From the category archives:


So, on Halloween 2011, the seven billionth person in the world was born–China or India the most likely birthplace. In a New York Times column this summer, Thomas Friedman laid out his thoughts on the cost us all of living with so many billions of other people: “The Earth is Full”. It makes sobering reading.

A recent news story on the environmental impacts takes on a theme that many US organizations have shied away from in the decades since the 1970s focus on Limits to Growth: that population growth and environmental problems are linked (see my posts on Limits to Growth and my reflections on the topic).

Others discuss the implications for food production, migration, and conflict, with some experts arguing that excess growth is not the problem.

The United Nations Population Fund just released its report, State of World Population 2011. Take a look at the overview for some of the key points, some to celebrate and others as spurs to action. And the site includes data, the full report, photos and videos like this one.

If the world is too crowded, shouldn’t we be working to limit population growth instead of striving for global health in general?

The choice is, I think, a false one. Population growth rates are shaped by many things–of course, we see links to income levels, but beliefs, education, and norms, access to healthcare, and many social and economic factors all play roles. Reproductive health and access to family planning are key aspects of healthcare for everyone. Better health improves the prospects for limiting population growth.

Age distribution of burdent of disease (2004 data) for Low and Middle Income Countries (WHO 08)

In class yesterday we talked about the burden borne by the world’s children. According to The global burden of disease: 2004 update (WHO, 2008), over a third of the world’s burden of disease falls on children. Over 10 million children die every year of preventable causes, but the picture is worse than that horrible statistic conveys: many diseases suffered by children impose penalties throughout their lives by affecting cognitive capacities, physical development, and psychological health.

Philosopher Peter Singer asks us to think about saving a drowning child in a shallow pond you happen to walk by–you’d do it automatically. Why don’t we save a child dying of malaria in Ghana? What are our duties in world where children suffer? I certainly don’t pretend to have the answers, but as we hand out candy to our neighborhood children, it might be worth thinking about! Take a look at Singer’s provocative argument, “The Life You Can Save”.

And since we’re here at MIT and love data, it makes sense to round out this set of resources with Hans Rosling’s 15-minute video: Reducing child mortality – a moral and environmental imperative. In it, he argues that many countries are making good progress towards the goal of reducing child mortality.He also reminds us that it’s time to stop talking about Sub-Saharan Africa as one place. There are some amazing gains to celebrate and important goals to work on as we greet our seven billionth neighbor!


Health care delivery constraints: Internet access

May 16, 2010

What have we learned from two years, 100 students, and 25 G-Lab GHD projects in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Zambia, and Malawi? That we are lucky to partner with amazing leaders and organizations to learn first-hand about the needs and opportunities for delivering health care in resource-limited settings.  That in some more »

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healthcare innovation in the developing world

April 13, 2010

Here’s how Lord Nigel Crisp put it in a January 2010 Times opinion piece: In temporary clinics in the slums of Asia and rundown hospitals in Africa I met remarkable people who were finding new solutions and working out how to use the materials at hand to provide for patients……Unconstrained by our history, they train more »

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Zanmi Zanmi Lasante

February 11, 2010

Clearly, I speak no Kreyòl, but the idea I was aiming for with this heading that plays on the “Friends in Health” translation of Zanmi Lasante: we’ve been thinking of our friends at Partners In Health in Haiti. Exactly a year ago, Dr Louise Ivers joined some 50 MIT students and several faculty for a more »

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timely information

January 13, 2010

Our colleagues at the Global Health Delivery Project aim to systematize the study of health care delivery, to disseminate new learning to practitioners, and to improve health outcomes in resource-limited settings.  G-Lab GHD was designed to respond this call by building new modes of collaboration to address the practical challenges of health care delivery, drawing more »

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How much leeway do recipients of aid or funding have in deciding priorities?

December 7, 2009

For countries that depend on aid for healthcare, the issues surrounding how the money is spent–and programs what it goes to–are complex and challenging. Laurie Garrett, Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations, discusses the intersection of US interests in addressing specific health problems with recipient nations’ own desired areas of focus. In the case of more »

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Marketing to the poor

November 23, 2009

OK, so the title is enough to make you shiver: it smacks of making money off the poor and at least hints at exploitation.  That’s not what we want. Yet what we have learned, from our admittedly small sample of projects in sub-Saharan Africa, that many clinics, programs, and hospitals operating in conditions of excess more »

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The fortune in healthcare at the bottom of the pyramid

November 23, 2009

We had a fascinating series of discussions about the potential for business models for addressing unmet needs for healthcare in resource-limited settings. To frame the discussion, we considered C. K. Prahalad’s framework, looking first at one of the earliest presentations of the ideas in a piece coauthored with Stu Hart: “The Fortune at the Bottom more »

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