1. Rwanda is setting the pace for progress against HIV/AIDS

    July 21, 2014

    Photo credit: Gates Foundation

    Photo credit: Gates Foundation

    “Stepping up the pace” is the short yet poignant theme of the 20th International AIDS Conference, which is taking place July 20–25 in Melbourne, Australia. The world has seen tremendous progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS over the last decade, documenting huge advances in treatment effectiveness, access to affordable drugs, and ways to prevent further transmission of the deadly virus. Because of what the world has collectively done to tackle the disease, being diagnosed with HIV today is no longer an inevitable – and early – death sentence.

    But the AIDS community continues to face many challenges. Funding for vital treatment and programs is flatlining and millions of people remain unaware that they’re infected with the virus. Some of the world’s leading AIDS researchers and activists lost their lives last week on the way to the conference. To honor their work, I’d like to highlight places that have truly “stepped up the pace” against HIV.  [Read more...]

  2. Feeling stressed? News consumption plays a large role.

    July 14, 2014

    Think about what percent of news is comprised of stories covering local violent crime, wars abroad, or economic uncertainties. Now think about how you feel after watching these kinds of stories. Empowered? Probably not. Informed? Maybe. Ineffective and vulnerable? More likely. In the aggregate, you would think such problem-focused pieces would, at least to some degree, affect news consumers’ emotions negatively.

    A new study by NPR supports this contention.

    In a survey of 2,500 Americans, 25% of respondents said they had experienced severe stress in the past month. Of this 25%, respondents said that one of the greatest triggers of their stress was consumption of news.

    The biggest effect (more observable emotional effects) comes from traumatic events covered in a sensational way, something, the article notes, that’s hard to avoid given the need to attain and sustain viewers amid fierce competition.

    The piece also sites another relevant study, which surveyed 4,500 people around the country about their reactions to the Boston Marathon bombings. It found that people who exposed themselves to more than 6 hours of media daily (i.e., coverage of the event) sustained more acute stress symptoms than those who were actually at the marathon when the bombs went off.

    Coverage of problems, local or international, will always be and should always be present in the media. You have to know what the problem is and why it persists before individuals or organizations can start tackling it with effective solutions. Likewise, not every news item is going to make readers feel happy, at ease, or hopeful. [Read more...]

  3. Scoring big for child health (and the World Cup): Costa Rica’s success story

    July 11, 2014


    Like millions worldwide, I’ve had an unshakeable case of World Cup fever. For the last month, I planned my weekends around watching the matches, I zealously read post-game analyses, and debated coaching decisions. With the final upon us this weekend, I wanted to reflect on one of the most exciting things to come out of the 2014 World Cup: several “underdog” teams were within reach of the final rounds of play.

    Costa Rica was one of these teams, having ousted perennial favorites Italy and England during their first round of matches, and winning against Greece in penalty kicks after playing a man down for 54 minutes. Very few people predicted success for the Costa Rican national team, yet there they were, reaping the rewards of hard work, thoughtful playmaking, and tough defense on the world’s stage. While the team was ultimately defeated in a heartbreaking semifinal against the Netherlands, Costa Rica’s impressive showing at the 2014 World Cup will go down in the history books.

    As it turns out, Costa Rica has been scoring big on and off the soccer pitch – especially for child health. Between 1990 and 2010, the small Central American country documented a 48% decline in rates of premature mortality from preterm birth complications and a 53% decrease from neonatal encephalopathy. Rates of early death from diarrheal diseases and lower respiratory infections among children under 5 also dropped 81% and 57%, respectively, during this time. [Read more...]