Would you like to know what I’ve been working on lately…? Of course you would!
It’s been a busy time in the field of global health and I’ve been writing a lot for the British Medical Journal. I’ve written stories on contraception and the dangers of diesel exhaust fumes. Diseases that in developed countries we no longer worry about are still a threat in the developing world so I’ve also covered polio eradication and measles and pneumonia
Writing about global health is not for the squeamish. A few months ago I wrote a piece on water and sanitation which discussed the practice of open defecation, ie shitting outside. I didn’t try to get the phrase “shitting outside” past my news editor as I doubt it would have made it into print but “open defecation” just sounds prissy.
Another horrible phrase was in the very important report on contraception that I covered for the BMJ. This talked about 222m women around the world who had an “unmet need” for contraception. Surely, a better way of putting it would be: 222 million around the world cannot get hold of contraception. Or, if you really want to use international development-ese “cannot access” contraception.
Next week I’m covering the London summit on family planning, organised by the Department for International Development and the Gates Foundation. I will look forward to hearing more assaults on the English language!
I’ve also written my first ever obituary, of David Bennett, professor of intensive care medicine at St George’s Hospital, London. He did some very important work on peri-operative mortality. Doctors are just as bad as international development bods in their jargon. Ie, he tried to stop people dying during surgery. He sounds like he made a great contribution and died at what is a young age nowadays, 71. I hope I did his career justice.