React & Respond
Fueled By Hope; Social Distortion; Climate Change's Many Implications; Community of Resilience; An Even Bigger Story
FUELED BY HOPE
Thank you for the inspiring article about how a Lost Boy of Sudan became a postdoctoral fellow in humanitarian health [“Purpose Found,” Fall 2018].
As one who works in public health with refugees, I was encouraged to see a story of redemption and hope coming from such horrific circumstances.
Diane Sampson, MD, MPH ’14, via email
As an active user of Twitter and other social media platforms, I see value in these modes of communication [Fall 2018’s Open Source on social media and public health], but nonetheless worry about the asymmetry between the rapid spread of misinformation on social media and the slow response mechanisms in the academic community, particularly in scientific journals.
For example, a March 2018 paper in the journal Reproductive Health purported to estimate the contraceptive effectiveness of the Daysy device, essentially a smart thermometer, as 99.4 percent effective. The analysis was fatally flawed (as detailed in a commentary I published in the same journal in June 2018), but the inaccurate statistic has spread on social media with alarming speed, potentially misleading people into believing that a fancy thermometer is as effective at preventing pregnancy as an IUD.
Seriously flawed papers should be retracted swiftly to minimize the various impacts of erroneous work, but to date, no action to correct the scientific literature on this paper has taken place. Unfortunately, many retractions occur slowly, never happen at all, or provide scant information. When misinformation is permitted to linger in the scientific domain, it compromises our ability to help people understand their health care options. What are scientists concerned about the viral spread of misinformation to do in these situations?
Chelsea Bernhardt Polis, PhD ’09, via email
In a recent vaccination campaign in Indonesia, I found that the spread of anti-vaccine information via social media is more aggressive than pro-vaccine. It makes a lot of people refuse to be vaccinated.
On the other hand, posts promoting a healthy lifestyle and clean environment also spread quickly. I think of social media as a tool I can use to make a positive impact.
Jum’atil Fajar, MHlthSc, via email
CLIMATE CHANGE’S MANY IMPLICATIONS
It was interesting to note the similarities between victims of climate gentrification [“Flood of Injustice”] and Pacific Islanders. They contribute the least to climate change yet feel its detrimental impacts significantly, as I’ve learned in consulting for the WHO and for Oxford University. Indeed, Pacific Islanders may have to relocate to other countries—in effect, become climate change refugees. That poses a dilemma because the UNHCR’s definition of refugees does not include climate change.
Many implications of climate change like climate gentrification have not yet been examined but are slowly coming to the forefront. Thank you for sharing this angle.
Caroline Anitha Devadason, MPH ’15, via email
COMMUNITY OF RESILIENCE
My hometown has always been poor and has always been neglected—you have no idea how many people I knew in Baltimore who didn’t know Maryland went west past Hagerstown or even Frederick—but it did OK until the opioid/heroin epidemic. Now I don’t really recognize it anymore to be honest. I was happy to see the work of Danielle German (a classmate of mine!) featured [in “Then Comes Hope,” Fall 2018] along with the stories of how this resilient community is confronting the problem.
Amy Boore, PhD, MPH, via email
AN EVEN BIGGER STORY
Thanks for the article “Blood, Data and Tears” [Fall 2018].
I am humbled to have been one of the initial staff that worked closely with Frank, John and Tom (Quinn) and the communities that together were essential in getting this significant data effort [the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study] going.
I’m writing because the stories of MACS are the transformational stories of how a pioneering environment (and leadership) began and thrived at Hopkins. How did the second floor of Carnegie come to host an evening clinic of 1,200 gay men—and begin a commitment to a pioneering clinical effort (at the Moore Clinic)? This is just one of the many stories. Others include the all of the institutional “accommodations” that were made—at Frank’s insistence. There’s also a darker story of blind institutional growth that includes all the of underbelly aspects of how academic politics drives and divides the almost endless stream of research dollars.
I encourage you to continue to collect all of the stories and histories, published or not, from current (or not) staff. (I’ll reserve the former topic should I reincarnate as a journalism fellow, someday).
Dolph Druckman, MD, MPH ’86, via email