Exclusive Commentary: Ebola—How Much is Too Much?

One of the great things about editing Global Health NOW is hearing from our smart and engaged readers. Here’s a great “stop-and-think” letter to the editor that we received yesterday:

"Global Health NOW is a superb and critical daily read, but really try to not follow the general media trap  of focusing almost exclusively on Ebola at the cost of other global health issues. It’s vital to not let Ebola crowd out other equally and more impactful health issues."

Derek Yach
Senior Vice President, Vitality Group plc

Dr. Yach raises an important issue. Ebola has not made heart disease, AIDS, traffic injuries, gun violence, maternal mortality, schistosomiasis—or any other threat to human health—go away. However, dipping into any media stream might make you think so.
We certainly have run a slew of news bits on Ebola since our first summary ran on March 20 (drawn from a New York Times article, “Mystery Hemorrhagic Fever Kills 23 in Guinea.”)
Every day, we scout the morning’s news by checking dozens of media sources for the “essential reads.” (By “we,” I mean Dayna Myers, GHN associate editor.) Not all Ebola stories reach that level of essential—in fact most don’t. The challenge for Dayna and for the whole GHN team is to find the most valuable, the most important news while still keeping our perspective. While the US media has been in a frenzy over a handful of cases, we should note influenza and pneumonia killed 53,826 people in the US alone in 2011. And, of course, there have been more than 10,000 cases in West Africa.
If we’re “Global Health NOW,” we should have a global perspective. The plight of a 5-year-old Bronx boy who “might” have Ebola because he has a fever and recently returned from West Africa must be weighed against the plight of thousands in Africa. (When the boy’s negative test results made big news, one wag on Twitter noted that now we are reporting on everyone who doesn’t have Ebola.)
It’s a difficult balance, and sometimes we’ll screw up. But we’ll always strive to keep things in perspective and find the essential news for you—on Ebola and everything else global health.
And we’ll look to you to inform our perspective.

—Brian W. Simpson, MPH, is Editor-in-Chief of Global Health NOW. 

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