Character is what you are in the dark

This is the first blog in a series of four in which I document my research in Dhaka and the Sirajganj district of Bangladesh. My work was facilitated by Lepra, but all views expressed are my own.

My trip to Bangladesh is not my first trip to Asia, nor is it my first long-haul flight. It was, however, the first time that I’d flown into Dubai. Arriving in the early hours the capital glowed bright like a throbbing motherboard that never blows. But I was glad it was only a stopover, for all the actual capital this hub holds to many, including some of my university friends who have relocated there for financial and commercial jobs, the glowing chequers and social workings have never much attracted me.

Admittedly, Bangladesh is not somewhere that previously featured on my wanderlust list, perhaps because tourism is less of an industry than a novelty there and my current travelling capacity is less casual holidayer, more researcher. That, in itself, has taken some getting used to. Since Lepra, whom I first encountered as editor for a joint commission with Polygeia, expressed willingness to facilitate my Masters research at one of their in-country offices, very little about my pre-trip preparation smacked of my usual ‘YES, I’m escaping’ planning.

Image Credit: A. Bow-Bertrand

Image Credit: A. Bow-Bertrand

Dubai. Image Credit: A. Bow-Bertrand

Dubai. Image Credit: A. Bow-Bertrand

Some things remained the same – nighttime page turning of guidebooks peppered with leprosy guidelines (OK, not so typical) and learning some basic phrases. What differed was the process. Bangladesh is not set up for foreign pit-stops: my visa application process was a vexed endeavour best summarized as: three days lapsing over a fortnight, five trips, a punctured bike tyre, a misplaced Passport, relocated Passport with visa pass and pained expressions from housemates disinterested in the lengthy drama. In all honesty, if I was not so impassioned by my project working on the prevalence of psychological distress amongst persons with leprosy in the Sirajganj district, I would have put down the bike pump, thrown the espadrilles to the back of the cupboard for another year and considered it a learning experience.

What regret would have been borne from such a decision. I can now say, as a survivor of said bureaucratic nightmare and inefficiency mountain, that Bangladesh is a riot of colour. The concrete heat trap of the roof terrace at the Sirajganj Lepra office which became home proved the best spot to watch sunsets comparable to split peaches laced with loose cream. Our own lengthwise hung washing line and those that crowned many other rooftops flapped clothes and fabrics in cyan, ochre and every shade in between to that crisp dryness only achieved in dry bone air. For a part of the world that sees life through a throbbing vibrancy in food, clothes and landscape, it is telling that ‘character is what you are in the dark’ is the motto painted on a mural outside the government school in the district.

Image Credit: A.Bow-Bertrand

Image Credit: A. Bow-Bertrand

Over rooftops. Image credit: A. Bow-Bertrand

Over rooftops. Image credit: A. Bow-Bertrand

Much of my time in Bangladesh has necessitated a navigation of new cultures and attitudes. In particular, the opportunity to meet participants and engage with them through in-depth interviews, sometimes meeting them on at least one further occasion, I have been afforded an insight into the generosity of this population. While Sirajganj is one of the less socioeconomically privileged districts of Bangladesh, absolute poverty is scarce, but living hand to mouth is a real truth. Notwithstanding, throughout my stay, everyone I met invited me to look beyond their bright adornments, clothes and the spectacle of richly coloured life that is simply their cultural touchstone. People who were all but strangers offered me their all – from prayers, their sole assets such as handicrafts and openly welcomed me into their homes for refreshment.

Beyond the sugar-crusted jewels of sweets and droplet bananas strung from every street stall, I encountered a generosity of spirit that was all too overwhelming by comparison to the insular London life which I have come to lead, constantly seeking to escape a drive for materialism, and richness in outer accoutrements and possessions. Materialism and its damaging conveyor belt of consumerism is an overwrought modern world burden, but even the most frugal or fashionably termed ‘minimalist’ of dwellers in London pales in comparison to the simplicity of want – and the integrity of character – that persists here. Context (environment, purpose and empirical knowledge pathways) aside, life in Sirajganj is, according to the stories related by the Lepra staff and evidenced in my research interviews, about just that – existing – with joy.

