries without proper sanitary facilities.

Oh, UT-Austin adopted us...
Obviously, it's near impossible to bring the entire Summit experience back to Brown. But in three short days, I've taken more notes than I have all semester long for my Gender Studies seminar, written down more quotes than I imagined, smiled more about the world and the direction we're headed, and loved more our efforts to be a constant of change. As Jonathan Smith so curiously put it, we need to change how we see global health inequity, and change this epidemic of disease into an epidemic of emotion. I believe that GlobeMed at Brown provides a collective step towards this movement, and along with the other 49 chapters, 1,500 students, 21 countries, and countless partnerships among them, I think with hands shaped like hearts, our footfalls will take us to a place that cannot be summed by any point in the alphabet.

I am so excited to see what the next school year will hold for us :)

--Elaine Hsiang

A big question: How do we reconcile targeted interventions with a belief in holistic health?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Abroad Reflections: Intersections in Health

Taking leave of the oppressive sun, I head inside the home of my host mother, Gloria, who has the television turned on to a sermon being held outdoors elsewhere in South Africa. Gloria lives in a modest, yet comfortable house in the older part of Zwelethemba, an apartheid-era black township in Worcester. She is a family matriarch, perhaps in her 70's, with two daughters and a son, from whom she has become a granny and great-granny. I tell her I have visited a sangoma—a traditional Nguni healer that specializes in medicinal herbs and ritual communing with the spirit world. Gloria asks me what the sangoma said and I recount the story of the traditional healer’s calling: wracked with terrible visions and pain, the woman had been compelled by ancestral spirits to join her profession. Gloria asks me if I believe in such things, but before I can respond, answers her own question in the affirmative because I "don't know about it." We turn our attention back to the television, which cuts to a woman publicly confessing her (extensive) sins. Gloria tells me, assuredly, that the woman is a sangoma. She tells me that, as a Christian, she doesn’t believe in sangomas, only Jesus.

As if to illustrate, Gloria shares a story of when her boy, at age 6, developed a brain tumor. To treat this tumor, the doctors told her that a surgery was needed, surgery that could only be performed in the distant city of Cape Town. Once there, Gloria realized that she should have had her pastor at church lay on hands. So, she asked the doctors in Cape Town to delay the surgery, then travelled home by train several hours and went to her pastor in his church. He knew why they had come without her telling and did lay on hands. When she returned to Cape Town, she prayed, the doctors took another x-ray and the boy's tumor was gone. Gloria attributes his healing to her prayer and to her faith: "I believe in doctors, I'm not saying that I don't, but mostly I believe in Jesus Christ and prayer."

This account, one of many personal stories I heard during my stay in the township, only serves as an introduction to the entangled traditional, post- and neo-colonial influences in Zwelethemba. A sociologist might approach this interaction using the lens of ‘intersectionality,’ the multiple facets of a person’s identity that mediate oppression. I am not a sociologist, but one thing I learned abroad is that any individual's beliefs are produced by their relationships and interactions with other people, or as a mentor put it, their "web of witnesses." It was precisely these that the South African apartheid regime sought to control. The physical separation of the township from Worcester by a DMZ-like barren expanse constantly reminded me of this. We often hold our beliefs without context, as unquestioned habits divorced from the people and structures that influenced them. In particular, one might miss the oppression or privilege wrapped up within one's worldview. Open-minded recognition is the first step to emancipation.

Connor Barnhart
Real names withheld.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Teaching the Little Kiddies to Be Healthy!

A group of us from GlobeMed recently partnered with CHAP to teach 4-6 year olds at Mt. Hope Daycare how to eat healthy and stay active.  We created and performed a skit where Connor is looking for a snack.  The rest of the group came dressed and excited to help him choose what would keep him most energized and healthy.  A battle of sorts ensued between evil junkfood and healthy fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.  The candy, chips, and cookies didn't stand a chance.  By the end of the skit, the kiddies were yelling for apples, carrots, and broccoli.  Nice job team!  Go GlobeMed!

 Ready for our all-star performance...

 GlobeMed staff and CHAP members
Playful Penny, Fruit Fairy, Water Warrior, and Vegetable Fairy= Team Healthy!

Katrina Machado, Brown 2015

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Social Stigma of HIV/AIDS in Kenya


Here's a link to a youtube video that was filmed by representatives of Smart Global Health, who "traveled to Kenya and met with community-based health programs working in areas ranging from Maternal Health, HIV, AIDS, Malaria, TB, and Infant Mortality."

I find this video particularly relevant to our current GlobeMed agenda. Over the past two weeks, we've spent a lot of time discussing what we know about HIV/AIDS and how we want to expand our understanding of the disease. Something that we've all expressed interest in learning more about is how HIV/AIDS is viewed in Kenyan society and what kind of stigma it carries.

