Read Full Story A new analysis by Medicare has found that patients 65 or older suffering from heart failure, heart attacks, or pneumonia are just as likely to be readmitted within a month at Veteran’s Health Administration (VA) hospitals as at private hospitals. Only one of the 107 VA hospitals evaluated had significantly lower readmission rates for one of the conditions tracked by Medicare; 15 had higher-than-average readmission rates for one or more of the three tracked conditions.HSPH Professor Ashish Jha, a physician at the VA Boston Healthcare System, told The Washington Post that VA hospitals do well by most other metrics. “It makes you wonder how much hospitals can really control readmissions if a place like the VA cannot have dramatically lower rates,” he said.
Music entertains, but it also can fuel hope and happiness.So it did on Saturday, when the Harlem Gospel Choir celebrated the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. at the annual Joyful Noise gospel concert at Sanders Theatre.“I want 2013 to be the year that we, all of us … dedicate ourselves to building a community of mutual respect and kindness,” said Shelley Neill, the executive director of the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center, which has staged the concert for 26 years.“If there is one single message among all the messages that Dr. King left behind, it would be to take heart and put it in practice to help build a community based on mutual respect.”Neill, who in the past has opened the festivities with children’s stories or tape recordings of King’s speeches, this year began the concert with her own powerful, a capella rendition of “You Gotta Move” by the blues artist Mississippi Fred McDowell. The packed house of nearly 900 came in on the chorus, “When the Lord gets ready / You Gotta Move,” and kept time by stamping their feet on the floor to create the sound of marching.The song was dedicated to the late Will Hills, a former Arts Center board member who had passionately supported the concert and whose family and friends helped make it an annual event, and John and Terri Traverso, the tour manager and production manager of the Harlem Gospel Choir.Neill then turned the stage over to the Harlem Gospel Choir, just returned from a month in China. Neill said the New York-based group was founded in 1986 by Allen Bailey after he attended a celebration to honor King; it has since performed for Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela and Pope John Paul II, with the stated mission of “bringing people and nations together and giving back.” This year marked the seventh time the group has sung the Joyful Noise concert.The choir’s nine vocalists, keyboard player, drummer, and bassist performed “Total Praise” to mark their return to America, then launched into a set that included many of the songs popularized by Whitney Houston. The crowd enthusiastically participated when invited, singing along to “The Greatest Love of All” and “I Go to the Rock,” which became a resonant call and response, with sopranos, altos, basses, and tenors standing and singing in turn until all were on their feet. And at Houston’s best-known recording, “I Will Always Love You,” the choir received a standing ovation.When the group finally left the stage, the house lights came up — and nobody left. Rather, the audience stood firm and clapped and cheered and cried for more music. The choir returned and sang a moving “We Are the World” to a delighted and grateful crowd.The evening was co-sponsored by the Center and Harvard’s Office of Government, Community and Public Affairs and the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center, with help from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the city of Cambridge, the Boston Phoenix, the Bay State Banner, and the East Coast Grill.
Here’s a short geometry test: How many straight lines can be drawn connecting two points on a flat plane? If you make two angles on a triangle smaller, does the third get larger or smaller? If you split a square diagonally, are the two resulting triangles the same size or different?If the answers — for the record, one, larger, and the same — seem obvious, they should be. The questions are examples of the innate understanding of abstract geometry that all humans possess, even if they’ve never studied the subject. For researchers, however, the question is: Where does that knowledge come from?The answer, say Harvard scientists in Elizabeth Spelke’s Laboratory for Developmental Studies, may lie deep in our evolutionary history.Previous research has shown that young children and animals use geometric information in similar ways — to navigate environment and to recognize shapes. In a study published last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers presented evidence that young children rely on the same abilities when exercising uniquely human abstract geometric skills, such as reading maps. The results suggest the innate understanding of abstract geometry among humans has origins in the evolutionary past.“There are two possibilities for the origins of this human-specific innate understanding of geometry,” said graduate student Moira Dillon, the first author on the study. “One is that it’s something that’s completely new to humans; it’s something we’ve arrived at through our complex cognitive development. The other possibility is that it derives from existing geometric skills we’ve inherited from other animals.”Researchers in earlier studies were able to show that animals possess two basic geometric abilities: the ability to use distance and directional information to navigate their world, and the ability to use angle and length information to recognize shapes.Using tests similar to those used with other animals, as well as tests specifically designed to tap into young children’s ability to read geometric maps, Dillon and her colleagues showed that children use the geometric abilities shared with other animals to understand uniquely human spatial symbols.Previous tests, Dillon said, demonstrated that children as young as 2½ could relate the abstract geometry in a map to the real world, but it was unclear how. The new work revealed that young children, unlike animals, can flexibly use their geometric sensitivities — to distance and direction or to angle and length — to read maps.“What we knew is that children — just like animals — use distance and directional information to navigate, and angle and length information to recognize shapes,” Dillon said. “What we now see is that children — unlike animals — can use one or the other type of geometric information flexibly when reading spatial symbols like maps, depending on what information is available to them in the environment.”To uncover these intuitions and understand their origins, Dillon and her colleagues started by building two triangular rooms in the lab. One included only the sides of the triangle, with the corners removed, while the other included only the triangle’s corners, with the sides removed.Children were presented with a map of the full triangle, and were asked to place a stuffed animal at a location marked by a dot.“What we found was that children were relying either on their ability to navigate or their ability to recognize shapes,” Dillon said. “If they were presented with a room that only had sides, they used the distance information to navigate, and when they were presented with a room that only had corners, they used the angle information they use to recognize shapes.”Although young children showed flexibility in their use of geometry when reading maps, there were still limitations: They were unable to relate the two geometric sensitivities to each other. Dillon said previous research has shown that by about age 12, children begin to integrate these two geometric sensitivities — relating distance information to angle information. Older children and adults therefore achieve the sort of abstract geometric knowledge that has long puzzled researchers.“Adults, because they have a more advanced, mature abstract representation of geometry, can use both types of information at the same time,” she said. “But because those intuitions are fully developed, it’s difficult to look at adults and understand their origins.”The challenge for researchers now is to understand how the ability to use geometry for navigation and shape recognition come together to form our abstract innate knowledge about the points, lines, and figures on the Euclidean plane.“We have to figure out what happens between age 4 and age 12,” Dillon said. “How do we get from this incredible early ability to use symbolic geometry in maps to the later-developing, very abstract ability to reason about points and lines and the behavior of triangles when they’re manipulated? We think we know now where these intuitions come from, but we’re not sure how they come together.”
It was a deft explanation that, to many observers, gave credence to the nickname “Slick Willie.” President Bill Clinton, facing increasing questions about his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, appeared on PBS’s “NewsHour” with host Jim Lehrer on Jan. 21, 1998, to deny allegations of an affair with “that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.”Lehrer: ‘No improper relationship’: Define what you mean by that.Clinton: Well, I think you know what it means. It means that there is not a sexual relationship, an improper sexual relationship, or any other kind of improper relationship.Lehrer: You had no sexual relationship with this young woman?Clinton: There is not a sexual relationship. That is accurate.Of course, there indeed had been a sexual relationship, but at the time of this exchange, Clinton and Lewinsky were no longer involved, making Clinton’s declaration that there “is not” a relationship technically true — but also misleading to anyone not attuned to the president’s lawyerly linguistic parsing.Clinton’s statement — not quite a lie and not quite truthful — is a memorable example of a surprisingly common, deceptive practice called paltering, according to a recent working paper from faculty at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), Harvard Business School (HBS), and the Wharton School. The team studied the risks and rewards of selectively disclosing factual but incomplete pieces of information during business negotiations.“Paltering is when a communicator says truthful things and in the process knowingly leads the listener to a false conclusion. It has the same effect as lying, but it allows the communicator to say truthful things and, some of our studies suggest, feel like they’re not being as deceptive as liars,” said Todd Rogers, a behavioral scientist at HKS who co-authored the paper with Richard Zeckhauser, the Frank Plumpton Ramsey Professor of Political Economy at HKS, along with negotiation scholars Francesca Gino and Michael I. Norton from HBS, and Wharton Professor Maurice Schweitzer.Paltering will sound familiar to anyone who’s had a job interview or gone on a blind date, and may appear benign or even admirable, like the hallmark of a shrewd negotiator or a polished self-marketer. But, Rogers says, unlike a lie of omission, paltering is a deliberate tactic designed to distort another’s view of a situation, not a simple failure to volunteer relevant information. At its core, paltering is about manipulation to gain the upper hand.“Yes, it is self-presentation, it is trying to put your best foot forward and trying to present yourself as the best version of you, but in the process, knowingly misleading the other person,” he said.Paltering is an area that hasn’t been well-studied. Rogers was inspired to dig into it while working on a paper with HBS’ Norton about how politicians dodge questions during debates and about whether the public notices or punishes them for not answering properly (it doesn’t). “They often actually say things that have the feel of answering it, but lead people to a strategically guided conclusion that may not be true — that’s what sort of prompted this broader project,” he said.Building on prior negotiation findings of behavioral scientists such as HBS’s Gino and Max Bazerman, the working-paper team ran several studies to assess the attitudes, benefits, and risks of artful paltering. In one study of 65 mid- to senior-level managers enrolled in an executive-education course at HBS, 66 percent reported paltering in most (22 percent) or some (45 percent) of their deal-making. Ninety-two percent of the managers said they palter in order to get a better deal, while 80 percent reported that when they palter, they think of it as honest.The paper finds that not only does paltering lead to heightened negotiating impasses because critical information is left out, thus hampering decision-making, but if those key details are discovered the palterer’s reputation may be damaged, leading to the loss of future deal-making opportunities.Paltering is effective and offers some benefits, but it’s not entirely without risk, the paper concludes. Palterers often get away with their deceptions because it’s hard for a counterpart to ferret out enough missing, relevant facts to detect that they’ve been fooled. And because palterers are rarely confronted with accusations of lying, they are typically emboldened to try it again because their conscience is clear. Even if caught, they’re often judged by outside observers less harshly than if they had lied outright.“It’s a deception that leads the deceiver not to feel as bad about themselves” because it’s not viewed as negatively as lying, thus a person’s “self-image and self-concept is not as violated by paltering,” said Rogers.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Speaking at a State Department forum on Tuesday, Harvard President Drew Faust said that universities can and must play a key role in developing solutions to climate change, citing the research, teaching, and convening strengths of research institutions.Opening the two-day Climate and Clean Energy Investment Forum, Secretary of State John Kerry called confronting climate change “perhaps the defining issue of our generation,” setting the stage for a series of discussions among investors, corporations, philanthropies, universities, and policymakers only weeks before the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, which kicks off in Paris on Nov. 30.Faust set out some important ways in which universities will contribute to efforts to deal with climate change, as part of a panel on “Innovative Models for Climate Solutions.” Citing research efforts to develop new and more-efficient batteries and to convert solar energy into hydrogen with help from a bionic leaf, she highlighted a focus on discovery.“Universities contribute an extraordinary depth and breadth of expertise, a commitment to driving discovery and innovation, and a conviction that the world can be changed by ideas and discoveries,” said Faust.As conveners and collaborators, said Faust, universities also bring people together and spawn new ideas on the issue, “across national borders, across disciplines, and across generations.”She also reinforced the central role of universities as educators, “preparing new generations of leaders to ask and answer the big questions, better equipped to grapple with the complex disruption of climate change, and a world more interdependent than ever before as we seek solutions.”At Harvard, 243 courses are offered on energy, sustainability, or the environment.Harvard’s president appeared on the panel a week after the announcement of a new, multiyear, $3.75 million grant to support research efforts on climate change and China’s issues with it. Harvard also launched the University-wide Climate Change Solutions Fund in 2014, and in January 2015 issued its first seven awards.Throughout her remarks, Faust noted the complexity of the issue, and the importance of a multifaceted approach to tackling it.“Universities, perhaps more than any other institutions, have the remarkable power to convene individuals and institutions around issues that transcend boundaries — boundaries that have shaped, and in some ways limited, our ways of thinking,” she said. “Climate change is a business issue, a policy issue, and a public health issue. It is a challenge for engineers and scientists, innovators and investors, for architects, designers, economists, and historians. It is vast and consequential — and, in its stunning diversity, demands our best effort to work together in new ways.”Joining Faust on the panel, moderated by Andrew Steer, president and CEO of the World Resources Institute, were Nancy Pfund, managing partner at DBL Investors; Glenn Prickett, chief external affairs officer of The Nature Conservancy; Afsaneh Mashayekhi Beschloss, president and CEO of The Rock Creek Group; and Peter W. Davidson, co-founder and CEO of Aligned Intermediary.Pfund and Beschloss noted the importance of anticipating and planning for the effects of climate change, especially among investors and businesses. Prickett highlighted the role of nature itself as a solution to climate change.The climate-change discussion was the culmination of Faust’s two-day trip to Washington, where she met congressional and administration leaders to advocate for increases in federal research funding.Amid budget debates in Washington, Harvard has made the case that federal funding for basic research has stagnated over the past decade, even as investments in science are widely recognized as a major driver of long-term economic growth.While in the capital, Faust also participated in a discussion on trends and the future of the humanities at the American Association of Universities. She joined William “Bro” Adams, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, on the panel.