'Kalā'. Image Credit: A. Bow-Bertrand

‘Kalā’. Image Credit: A. Bow-Bertrand

The basic human needs of shelter, food, and potable water are matched with an endemic prioritisation of an extended family network. Education and self-instruction through academia and apprenticeships are welcome extras. What might be considered aspirational goods in the United Kingdom, such as branded clothing or socially recognised status items are certainly still present here, but their value is somehow self-limiting. The persistence here of what might be considered ‘clean-living’ to a UK audience in itself prevents such objects from being tainted with the perception of a Midas touch. Idolatry of assets is both alien and actively resisted. Instead, riches are frequently figured in terms of religion, family sanctity, and personal wholeness.

Of course, by the same token, these are shrewd businesspeople. During a focus group discussion facilitated by UK Aid, a gift of a beaded handbag as part of a seed money project (accepted only following an expressed desire on my part to act as purchasing customer) was caveated with the entreaty to showcase their wares upon my return to England. Trade and export – particularly of commodities of the external – the ‘IT’ bags, the designer fashion, the jeweled merchandise has long been a truism of the Bangladeshi-British connection. Yet are they selling the same goods in the same manner to themselves? No. Largely, the discourse is different. Surely, the ethos behind online shopping mecca ASOS, that is ‘as soon on screen’ exists here – emulation is, after all, one of the greatest forms of flattery precisely because it is so pervasive, but it is not overwhelming, nor is it prioritised over the pillars of social ‘want’ here – familial and spiritual happiness.

Dusk from Lepra field office, Sirajganj. Credit: A. Bow-Bertrand

Dusk from Lepra field office, Sirajganj. Credit: A. Bow-Bertrand

The walk to school. Image Credit: A.Bow-Bertrand

The walk to school. Image Credit: A.Bow-Bertrand

What is also true is that this part of the world is noisy – deafeningly so. Tuktuk, bus, delivery truck and advertising vehicle create their own electrophonic mating calls, matched only by the eclecticism of colour and variety of terrain. Over the Bangladeshi New Year, I was locked away in a deserted office and for the first time made room to metaphorically shut my eyes, block my ears, and still feel an extraordinary warmth – possibly something to do with the record-breaking 45 degree heatwave this area is currently experiencing, but you follow my gist . Even when the outward sensory bombardment one experiences coming afresh to this country is muted, there is a wholesomeness amongst this society and their way of life that brings greater contentment and stillness than one might expect when knee deep in visa applications or racing through a dusted researcher commute to who knows what hidden stories.

Malaria and Climate Change

Today is World Malaria Day, which seems as good a time as any to revisit the objective of the organisation with whom I worked last summer. So too, with this year’s Earth Day only recently marked, Roll Back Malaria’s Action and Investment to Defeat Malaria, 2016-2030 publication identifies the ever relevant climate related goal: ‘given that climate change is predicted to increase the range and intensity of malaria transmission, plans to mitigate the effects of climate change are likely to include an increased commitment to controlling and eliminating malaria, and vice versa’.

Weather and climate are major determinants of malaria. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has concluded that changes in temperature and rainfall will affect the natural habitats of mosquitoes, changing the prevalence of the vector or prolonging transmission seasons (or both) in some areas, and potentially exposing new regions and populations to malaria and other vector-borne diseases [1].

Temperature rises (associated with current rates of carbon emission) of just 2-3 degrees Celsius will increase the number of people at risk of malaria by up to 5 per cent, representing several hundred million people [2]. Further, a World Bank report indicates that by 2050, climate change might threaten some previously unexposed regions of South America, sub-Saharan Africa and China causing a 50 per cent higher probability of malaria transmission[3].

We can turn to country cases to better narrate these statistics and to outline the continuing challenges. A study published in 2014 in the Open Journal of Ecology assessed patterns of climate variables and malaria cases in two ecological zones of Ghana. The researchers suggested that a better understanding of the relationship between rainfall patterns and malaria cases is required for effective climate change adaptation strategies involving planning and implementation of appropriate disease control interventions.

By analysing climatic data and reported cases of malaria spanning a period of eight years (2001 to 2008) from two ecological zones in Ghana (Ejura and Winneba in the transition and coastal savannah zones respectively) they determined the association between malaria cases, temperature and rainfall patterns and the potential effects of climate change on malaria epidemiological trends. The results suggest maximum temperature as a better predictor of malaria trends than minimum temperature or precipitation, particularly in the transition zone.

