TIME global health

Watch TIME’s Jeffrey Kluger Discuss How to Eradicate Polio

People in three countries still suffer from the disease

Since the development of the first polio vaccine in the 1950s, the number of cases of the devastating disease has been reduced by 99 percent. But despite that extraordinary progress, people in three countries still suffer from polio. Now, Rotary International, along with the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF have brought the world tantalizingly close to eradicating the virus for good.

In recognition of World Polio Day, watch as TIME editor-at-large Jeffrey Kluger moderates Rotary’s live-streamed event in Chicago, on Friday at 7:30 PM, EDT.

TIME Israel

Raising the Dead: Lack of Space Forces Cemeteries Skywards

Cemetery in Petah Tikva, Israel
Cemetery in Petah Tikva, Israel Dan Balilty / AP

From Israel to Brazil, elevated cemeteries are providing the final resting place for thousands of people as space runs out at ground level

At first glance, the multi-tiered jungle of concrete off a major highway does not appear unusual in Petah Tikva, an Israeli city of bland high-rises. But the burgeoning towers are groundbreaking when you consider its future tenants: They will be homes not for the living but rather the dead.

With real estate at a premium, Israel is at the forefront of a global movement building vertical cemeteries in densely populated countries. The reality of relying on finite land resources to cope with the endless stream of the dying has brought about creative solutions…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Education

Barbara Bush: Why Malala Gives Me Hope

Malala Yousafzai acknowledges the crowd at a press conference at the Library of Birmingham after being announced as a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.
Malala Yousafzai acknowledges the crowd at a press conference at the Library of Birmingham after being announced as a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. Christopher Furlong—Getty Images

Barbara Bush is the CEO and co-founder of Global Health Corps, an organization committed to building the next generation of global health leaders.

It’s hard to stir up activism with images of empty classrooms, but the lack of education is among the world’s greatest crises today

Five years ago, Malala Yousafzai was a 12-year-old schoolgirl reporting about life under the Taliban after they took control of her home region in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. She described her longing for an education after the Taliban closed her school and commanded women and girls to stay home. “The extremists are afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them,” she wrote. “That is why they are blasting schools every day—because they were and they are afraid of change.”

Malala, who on Friday became the youngest recipient ever of the Nobel Peace Prize, has said what many older, more privileged and far more powerful people haven’t: that education gives power to the powerless. It speaks to the importance and strength of her message that the worst her critics in Pakistan can say is that she’s become a “tool” of the “evil” West.

We are used to international crises dominating the news, but most of them are acute, accompanied by dramatic images of dying or suffering. It’s hard to stir up activism with images of empty classrooms. Nonetheless, the lack of education is among the world’s greatest crises today—especially the lack of education for girls. Though it may not make the news, people die every day from ignorance. Without education, basic health care can be unobtainable, as can food or work, or basic human rights.

It is well documented that when societies educate girls—as well as boys—and value educated women, all citizens are healthier and more prosperous; indeed, communities with educated women have a lower incidence of disease and stronger economies. Even so, much is left to do to make the importance of education a universally accepted truth. That Malala was shot in the head two years ago by a member of the Taliban as she left school evidences this. She will likely spend the foreseeable future living not in her home nation of Pakistan but in exile in Britain.

The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Malala has given me hope. I am hopeful because I know that there are many more Malalas out there—young women and men doing everything they can to build better lives for themselves, their families, their communities and their nations.

I work every day with “rational dreamers”—the passionate, idealistic and educated young people at Global Health Corps. They work to foster hope in a dark world, knowing that they must have not only dreams but also the skills and persistence to accomplish those dreams. People ask me why I’ve focused on giving young people a stake in improving health care in Africa and parts of urban America. In my experience with Global Health Corps, I’ve learned that everyone—including the old and the young—has something to teach.

The one time I was in Malala Yousafzai’s presence, she accepted an award at the Skoll World Forum. Her words would echo those she has spoken before, wise ones of commitment, dedication and truth. Yet after she climbed the stage, she had to adjust the microphone from an adult’s height to her own—that of a teenager.

Malala reminds us that even a teenager can be a teacher. I hope her message will be embraced and spread across the globe: that no matter who you are, it is possible to change the world.

