Yesterday was the first day of classes at the Harvard School of Public Health. I started off in Richard Cash's Introduction to the Practice of Global Health. Cash is one of the people who developed oral rehydration therapy (ORT) for the treatment of severe diarrhea.
ORT doesn't cure the cholera or rotavirus infections that typically cause diarrhea but still saves millions of lives by replacing the salts and fluids the body loses during bouts of these potentially fatal illnesses. And ORT is extremely inexpensive, which is very important in desperately poor parts of the world.
Later in the evening, several of us Nieman Fellows went to the Kennedy Library to hear journalists Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Gwen Ifill talk about civil rights, Africa, the state of news coverage in the U.S. and the fact they are both PKs (Preacher's Kids). I was particularly intrigued by this last point since I'm a PK, too.
"What is it about PKs and journalism?" I later asked Ifill. She said her theory is that we are used to being watched by everyone in the congregation. So we either embrace being in the public eye or flee into hiding. (I confess to a little of both.)
The other touchstone from the evening for me was Hunter-Gault's statement that sub-Saharan Africa is no longer primarily a humanitarian issue for Americans. It's now an energy issue, with a direct effect on the price of the gasoline we put in our cars--something the Chinese government clearly understands, considering its recent ramped up investment in Africa.
"This is what is going to jolt America into understanding her national interest in Africa," Hunter-Gault told a group of several hundred people at the Kennedy Library last night. "It's China. Because China gets it."
And so my Nieman year begins.