Collaboration On the Front Lines of the Ebola Epidemic

UP Week

This year’s UP Week blog tour kicks off with ten posts on the topic of collaboration, and we’re thrilled to add this piece by Executive Editor Naomi Schneider to the conversation.

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“An Ebola Diagnosis Need Not Be a Death Sentence”

—Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners In Health and co-author of Reimagining Global Health

“Put the Fire Out Where It’s Raging”

—Jim Yong Kim, co-founder of Partners In Health and co-author of Reimagining Global Health

Dr. Paul Farmer and Dr. Jim Yong Kim, internationally renowned public health doctors, have been collaborating for decades. As medical students at Harvard, Farmer and Kim (and Ophelia Dahl) co-founded an NGO, Partners In Health (PIH), in 1987 to offer a radical new public health vision: to provide medical care that offers a “preferential option” for the poor. Originally, Farmer and Kim aimed to deliver health care in Haiti where PIH has built, over the years, a modern hospital and a recently opened new teaching facility on the impoverished central plateau. In the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake, PIH raised $125 million for medical care and reconstruction in Haiti.

Both recipients of MacArthur “genius” grants, Farmer and Kim have remained focused on PIH, now expanded to projects in 12 countries.  In Rwanda, for example, PIH has helped to rebuild the public health system destroyed during the 1994 genocide with programs serving 800,000 people in three hospitals and 41 health centers.

Dr. Paul Farmer (L) and Dr. James Kim (R)
Dr. Paul Farmer (L) and Dr. Jim Yong Kim (R), founders of Partners in Health

Now Farmer and Kim have redoubled their collaboration in a formidable commitment to developing strategies to combat the Ebola epidemic. Farmer, chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard University, and Kim, now president of the World Bank, are both devoting their energies to this public health crisis. Paul Farmer (with PIH) is leading a coalition (with outstanding local partners) that focuses on contact tracing—a critical practice to contain the outbreak—because the patients will be from nearby towns. On his part, Jim Yong Kim has mobilized the World Bank, committing $400 million to fight the disease and expediting the delivery of aid. In a recent co-authored op-ed in The Washington Post, Farmer and Kim underscore the social roots of the crisis, stating, “The Ebola crisis today is a reflection of long-standing and growing inequalities of access to basic health care.”

Farmer and Kim, who often team-teach a Harvard class on global health, brought together their experience and expertise, with their mentor, Arthur Kleinman, and a few colleagues, in an original and compelling work introducing the field of global health. Already a UC Press bestseller, Reimagining Global Health, underlines the values that have guided their public health activism: collaboration, social action, and solidarity with the world’s poorest and sickest citizens. Speaking for both doctors’ shared mission over the last decades, Paul Farmer declares, “The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that’s wrong in the world.”

 

Naomi Schneider is an Executive Editor at UC Press. 

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