Climate change effects on malaria caseloads seem multi-factorial. For effective malaria control, interventions could be synchronized with the most important climatic predictors of the disease for greater impact. By comparison, research in Nigeria published last year in the American Journal of Climate Change explored the relation between climate and epidemiology of malaria in the  Port Harcourt Region. The study examines the effect of climate on the occurrence of malaria in this region by matching data from the national meteorological service and hospital records to conclude that the prevalence of malaria is significantly dependent on the increase in rainfall and temperature and recommend regular clearing of drains and the surrounding environment combined with distribution of bednets.

So, what else can be done? The adoption and implementation of a multisectoral approach to defeating malaria remains a priority, with third tier government engagement needed to take the agenda forward. As ever, these narratives and burdens should not solely be addressed on the day in the calendar year in which they are officially marked, but remain continuing hurdles to improved health globally.

 

References:

[1] Further Reading: http://www.rollbackmalaria.org/about/multisectoral-action-framework/library [Environment and Climate]

[2] Appendix B, Action and Investment to defeat Malaria 2016-2030, June 2015.

[3] The Postdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics, ‘Turn-down the Heat – Why a 4 degree Warmer World Must be Avoided,’ International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and World Bank, Washington, DC, 2012.

Image Credit: Fabian Biasio, WorldMalariaDay

Photojournalist of the month: Lindsay Mackenzie

Lindsay Mackenzie’s photography demands attention. As evidenced in the characteristically graphic, stark and emotive images following, her work is less a spotlight on the divergence in human rights globally, but a request to witness the existence of this in the raw inescapability mediated by her photographs. Hailing from Canada, Mackenzie’s work as photographer and multimedia journalist has necessitated reconnaissance and coverage postings to Iraq alongside the UN Security Assistance Mission, Equatorial Guinea, Tunisia, Libya to document the refugee crisis (the series from which the following selection are taken) and currently finds her in Erbil.

Writing about the human disaster in Libya, Mackenzie notes that the wave of revolts that spread across the Arab region during early 2011 displaced millions with almost 900,000 people fleeing the country since the uprising began. Many have taken refuge in Tunisian homes and temporary dwellings, migrant workers from Bangladesh, China and Egypt have returned home while those from Somalia, Eritrea and pockets of West Africa are trapped in refugee camps. Thousands have attempted the perilous journey across the Mediterranean towards European coastlines, seeing over 1,500 deaths at sea.

So often when showcasing MdM’s photojournalist of the month, there is an unconscious tendency to create a discourse of privilege or ‘voyeur’ surrounding the actor (or photographer, who could actually be the antithesis to this i.e. passive) in a complex crisis situation. But this is injudicious and needs to be acknowledged as a potential truth, but one that is largely unfounded. Mackenzie works with NGO clients throughout the Middle East and North Africa, teaches photography for National Geographic Student Expeditions and juggles producing radio programmes in Canada, yet there is a real sense that her artistic vision is grounded, and motivated, by the experiences in the land and peoples she lives with, encounters, and frames in her work. Of particular note is her Instagram feed @everydaymiddleeast, which registers a keen eye willing to showcase the quotidian as much as to hold out tragedy on upward facing palms. Her work is an invitation, to do with what you will.

Image Credit: Lindsay Mackenzie

Image Credit: Lindsay Mackenzie.

Image Credit: Lindsay Mackenzie

Image Credit: Lindsay Mackenzie.

Image Credit: Lindsay Mackenzie

Image Credit: Lindsay Mackenzie.

Image Credit: Lindsay Mackenzie

Image Credit: Lindsay Mackenzie.

Image Credit: Lindsay Mackenzie

Image Credit: Lindsay Mackenzie.

Image Credit: Lindsay Mackenzie

Image Credit: Lindsay Mackenzie.

Image Credit: Lindsay Mackenzie

Image Credit: Lindsay Mackenzie.

Image Credit: Lindsay Mackenzie

Image Credit: Lindsay Mackenzie.

Image Credit: Lindsay Mackenzie

Image Credit: Lindsay Mackenzie.

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Image Credit: Lindsay Mackenzie.

Image Credit: Lindsay Mackenzie

Image Credit: Lindsay Mackenzie.

Image Credit: Lindsay Mackenzie

Image Credit: Lindsay Mackenzie.

Image Credit: Lindsay Mackenzie

Image Credit: Lindsay Mackenzie.

Image Credit: Lindsay Mackenzie

Image Credit: Lindsay Mackenzie.