Bush is the CEO and a co-founder of Global Health Corps, an organization committed to building the next generation of global health leaders.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME ebola

Ebola Death Toll Tops 4,000

Liberia Races To Expand Ebola Treatment Facilities, As U.S. Troops Arrive
An Ebola burial team carries the body of a woman through the New Kru Town suburb on Oct. 10, 2014 of Monrovia, Liberia. John Moore—Getty Images

More than 8,300 total cases have been confirmed

At least 4,033 people have died of Ebola in seven countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday. More than 8,300 total cases have been confirmed.

The new statistics, which include deaths in five West African countries as well as the United States and Spain, come just days after the death of the first patient to be diagnosed in the U.S. The current Ebola outbreak is the worst in history.

Numbers released last month warned that under worst-case-scenario circumstances, as many as 1.4 million people may be infected with Ebola by the end of January. And U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden warned Thursday that action was need to prevent Ebola from becoming “the world’s next AIDs.”

TIME ebola

Plagues on the Poor: What Ebola Can Learn From Malaria

The Malaria Project
The Malaria Project Courtesy Penguin/New American Library

Karen M. Masterson is the author of the forthcoming book, The Malaria Project: The U.S. Government’s Secret Mission to Find a Miracle Cure, out next week.

If the U.S. spent more money on disease prevention and clinics—and less on vaccines and drugs—everyone in the world would stand to benefit

Our highest ranked public health officials have answered questions about Ebola. Most come from reporters centering on who dropped the ball, and why no treatment exists. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has tried to give the real answer: Don’t blame a lack of drugs, or bad practices at the World Health Organization; blame the absolute lack of good public health for people in poor countries.

Famous experts, ranging from Paul Farmer to Jeffery Sachs, have tried to use reason to show why investments in clinics go further to stop diseases like Ebola than do investments in vaccines and drugs. Their arguments are simple: build clinics and train medical staff to care for people, and they will be competent to tackle whatever problems emerge. (The teach-a-man-to-fish argument.) If such a clinic existed in the rural village in Guinea where the current outbreak’s original case of Ebola broke, its staff could have advised the community on how to contain the infection. That didn’t happen, and now the CDC is predicting a million infections by January.

The U.S. commits roughly $9 billion annually to global health programs that target infectious diseases that spread in poor countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea—the three now experiencing the worst Ebola outbreak ever. More than 75 per cent of that goes to treating three diseases: malaria, HIV and tuberculosis, with the vast majority of that going to drugs and vaccines. That’s three diseases, over $6 billion dollars, from one country. By comparison, the percentage going to in-country capacity for delivering good health care is miniscule.

No better rubric illustrates why Ebola spread so rapidly and uncontrollably. This Ebola outbreak has taught us that the world needs—right now—a redistribution of global health funding that places a much higher priority on infrastructure, not new medications.

This doesn’t happen, in part, because “infrastructure” fails to produce variables that accountants need to justify dollars spent. Disease-specific programs distribute a measurable number of drugs to a measurable number of people and save a measurable number of lives—bean counters are happy, funding continues to flow.

Policy makers are trapped, tied to drug and vaccine development, even though these technologies are too imperfect to eradicate their target diseases. They require huge investments up front and large clinical trials that use people like guinea pigs, only to be neutralized by resistance.

This paradigm has held since it was first cast during World War II. Malaria, at the time, had crippled forces in the Pacific and Mediterranean theaters. A half million troops contracted the disease, mostly in the first two years of America’s role in the war. In response, the U.S. government launched the largest effort ever made to fight a single disease. Thousands of psychotic patients, incarcerated criminals, and even soldiers were used as human guinea pigs to test a hundred of the best compounds—out of 14,000 made. From these trials emerged a new malaria drug called chloroquine.

This so-called “miracle cure” was used after the war in the World Health Organization’s first attempt to control a single disease, malaria. From the 1950s to 1970, through the WHO Global Malaria Eradication Programme, people in poor countries took chloroquine like aspirin. Broadly used against the world’s most prevalent infectious disease, it is today credited with saving more lives than any synthetic drug ever made. But chloroquine failed to solve the malaria problem because nature found a way around it—the parasites that cause the disease developed resistance. This is the fate of every drug ever made to fight malaria.