<a href=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r16i1lXk098″ rel=”nofollow” target=”_blank”> <img src=”https://img.youtube.com/vi/r16i1lXk098/0.jpg” alt=”0″ title=”How To Choose The Correct Channel Type For Your Video Content ” /> </a> Alicia Jo Rabins chats about her musical project, Girls In Trouble, which performs songs based on women of the Old Testament. Luxuriating in both reverence and irreverence, the sacred and the profane, Rabins chose her book’s title as a gesture toward the place where concepts like divinity meet realities like school. “The center that the book found was the question of where everyday experience in the body meets spiritual truths and passed-down wisdom,” she said. “I don’t intend it to be a book that lives in the sky.”Harvard’s Elisa New will introduce Alicia Jo Rabins, who will read from “Divinity School” and play with her band Girls in Trouble on Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. in Rosovsky Hall at Harvard Hillel, 52 Mount Auburn St. More information is available here. Alicia Jo Rabins stood looking at the girls in long skirts waiting outside the locked doors of her Barnard College dorm and wondered what was going on. It was a Saturday, Shabbat, and though Rabins was technically Jewish, she had been raised in a secular household in a Baltimore suburb, mostly clueless about her religious heritage.“Finally, I asked one of the girls, and she said, ‘Oh, we don’t use electricity on Shabbat, so we’re waiting for someone to come through the doors first,’” since they were powered, remembered Rabins, a poet and musician who will speak and perform Monday at Harvard Hillel.That dorm moment was one in a series of accidental exposures to orthodoxy. “It seemed so exotic, actually,” she said, “the idea that a rule from a spiritual tradition would be so detailed as to cause such a specific behavior. I was drawn to the idea of religious law as a sort of mindfulness practice.”Rabins had always been fascinated by “the sacred,” a filmy and roving sense of holiness that she had pinned down in nature, and in brushes with Catholicism and James Joyce. “I had a pan-spiritual interest,” she said.But still curious about those girls in long skirts, Rabins homed in on Judaism, showing up late for a Wednesday-night Torah study at Columbia University, where she was paired with an ultra-Orthodox girl of the same age.“We would have these amazing conversations. I would be like ‘Do animals have souls?’ … these elementary-school questions, and she would be like, ‘Do you just have sex on a first date if you’re not religious?’ We had no idea about each other’s worlds, and it was an amazing way to encounter Jewish texts with someone who was also making this journey, but in a different direction.”Rabins was well-versed in different directions. At age 3, her mother enrolled her in Suzuki method violin lessons, which Rabins loved though she eventually drifted away from the classical world to punk rock and folk music.Exploring Judaism and differences further, after Barnard she enrolled in New York’s Jewish Theological Seminary, where for her thesis she composed a song cycle with lyrics about the lives of Biblical women. This sparked the formation of her current band, Girls in Trouble.Along with music, there had always been poetry. Rabins earned an M.F.A. from Warren Wilson College, and her manuscript “Divinity School” was chosen by the poet C.D. Wright for the 2015 APR/Honickman First Book Prize.The quotidian and the spiritual collide in Rabins’ work. A brief poem titled “How to Confess an Affair” reads like a cheeky extended haiku:Details are fishhooks that will remain in the lip of the small fishthat lives inside your spouse and swims sometimes towardsyou, sometimes away from you. If you love the fish, be careful.In “Birth,” Rabins’ speaker is in labor:Then the demons found me,And one by one,they placed their hands on my bellyand began to chant.The newborn is a gift, but also a kind of terror: “And so it was that you were born, / little monster with my face.”Now married and a mother of two, Rabins said that motherhood has broken her open: “It shows me strengths I didn’t know I had, weaknesses I didn’t know I had … it’s both revealing and psychedelic how far you can travel during one hour in a room with a 3-year-old.”Rabins resides now in Portland, Ore., working as a Jewish educator, integrating art to help her students connect to Jewish texts. Along with Girls in Trouble, she occasionally tours with her one-woman chamber rock opera, “A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff,” and is hard at work on a second collection of poems.Girls in Trouble
