Q: Jim Kim, president of the World Bank Group, ascribed much of the success of the fight against HIV/AIDs to a political movement that pushed powerful groups to deal with this health crisis. Describe at least two other examples in which political or social mobilization has had an important impact on fighting disease. How can you become a part of such a movement today?
A: In video lecture 4.4 of Global Disease and Health, I was very inspired to see a congressman (Gregory W. Meeks), a socially-oriented businessman (Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen) and an action-oriented young girl (Naomi Kodama) talk about what they were all doing about malaria, the third biggest cause of death among developing countries (200M suffered from malaria in 2010 and 650K people died of malaria just a few years ago, particularly young children under five, source: video lecture 4.4). This was an example of both political and social mobilization having an impact on fighting disease. Vestergaard Frandsen brought in the technology, Meeks raises awareness for the disease as part of the Malaria Caucus and Naomi Kodama (together with her father) is behind the grassroots campaign, NothingButNets.net which encourages funding for insecticide-treated bed nets being distributed in sub-Saharan Africa.
In video lecture 4.6 of Global Diseas and Health, I also saw how Dr. Neeraj Mistry, managing director of Global Network, David Harris, executive creative director of Draftfcb, and Peter Koechly, co-founder of Upworthy talked about how a U.S.-based institute collaborated with an ad agency and a website for viral content to promote action against something called neglected tropical diseases like worm infections (hook worm, whip worm and round worm), elephantiasis, river blindness, trachoma, and snail fever. These neglected tropical diseases affect 1 billion people in developing countries, mostly in rural and hard-to-reach areas. That scale is really staggering. However, the awareness campaign has really brought in a lot of awareness, which in turn brought in supporters and funding.
This work of fighting global disease truly needs a combination of effective delivery: this includes gathering support and putting the solutions in the hands of those who most need it (Jessica Cohen, Asst. Professor of Global Health, Harvard University, video lecture 4.4 and 4.5) and ethical/ moral responsibility, the continuing reason for people to care and create pressure (Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, Earth Institute, Columbia University, video lectures 4.6 and 4.7). The immediate step I took after the lectures was to donate to both NothingButNets.net and GlobalNetwork.org. However, as mentioned in lectures 4.6 and 4.7, it’s not enough to “throw money” at an initiative. It starts with creating a social consensus, provoking care, marshaling resources, and designing patterns of intervention.
Closer to home, in the Philippines, I am also closely following and supporting the #HungerProject which is a collaboration among a news media website, Rappler, the Philippines’ DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development), and U.N.’s World Food Programme. Its aim is to fight malnutrition among our poorest. This is also one effort where my personal action can make a difference. First step: creating social consensus.
Note: I am currently taking up a course boldly called How To Change The World offered by Wesleyan University (offered for free through Coursera.org) and taught by Wesleyan University President, Michael S. Roth. It tackles major issues facing humanity and it is based on discussions brought up during the 2013 Social Good Summit in NY. I am putting up all my assignments on my blog as well.