Before the war, the U.S. fought this mosquito-borne disease through anti-poverty programs and health care delivery, including relocating people from swamps and into homes with screens. Yet chloroquine changed that. Despite loud objections from experts, policy makers chose the easier option, and they continue to do so today. Global health programs rely heavily on drug and vaccine development, and building capacity to deliver them to the infected—be it malaria, TB, HIV, or the so-called neglected tropical diseases, like schistosomiasis, filariasis, leischmaniasis, dengue, chagas and others.

Ebola is the newest plague on impoverished people; and now it’s the latest silo for targeted spending for drug development and delivery. But while its characteristics are far scarier than the others, Ebola has one thing in common with them all: it spreads best where people lack basic health care.

Redirect global health programming to build health care infrastructure for disease prevention—not just capacity for drug delivery—and wealthy countries will get more for the money. They will also target all at once HIV, TB, malaria, the neglected diseases, Ebola, and the next scary infectious disease to emerge from the caves.

Karen M. Masterson is the author of The Malaria Project: The U.S. Government’s Secret Mission to Find a Miracle Cure, out next week.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME ebola

Ebola Death Toll Tops 3,000

More than 6,500 cases have been confirmed

At least 3,080 people have died of Ebola in West Africa, the World Health Organization said Friday, bringing the death toll from the worst Ebola ever above 3,000 for the first time. More than 6,500 total cases have been confirmed.

The newly-released figure, which includes deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, comes after a week of worsening news about the deadly disease. Estimates released Tuesday suggest that as many as 1.4 million people may be infected by the end of January under worst-case-scenario circumstances.

Under the best of circumstances, the disease will still have wrecked havoc on a region that has been wholly unprepared for the public health disaster. Currently, countries from around the world are contributing millions of dollars to build facilities to treat patients. WHO officials noted in a statement Friday that current heath facilities are overwhelmed and struggling to handle routine ailments.

“The current situation is so dire that, in several areas that include capital cities, many of these common diseases and health conditions are barely being managed at all,” the WHO said.

TIME health

Climate Action is a Health Priority

World Leaders Speak At UN Climate Summit
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the United Nations Climate Summit on September 23, 2014 in New York City. Andrew Burton—Getty Images

Judith Rodin is President of The Rockefeller Foundation

The addition of human and planetary health priorities to our fight against climate change is a bold - but necessary - step

Last weekend, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in cities around the globe demanding the world take action against the rising threats of climate change. On Tuesday, leaders converged on the United Nations Secretary General’s Climate Summit to make concrete commitments to mitigate climate change and build resilience.

Meanwhile, the Ebola virus continues to spread across large swaths of West Africa, a tragic example of how under-resourced national health systems can lack the capacity to contain a disease outbreak. The World Health Organization recently predicted the death toll could rise as high as 20,000, while officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have warned the toll could grow even higher.

On first glance, the two events might not seem related. But the link between climate change and human health has become ever clearer in recent years. From pollution and ocean acidification to declining freshwater resources and the loss of biodiversity, these trends are not only causing changing patterns of known diseases. They are raising the likelihood that new, unknown diseases will emerge. And on a planet undergoing rapid changes due to population growth, economic development, environmental degradation and climate change, the emergence of a disease in any one place is no longer a local issue but a global concern.

As the U.N. Secretary General’s Climate Summit this week calls for greater action, it is critical to understand that climate change has both immediate and future consequences for human health. Already today we are seeing threats to health that range from waterborne diseases in degraded, polluted watersheds to the emergence of novel diseases transmitted from wildlife. Grave future threats include changes in temperature and rainfall patterns that can result in the spread of diseases, such as malaria, dengue, and West Nile virus, to higher latitudes and shifting altitudes. And rising CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere may cause substantial declines in the nutritional content of key crops.

Scientists and policy makers are calling for deeper and broader research and responses on the interactions between human health and the rapidly changing planetary environment, and there is a rising awareness that tackling these challenges may require radical new approaches, new ways of thinking and, perhaps even an entirely new discipline around the idea of planetary health. The Rockefeller Foundation is working with the medical journal The Lancet to escalate attention to this potential new field.

