Global health

Jerome Delay / AP Photo

As the Ebola outbreak first emerged in West Africa, some global health experts downplayed it. The virus has flared up here and there since it was discovered in the 1970s, and rarely has its death toll exceeded a few dozen or at most a few hundred.

“I actually was among those who didn’t think it would be that big a deal, and like the previous ones, it would be contained and would burn itself out very quickly,” said Tom Paulson, who has been covering global health for nearly 20 years. “I was dead wrong.”

Paulson, the founder and editor of Humanosphere, sat down with KPLU to talk about why he’s changed his mind and come to see Ebola in Africa as a major menace.

NASA

The planet could be much more crowded by the end of the century than previously thought, according to a new report by University of Washington researchers.

That contradicts a general consensus that world population growth is likely to stabilize before long. The population has been expected to rise from the current seven billion or so to about nine billion, before leveling off and possibly declining.

But new projections, based on new statistical models, suggest the numbers will not tail off after all. Instead, statistician and sociologist Adrian Raftery said we could hit 11 billion and counting by century’s end.

Chugrad McAndrews of Seattle / "The Eat-a-Bug Cookbook," published by Ten Speed Press.

Seattle author David George Gordon would be more than happy to share his recipe for his three bee salad or cricket nymph risotto. Try the deep-fried tarantula, the bloomin’ onion of arachnids.

Gordon is known as “the bug chef,” and has written one of the more comprehensive cookbooks showcasing bugs and their kin. He is also a true believer in insects as a food source for an ever-hungrier planet, as laid out in a lengthy U.N. report last year.

Courtesy of Bob Wood.

Editor's Note: “Senior Thesis” is a special week-long series that brings together venerable veterans in various fields with university students hoping to forge a career in the same field.

Bob Wood and Carolyn Wortham sat opposite each other in the KPLU studio, separated by a generation during which a whole lot had happened.

Between the time that Dr. Wood took up arms against the AIDS epidemic and when Wortham took on the same fight, the illness has gone from mysterious killer to manageable condition. The battlefield had moved, to some extent, from urban gay neighborhoods to the developing world.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

People fighting hunger in the developing world have noticed a troubling mystery: malnourished children sometimes fail to get healthier even when given a lot of extra nutrients.

The key to helping them may be to focus not on the kids, but on their cows, according to a team led by a University of Washington professor.

The researchers from UW, Washington State University and CDC-Kenya just received a Gates Foundation grant to examine the values of a holistic approach—one that focuses on the intersection of human, animal and environmental health.

Sometimes seeing data presented in the right way can change your entire view of the world. 

Bill Gates says that’s what happened to him 20 years ago, with global health:

“I was completely stunned by the burden of disease in poor countries, to see that diarrhea was killing literally millions of children, and that some of those causes of diarrhea, like rotavirus, were preventable," he said. "There was a vaccine available in rich countries, but ironically, not in poor countries."

IHME

Americans are likely to live longer than we might have in the past – but the quality of our golden years appears to be getting worse, when it comes to health.

A new study by Seattle researchers shows Alzheimer’s, depression, and back pain have been increasing dramatically since 1990.

Oliver Erdmann / Flickr

In 2012, it’s more likely to be obesity than infectious disease, even in many so-called "poor" countries.

People around the world are living longer – but they're also more likely to get sick from diseases that are common in America. These trends are highlighted in an ambitious Seattle-based project to track health and sickness in countries around the world.

David Oliver Relin, a journalist who had reported from around the world before gaining fame — and getting mired in controversy — as co-author of the best-selling Three Cups of Tea, took his own life when he died on Nov. 15 in Oregon, The New York Times reports.

It got that word from Relin's family.

Melinda Gates is running full tilt against the Catholic Church on family planning and now the philanthropy’s blog is pumping out this thinly disguised attack on, well, rich people. Something seems to be changing over there. The Gates Foundation is getting political. As the authors — Joe Brewer, Martin Kirk and Adriana Valdez Young — say:

“The depiction of poverty as a background reality with no human cause conceals the active role of decision makers to create and perpetuate it.”

Read the full story on Humanosphere.

Emily Lynch / MSF

The latest violence in central Africa is resonating with a group of doctors in the Puget Sound area. They’re medical relief workers who take time off from local clinics and hospitals to work in battle zones. Some are sharing their stories tonight, Nov. 28th, at a film screening in Seattle sponsored by Doctors Without Borders (details below). 

For example, Dr. Terra Bowles is just back from her third stint in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Tom Paulson / Humanosphere

Today’s Seattle subversives are pretty low-key, superficially boring even — smiling at you in their wrinkled clothing, offering tea and cookies, mumbling quietly about equity and justice and gently nudging you toward whatever might be their most ambitious goal.

Take the iLEAP program, for example.

Read the story on Humanosphere.

Tom Paulson / Humanosphere

“Good science is based on uncertainty, on having an open mind and dealing with the unknown,” said Dr. Jim Kublin, executive director of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) based at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

His frankness got a laugh at the network’s meeting in Seattle this week. And what makes it easier to laugh about not knowing where you’re going, he added, is that researchers today have a lot more tantalizing clues.

Read more on Humanosphere.

Three of the area’s leading organizations at the forefront of this movement – Hub Seattle, Social Venture Partners and the Bainbridge Graduate Institute – celebrate the grand opening of their new conjoined and co-working space known as the Center for Impact and Innovation.

Read more on Humanosphere.

Tom Paulson / Humanosphere

"We invent things and have fun doing it. We explore ideas. Most of them won’t work but they don’t all need to work. We have a number of projects out there that I would say stand a fair chance of improving the lives of many people," Nathan Myhrvold.

The former chief technologist for Microsoftis a close associate of Bill Gates and now CEO of a business, Intellectual Ventures, which some say holds more patents (about 40,000) than any other company in the United States.

I wanted to talk to Myhrvold about his recent ventures into philanthropy, into humanitarianism, which his firm has dubbed its “Global Good” project.

Check out Humanosphere for the rest of the story.

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