The politics that shape data creation and utilisation hold the power to construct visibility in global health. This visibility through data – or lack thereof – not only influences what programmes and populations receive support, but ultimately plays a role in shaping who lives and who dies. This is the message at the heart of The Uncounted, which interrogates how quantitative evidence is developed and implemented in global health. Following from an initial article written under the same title three years ago, Sara Davis examines the global fight against HIV/AIDS to both acknowledge the necessity of data in global health and thoughtfully critique how data are gathered, transformed, and operationalised. The resulting book – intended for both scholars and practitioners – finds new meaning against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has underlined the limitations of data utilization in public health policy.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought questions around global healthcare financing and equitable access to treatments to the fore. But this is not the first time a spotlight has been thrown on the thorny issue of fair resource allocation in efforts to tackle global health issues. In her book, “The Uncounted: Politics of Data in Global Health” (Cambridge University Press), Dr Sara Davis considers how human rights issues can affect the data which underlie global healthcare funding. She looks closely at the indicators which drive resource allocation, the metrics used to measure success in tackling health issues, and the people whose experiences healthcare data often fails to capture. Ultimately, in a world of finite resources, this data plays an important role in determining who is more likely to live or die.
Interview with: Sara Davis (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva)
Host: Natasha Holcroft-Emmess
Producer/Editor: Christy Callaway-Gale
Executive Producer: Kira Allmann
Music: Rosemary Allmann
For this episode, I reached out to two good friends who are wonderful data nerds and activists, Shirin Heidari and Marina Smelyanskaya, to talk about gender, inequality and data. When I invited Malu Marin, a longtime activist for the rights of migrant workers in Asia, she urged me to talk to her friend Jolovan Wham instead – “a very committed activist working directly with migrant workers”. Jolovan has come under more than his fair share of pressure for his advocacy for free speech – so especially grateful to him for his time, and to all three of this episode’s experts. Continue reading →
How are inequality and discrimination shaping data about COVID-19, and who is being left invisible and uncounted? On the launch of her new book on data and human rights, Sara (Meg) Davis speaks to social worker and rights activist Jolovan Wham in Singapore, who describes how thousands of migrant workers are being detained in overcrowded dorms, and were missed by the official mobile contact tracing app. In Geneva, Dr. Shirin Heidari (GENDRO) and Marina Smelyanskaya (Stop TB Partnership) address the global need for feminist principles and respect for human rights to gather data on COVID-19. Davis’ new book, The Uncounted: Politics of Data in Global Healthis available from Cambridge University Press.
Tina Alai (Kenyan human rights lawyer), Karyn Kaplan (Asia Catalyst), Margaret Mbira Omondi (Women Concerns Center, Kenya) and Prem Pramoj Na Ayutthaya (Rainbow Sky Association, Thailand) meet online to compare notes on how COVID-19 is fueling violence against women, from girls in evacuation camps in rural Kisumu, Kenya, to transgender women isolated in lockdown in urban Bangkok, Thailand. They found some surprising commonalities. Community-based activists and human rights advocates like themselves are putting marginalized communities at the center of their work, and finding ways to work together, using international human rights standards, to find a way out of this crisis.
With restrictions in many countries on nongovernmental organizations, and sweeping new laws coming into play in response to COVID-19, is space closing for civil society, journalists and other whistleblowers in global health? Leading international activists and journalists debated this question from national and international perspectives, on 19 May 2020, as part of the Graduate Institute’s 73rd World Health Assembly week. Co-organised by the Global Health Centre, STOPAIDS and Medicus Mundi International.
Gargeya Telakapalli, Research Associate, People’s Health Movement
Mercy Korir, Medical Doctor; Journalist, KTN News, Kenya
Mike Podmore, Executive Director, STOPAIDS; Chair, Action for Global Health
Nadejda Dermendjieva, Executive Director, Bulgarian Fund for Women
Thomas Schwarz, Executive Secretary, Medicus Mundi International
Moderated by Meg Davis, Special Advisor, Strategy and Partnerships, Global Health Centre
Episode 2 of the Right On Podcast: Human Rights Activists Respond to COVID-19 explores criminalization and policing. Many countries are now seeing the most significant deployment of law enforcement and national defense forces since World War II. Should they be arresting people who refuse to follow lockdown regulations? Or will aggressive policing, abuse and criminalization only undermine trust and fuel the virus? Should we also be considering the labor rights of frontline police officers? Can human rights offer us a way forward out of this crisis?
No easy answers, but it was a real delight to explore these questions with three inspiring activists who are also friends: Edwin J. Bernard (HIV Justice Network), Felicita Hikuam (AIDS and Rights Alliance of Southern Africa), and Mikhail Golichenko, a Russian lawyer. Actually, Patrick Eba suggested, on the first episode, that we talk to the HIV Justice Network, and it was a great suggestion. The second episode is now being edited and will air Friday, May 15, 2020 on Apple, Spotify, Soundcloud, and Stitcher. Continue reading →
The COVID-19 lockdown has proven economically devastating, and to enable people to move freely and start national economies moving also, many governments are exploring digital contact tracing. Mobile phone apps that track individual movements can enable real-time health surveillance and case management. However, once it exists, that data on health and individual movements can pose real threats for everyone—particularly for women and girls, and for marginalized and disfavored groups. Racing to embrace digital contact tracing without putting laws and policies in place to address the stigma surrounding the epidemic, and to protect the rights of those most marginalized, risks undermining the goal of epidemic control. Continue reading →