Evening Ebola Update, Fri, 1/2: World Bank’s Develop. Report validates anthropologists’ view/Dr. Jim’s Foreword   Leave a comment

1/2/15

Dear Colleagues:

My web sources on EBOV are still quiet this New Year’s Holiday weekend.  So I have elected to post the Foreword to the World Development Report from the World Bank.  This Foreword was written by Dr. Jim, President of the World Bank.

1. The World Development Report this year focuses on Mind, Society, and Behavior as means to improve the health and lives of the poor in the world.  The Report supports the anthropologists’ mantra that is it not enough to tell people this or that is good for them and then expect them to follow your recommendations.  HCW need to educate people using teaching methods in order for them to not defecate openly, drink clean water, not eat bushmeat,  The Report is directly related to the problems HCW are having in West Africa getting people to adopt safe burial practices, preventive measures, and openness to prevent EBOV infections.  Here are excerpts from Dr.Jim’s Foreword:

As I write, the world is fighting to control the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, a human tragedy that has cost thousands of lives and brought suffering to families and across entire communities. The outbreak is a tragedy not only for those directly affected by the disease but also for their neighbors and fellow citizens. And the indirect, behavioral effects of the Ebola crisis—slowing business activity, falling wages, and rising food prices—will make life even more difficult for millions of people who already live in extreme poverty in that region of the world. Some of these behavioral effects are unavoidable. Ebola is a terrible disease, and quarantines and other public health measures are necessary parts of the response. At the same time, it is clear that the behavioral responses we are seeing, not just in West Africa but all over the world, are partly driven by stigma, inaccurate understanding of disease transmission, exaggerated panic, and other biases and cognitive illusions. Sadly, we have seen this happen before, with HIV/AIDS and the SARS and H1N1 influenza outbreaks, and we will likely see it again when we begin to prepare for the next outbreak. Societies are prone to forget what happened, and policy makers tend to focus on the most socially prominent risks, which are not always those that drive disease outbreaks. In light of these risks, this year’s World Development Report—Mind, Society, and Behavior— could not be more timely.

Its main message is that, when it comes to understanding and changing human behavior, we can do better. Many development economists and practition- ers believe that the “irrational” elements of human decision making are inscrutable or that they cancel each other out when large numbers of people interact, as in markets. Yet, we now know this is not the case. Recent research has advanced our understanding of the psy- chological, social, and cultural influences on decision making and human behavior and has demonstrated that they have a significant impact on development outcomes. Research also shows that it is possible to harness these influences to achieve development goals. The Report describes an impressive set of results. It shows that insights into how people make decisions can lead to new interventions that help households to save more, firms to increase productivity, communities to reduce the prevalence of diseases, parents to improve cognitive development in children, and consumers to save energy.

Third, development professionals and policy makers are, like all human beings, subject to psychological biases. Governments and international institutions, including the World Bank Group, can implement measures to mitigate these biases, such as more rigorously diagnosing the mindsets of the people we are trying to help and introducing processes to reduce the effect of biases on internal deliberations. The Ebola outbreak makes clear that misunderstanding and miscommunicating risks can have serious repercussions. Quarantining infected individuals can prove sensible, but trying to quarantine nations or entire ethnic groups violates human rights and may actually hinder efforts to control the outbreak of a disease. This year’s World Development Report provides insight into how to address these and other current challenges and introduces an important new agenda for the development community going forward.”

Jim Yong Kim President

The entire World Development Report can be found at: http://www.worldbank.org/content/dam/Worldbank/Publications/WDR/WDR%202015/WDR-2015-FullReport.pdf 

This report is 256 pages.  But Chapter 8: Health is a short chapter.  This chapter tells how education, the story of a famous person’s illness, engaging the whole community not just individuals can all be tools to get people invested in their own heath.  (To combat open defecation in India, educators put a bowl of open feces next to a bowl of rice and showed villagers how flies went from one bowl to another: that did the trick.)      

RGL, MD  

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Posted January 3, 2015 by levittrg in Ebola

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