In January, associate editor Dale Keiger was working on our cover story, “The Buck Goes Here” (p. 36), about cost-effective public health interventions that, if funded, could save many, many lives. As he filled me in on his reporting, he and I talked about the fact that there’s actually plenty of cash out there, but not the political will to direct enough of it to those efforts. (You’ll see in his story that we have expensive tastes when it comes to cigarettes and stadiums.) This led to the expected shaking of heads and disappointed commentary about how our priorities are out of whack. If we felt frustrated, imagine how the public health experts who devote their careers to such work must feel.
And then an earthquake hit Haiti, destroying the city of Port-au-Prince. It took 35 seconds to create a massive public health emergency—and seemingly not much longer for the world to act. A number of faculty, staff, and students from Johns Hopkins were already working in Haiti; thankfully none were injured in the quake. Many of them responded immediately, including master’s students from the Bloomberg School of Public Health who traveled from the villages of Anse Rouge and Pont Sonde to Port-au-Prince to volunteer in a school and in a makeshift hospital.
Back at home, the Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response organized its first Johns Hopkins Go Team mission, and soon more medical personnel—including people from Nursing, Medicine, and Public Health—were on the ground in Haiti. Several other teams have followed since. For our “Big Question” (p. 4), I talked to Rich Lamporte, who led a team from Jhpiego to Croix des Bouquets, where they focused on the needs of pregnant women and newborns affected by the quake. Johns Hopkins students and staff raised money through happy hours and bake sales. Pediatric residents from the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center collected much-needed crutches for Haiti. They hoped to get a few hundred pairs—they got more than 3,000.
It’s impossible in this small space to list all of the efforts or do justice to the hard work and sacrifice of the people involved. But if you want to know more, visit the university’s Web site, www.jhu.edu, where much of this work is documented. There you’ll also find links to blogs written by Johns Hopkins faculty and staff recounting their personal experiences in Haiti. I can tell you that the suffering they describe is devastating. Their joy at saving lives and sadness at losing them, overwhelming. And their determination to continue that work and help rebuild the area—to “build back better” as Rich Lamporte puts it—inspiring. No need to reorder those priorities.