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Inevitable Ebola Post

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I know this is super judgy, but I like you guys more than Student Doctors, so I'll pose this to you (at least first). Have you noticed in the past several weeks, since America realized two white people contracted Ebola, that many US SPHs have little posts on their homepages about the virus? Yet, when it was "just" Liberian, Sierra Leonean, and Guineans, these schools had nothing on it. I understand that not every outbreak is going to make international news, but the Ebola outbreak was already out of control and had crossed international borders months before any American contracted it. Thoughts? Am I looking for something to be outraged over? (Likely, and it won't be the first or last time.) Thoughts? 




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Two things:


Ebola has been in the united states for a very long time; just controlled in laboratory environments. This is true of other countries. How do you think we study it? It's a hot news topic just like the radioactive waste in Japan from the 2011 tsunami, no need to get hysterical.



Finally, and there is no offense meant by this comment, but its as a Jew it is very hard to take you seriously when you have a screen name like that. 

Edited by GeoDUDE!
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I don't know, I personally think there are much stronger examples of racist American media coverage going on right now. I also think you can't infer what topics have really captured public interest, or what public opinion is on a topic, based on how it is covered in the media. Personally the individuals I know who were following the Ebola story closely were doing so before, and I don't really know anyone who started following it as a result of a couple of Americans getting sick.


I think it's just human nature to care most about people and current events in your own country, and for the events that concern us outside of that to be very personal. I don't see it as any different than caring more if your family member gets in a car accident than if a stranger does-- it certainly doesn't make anyone a bad person. I personally don't follow this story closely because I have no power to influence it through my work (I am not an infectious disease person), and other issues that I feel I can influence through money, political engagement, and time already have a claim on me. I don't feel obligated to lose sleep in worrying that will benefit no one and make me less effective at my actual work.


You have probably put your finger on a divide between public health and global health, though. I see the opinion a lot that global poverty and deprivation are so severe that some people feel they can't stay at home-- they have to go where they believe the need is greatest. I am specifically interested in domestic public health and health disparities, and I feel it's ethically unacceptable to turn away from my neighbors who suffer ill health and early death because of preventable public health problems, poverty, and racism. I wish there were more compassion for and interest in people who experience deprivation right here in the U.S. I'm reluctant to say that either approach is morally superior or that people should feel guilty about where their conscience takes them if they are really doing good somewhere in the world.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I see where you're coming from OP.  I don't know about a lot of SPHs, but several major newspapers had been covering the Ebola outbreak before Americans got the disease - I'm not in international health, but I've been following the Ebola outbreaks and the transmission in Africa before the two Americans contracted the disease, mainly through the New York Times but also through other outlets.  I've actually found the coverage to be quite comprehensive and sensitive, which I didn't expect; one recent article discussed how the problem with the response is that a lot of public health workers are treating the Africans as if they were ignorant/stupid when really, they're scared and the Westerners are also ignoring their cultural practices (i.e., many of the cultures involved must ritually wash the bodies of the dead before burial, which spreads the disease.  Many of them KNOW it spreads the disease and they do it anyway).


I also think a lot of SPHs would only post something about if there was a professor at the school who did research in that area, or similar to it.  My SPH doesn't have anything about it on the website, but most of our featured stories are either about the new MPH class or some research someone is doing.


BUT at the same time, I know exactly where you're coming from.  Yes, of course people care more about the issues in their own country, but many Westerners do turn a completely blind eye to the problems in other countries/regions.  AND it's true that newspapers and the mass media's stories do reflect the interests of who they think their readers are.  That extends to the poverty and health disparities in their own backyard, which is one of the reasons that I have decided to study domestic issues.  I took a class on the social history of American public health and the paper I chose to write was about the coverage of HIV/AIDS in the newspapers in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  The newspapers that started covering it first were African American dailies in predominantly black neighborhoods with mostly black readership.  Major newspapers didn't start covering it until later.  This is true of a lot of health issues that affect minority, poor, and other disadvantaged populations in the U.S.  So it's not far-fetched that it would occur with the Ebola coverage.


I do find it interesting that GeoDUDE said "no need to get hysterical," though, to a very levelheaded and rational post with no signs of hysteria.  What's that all about?

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I think we (being people in the medical and public health fields) are much more open, generally, to reading about these sort of things before they become "sexy" enough for general readership. I, too, was reading it in the Times and a few other widely read sources back in March/April/May, in addition to just WHO/CDC updates. I think, even at my age, I wish people just cared more about other people -- even though I know better. 


Your paper sounds so interesting. Not at all comparable in levels of research, but as an undergraduate I wrote a paper about underground manuals for at home birth control and abortion methods in Renaissance Italy and France. I wish I could do it again, and for more than 20 pages. 


As both a feminist, a person, and someone who understands where the word "hysterical" comes from, I wish people would stop using it. My womb is not wandering. I don't need blood letting. I swear, I'm totally cool right now. :)

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