Displacement, violation and violence in South Sudan

Europe’s migrant crisis has been proclaimed 2015’s news story. But the reality of migrant experience is that it is a trajectory; until long after the displaced person becomes a citizen of a host nation or returns to their original habitus, their state of transition not only persists but also often goes overlooked. This is true of the crisis in the States of South Sudan (SS henceforth), a DFID high priority nation (2012). The etymology of displacement conferring a ‘removal from office’ dates back to the seventeenth century while human rights have a similarly established legacy, denoting those rights that are ‘inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion’ (UN, 1996). The Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) of SS will occupy the focus of this exploration offset against refugee patterns and associated settlement activity. Through this lens, one can consider a framework in which action is being, or should be, taken to re-establish this population’s rights. It is imperative to recall that the ‘participants’ of crisis are not solely the IDPs themselves, but also the governments and political personnel, the humanitarian aid effort, and the stories of those left behind. Indeed, the lexicon of ‘participant’ and ‘driver’ is perhaps inappropriate, suggesting an agency or performance of choice that does not actually function in this arena, and will be reinterpreted as ‘subjects’ and ‘factors’.

If you were to ask a young subject what prompted them to run away from a familiar situation, they would probably identify the intrusion of an alien party, an activity that manifests itself in the physiological flight response. This simple, but insupportable, vulnerability characterises SS’s IDPs, with conflict the primary factor in displacement. As catastrophe psychologist Dr Richard Sherry (2016) noted in a recent lecture delivered at University College London, it comes as little surprise that those who perceive their lives to be at risk are most susceptible to psychological vulnerability and escapism – it is a symptom of disasters. HART’s work in SS has identified that IDPs find themselves classified as such following experiences of economic or political disturbance. They exist within a conflict zone. Following the referendum of January 2011 with almost 99% voting to secede from the North, SS became an independent country and also the world’s youngest nation. But this newborn peace was soon fractured following conflict at a leadership level between the Blue Nile and South Kordofan States. Since then, the air offensive and ground assaults that characterise the violence in this region have been termed genocide with its associated erasure not only of people but also of entire cultural networks.Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 00.25.59

This triggered the ‘dis-‘ movement of civilians with some 50-100,000 killed, 1.5 million finding themselves IDPs and a further 546,000 escapees in bordering countries. Of the IDPs, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (2015) suggests that 10% are located in the nine UN Mission sites such as the Doro Refugee Camp but the overwhelming majority live in unidentified, typically remote and hard to access locales. But one must turn our attention to the circumstances that facilitated the renewed violence. The rise of globalisation has indirectly witnessed the increase in displacement and migration patterns. Indeed, Allen et al. (1999) note that ‘globalisation makes it easier to hide, with individuals switching identities and crossing old boundaries’. In the years following SS’s independence, the international community supported the nascent SS with ‘state-building’ while de-prioritising state-society interrelation afforded by ‘nation-building’ which saw an already fragile state fortified from an institutionalised government level rather than adopting a civilian first approach (IRC, 2014). So too, factors of displacement point towards an already vulnerable existence with UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards (2016) remarking that the upsurge in fighting ‘but also growing food insecurity’ were the main reasons for displacement. Indeed, food insecurity following extreme flooding cycles in SS and ensuing violence are the crux of much nation-specific conflict research and findings.

So too, findings identify recalcitrant global public opinion as a key barrier to securing human rights for these IDPs. A peer recently applied for a UK-based ITV (2016) news traineeship scheme and shared one of the application questions, listed as follows: ‘what graphic would you use to illustrate the numbers and origins of migrants recently settling in your patch?’.Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 00.26.13The gaping box and ring fencing of response to 50 words only exposes the imperative to effect change in this space of interpersonal attitudes towards refugees and IDPs. Otherwise, their respective human rights will go unmet. Indeed, as former WHO Director-General Dr. Brundtland (2003) remarked: ’at the root of the concern for equality and freedom from discrimination in human rights thinking and practice, lies the notion of human dignity’. This challenge of promoting compassion for one’s fellow man, particularly within SS, will not be resolved over the short-term. Instead, education and fairly representative media coverage such as Peter Biro’s photojournalism, must be employed to highlight how art and discourse can raise awareness and commemorate suffering. Demonstrably, political artist Ai Weiwei (2015) advocates ‘we can do a lot if we open our hearts and think philosophically what [sic] refugee is about’. Here referring to the European migrant crisis, his sentiment resonates with the SS conflict and underscores that we have all, at some point in our people’s histories, been migrants seeking humanity, love and safety from host peoples and places. Indeed, cultural eradication must be halted in light of the celebratory possibilities it represents.

