Thursday, July 30, 2009

My Malawi Nurses Video Featured on CNN

I'm happy to report that my story and video of the crippling shortage of nurses in Malawi has now been published in CNN's new health section "Vital Signs."

I actually shot two videos from my trip to Malawi. You can see the other one on It's called "Telling Stories, Saving Lives."

The videos, as many of you know, were months in the making. Who knew there were so many parts to putting moving images together?

And I have to question the idea that anyone truly is ever alone in producing video.

Many thanks to Nieman Fellow classmates (Ayelet, Joan, Walter, Simon and Stuart) who, along with Jeb Sharp and Joe Neel, gave me guerilla lessons in shooting video, Katherine Bates (who helped ferry all the equipment), Eileen Hohmuth-Lemonick (who took the still photos) Ed Robbins (who edited the videos and wrote the script), Stefanie Friedhoff (who believed in the project and provided the funding) and, of course, the great people at Embangweni Mission Hospital itself.

The two institutions to thank are, of course, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism, which awarded me the fellowship on global health reporting--and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which supported the Nieman Foundation.*

I haven't even won an award or anything and I'm just gushing with all the people to thank--but perhaps I'll stop there.

*I believe there is no conflict on interest posed by the Gates funding since I was free to chose my project and did my reporting without editorial input from the Gates Foundation.

Anyway, just wanted to share the joy.

Related Post:
Planning is Key to Good Multimedia

Friday, July 24, 2009

Plumpy'Nut: WBAI Radio Interview

Just finished talking with Diana Mason and Barbara Glickstein about patent issues and Plumpy'Nut on WBAI. Intriguingly, the conversation broadened out to food and water issues generally. Here's a list of previous posts about Plumpy'Nut that Diana referred to in her questions.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Unintended irony about cost-effectiveness

Some thoughts on the unspoken history in an article from the Wall Street Journal about cost-effectiveness in global health.

I have been spending more time these past several weeks on Twitter, the short-form micro-blogging platform, rather than on the blog. (I'm @cgorman.) There are obvious limitations to Twitter's 140 character limit. But I find it's a great way to quickly pass along time-sensitive information, as well as get a kind of "temperature reading" of what some of the big issues are thought to be.

It's also exactly the right format to quickly point folks to news articles--like the one that Amy Dockser Marcus of the Wall Street Journal wrote in an intriguing piece titled, "To Fix Health Care, Some Study Developing World."

But it's hard to fit into 140 characters what I thought was missing in Marcus's article. It's a perfectly fine piece of journalism, a good introduction. But there is a lot more to this story.

You get a hint of it in Marcus's praise of the Prevention and Access to Care and Treatment (PACT) Project in Boston. That program was started by Partners in Health in 1995.

The main thrust of Marcus's article is about international programs that provide better health for less money. In other words, the benefits of cost-effectiveness--as seen in poor countries.

Regarding cost-effectiveness: PIH leaders like Paul Farmer and Joia Mukherjee will tell you over and over again that too many in global health are slaves to the idol of cost-effectiveness. (Note, these are their friends they are talking about--the folks who believe in global health.) Farmer and Mukherjee see an unthinking allegiance to cost-effectiveness as a sledge hammer that is often used to deny access to health care for the poor and marginalized.

Regarding health care in poor countries. Mukherjee recently had an op-ed in the Boston Globe slamming the IMF for cutting public sector spending in health and education amongst poor countries as a condition of receiving loans in the 1980s. Part of the reason so many countries were open to working with PIH to develop the sorts of programs praised by the WSJ was because their original government health plans were destroyed by budget cuts demanded by "structural adjustment programs."

The irony, as Mukherjee and her co-author wrote, is astounding. "Today, market-based, financial-sector strategies have failed so miserably that nothing but massive public spending can rescue even the wealthiest economies. The United States itself has used trillions of dollars of public monies to stimulate the economy and secure private institutions. Yet expansionary public spending will not be possible in poor countries if the IMF is given free reign to restrict public expenditures."

So, Twitter for short bursts of information (like headlines). Blogs for looking a little deeper. All of it is a process that sometimes even produces good products.

Related Posts:
Do We Get Our Money's Worth in Global Health?
How I Use Twitter Without Being Overwhelmed