This video sheds some light on that question. Native community-health volunteers explain that HIV/AIDS is not something talked about lightly, or even at all. People are afraid to be publicly identified as victims of the disease, and will avoid health clinics so as not to draw attention to their condition.

Without open acknowledgment of infection, Kenyans affected by HIV/AIDS won't care for themselves properly and won't warn their sexual partners about transmission. At our next meeting, I hope that we can discuss ways to combat the social stigma that keeps HIV/AIDS victims silent.

Marissa Bych
Brown University Class of 2015

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Academia? Action? Translation please, pt. 4

Part 4: Translation

So let's review the questions we asked at the beginning of this series.

- How do we understand the relationship between health and inequity?
- How do we go about building a more healthy and just future?
- Whose ethical responsibility is it to ensure global health?

And some of the core ideas from some answers:

political and economic forces have structured risk for most forms of extreme suffering
only with immediate action can long-term... challenges be contained 
an essential first step to redress global health inequities is to show the injustice of the present situation and make 'explicit the values on which the proposed action is based'
justice in health requires societies to provide individuals with the necessary conditions for achieving the highest possible threshold level of health so they can have flourishing lives
State governments, institutions and actors, along with non-governmental organisations, local communities, businesses, foundations, families and individuals must assume a prior and direct role and responsibility, through a framework of shared health governance, at the level of the nation-state

Have we really said nothing?

Let's try another approach.

What have these authors not said? They haven't said that the challenges are insurmountable. That they're too complex. Impossible to tackle. Something that's okay, or "just life" or "the way things are". Something we can worry about tomorrow. Something where individuals and local communities have no role.

I recognize my incredible privilege in having the opportunity to study abroad and see the ways our actions can affect communities far away from us. But I didn't have to get on a plane in order to vaguely, indirectly, but somehow, know, that my voting, consumer, and everyday behavior affects people on other continents. I also didn't have to get on a plane to know that my actions affect the people in my own community.

Not only do I have the ability to affect the world, but it can happen now, and it can part of the movement for global health equity.

Not only do you have the ability to affect the world, but it can happen now, and it can be part of the movement for global health equity.

I trust that being part of the GlobeMed model to build a nationwide movement towards global health equity is a step in the right direction. I accept the things that are out of my control. But I also accept and celebrate my own agency. That sad day in the library may feel distant from the issues, but it's an exercise of intellect and an investment in that person's future credibility. Similarly, GlobeMed is investing in the future. GlobeMed is training future global health leaders, partnering with international and domestic organizations, and growing the movement for global health equity.

You're a part of all this too.
And if you're reading this as someone is not currently involved with the GlobeMed Brown University chapter, join us! E-mail globemedbrown@gmail.com. You can also contribute to our partner organization, U-TENA, or follow us on facebook

Monday, January 2, 2012

Academia? Action? Translation please, pt. 3

Part 3: Does my action matter?

In order to feel relevant, I need to get over a few myths.
[For much more eloquent myth-busting, backed with experience in the real world, read this on Humanosphere, an NPR blog about global health and the fight against poverty.]

1) Working to correct global health inequities means I need to be spoonfeeding oral rehydration therapy to a child in Africa who clearly has had less access to good health than me.

Debunking this myth is a matter of recognizing the utility of distance. Leaving this exotification of distress (the suffering needs to be happening in a place very different from mine for it to be to extreme and real) aside for now, let's all take an honest attempt at humility and remember that the world is complicated. Your individual impact on the world is complex, multi-faceted, and real. And before traipsing off to a community you formerly have had no stake or familiarity with, remember the homeless person at the supermarket, or the coughing woman on the bus. "Global" health inequities include your own community. They're local, and at your doorstep. Which makes action that much more possible and relevant.

Ironically, I didn't gain this appreciation until I went abroad. When I was in South Africa, we worked on a "case study" to do a three-day examination of the elderly's perception and understanding of HIV/AIDS. One day, we conducted a focus group in what would be considered a slum area. While we heatedly discussed the merits and flaws of qualitative and quantitative research methods, which felt incredibly distant from the real needs of the people inhabiting the country we were visiting, the indulgence of our actions dawned upon me. We were going to invite ourselves into the homes of strangers, ask them to consider deep and personal questions, extract what we needed for our presentation, and then leave - all for this abstract goal of "education". I proposed that we bring fruit to eat during the focus group, and bought some before we went to conduct it. As we handed out the fruit before we asked our strategically designed questions, I watched some of the older women smell the skin of guava, or pluck an orange out of the bunch approvingly. As I saw them literally consume this nourishment, I knew this was the only unambiguous good I felt we had done this entire project - to, in a small way, offer a small token of gratitude to those who were so generous with their knowledge.

When I came back to school, I was having an in-depth conversation with a friend in the college bookstore. We might have been talking about the construct of language or the meaning of life - all abstract questions college students can give themselves time to ponder. Sitting near us was a man who clearly had been there for a while, with no indication he was off to anywhere else. I had a box of cherry tomatoes I was sharing with my friend. I offered the man nearby some, and he accepted, graciously. Maybe his tanned skin, weathered hands, and yellowed eyes didn't mean he was homeless or economically disadvantaged - maybe he worked at a job that was extremely trying to the body. Maybe he was just another human being, enjoying tomatoes. I asked if it would be okay if I left the rest of the box with him, since I wasn't able to finish it.

"Oh yes, I would like that," he said. "I would like that very much."
[For another student perspective on how our actions at home at relevant to those abroad, read this well-written post by Critical Development Forum founder Dean Chahim.]

2) So what if I buy this toothpaste instead of that one? This isn't going to change anything.

The hardest part here, for me, and perhaps part of the reason why our generation been heralded as more active, engaged, and concerned about the future compared to those past, is that I/we crave gratification, quickly. If I can't see the results, I can't be sure it worked. Not only do I need to see the results, but they need to happen on a timeline I'm familiar with - two weeks is enough for me to churn out a 12-page research paper, so how is developing effective malaria prevention schemes supposed to take three years? And more realistically, 10 years? I haven't engaged with any life project of my own that recently that has been longer than four years - the only examples I have are high school and college.

But say I take the heart the possibility. The possibility that this $5 purchase of toothpaste is a vote towards a world where consumers are informed of the product's origins, the labor practices that it funds, the environmental impact of the company's practices, and distribution of the profits. To engage with the idea that my choice counts is to admit that this drop in the bucket may be the one that breaks the surface tension and causes an overflow - a critical millivolt of energy in what becomes known as a social movement towards socially responsible business practices. Say this movement is documented in a moving newspaper article that catches the eye of a public relations executive at a multinational corporation that manufactures toothpaste. And say they become alarmed with the competition so that they revise, revisit, and make transparent their labor practices. Say salaries for workers increase, and with the extra income, workers are able to send their kids to school. One day the kid comes home and talks about the importance of hand-washing so as to avoid spreading germs, and their younger sibling doesn't catch a preventable diarherreal disease that might have taken their life under other circumstances.

Maybe it's a far-fetched idea.

But here, I at least vote for these general principles, when indicating my preferences as a consumer, for a world I would like to live in.

I've had the idea in my head that socially responsible consumption was a good thing - maybe for a long time at the beginning for superficial reasons. Maybe I just liked the idea of getting "social good" vibes from something as everyday and easy as buying a Viva Glam MAC lipstick instead of a regular MAC lipstick. I had my healthy suspicions that perhaps through some creative accounting, MAC could claim that "Every cent of the selling price of MAC VIVA GLAM lipstick and lipglass is donated to the MAC AIDS Fund," while $7.50 of my $14 went to running the ads for the Viva Glam campaigns, $5 went to administrative costs, and $1.50 went to a random non-profit who in turn used $0.02 of it to buy 1/10 of a condom that they gave out for free in a place where people already had financial access to condoms anyway.

Cynicism can be healthy. But sometimes, only optimism can sustain your faith. Our study abroad program also took us to India. When we visited YRG Care in Chennai, director Dr. Solomon unveiled their plans in the next year to build a multi-building complex to expand their services and accessibility along a block of the bustling city. Construction, she said, would cost around $1 million, and was funded by the MAC AIDS Foundation.

I still use that MAC lipstick I bought a year ago. I carry it around with me with affection, remembering that in an indirect way, my $14 somehow made possible Dr. Solomon's work in India. From seeing her make presentations twice, and watching her in her workplace, I know her foundation is a worthy cause - a place that delivers results under the charismatic leadership. Even my small signal as a consumer to MAC that I would rather buy make-up products that help finance reputable non-profits could be a blip on the radar.

Sometimes, we just need to trust in our intentions, and stop letting our cynicism be our excuse. 
[For more ways on how your dollars and consumer behavior matters, check out the Better World Handbook.]

3) I threw a recyclable water bottle in the trash today because I didn't want to carry it around, drank a Coke that not only supports a sub-par company but also isn't the best for my health, and would much rather go to the movies in my gas-consuming vehicle than finish reading this blog post. I go to a well-respected school and have a sincere interest in combating global health inequities. If I can't do this, how can I expect others to?