In many cases, it has been reported that SS’s IDPs have received neither humanitarian aid nor political commitment. As HART’s Baroness Cox (2014) identifies, to move forward there must be more efficient collaboration between aid and advocacy. Specifically, a coordinated approach is required between the implementing (such as government agencies; Commissioner for Refugee Affairs) and operational partners (MSF, UN-Habitat, UNDP) and HART. But it is not merely a question of political apathy, but also a matter of social security: six humanitarian workers were killed in a refugee-hosting area of Maban County in August 2014 (UNHCR, 2015). In light of this threat to aid, approaches must also seek out those IDPs who are least accessible, so demanding cohesive protection methods and monitoring of the most vulnerable groups as well as the general civilian body. Indeed, according to the IRC (2014), the ‘humanitarian response has had a disproportionate focus on IDPs sheltering in protection-of-civilian sites and camps, who are easier to reach’. However, the immediate priority is to improve emergency structures in all camps and standards of sanitation, education and health. This will require sustainable and continued work with local partners so as to cause minimal disruption or unfeasible input in terms of the local economy and infrastructure.

Thereafter, for SS to be considered by the world’s development community as a nation capable of ensuring the safety, wellbeing and rightful existence of their citizens, they will need to commit and implement a sustainable political solution to end fighting. SS must evidence that it can provide for all people, even those most likely to be hidden, and rely less on the support of the aid effort which must, in itself, be augmented. Camp settlement is not a long-term human rights based solution. Resettlement and fair coverage is.

 

References: 

Allen, T. and Skelton, T. (1999). Culture and Global Change. Abingdon: Routledge.

Brundtland, Gro Harlem. 2003. Statement to the 59th Commission on Human Rights: WHO. [online]. Available at: <http://www.who.int/dg/speeches/2003/commissionhumanrights/en/&gt; [Accessed 1 February 2016].

Burki, S. and Perry, G. (1998). Beyond the Washington Consensus: Institutions Matter. Washington, D.C.: World Bank.

DFID (Department for International Development), 2012. Operational Plan 2011-2015: DFID South Sudan. [online]. Available at: <https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/67348/south-sudan-2011.pdf&gt; [Accessed January 29 2016].

Edwards, Adrian. 2016. Growing insecurity triggers new displacement in and from South Sudan: briefing notes. [online]. Available at: <http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/search?page=search&docid=568f9f9d6&query=adrian%20edwards%20growing%20food%20insecurity&gt; [Accessed 12 February 2016].

HART, 2014. Annual report for the year ended 31 December 2014. [online] Available at: <http://www.hart-uk.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/HART-2014-Annual-Report-low-resolution.pdf&gt; [Accessed 9 February 2016]. With reference to Baroness Cox.

IRC (International Rescue Committee), 2014. Uprooted by Conflict: South Sudan’s Displacement Crisis. [online]. Available at: <http://www.rescue.org/sites/default/files/resource-file/20141110_IRC_SouthSudan_Report.pdf&gt; [Accessed 12 February 2016].

ITV, 2016. News Traineeship Recruitment for 2016/17. [online]. Available at: <https://itv.taleo.net/careersection/2/jobdetail.ftl?job=1600012T&lang=en&gt; [Accessed 9 February 2016].

Sherry, Richard. 2016. The Psychology of Disasters, UCL Conflict Series. University College London, unpublished.

UN, 1996. Your Human Rights. [online] Available at: <http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Pages/WhatareHumanRights.aspx&gt; [Accessed 12 February 2016].

UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), 2015. 2015 UNHCR Global Appeal 2015 Update. [online] Available at: <http://www.unhcr.org/ga15/index.xml&gt; [Accessed 9 February 2016].

Weiwei, Ai. 2015. Amish Kapoor and Ai Weiwei walk in solidarity with world refugees, London. [online]. Available at: <http://londonartreviews.com/2015/09/21/anish-kapoor-and-ai-weiwei-walk-in-solidarity-with-world-refugees-london/&gt; [Accessed 1 February 2016].

Image Credit: CDC Global, Flickr

Battlelines: World Health Day (Beat Diabetes)

This 7 April is World Health Day, and as has been typical of recent years a thematic focus is adopted and on this occasion is ‘Beat Diabetes‘. The world over is continuing to experience a double burden of disease with chronic conditions such as cancers, diabetes and heart diseases increasingly prevalent while still tackling the challenges associated with epidemics and infectious diseases which are overwhelmingly associated with elevated child and maternal deaths.