That “fake news” is both pervasive and dangerous is no longer in doubt. How best to respond, however, is still an open subject. Because of that, the topic made for a lively panel Thursday at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society.Moderating the discussion, titled “Fake News, Concrete Responses: At the Nexus of Law, Technology, and Social Narratives,” Martha Minow, dean of Harvard Law School, began with a basic question: What is fake news? The range of possibilities, said Berkman Klein Fellow An Xiao Mina, is broad enough to render the term almost meaningless, and can encompass everything from “when an Onion article is cited as news to dealing with state-sponsored propaganda botnets.”Professor Jonathan Zittrain, George Bemis Professor of International Law and co-founder of the Berkman Klein Center, offered a definition based on intent, defining fake news as that which is “willfully false,” which he said means a story “that the person saying or repeating knows to be untrue or is indifferent to whether it is true or false.”As Minow pointed out, propaganda has been around forever. However, much of what we now recognize as fake news is complicated by a “kernel of truth,” noted Nathan Matias, a Ph.D. candidate at the MIT Media Lab. “So if you go to Google, you might feel as if you fact-checked it.”To formulate a response, Mina said it is necessary to understand how fake news spreads — the “cultural logic” that makes it attractive to a particular audience.“Often the reason things spread is not about truth or falsehood, but about affirmation,” said the technologist, who is the product director for the journalism-focused software firm Meedan. “People are looking for validation.”HLS Dean Martha Minow (from left) moderates the panel with Sandra Cortesi and Nathan Matias. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff PhotographerDrawing on her studies of middle school and high school students, Sandra Cortesi, a fellow and director of youth and media at Berkman Klein, suggested a slight shift in focus. Rather than asking news consumers to evaluate “what is true and what is false,” she said, a more revealing question would be “what do you value?”“What news actually means to young people is quite different from what it means to adults,” she said, broaching how affirmation can influence what people look for — and, thus, what they read and believe.Zittrain put this shift in historical context. As recently as a decade ago, he said, the public assumed there was a source of consistent information that could be trusted, the so-called mainstream media. “That model is scrambled now,” he said. “If you pump enough stuff out there, it’s hard to tell the reliable stuff from the nonreliable stuff.”News organizations themselves can strengthen both their practices and their readers’ trust with transparency, the panelists said.Mina’s firm is working on Check, a platform for collaborative verification of digital media that has already been used by organizations such as ProPublica and Amnesty International. This effort and others like it have the potential to strengthen credibility and educate a new generation about news gathering and journalistic ethics, she said.However, society’s infatuation with clicks will continue to clash with the complexities of news, the panelists agreed.“People like ‘likes,’” said Zittrain. “The problem is that there is no button to click that says, ‘I am having a subtle thought.’”Fake News, Concrete Responses A special Harvard Law School/Berkman Klein Center panel moderated by Dean Martha Minow, and featuring panelists Sandra Cortesi, Nathan Matias, An Xiao Mina, and Jonathan Zittrain. Credit: HLS <a href=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbPT6Y78PiM” rel=”nofollow” target=”_blank”> <img src=”https://img.youtube.com/vi/RbPT6Y78PiM/0.jpg” alt=”0″ title=”How To Choose The Correct Channel Type For Your Video Content ” /> </a>
Just as clinical trials are critical to enhancing human health and medicine, field experiments are critical to understanding human learning and education, according to a new paper published in the online journal Science.A team of economists and psychologists at Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), working together with organizations focused on enhancing education and reducing poverty in India, have demonstrated both the feasibility and the necessity of such experiments, the study noted.