Global Health Reporting

Starting in 2013, the Nieman Foundation will no longer offer a named fellowship in Global Health Reporting. As other specialized Nieman Fellowships have done in the past, the Global Health program has brought recognition and leadership to an important but underreported subject. It
Sam Loewenberg

Rema Nagarajanthem
has demonstrated the impact that good storytelling about the connections between development policies, poverty and disease can have on experts and practitioners alike. It has built strong relationships between the Nieman Foundation and the global health community at Harvard and elsewhere; and it has contributed to an understanding of what it takes to cover this complex subject around the world.

Future Nieman Fellows specializing in health, poverty, and international aid and development will be able to build on this progress. As global health remains a priority at Harvard and a subject of exploration for all fellows at the Nieman Foundation, journalists covering this beat are strongly encouraged to apply for a fellowship in the general application pool. A separate application process is no longer required. The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting is available as a resource for fellows wishing to propose a reporting project after their fellowship.

Following in the footsteps of experienced global health journalists before, 2012 fellows Rema Nagarajan of the Times of India and U.S. freelance journalist Sam Loewenberg used their Harvard year to deeply engage with various faculty and centers on campus, from giving talks on poverty to lecturing in an interdisciplinary class on global health for undergraduate students dubbed “Case Studies in Global Health” run by University Professor Paul Farmer and his mentor Arthur Kleinman, a professor of anthropology, psychiatry and social medicine with appointments at both Harvard Medical School and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

As faculty recognize the importance of journalism in the ongoing conversation on health, international aid and development, current and former Nieman Fellows have been invited to share their experiences in Harvard classes and with other Harvard audiences this year. For example, the Associated Press’s Margie Mason, a 2009 Nieman Fellow, talked about covering disasters at the Kennedy School’s Ash Center; Sam Loewenberg talked about solutions to water and sanitation problems in India and Kenya at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy; and Christine Gorman, health editor at Scientific American and a 2008 Nieman Fellow, Kalpana Jain, independent journalist and 2009 Nieman Fellow, Sam Loewenberg and the Nieman Foundation’s Stefanie Friedhoff were invited back to talk about journalism and media literacy in the  class taught by Farmer and Kleinman.

Fixing Foreign Aid

Global hunger affects nearly one billion people. Emergency food is not enough, explained 2012 Nieman Global Health Fellow Sam Loewenberg in his widely recognized New York Times article “The Famine Next Time” in November 2011, not long after he had started his Nieman Fellowship.

Loewenberg used his time at Harvard in part to research and prepare for a reporting trip to Kenya in the fall of 2012, driven by the desire to understand and explain why we react to emergencies, but do little toward developing basic infrastructure and other long-term solutions.

Funded by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, Loewenberg’s series points to the underlying factors that lead to hunger—chronic poverty, lack of infrastructure, government corruption and negligence, unprecedented drought and skyrocketing food prices. While emergency food aid prevents widespread starvation, he reports, it does nothing to prevent communities from becoming caught in a continuous cycle of crisis, rescue and deprivation.

While Loewenberg continues to produce parts of this series, his articles in the Economist, the New York Times and GlobalPost begin to show the lessons learned from interventions focused on providing basic infrastructure such as water, sanitation and roads; the opportunities missed; the responsibility of the Kenyan government; and how—when aid is administered correctly —it can help break the cycle of hunger.

Bindia: Investigating Health Challenges in India and Brazil

Rema Nagarajan, a health reporter and editor in the investigative unit at The Times of India, started her Nieman Fellowship with a pressing question in mind: What can India learn from Brazil?

With a population of about 200 million, Brazil has emerged as a major innovator in providing public service in the developing world, running highly successful state-funded programs tackling public health issues and related development concerns, such as extreme inequality, poverty and malnutrition.

India, with over six times that population (1.2 billion), has similar development challenges but has been far less successful in addressing them. So while at Harvard, Nagarajan began investigating if it would make more sense for developing countries, especially two large democracies, to look to each other for solutions rather than to the global north.

With funding from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, Nagarajan then spent part of the summer in Brazil to find out if the country’s system could provide some answers for India.

Her informed, nuanced and at times inspiring reporting focuses on three programs: the Bolsa Familia, a conditional monthly family allowance system for the poorest in Brazil; the publicly funded Unified Health System (SUS) meant to provide healthcare to all; and Fiocruz, the public sector entity responsible for manufacturing vaccines for the national immunization program and for research into and introduction of new drugs (publication forthcoming.)