Planetary health offers a bold new framework for thinking about the interconnections between the health of our planet and the resilience of our ecosystems in an era of globalization, urbanization, and climate change. Consider the trajectory: from the field of “medicine” to the evolution over the past century of “public health,” and onward to the more recent conceptions of “international health” and “global health,” each shift from one conceptual framework to another has meant fundamental changes in the way the world takes on its most pressing health challenges. In the last century, for example, the creation of the modern field of public health involved huge changes in public policy, the creation of new government agencies and programs, transformations in training and radical changes in public expectations. Now, with massive ecological and environmental changes underway, the time has come to consider planetary health and how we organize our efforts to support it.

The frame of planetary health would fill important gaps not yet recognized within the framework of global health. For example, global health does not fully take into account the effects on human health of changes in the natural foundation on which human beings live: the planet itself. And it does not take stock of our civilization’s capacity to change our environment and then suffer potentially drastic health consequences.

By applying instead a planetary health lens, we could begin to answer large and vital questions. What risks does our civilization face, and how will we identify them? Are we living through a key transition for our species and civilization, and how will we know if we are? What will determine human health, sustainability and resilience in the face of environmental and planetary dangers?

The addition of human and planetary health priorities to our fight against climate change is a bold – but necessary – step. We must integrate the health of the world’s ecosystems and the health of its people. Because, in the words painted on a sign spotted in this weekend’s New York Climate March, “There is no Planet-B.”


TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Environment

Hundreds of Thousands Converge on New York to Demand Climate-Change Action

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, former Vice President Al Gore, and movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Edward Norton all attended

At the People’s Climate March in New York City on Sunday, a 4-ft.-tall walking banana was passionately articulating his feelings about wind turbines.

“They can make things run just by the wind,” said 9-year-old Danny Haemmerle, who dressed up as the yellow fruit to attend the march with his family. “And my parents don’t have to pay as much,” added his brother Eddie Haemmerle, 11, sporting a lime green wig.

The Haemmerles were joined by an estimated 400,000-strong crowd that flooded the streets of Manhattan to demand U.N. action on global warming — a showing that quadrupled expected attendance and made the march the largest climate protest in history and largest social demonstration of the past decade.

Timed to coincide with the U.N. summit on climate change, which meets this week to discuss an international carbon-emissions agreement, the demonstration was an international effort with 2,646 events in more than 150 countries, attended by hundreds of thousands more people.

Coalesced by several organizations, including Bill McKibben’s 350.org, the swarming crowds were there to pressure Obama and other leaders to make addressing climate change a top political priority. “Today, civil society acted at a scale that outdid even our own wildest expectations,” said May Boeve, executive director of 350.org, in a statement. “Tomorrow, we expect our political leaders to do the same.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made an appearance, along with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, former Vice President Al Gore, and movie stars like Leonardo DiCaprio and Edward Norton. Nearly every labor union joined the march, including the Service Employees International Union, the largest union in the city. The march was supposed to start at 59th Street, but the throng of people stretched past 93rd Street, and there were so many marchers that it took the back of the line over two hours to start moving. The march was so well attended that organizers had to send a text at 5 p.m., asking marchers to leave because the route had filled to capacity.

People marched in clogs, dreadlocks, optimistic T-shirts, Native-American headdresses, bike helmets, feathered hats, Lorax costumes and biohazard suits. Babies wore diapers. One woman dressed as Charlie Chaplin and carried a sign depicting a blackened earth, with just the word “Oops.” And Danny Haemmerle wasn’t the only person dressed as a banana.

Zak Davidson, a 20-year-old junior at Tulane, iconoclastically wore a suit, explaining, “A lot of conservatives try to marginalize environmentalism as a fringe movement, like just people wearing hemp skirts. But I have a job offer in the government for when I graduate, and I’m going to continue fighting for climate change within the system.”

Davidson and 60 of his classmates drove 26 hours up from New Orleans to attend the march, and after it’s over, they’ll hop right back on the road and drive 26 hours again in order to make it to class on Tuesday.

“Moving to New Orleans really politicized me about climate change, since the Gulf Coast is predicted to have the worst sea-level rise,” said Davidson’s classmate, Emma Collin, 21. “It’s like being in Rome before the fall.”

The props at the Climate March were as colorful as the costumes: a massive model of the earth, along with hundreds of smaller balloons and beach balls; a giant, inflatable cow intended to highlight how the meat industry hurts the environment (a U.N. report found that animal agriculture accounts for 14.5% of greenhouse-gas emissions). People carried massive sunflower signs, sculptures of waves, goddess puppets and angel kites.

