By Colm Fay, Erb MBA/MS student, class of 2012.
This article is cross posted on his personal blog, The PATH less traveled.
It seems like I’m being stalked by Henry David Thoreau ever since I invoked his spirit in a freshman essay while at Trinity College, Dublin. This time he provided the opening quote for Chris Elias’ President’s Report presentation, which focused not on the sometimes depressing details of what still needs to be achieved in the field of global health, but provided the opportunity for PATH’s employees to look around them and realize what miracles have been achieved so far. It’s a theme that has been gaining some traction here in the Pacific Northwest recently. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has launched a project called Living Proof, which aims to demonstrate through media just how impactful US based investments in global health have been both in terms of numbers and in terms of individual human stories. The core message is that “it’s time to change the way we talk about global health”.
As I found out later in the week, this is more than just a feel good exercise. I spent the remainder of the week looking at reports that detailed how the Maternal Mortality Rate (measured as the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 births) has changed in India over the last number of years, how the country level statistics hide huge regional variances and how the NASG could drive these numbers down even more, it was the images in the video above that made this more than an exercise in number crunching. It’s easy to forget that in a country the size of India with over 26 million births every year, reducing MMR by a rate of just 1 results in 270 more mothers in the world, 270 more children with much better chances of survival.
This was an interesting backdrop to a conversation on Thursday with one of the researchers from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation group based out of the University of Washington. He and his team reported a few months back on the recent drop in MMR globally and made the front page of the New York Times as well as an op-ed by Nicholas Kristof.
Unfortunately, this hasn’t made them very popular among some parties in the health sector because it is perceived as weakening the case for ongoing funding. It’s these people that need to listen to the message of the Living Proof project…it’s time to change the conversation, to celebrate successes and use them as proof that what is being done, is working, so lets keep doing it. Failure might be poetic, but success is a whole lot prettier: