Global Health

Dimitra Tzanos / Flickr

KPLU's Tom Paulson wondered over on our Humanosphere blog: "What has happened to our sense of ourselves as global citizens and how Sept. 11, 2001, may have altered matters of global health, foreign aid, development — basically, the global humanitarian agenda.

The short answer: It’s a mixed bag of good and bad, some clear signs of what many see as progress but also some disturbing lessons not learned."

Read more at Humanosphere.

Literacy Bridge

Words can be just as important as vaccines, drugs or better seeds when it comes to helping the world’s poorest.

And Cliff Schmidt, founder of a Seattle-based organization called Literacy Bridge, has created a device to get these valuable words out to the world’s poorest. It’s called the Talking Book.

Read more on Humanosphere.

Time for another movie about a killer virus that spreads across the planet: "Contagion" by Steven Soderbergh is due out in a few days. Can these movies teach us anything?

Humanosphere’s Tom Paulson writes about the movie and his science-writing colleague, “one of the top public health and pandemic journalists out there," who was a consultant for it.

“Despite her misgivings, Garrett agreed to work as a consultant to the filmmakers for 'Contagion.' She says it is definitely based on an extraordinarily virulent bug that spreads fast. But the science is solid, she says, and there are some valuable lessons contained in the drama.”

Read more on Humanosphere.

Eric Hershman / Flickr

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has done a lot to boost the science and delivery of vaccines for human health and to assist in the fight against disease.

Now, the Seattle philanthropy would like to start vaccinating crop plants to help poor farmers and hopes solutions will emerge through its next round of Grand Challenges Explorations.

Runs with Scissors / Flickr

CNN’s Global Public Square blog writes "... as the first unambiguous military enforcement of the Responsibility to Protect norm, Gadhafi’s utter defeat seemingly put new wind in the sails of humanitarian intervention."

Tom Paulson, blogger for KPLU's Humanosphere, has written on this topic before and continues the discussion on Humanosphere.

Stephen Poff / Flickr

The heroic narrative is almost irresistible as a storytelling strategy.

But many in the aid and development community think it frequently does more harm than good.

Read more on Humanosphere.


In response to this somewhat typical (if not also dispiriting) celebration of American celebrity elite – particularly when it comes to lists of "power women" – Nigerian writer Mfonobong Nsehe decided to put together for Forbes his own list of the top 20 young power women of Africa.

Read more on Humanosphere.

Mike Urban

The World Health Organization has long been worried over reports that mosquitoes were increasingly resistant to chemical-treated bed nets, a mainstay in the Gates Foundation-led, worldwide campaign against malaria.

Now, a study from Senegal raises doubts over Gates’ plant to beat malaria, blaming mosquitoes’ growing resistance to insecticide.

Tom Paulson introduced the teen-directed program, Girl Up, last year, on, as the United Nations Foundation and Seattle students helped launch the new initiative.

This year, the Girl Up campaign says it has mobilized 150,000 American teens around the issue of child brides. Organizers say the disturbing prospect of 100 million child brides in the next decade has galvanized American teenage girls, who are demanding action on behalf of their young counterparts around the world.


Wikimedia Commons photo

Despite the best intentions, foreign aid often goes awry in countries overwhelmed by war.

A series of recent news stories have shown clearly that governments rushing in to help people in war-torn countries often find they have solved few long-term problems and sometimes made matters worse.

Read more.

While the Gates Foundation is probably more transparent than many, if not most, private foundations, it is still struggling with a public relations problem identified a year ago:  Many felt then that the Seattle philanthropy was difficult to work with and fairly uncommunicative.

In its new annual report released today, Gates CEO Jeff Raikes said, "Many grantees said we are inconsistent and unclear about our decision-making process and our programmatic strategies. They also said we should be more welcoming of their feedback."

Associated Press

Given the demand for cuts in government spending following the compromise deal Congress struck in order to raise the debt ceiling, many experts say foreign aid and development programs are on shaky ground.

Read more.

Tom Paulson / Humanosphere

Clearly, the explosion of do-gooders in Seattle represents a great opportunity – an opportunity to do more good, to maybe even “do well by doing good” or at least find a job.

But our region’s emerging humanitarian “sector” also poses some dangers: A plethora of good (and maybe not-so-good) causes competing for funding, of redundancy, lack of clarity, lack of criteria for measuring success (or failure) and, overall, of not making the most of this opportunity due to lack of collaboration, of community.

That’s where Hub Seattle hopes to play a role.

Read more.


“We live in this amazing community where so many people are trying to make a difference …”

Seattle has become a hub, or more accurately a hodgepodge, of international do-gooders. And, well, nobody seems to really have a handle on everything going on.

That’s where another internationally oriented foundation in Seattle comes in. Appropriately enough, it’s called the Seattle International Foundation.

Read more.

Associated Press

Just as when Tunisians first rose up against their government, few outside are paying much attention.

The same basic forces — unemployment, high food prices, human rights abuses and mistrust of government — which sparked the revolt in Tunisia and then led to today’s widespread popular revolution across the Arab world, is now at play in this small, southeastern African nation.

Read more.

Associated Press

As the United Nations and the international community ramps up to airlift food and supplies into East Africa, mostly for starving Somali refugees, two perspectives on this crisis seemed especially interesting to Tom Paulson, who runs KPLU’s Humanosphere.

One: In Foreign Policy, Charles Kenny contends that, in this day and age, allowing a famine to occur is basically a crime against humanity.

Two: David Dickson, editor of the Science and Development Network, contends that the UN, Western powers and aid organizations could have been well-prepared for this crisis – if they had paid any attention to the scientific evidence.

Read more.

Water 1st

Marla Smith-Nilson is director of Seattle-based Water 1st International and has worked for decades trying to improve access in the developing world to clean water and safe, healthy sanitation.

Smith-Nilson said she welcomes the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation decision to get more involved in water and sanitation issues. But she is concerned that their primary interest in re-inventing the toilet is focused too much on the simple fix.

Read more.

johanoomen / Flickr

The CIA has acknowledged running a deceptive, if not totally fake, vaccination program in Pakistan as part of the effort months ago to hunt down Osama bin Laden, and here are three reasons why the deception may cause problems in global health efforts:

  • This isn’t just about vaccines.
  • Health workers and aid workers overseas have to be seen as neutral and independent if they are to operate effectively and safely.
  • National security isn’t achieved just by hunting and killing bad guys. It’s also achieved through humanitarian efforts.

Read more.

Tom Paulson / Humanosphere

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded its latest set of grants supporting innovative scientific research aimed at solving problems in global health.

The grants, awarded through the Gates Foundation’s $100 million Grand Challenges Exploration program, for this go-round appear to favor novel methods aimed at combating malaria.

Read more.

Associated Press

One of the chronic problems the international community has with almost every disease-fighting campaign has been the need to overcome mistrust — mistrust of government, of foreign health workers or outsider do-gooders in general.

This is, for a variety of reasons, especially true of vaccines.

So many worry that such global health efforts will suffer from the revelation, reported first in The Guardian and later by the New York Times and others, that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) set up a fake vaccination program in Pakistan in order to collect DNA samples.

Read more.