As such, it is fitting that the World Health Organization (WHO) has focused the promotional activity and materials surrounding this annual event towards a non-communicable disease. Their recent findings state that 350 million people worldwide have diabetes, a number likely to more than double in the next 20 years. Meanwhile, in 2012, diabetes was the direct cause of 1.5 millions deaths, with – perhaps surprisingly – more than 80% of those occurring in low and middle-income countries.

With reports of diabetes (particularly Type II) amongst children as well as the general population on the increase, it is unsurprising that the event-specific posters produced (some of which are shown below) engage in a discourse of self-care, offering accompanying practical advice. Indeed, the following material advocates being ‘active‘  with the recommendation that at least 30 minutes of regular, moderate-intensity activity on most days helps prevent Type 2 diabetes and its complications, as well as helping people to better manage Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes if they have it.

Poster reproduced with permission of WHO.

Comparably, the following ‘halt the rise’ poster channels the event’s key messages of: ‘be active’, ‘eat healthy’, ‘follow medical advice’ and ‘if in doubt, check!’ With more and more people getting diabetes around the world, diabetes-specific vertical programmes at both country and international levels are trying to wisely situate the prevention and management of diabetes, and associated non-communicable diseases, within a generalisable advocacy campaign for a healthy lifestyle.

Poster reproduced with permission of WHO.

What is problematic is the timeworn lexical field of militancy. WHO’s material is studded with imperatives such as ‘beat’, ‘halt’ and ‘check’ all demanding an opposition to be drawn between person and disease. This carries most risk when referring to current diabetic patients, for this dissociation could encourage a self-distancing from care for one’s own body and a false sense of disempowerment over the situation. Indeed, there is a likelihood that the individual will encounter this terminology as suggesting a demolition or lack of agency on their part. With respect to the potential population at risk, this discourse implies a misplaced effort that is destructive rather than constructive and preventative. Not only is this discourse linguistic but also performative as these actions determine the way that we form our understanding of health.

Poster reproduced with permission of WHO.

Poster reproduced with permission of WHO.

Such poorly considered marketing methodologies are not new, particularly those pertaining to health management campaigns. The UK-based charity Cancer Research pins its colours to the motto ‘let’s beat cancer sooner’. More careful consideration must be given to the concept of health and illness, taking into account on what basis people make health decisions, whether the biomedicalization of illness should be resisted, and what makes a sickness or ill health appropriate for management by a doctor with biomedical training as opposed to another kind of health professional. In Illness as Metaphor (1978) Susan Sontag brilliantly assesses metaphors on living and specifically argues against such martial metaphors of cancer and ‘beating’ it.

Fields of representation and associated symbols direct our understanding of health in powerful and didactic ways. Frequently someone experiencing ill health is classified as a ‘sufferer’, ‘soldier’ or ‘survivor’, somehow championing a cause tipping into the realm of heroism. Of course, such labels can be helpful to many people, but from experience they are largely employed to guise or redirect fear and impotence, in ways that are only useful to a self-limiting degree. Language shapes the environment that we live in with the normalization of things in the context in which they are worded. For instance, University College London Teaching Fellow in Anthropology and Global Health Dr Rodney Reynolds offers the example of ‘I’m going to hit on her’ or ‘I’m going to pick her up’ – even in a society that increasingly discusses intimate partner violence with frequency and openness, the distinct field of dating indirectly encourages this very activity.

While punchy and memorable health messaging might help a diabetic patient manage life without being able to eat an entire box of donuts if they have a stressful day (a perfectly permissible, if unwise, decision for ‘healthy’ individuals), this invitation to fight and beat a disease only tangible in the readings on a glucometer might be less empowering than a simple invitation to ‘be kind’ and considered to one’s body and approach its management with moderation and a personalised understanding that develops over time.

 

References:

Global status report on noncommunicable diseases 2014. Geneva, World Health Organization, 2012.

Mathers CD, Loncar D. Projections of global mortality and burden of disease from 2002 to 2030. PLoS Med, 2006, 3(11):e442.

World Health Organization. Global Health Estimates: Deaths by Cause, Age, Sex and Country, 2000-2012. Geneva, WHO, 2014.

Image Credit: Craig Chew-Moulding, Flickr.