Our Top Ten blog posts by readership in 2014.
This post was originally posted on August 06, 2014
In the wake of the current Ebola crisis, the 2011 movie Contagion (See the trailer here) directed by Steven Soderbergh has repeatedly been cited as one of the best examples of a movie taking on the subject of pandemic disease and managing to educate while providing gripping entertainment. This is no coincidence.Contagion was produced with both A-list stars (Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, and others) and support from leading public health experts such as Dr. Ian Lipkin who is the inspiration for one of the scientists portrayed in the film, and award-winning writer Laurie Garrett, author of several books including The Coming Plague. Participant Media, founded by Jeff Skoll to inspire social change through entertainment, was a producer, with the Skoll Global Threats Fund, World Health Organization (WHO), and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) providing input as well.
The tagline from the film is “No One is Immune…to Fear.” While one of the early scenes is of a woman dying of a flu-like illness (played by Paltrow) the movie elicits fear not from gruesome symptoms but instead from plot lines and messages that focus on how human responses to these types of public health crises make matters worse. It also showcases the valuable work done by epidemiologists and other public health workers who are the heroes of this film. Contagion communicates these and other lessons effectively using the power of story, a subject recently discussed on this blog.
Our Top Ten blog posts by readership in 2014.
Each month, People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion.
In August 2014, the most popular blog post was "Entertainment Media Can Help Change Behaviors and Stop the Ebola Outbreak"
In this post, Senior Economist Margaret Miller and Economic Adviser Olga Jonas, in collaobration with the UNICEF Communication for Development Team (C4D), discuss the ways in which entertainment media can be used to raise awareness among publics facing a crisis and to support interventions by encouraging the adoption of safe behaviors.
Using entertainment media in this way to inform, educate and support behavior change is also known as entertainment education (EE). "Entertainment education is effective," states Miller and Jonas "because narratives or stories are emotionally powerful – they help us to organize information and to create the “mental models” that we use to make sense of the world and can help to explain why we behave in particular ways."
Read the blog post to learn more!
I’m consistently astonished by how little we know about the important stuff in development. Take the Millennium Development Goals – the basis for innumerable aid debates, campaigns, and negotiations. A large chunk of the MDG agenda concerns the size and quality of public spending – on health, education, water, sanitation etc. So obviously, the first thing we need is to know how much governments are spending on these things, right?
Well no actually, because we don’t have those numbers. Until now. Oxfam has teamed up with an influential and well-connected NGO, Development Finance International, which advises developing country governments around the world. Working with a network of government officials, DFI has pulled together and analysed the budgets of 52 low and middle income countries (With another 34 to follow). The result is a new database, called Government Spending Watch, (summary of overall project here) and a report ‘Progress at Risk’, previewed in Washington last Friday in a joint DFI/Oxfam America event to coincide with the IMF and World Bank Spring meetings. The full report won’t be ready ‘til May, but an initial draft exec sum is available, and here’s what it says.
Depending on which country you live in, if you bought an airline ticket lately you may have saved a life without even knowing it. A number of countries have implemented a small airfare tax (also referred to as the “solidarity tax”) to raise funds to fight three of the world’s deadliest diseases: HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis. In France, for example, air travelers pay an additional €1 in tax on domestic tickets and if in business class, €10. With aid falling, innovative finance mechanisms, such as microdonations, will be crucial in solving serious global problems. As quoted in a recent article in the Financial Times, Philippe Douste-Blazy, the man behind the airfare tax (also the former French Minister of Foreign Affairs), says that “certain sectors have benefited enormously from globalization: financial transactions, tourism and mobile phones. We need to tax an economic activity that’s only done by the rich, and tax it so lightly that nobody will notice.” He says the additional tax travelers pay is “absolutely painless!”