Working for the social good isn't always loud, or obvious, or sexy. And as people, we're not perfect. Sure, we'll have times when we might question if we can do more - likely we should. But at the same time, the first steps are the crucial ones, and giving up is the fastest way to disengage with the idea that you matter. Your commitment is admirable, and important. Keep it up, despite any setbacks. Most importantly, before we change others, we do need to believe we are capable of the change in ourselves. More generally, while we can do our best, there are some things that we need to accept are out of our control - it's just a matter of picking our battles wisely.

I'll admit, I probably have thrown a water bottle in a trash can in the last month. During the summer I was home, I also found out about Recycling for the People, and encouraged our parents to sign up for the program. For two weeks, they were very resistant to the idea. "You want us to pay someone else to make money off of our recyclables?" I had formerly spent a summer living in Taiwan, where I could see my waste shrink to a small mound of compost and plastic wrappers - made possible after happily sorting all my paper products, restaurant to-go containers, bottles, cans, styrofoam, and old clothing into the recycling bins in the basement of the apartment complex. At home in America, seeing plastic to-go containers in the trash can made me frustrated. After days of prodding and asking, my mom agreed we could try it for a month. We've been on the program for six months now, and from my expert guesses from having taken out the trash, our household has reduced the volume of our trash by at least two thirds. Instead of us holding on to plastic bags and styrofoam that we would have to travel miles to process (and get minimal payment, if at all, for), we can give it to someone else who will accumulate a critical mass and process it on a regular basis.

So yes, I'm still a little mad at myself for not recycling that water bottle, but I remember too, that I have made a contribution where it counts more. I pick the important things to hold on to, keep my head up for the future, and let the rest go.

In what ways can you contribute to building a more healthy and just world? What can you do today, or tomorrow, to contribute positively to your neighborhood? Tomorrow we'll post our some concluding thoughts on this mini-series - check back! 

Academia? Action? Translation please, pt. 2

Part 2: Answers from academia

note: The following excerpts are pulled out of their original context but capture what I think very generally what their respective articles aim to achieve. I encourage you to read the original text (links available following the references at the end of this post). 

1) How do we understand the relationship between health and inequity?

"Anthropologists who take these as research questions study both individual experience and the larger social matrix in which it is embedded in order to see how various large-scale social forces come to be translated into personal distress and disease. By what mechanisms do social forces ranging from poverty to racism become embodied as individual experience? This has been the focus of most of my own research in Haiti, where political and economic forces have structured risk for AIDS, tuberculosis, and, indeed, most other infectious and parasitic diseases. Social forces at work there have also structured risk for most forms of extreme suffering, from hunger to torture and rape." - Paul Farmer

2) How do we go about building a more healthy and just future?

"To ensure success, in 2005 the world must start building capacity, improving policies, and delivering the investments needed to meet the goals. This effort will need to be sustained at the global, national, and local level over the next decade. And only with immediate action can long-term environmental challenges, such as climate change and fisheries depletion, be contained before they cause irreparable harm for the poor countries least able to protect themselves." - Jeffrey Sachs

"From a global perspective, an essential first step to redress global health inequities is to show the injustice of the present situation and make 'explicit the values on which the proposed action is based'. (38) A second is to develop principles to guide global and national actions to redress such inequalities... Justice in health requires societies to provide individuals with the necessary conditions for achieving the highest possible threshold level of health so they can have flourishing lives." - Jennifer Ruger

3) Whose ethical responsibility is it to ensure global health?

"In conclusion, international agencies and organisations such as the World Bank, the World Health Organization and the United Nations must work together and in a supportive and facilitative role vis-à-vis state actors and institutions to correct global health injustices. State governments, institutions and actors, along with non-governmental organisations, local communities, businesses, foundations, families and individuals must assume a prior and direct role and responsibility, through a framework of shared health governance, at the level of the nation-state. A moral framework should be applied to all global health policies. Reducing gaps in preventable mortality and morbidity is an essential focus of the global health community in the 21st century." - Jennifer Ruger  

Farmer, Paul . "On Suffering and Structural Violence: A View from Below." Daedalus 125.1 (1996): 261-283. Online. [Link]
Ruger, J P. "Ethics and governance of global health inequalities." Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health 60 (2005): 998-10002. Online. [Link]
Sachs, J D, and J W McArthur. "The Millennium Project: a plan for meeting the millennium development goals."Lancet 365 (2005): 347-353. Online. [Link]
What relevance do these broad answers have to your own life? Consider the ways in which your actions impact global health inequities everyday. Stay tuned for the next post, where I offer a few preliminary answers from my own experiences.