While in-flight magazines are not always thought of as the highlight of the journey, I have grown to slightly look forward to the 15 minutes post take off where I am not yet allowed to turn on my laptop so instead I peruse the in-flight magazines. I always skip to the last few pages and examine the flight paths of the airline. Where can I go from New York? What if I stopped over in London? This is my little time to dream before the whirlwind of meetings, trainings, dinners, drinks, and repeat.
But this morning, a new infographic from Kaiser Family Foundation on US global health funding piqued a similar travel lust, oddly enough. How countries and communities try to ensure the health of their people is extremely different across the globe. How communities react to atrocities, war, famine, and acts of nature reflect inner creativity, culture and resilience. Where would I first go on my tour of global health innovation?
1. After the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, for example, in which 800,000 Rwandans, mostly Tutsis, were murdered by their fellow country-men as the world stood by and watched in horror, no one expected 20 years later to see health equity as a top priority for the nation. A mix of national and local level initiatives, including village-level funding and training of community health workers
2. After attending a presentation at a national conference on health disparities by a member of the Brazil ministry of health, I added Brazil to my list. From what I understand, their public health system has gone through massive shifts and is now grounded in a participatory action framework, based on the pioneering work of Paulo Friere . This new system aims to put the decision-making in the hands of local jurisdictions, a very decentralized approach that is being used in developing countries around the globe.
3. While I have spent a great deal of time in Thailand, I must return as it continues to be a global health model, particularly in its HIV prevention. One of the most compelling graphs shows the projected (extremely high) rates of HIV infection, and also the actual rates (much lower) due to their proactive public health programs. There was even an elected official called Mr. Condom – something that would most definitely cause ripples in the US congress. While radio PSAs were common in the 1990’s and early 2000s, it appears that some of the prevention messaging is shifting to highest risk groups – like the test Bangkok campaign.
What do these places have in common? What I want to see are the unique and innovative systems that people come up with all over the world. The passion that fuels these pilot programs that become large-scale programs is contagious.
For my fellow global health nerds out there, where do you want to go, work, experience?