Some food for thought, from a really interesting piece on the World Mapper website.
This is a map comparing public health spending around the world. Countries that spend more money are exaggerated to show their spending size compared to their neighboring countries and other continents.
Nothing too surprising here, I think. We see that the United States and Europe spend the most, relative to their size. Look at Germany up there! And France! Kind of nuts.
Compare this public health spending map to the map of infectious Disease Outbreaks.
Nearly the opposite map in terms of perspective/size of countries, no? The Western Hemisphere is tiny tiny in this case, and India and Nigeria are MASSIVE.
Again, nothing here is too surprising. But it is really striking to see and compare these contracts in a similar format of distortion.
Based on this information, consider where we find ourselves in the Ebola crisis. We have a highly infectious disease that travels through social networks, tearing apart families and communities while also presenting truly horrifying symptoms. The disease also presents itself in some of the hardest to reach communities on the planet. I have learned, throughout our efforts to improve tech opportunities for doctors and field workers in Liberia and Sierra Leone, that there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to public health data collection and/or patient follow up. What worked for the US to run in its contact tracing programs are not necessarily a good fit for the communities that we work with in West Africa or the West African Diaspora Community.
This version of public health, especially in the face of a disease as challenging as Ebola, requires a mix of practical applications and rethinking models to fit limited infrastructure, and compassion for the communities that we are trying to reach. The tools we provide, on their own, are worthless if we cannot convince our communities to adopt and engage with them. This seems to be the missing piece in a number of the programs and efforts we see on the ground. But, I am hopeful that we will continue learning from our mistakes and improving our methods and outreach.