Anthro in the news 1/5/15

Source: Francisco Leong/Agence France-Presse. Getty Images
  • Paul Farmer in the news

Farmer zings M.S.F.: The New York Times quoted Paul Farmer, medical anthropologist and professor at Harvard University, in an article about controversy over the use of IV therapy for Ebola victims in West Africa. Two of the most admired medical charities are divided over the issue. Partners in Health, which has worked in Haiti and Rwanda but is just beginning to treat Ebola patients in West Africa, supports the aggressive treatment. Its officials say the more measured approach taken by Doctors Without Borders is overly cautious.

Farmer, one of the founders of Partners in Health, using the French initials for Doctors Without Borders (MSF), is quoted as saying: “M.S.F. is not doing enough…What if the fatality rate isn’t the virulence of disease but the mediocrity of the medical delivery?”

Farmer joins the movie stars: The Huffington Post reported on an effort by The Hunger Games movie stars to keep pressure on efforts to stamp out Ebola. They created a YouTube video which includes luminaries Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Jeffrey Wright, Mahershala Ali and Julianne Moore….and Paul Farmer.

Farmer was right: Ross Douthat, a regular columnist for The New York Times, reflected on three errors he had made in 2014, one of which was to assume that the Ebola crisis would arrive in the U.S. Therefore, he supported travel restrictions. But now, he writes, “Two months later, there has been no wider outbreak, most of the cases treated domestically have resulted in a cure, and the president and his appointees can reasonably claim vindication (as can Dr. Paul Farmer who argued in an October essay that with Western standards of medical treatment, Ebola victims could have a 90 percent survival rate). Continue reading “Anthro in the news 1/5/15”

Anthro in the news 12/15/14

  • Ed Liebow, Executive Director of the American Anthropological Association.

    Cultural anthropology is essential for addressing Ebola

Discover Magazine reported on a conference on anthropology and Ebola held at the George Washington University in November that convened nearly twenty anthropologists to brainstorm about how to better address Ebola through the inclusion of cultural knowledge. The article mentions several anthropologists, academics and professionals working in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, including Sharon Abramowitz of the University of Florida, one of the effort’s organizers.  The article quotes Edward Liebow, executive director of the American Anthropological Association, one of the co-sponsors of the conference: “Epidemiologists are making oversimplified assumptions about transmission, setting these wild upper limit bounds…We’re in a position to actually breathe life into the numbers, to put people into those positions, to make much more realistic assessments of near-term and longer-term predictions.” Continue reading “Anthro in the news 12/15/14”

Anthro in the news 6/16/14

  • Mixed emotions in Brazil about the World Cup

Source: The Telegraph.

BBC News, among many other media, reported on the mixed reactions in Brazil to the launch of this year’s World Cup competition – from jubilation among some to resentment and protest among others. The BBC quoted cultural anthropologist Arlei Damo of the University of Rio Grande do Sul:

“There is a real conflict…The usual love affair with the Selecao has been undermined by many things – the protests, the realisation that few Brazilians can’t afford to watch them as they wanted to. The emotions aren’t flowing as they typically would.” Continue reading “Anthro in the news 6/16/14”

Anthro in the news 4/14/14

• Health equity, smart aid, and “stupid deaths”

KPBS radio (San Diego) interviewed medical anthropologist and health activist Paul Farmer about how to improve health care around the world.

Farmer talked about how to ensure equal access to health care through smart aid and the need to avoid what he calls “stupid deaths.” He comments on the “equity approach” in responding to a question about the aftermath of the Rwanda genocide.

He also addresses tough questions about HIV/AIDs and how to help the poorest people.

• Jim Kim: On leadership and cholera

The Washington Post carried a brief interview (embedded below) with Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank and a medical anthropologist and physician.

Kim discusses leadership and the need to develop a thick skin, in some areas, and openness in others.

During the April 12 meetings of the World Bank, Kim called for a renewed sense of urgency and more coordination from the international community to help Haiti eliminate cholera, which has killed thousands of Haitians since its outbreak in October 2010.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/posttv/c/embed/b4e9c246-c0ee-11e3-9ee7-02c1e10a03f0

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 4/14/14”

Anthro in the news 3/31/14

• Conversation with Paul Farmer on World TB Day

The Huffington Post carried an article marking World TB Day and this year’s focus on finding and treating the 3 million people with active TB who are missed by public health systems.

Paul Farmer (right) in Haiti with Alcante. Credit: Moupali Das, 9/11/03
Paul Farmer in Haiti with Alcante/Moupali Das

It presents responses from Paul Farmer — medical anthropology professor, doctor, and health policy advocate — to several questions including why he started working on TB, the specific challenges in working on TB, and more.

• Paul Farmer’s latest book

The National Catholic Reporter included a review of Farmer’s latest book, In the Company of the Poor, a collection of writings and an interview transcript with Farmer and Dominican Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez, a Notre Dame professor who is considered to be the founder of liberation theology.

“In a particularly poignant section, Farmer recalls gathering in Peru for a conference ambitiously titled ‘The New World Order and the Health of the Poor.’ He [Farmer] and his colleagues learned directly from the experiences of the poor, a key hermeneutical approach for liberation theology, and they came up with a model of accompaniment, or pragmatic solidarity. Farmer’s works are cerebral but captivating and pay tribute to the ‘disciplined humility’ and hopeful praxis of Gutiérrez’s intellectual and pastoral accomplishments.”

• “Tender mercies” say much about a society

Sarah Wagner, cultural anthropology professor at the George Washington University, published an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun about U.S. scientific practices in accounting for war dead in the past century, especially MIAs (those missing in action).

She argues that many complexities involved need to be taken into account in order to serve the relatives: “We as a public need to understand more fully the scientific work and its costs and judge for ourselves if those tender mercies reflect the values of this nation. The missing, unknown and yet unidentified deserve that much.”
Continue reading “Anthro in the news 3/31/14”

Anthro in the news 2/17/14

• Lessons learned about AIDs?

The Washington Post published an op-ed by medical anthropologist, health advocate, doctor, and professor at Harvard University, Paul Farmer.

Paul Farmer
Paul Farmer/Wikipedia

He asks whether, a decade after the global AIDS response began in earnest, the lessons learned will be sustained over time and used to fight other diseases. He notes the similarities between the prevalence of chronic hepatitis C infections today and AIDs in the 1990s.

Hepatitis C inflicts 170 million people worldwide, is the leading indication for liver transplant in the United States, and a common cause of liver failure around the world. For some, however, Hepatitis C is about to become curable thanks to the knowledge doctors and researchers gained fighting AIDs.

• Source your chocolate

Cultural anthropologist Mark Schuller, anthropology professor at Northern Illinois University, writes in The Huffington Post about where chocolate comes and options for the future. He highlights a documentary film, “Nothing Like Chocolate,” by sociologist Kum-Kum Bhavnani of the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Noting that over 40 percent of the world’s chocolate comes from Côte d’Ivoire, the film documents the violence behind its harvest, including civil war and child labor. It reveals the growing consolidation of the chocolate industry by transnational agribusiness corporations like Nestle and Hershey’s who continue to buy up small producers.

On a more positive note, the film highlights an alternative to this process in the Grenada Chocolate Company: “Within 5 years, the co-operative was producing 9 to 10 tons of local organic chocolate. Nothing Like Chocolate looks at this revolutionary experiment, focusing on how solar power, appropriate technology and activism merge to create a business whose values are fairness, community, sustainability and high quality.”

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 2/17/14”

Anthro in the news 12/2/13

• Breast cancer screening in Israel: opportunity or not?

In Israel, a push to screen for a breast cancer gene leaves many women conflicted, according to an article in The New York Times. Israel has one of the highest rates of breast cancer in the world, and many scientists are advocating what may be the first national screening campaign to test women for cancer-causing genetic mutations that are common among Jews. But the tests mean that women have to choose between what they want to know, when they want to know it, and what to do with the information.

Komen Race Jerusalem 2012
Komen Race for the Cure (for breast cancer) in Jerusalem 2012. Flickr/U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv

Jews of Ashkenazi, or central and eastern European, backgrounds, make up about half of the Jewish population in Israel and the vast majority of those in the U.S. They are much more likely to carry mutations that pose risks for breast and ovarian cancers, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The debate about screening is economic — will the state cover the costs of testing — and ethnic — will only Ashkenazi Jews be routinely tested? Israel is a melting pot of both Arab citizens and Jews from all over the world, and only half of the country’s six million Jews are of Ashkenazi ancestry.

Moreover, even though the testing would be voluntary, women could feel pressured to participate, said Barbara A. Koenig, a professor of medical anthropology and bioethics at the University of California, San Francisco. “When you institute mass screening, you’re making a collective decision that this is a good thing.”

• Sharing amidst poverty in the U.S.

An article in The Los Angeles times described how L.A.’s close-knit Tongan community struggles with poverty while maintaining their strong cultural tradition of sharing. Statistics show half of Tongan Angelenos live in poverty. But, they say, a culture of sharing means “no Tongan is here to get rich”—because even the smallest thing is given.

Scholars believe the numbers of people in the Tongan diaspora is larger than the population of Tongans on the islands. The article quotes Cathy A. Small, a Northern Arizona University anthropology professor who has long studied Tongan communities. When visiting a classroom in Tonga a few years ago, children were told to write letters to their mothers in New Zealand, saying what they wanted for their birthdays. “Nobody found the assignment strange.”

Continue reading “Anthro in the news 12/2/13”