Global Health: 2008 Blogs In Review

Bloggers in 2008 showed all the ways in which global health is interconnected with other issues, by covering health stories that touched on everything from poverty and women's rights to the environment and economics. They shared stories such as the prohibition of cannabis in Japan, how ads for children's food products that were banned in the UK are still being aired in many South Asian countries, and whether the Singaporean government should legalize organ trade. Here's a further glimpse at what bloggers discussed in 2008:

Global Food Crisis
Prices of the world’s most popular food staples – wheat, corn, sugar, and rice – soared in many countries this year, for reasons ranging from changing diets and bad weather to rising oil prices and the decline of the U.S. dollar, the currency most of these staples are traded in. The crisis was felt in many countries, with consequences such as demonstrations, riots, and many health concerns. Bloggers discussed how to cope with the soaring cost of rice in Southeast Asia, videos showed how people in Haiti were eating mud cakes to survive, and others explored how the food crisis impacted Tajikistan.

Reproductive Health and Abortion Debate
Reproductive rights, including the right to an abortion, continues to be a hot topic among bloggers around the world, whether it's debating legalizing abortion or loosening existing laws. In the Philippines a proposed bill mandating couples to be informed about birth control methods, maternal health care, and other reproductive health concerns, sparked the debate on reproductive health issues. In Brazil abortion is considered a crime, unless the pregnancy is the result of sexual abuse or puts the mother's life at risk, but 70,000 women die of complications from clandestine abortion attempts each year. Abortion also continues to be a controversial issue in Ecuador, India, and Kenya, where the procedure is currently illegal unless the pregnant woman's life is in danger.

AIDS 2008 Conference

The XVII International AIDS Conference took place in Mexico City from August 3rd to 8th this year. The event occurs every two years in a different city and this was the first time it was held in Latin America. However, two internationally recognized Iranian HIV/AIDS specialists were prevented from attending the event, as they were accused of planning to overthrow the Iranian state and held in prison. Bloggers, including those at Global Voices, closely followed the conference, discussing topics such as youth's involvement in the event and how HIV/AIDS disproportionately impacts marginalized communities such as men who have sex with men and sex workers. Another area of focus were the travel restrictions imposed on HIV-positive people. The restrictions were condemned as being discriminatory and shameful.

China Toxic Formula Scandal
There were a series of tainted-food scandals linked to China this year, raising many questions about China's food safety policies. One health scandal in particular had bloggers talking up a storm. It erupted in September when Sanlu, China's top-selling infant formula manufacturer, publicly recalled its products. The baby formula was deliberately contaminated with melamine, an industrial chemical that can cause kidney problems. It resulted in thousands of children becoming sick and a number of infant deaths. The incident caused enormous public outrage in China and around the world, particularly after claims about the media's manipulation of the scandal. Bloggers in Southeast Asia and Africa expressed concerns about the safety of Chinese products, while others discussed the alternative to formula — breastfeeding.

World AIDS Day
December 1st marked the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day. Though the impact of HIV and AIDS is felt by millions of people globally every day, the day provided an opportunity for people to raise awareness of and share their experiences about this devastating disease. While the global percentage of adults living with HIV has leveled off since 2000, 33 million people are still living with HIV, and 2 million people died of the disease last year. To commemorate World AIDS Day, Global Voices created a map of HIV-positive bloggers and caretakers who have bravely shared their stories. Bloggers from Armenia to Jamaica to Madagascar observed and reflected on World AIDS Day.

Global Health Videos

This year videos also became a more common way to raise awareness about health issues. Renowned war photographer and photojournalist James Nachtwey used his TED Prize to create a video of his photos that show the global impact of XDR-TB (extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis). In Cambodia sex workers took to the Internet to bring attention to how the 100 percent condom use law, which states that condoms must be used during sexual exchanges with clients, is being turned against them. Several videos were also created to propose solutions for supplying clean water and making it easier for people to have a healthful liquid to drink.

Outbreaks and Hope
Bloggers also wrote about outbreaks that occurred this year, such as a yellow fever scare in Paraguay and the more recent cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe. Fortunately, not all news was bad news in 2008 though. The year ended on a hopeful note with U.S. President-elect Barack Obama's victory in November. Many people globally are hopeful that his victory will mean a boost for global health issues. Time will tell. In the meantime, bloggers such as My African Diaspora caution that we should remain hopeful about next year, but also be patient:

“Temper expectations. Change won’t occur overnight. We’ve got so many pressing priorities: the economy, healthcare, the war, foreign policy and a slew of others. He won’t be able to wave a magic wand and make it all better. To expect him to would only demonstrate our own ignorance of the political process. Instead, reserve judgment and criticism and engage in the governance of your country. It is our right and our responsibility.”


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