“Research in cognitive science has taught us a great deal about what children know and how they learn,” said Harvard Professor Elizabeth Spelke, the Marshall L. Berkman Professor of Psychology and one of the paper’s authors. “Much of that work applies to all children, worldwide, and it gives us methods for assessing children’s knowledge that are robust enough to work when implemented by adults with only high school education, working with children in hot and noisy slums. This research doesn’t tell us how to create better schools, but it gives us the tools to do field experiments that can.”While primary education now is compulsory in India, it was not widespread a generation ago. Poor Indian children are likely to live in families and communities with high rates of illiteracy and innumeracy. Countrywide studies show that many fail to learn the basic concepts and skills taught in primary schools, in large part because the curricula taught in the schools assumes a level of preparation that is not there.Drawing on decades of cognitive science research probing the nature and early development of mathematical reasoning, the Harvard and MIT team created a program for enhancing poor children’s readiness to learn mathematics, and evaluated it over a period of 18 months. More than 200 single-class preschools serving 1,500 children in Delhi were randomized to three conditions. One group received a math curriculum consisting of games training two aspects of intuitive mathematics: sensitivity to numbers, and geometry. Children from wealthy countries master these intuitive mathematics over their preschool years, and research in cognitive science suggests this is critical for later learning of symbolic mathematics.A second group received a curriculum of games with the same structure that trained sensitivity to aspects of human communication: sensitivity to emotional expressions and signs of attention. This skillset also develops in preschool and is widely thought to be critical to learning from others, but was not expected to affect math directly. Over a four-month period, the games were played for three weekly one-hour sessions in these two groups, while a third group of children received the regular preschool curriculum.To measure the effects of the games, all the children were assessed on a variety of abilities, including intuitive abilities close to the content of the games in the two curricula, such as determining which of two sets of objects was more numerous or which of two faces was happier, and symbolic abilities at the center of the primary school curriculum, such as identifying Arabic numerals or naming shapes.In the summer months immediately following preschool, the children showed effects of the math games intervention that closely paralleled effects found in Western children from developed countries: higher sensitivity to numbers and geometry on the intuitive measures that were close to the games, and also better mastery of the language and symbols of intuitive, preschool mathematics. In these respects, the study strongly confirmed the central findings from basic research in the cognitive science of mathematics, showing that those findings generalize across children living and learning in very different circumstances. Moreover, they show that field interventions can be effective, not only when implemented in carefully controlled model classrooms but also when implemented and evaluated by adults with minimal training and little connection to the research team.Shortly after the end of the first year of primary school, the children who had received the math games curriculum still reliably outperformed the other children at tests of intuitive numerical and spatial abilities. Although these children had no access to the math games after the end of the intervention, the benefits from the games persisted.In striking contrast, the intervention showed no effect on children’s mastery of symbolic school mathematics: By the end of first grade, children in the math games condition were no better than those in the other two conditions at deciphering Arabic numerals, performing simple verbal additions, or learning the vocabulary of school geometry. Just as well-supported findings in molecular biology do not guarantee the success of new medical treatments, key findings in cognitive science were reproducible in this population but failed to produce a successful educational curriculum.“We think our findings underscore both the feasibility and the necessity of randomized-controlled field experiments to test frontier cognitive science hypotheses in the field,” said Spelke.Why did the curriculum fail to improve school mathematics, even as it effectively trained intuitive concepts, and how might future studies succeed at this second step?“Our best guess is that our intervention did not increase kids’ performance in school because the gap between intuitive mathematics and formal mathematics is too large, and ordinary conversations and social interactions cannot bridge it in this context,” said Esther Duflo, a professor of economics at MIT and a co-author of the study.“Our ongoing interventions focus on versions of these games that exercise children’s intuitive mathematical abilities while also presenting the primary language and symbols of school mathematics. We should soon learn whether the new curriculum works better. In this respect, field research is no different from basic research: Both require multiple experiments, and learning from failures, to get things right.”This research was funded by the UBS Optimus Foundation and by Harvard’s Foundations of Human Behavior Initiative.
