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The topics discussed here grow out of the bread-and-butter issues that confront my consulting and software clients on a daily basis. We'll talk about prosaic stuff like Membership Management, Meetings and Events Management and Fundraising, broader ideas like security and software project management, and the social, cultural, and organizational issues that impact IT decision-making.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Mountains beyond Mountains

Sorry to have been away from this blog for so long... but I spent all of last week in bed battling what started out as a cold but morphed into a case of pneumonia... today at long last I feel sort of human again...

Speaking of infectious disease, while I was cooped up I read Tracy Kidder's Mountains Beyond Mountains, the story of Paul Farmer and his Partners in Health organization. We often hear Margaret Meade quoted: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Kidder's book shows what this means in real life. Paul Farmer set out to bring health care to the poorest of the poor on the central plateau of Haiti, and managed to pull much of the world heath establishment into his venture.

Despite Farmer's explicit refusal to consider cost-efficacy as a morally acceptable construct in health care, he and his cohorts managed to drag much of the global health care technocracy around to his way of thinking, and reshaped the way major organizations -- like the World Health Organization -- think about the treatment of tuberculosis, AIDS, and malaria in the most desperate parts of our planet. Not that many years ago, Farmer was a voice crying in the wilderness about the danger of multiple-drug-resistant tuberculosis - but just this week the WHO took his approach to malaria, calling for an end to single-drug treatment of the disease before it breeds more virulent and resistent strains.

But most remarkable is the man himself -- his story, as told by Pulitzer Prize winning Kidder -- shows just how much energy and passion can be channeled by a single human being -- and just how much good can be catalyzed by a single passionate spirit.
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Comments on "Mountains beyond Mountains"

 

Anonymous Chris Blow said ... (January 24, 2006 at 2:21 PM) : 

What makes Farmer's vision so wonderful, I think, is his ability to keep the big picture right in front of him. He does not let his job come in the way of his purpose.

I recently read his book "Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor." If you have any interest in international health and development, this is a great read.

I was struck by 2 of the things he believes in most: 1.) Remaining a practitioner (and not becoming a more profitable, detached, consultant. ) and

2.) "doing what it takes" to make sure that health needs are being met in communities in need. For him this mean the "controversial" practice of monitoring patient's perscription drug use. By being more in the post-treatment phase of his patients lives, he has forced himself into a nontraditional role that works.

The Standford Social Innovation Review, (an excellent magazine) has a lovely extended interview with him about his work and his perspective. Before jumping into a book, this is a good introduction.

Here's a bit from the Stanford article:

To read the Stanford Social Review interview with Paul Farmer visit
http://www.ssireview.com/articles/
and search for Paul Farmer. His article is a free PDF.


Chris Blow
http://www.Nonprofitdesign.org
http://www.pictr.org

 

Blogger Michael Stein said ... (January 24, 2006 at 5:42 PM) : 

Thanks for the note and the additional resources, Chris!

 

Anonymous Colorado Health Insurance said ... (January 27, 2006 at 5:57 PM) : 

Great blog I hope we can work to build a better health care system as we are in a major crisis and health insurance is a major aspect to many.

 

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