There was also a dinosaur, made of car parts and gas jugs, named BP-Rexosaurus, built by BikeBloc, a group dedicated to promoting bicycle transportation. “He’s here to tell us how to get pass fossil fuels before humans go extinct like dinosaurs,” explained Elissa Jiji, who was biking with the group. Other bikers dressed their bikes as swordfish, noting that swordfish bills often pierce oil pipelines. People chanted, “Exxon Mobile, BP, Shell, take your oil and go to hell!”

Often, people’s attire reflected the particular social issues within climate change to which they felt the closest.

A cohort of doctors marched in lab coats to protest the global health effects of climate change. “It’s one of the most important threats to world health, and it’s completely preventable,” said Dr. Erica Frank, who specializes in preventative medicine in British Columbia. “It would be irresponsible for us to do nothing.”

“Carbon pollution directly results in asthma, heart disease and cancer,” said Dr. Steve Auerbach, a New York City pediatrician who also marched in his lab coat. “From a micro and macro point of view, climate change is a global health issue.”

For demonstrator Favianna Rodriguez, climate change is inextricable from social issues like feminism and immigration policy. To protest a “culture of hypersexuality,” she marched topless, with yellow butterfly stickers over each nipple.

Rodriguez works with CultureStrike, an organization that supports the arts movement around immigration, but she helped design signs for the Climate March because she says climate change is an example of social inequality.

“The destruction we’re facing has been wrought under male leadership, and women and children are disproportionately affected,” she said. “Addressing climate change is going to require a very strong shift in leadership, and require us to include the vision of women and youth.”

The one thing that the whole crowd seemed to agree on, whether doctors, vegans, bike enthusiasts, hippies, feminists, students, Christians, toddlers, Native-Americans, farmers or grandparents: changing nothing about global environmental policy is a scary prospect.

“Inaction, dude,” said green-haired fine-arts student Joe George, when I asked him what was the scariest part about global warming. “I keep imagining where I live in Brooklyn, just under water. It’s horrifying. You can’t stop the Atlantic Ocean.”

TIME Infectious Disease

Early Deaths Could Fall By 40% in the Next 20 Years

Baby on fur rug
Getty Images

According to researchers writing in The Lancet, we’re doing a good job of reducing the number of premature deaths—those occurring in people under 70. And if current trends continue with some improvements, such early deaths should drop by 40% over the next two decades.

When a group of 16 researchers from across the world looked at mortality trends from 2000 to 2010, they were encouraged by the results. “We actually found that mortality is falling very rapidly,” says lead author Ole Norheim, professor of global public health at the University of Bergen, Norway–by one-third for children and one-sixth for everyone below age 70. In low-income countries, where avoiding premature death is often more challenging due to weaker health systems and infectious diseases, the news was even better — deaths fell by an even larger percentage: 24% over the last ten years.

A number of factors are responsible, Norheim says, including improvements in child and maternal health, more effective ways to combat infectious diseases, economic factors, and cleaner water. “I don’t think people realize how positive these trends are and how important this would be for health worldwide,” he says. “People’s probability of surviving up to the age of 70 is actually much, much better now, compared to 1970.”

If those trends continue, and get even better, the 40% reduction over the next 20 years is both realistic and possible, Norheim says. One thing that would accelerate the process — helping more people to quit smoking. While preventive services, access to vaccines, treatments, and better nutrition are critical for hitting the goal, “If prices [of cigarettes] were doubled, that would reduce smoking by 1/3. That would mean millions of lives saved,” he says.

TIME Infectious Disease

Watch a Science Cop Take on Donald Trump

TIME's Jeffrey Kluger takes on The Donald for crimes against science

The Ebola outbreak that is causing such fear and suffering in Africa is a very real and very deadly thing. But the fact is that the nature of the Ebola virus is such that it stands a very low chance of ever causing a pandemic like AIDS or H1N1. That hasn’t stopped America’s great foghorn—Donald Trump—and others like him from spreading all kinds of misinformation about the disease, warning people that patients should not be brought to the U.S. and that flights from West Africa should be stopped, otherwise we face an American epidemic.

But Trump and his ilk are committing a science crime—the crime of misinformation. Here’s the truth, from TIME’s Jeffrey Kluger.


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