Despite malaria remaining a major disease, infecting more than 200 million people and killing nearly 500,000 a year, such great progress was made against it that the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2015 set a global target for eliminating the illness in nearly three dozen countries by 2030.Now, however, progress has stalled. The 216 million cases of malaria reported in 2016 were 5 million more than the cases reported in 2015, according to WHO.Solving this problem, said Dyann Wirth, Richard Pearson Strong Professor of Infectious Diseases at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, requires the collaboration of different disciplines and different groups with deep expertise in certain areas.In recognition of this, Harvard Divinity School and the Harvard T.H. Chan School together hosted a panel of Anglican bishops from Africa on Thursday to discuss the role of faith and communities in working to end malaria and save lives. Wirth served as a moderator, along with HDS Professor of African Religious Traditions Jacob Olupona. Progress will be lost if new president abandons fight Related Malaria: Down but not out Seeking new momentum in malaria fight Leaders in eradication efforts gather at Harvard to trade ideas, experiences Bishop André Soares of Angola said his country still has a long way to go in controlling malaria. He said his government has called the church a social partner as it recognizes the number of people who attend services or interact with the church.“We are not doctors, but we are the leader in the communities, and the community trusts in us,” he said.The bishops traveled to the U.S. to spread their message and raise awareness about the many lives still claimed by the disease and the amount of progress made when funding is increased. In addition to speaking at Harvard, the bishops met with representatives at the United Nations and with members of Congress in Washington, D.C.HDS Dean David N. Hempton recognized the bishops’ work mobilizing resources and leveraging their communities and networks to address the problem, and urged an ongoing dialogue about the interconnections of faith in public health and public health in faith.“Faith leaders and their organizations have the ability to bring energy and resources to solving some of humanity’s biggest problems,” he said. “Two key strengths faith organizations bring to these efforts are their ability to organize their communities around health-related social needs, and their ability to network or link people to much-needed resources.”Also participating in Thursday’s event at the Divinity School were representatives of Harvard’s Defeating Malaria: From the Genes to the Globe initiative, HDS’ Center for the Study of World Religions, the J.C. Flowers Foundation, and Kenneth Staley, global malaria coordinator for the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative.“Faith communities play a big role in what we’re doing in these countries,” said Staley. “Religious leaders and communities of faith really are integral in being able to connect individually with each person in each village and each city to really understand how they can protect themselves from malaria and how they can help others.” Malaria has the greatest impact in Africa. The disease led to the deaths of an estimated 445,000 people in 2016, according to WHO, with nearly all of those cases — 91 percent — located in Africa. Children under the age of 5 made up 285,000 of those deaths, according to WHO.Bishop David Njovu of Zambia said that education, trust, and acknowledging the role of faith in community members’ lives is crucialcrucial to helping curtail the disease, especially in remote areas where health facilities do not exist. In those areas, he said, a sick person’s first stop is a traditional healer.“We don’t go there to condemn a traditional healer, because as soon as you do that, you create a gap,” he said. Instead, Njovu brings along a health care teacher or professional to try to win over community members by teaching them what malaria is and how it is contracted.Winning over community members requires religious heads to lead by example, Njovu said. When testing is offered in a community, Njovu and a village leader are the first people to accept it to show that they believe in what they are preaching. After the test, Njovu offers a prayer and a blessing.“That way we are saying conventional medicine and prayer are going together to heal someone. That’s the way we approach this,” he said. “We don’t go there to fight because if we fight, it will be a lose-lose situation.” “We are not doctors, but we are the leader in the communities, and the community trusts in us.” — Bishop André Soares of Angola Politics biggest threat to malaria effort Disease has been resilient, speakers say, and efforts to eradicate it require a local focus
On Aug. 3, 2014, Islamic State militants launched an attack on the Yazidi people in Sinjar, northern Iraq, the homeland of approximately 500,000 Yazidis. ISIS killed and captured thousands of people in the small religious community because the militants consider them to be infidels and their religion to be devil worshipping. Many Yazidis fled to nearby Mount Sinjar, a sacred place in their community for more than a thousand years.Nadia Murad was 21 years old in 2014 when her peaceful life on the family farm in Kocho was forever changed. ISIS militants killed her mother and six of her brothers. She was captured, along with many other women, and forced into sexual slavery for several months. Since her escape, she has been advocating for victims of sexual violence and working to rebuild communities in crisis. In 2018, she was selected as a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.The Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, together with the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, invited Nadia Murad to Harvard University to deliver the Samuel L. and Elizabeth Jodidi Lecture on April 3 in the Memorial Church. Murad spoke to WCFIA faculty associate Jennifer Leaning, an expert in public health and rights-based responses to humanitarian crises, through the help of Yazidi translator Shahnaz Osso. Their conversation focused on Murad’s upbringing and trajectory of her life and work since the attack. The the full conversation, including video and transcript, can be found here. Read Full Story