What will be Bush’s greatest positive legacy? I think PEPFAR is a likely candidate, despite its flaws. I can’t think of any other program initiated by Bush that has helped so many people.
Related research has demonstrated that increased “cognitive load” — like the mental demands of being in a city — makes people more likely to choose chocolate cake instead of fruit salad, or indulge in a unhealthy snack. This is the one-two punch of city life: It subverts our ability to resist temptation even as it surrounds us with it, from fast-food outlets to fancy clothing stores. The end result is too many calories and too much credit card debt.
Don’t worry, there are benefits too.
The World Health Organization has announced that polio has been eradicated from Somalia. This was an incredibly difficult task, given Somalia’s endemic violence and instability. And it took a huge effort:
More than 10,000 Somali volunteers and health workers vaccinated more than 1.8 million children under the age of five by visiting every household in every settlement multiple times.
However, this has happened before. Polio was eradicated from Somalia back in 2002, only to be reintroduced from Nigeria. The fact that polio was reintroduced from a country on the other side of the continent calls attention to the interrelatedness of disease control efforts in different countries (diseases know no borders) and the tragedies that occur when vaccination efforts clash with local cultures or religions.
But despite its tenuous progress in terms of total eradication, the WHO’s $4 billion polio campaign has made great steps forward:
When WHO and partners began their anti-polio campaign in 1988, the worldwide case count was more than 350,000 annually. The disease’s incidence has since been slashed by more than 99 percent and remains endemic in four countries: Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan. Polio cases were also detected last year in Angola, Cameroon, Chad, Congo, Myanmar, Nepal, Niger and Sudan.
So that’s the good (albeit cautiously so) news. The bad news for Somalia:
If you read that and asked “wait, Somalia has a government?” you’re not alone. But it does have a government of sorts:
By its own admission, the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia is on life support. When it took power here in the capital 15 months ago, backed by thousands of Ethiopian troops, it was widely hailed as the best chance in years to end Somalia’s ceaseless cycles of war and suffering.
But now its leaders say that unless they get more help — international peacekeepers, weapons, training and money to pay their soldiers, among other things — this transitional government will fall just like the 13 governments that came before it.
Less than a third of the promised African Union soldiers have arrived, the United Nations has shied away from sending peacekeepers and even the Ethiopians are taking a back seat, often leaving the government’s defense to teenage Somalis with clackety guns who are overwhelmed.
My friend Jenna sent me a link to a great New York Times piece on a Trojan commercial that was rejected by Fox and CBS. In the commercial, anthropomorphized pigs fill a bar, talking on cell phones and hitting on women. One pig goes to the restroom, buys a condom, and promptly re-emerges as a handsome male, who then gets an inviting smile from a female bar patron.
“It’s so hypocritical for any network in this culture to go all puritanical on the subject of condom use when their programming is so salacious,” said Mark Crispin Miller, a media critic who teaches at New York University. “I mean, let’s get real here. Fox and CBS and all of them are in the business of nonstop soft porn, but God forbid we should use a condom in the pursuit of sexual pleasure.”
For the most part, condom manufacturers may be one of the best allies public health advocates have. The manufacturers goals of increasing usage falls right in line with the public health interest of decreasing sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.
“We always find it funny that you can use sex to sell jewelry and cars, but you can’t use sex to sell condoms,” said Carol Carrozza, vice president of marketing for Ansell Healthcare, which makes LifeStyles condoms. “When you’re marketing condoms, something even remotely suggestive gets an overly analytical eye when it’s going before networks’ review boards.”
Sex sells, but you just can’t use it to sell safe sex. Sad.