News from the Yale Global Health Justice Partnership

Issue III: May 8, 2016
Keep up to date with events, research, and policy work happening at Yale GHJP, an initiative of Yale Law School and Yale School of Public Health. 

From left to right: GHJP Gregg Gonsalves, Reverend Lennox Yearwood Jr., Constance Okollet, Frances Beinecke

Spring 2016 Events

Panel Discussion on Climate Change & Human Rights, February 17  Reverend Lennox Yearwood Jr. (President and CEO, Hip Hop Caucus; Founder, People's Climate Music Campaign), Frances Beinecke (Former President, Natural Resources Defense Council), and Constance Okollet (Chairperson, Osukuru United Women's Network in Eastern Uganda; Representative, Climate Wise Women) joined GHJP Fellows and the Yale community for a discussion about climate change and human rights moderated by Gregg Gonsalves. The panel addressed the urgency for action on climate change in the wake of the COP21 Paris Conference, the ways in which climate change has a direct bearing on access to food and water in vulnerable regions, and the role of communication across disciplines, fields, and professions in merging environmental and human rights advocacy work.

Julia Belluz, “Fear and Loathing in Health Journalism,” February 22   Julia Belluz discussed how she came to write for as a health journalist, detailing the transition from traditional print media that news sources have had to make as she took us through her career trajectory. She also shared what the typical day of a health journalist is like, from scouring the depths of the Internet for both new and old topics in health, seeking out collaborators, and constantly writing material that will both interest and inform readers at the same time. Belluz wrote up the main points of her talk on

Eszter Kizmodi, “WHO, Gender Expression and Identity, and the ICD-11 (Classification of Diseases) Revision,” March 7 Eszter Kismodi, GHJP Visiting Fellow, explained the divide between human rights and health narratives that exist in the UN, and how it complicates the discussion of certain topics such as abortion.
Panel Discussion on “Zika and its Impact on Reproductive Rights,” March 8   GHJP along with partner organizations convened a panel at Yale Law School to discuss the recent outbreak of Zika virus and its impact on reproductive rights. The discussants emphasized the importance of a holistic, long-term response to the epidemic that addresses key social justice and public health issues. Left unchecked, inequitable access to reproductive health services, a lack of information about the disease and contraception options, and public stigma could all pose significant challenges to combating the epidemic, they said. The panel featured Dr. Albert Ko (Professor and Chair, Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases, Yale School of Public Health), Jennifer Friedman (Associate Director, International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region), and Sebastián Alarcón (Legal and Advocacy Fellow for Latin America & the Caribbean, Center for Reproductive Rights). 

Below: Dr. Albert Ko speaks about the spread of the Zika virus and ongoing research efforts.


Ann Kurth, GHJP Fellows Speakers Series, March 31   Dr. Ann Kurth, the Dean of the Yale University School of Nursing and an international leader in health, spoke with the GHJP Fellows at a Fellows lunch. She shared stories from her accomplished career as a nurse fighting to strengthen health systems for marginalized populations globally. She also initiated important conversations around the value and challenges of interdisciplinary work, and the unique skills that nurses bring to teams.

Carol Jacobsen, “Strategies of Resistance and Hope for Freedom: Women Caught in the Prison System,” April 6  Carol Jacobsen, Professor of Art at University of Michigan and Director of the Michigan Women's Clemency Project, discussed the painful realities of abuses that women face in prison, as well as how she uses film to spread awareness about the horrific treatment and neglect of female prisoners. GHJP Fellows engaged with Jacobsen about her own career as an artist and activist.

Below: Carol Jacobsen shows footage from the documentary she made about abuse of women in prison. 


Screening and discussion of the documentary, “Zika,” April 8   GHJP co-sponsored the first international screening of the new documentary, Zika, which provides a powerful glimpse into the concerns and challenges facing women in Brazil who are infected with Zika during their pregnancy. The screening was followed by a discussion with the director, Debora Diniz, who is a feminist, anthropologist, and Professor of Bioethics at the University of Brasilia. The documentary can now be viewed here. 

Reflections on Reproductive Health in Brazil
As part of the GHJP practicum this semester, a group of law and public health students have been carrying out research and analysis to support on-going efforts in Brazil to ensure that the government response to Zika is grounded in a health and human rights framework. GHJP clinical fellow Christine Ricardo and the practicum students traveled to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, over spring break for a series of meetings and conversations with stakeholders in local communities, civil society, and academia. Below are excerpts from a blog that the students created upon returning from their trip.

Our goals for the trip were to get feedback on [our on-going research on a rights-based response to Zika] and identify next steps. We wanted to strengthen current connections and make new ones. Half of the group had never been to Brazil before, so we also felt it was important to meet and hear from some the individuals we were advocating for, learn about the sexual rights and feminist movements of our partner organizations, and connect with institutions working in this space.
Day 4:
On Thursday morning, [we] met with Brazil’s former Minister of Health, José Gomes Temporão... We were particularly excited to meet Temporão because he had been a vocal advocate for sexual and reproductive rights during his tenure. We were confident he would have a unique take on the political situation in Brazil and on what it meant for abortion and other sexual rights.
Although Temporão was, as predicted, enthusiastic about liberalizing abortion access, he was candid about his concerns regarding [a pending case to the Supreme Court to liberalize access to abortion in cases of Zika]. His foremost concern was how the political climate might affect the case. Given the previous week’s protests against current president Dilma and former president Lula and allegations of corruption throughout the government, national attention and the news cycle had abruptly turned away from Zika and refocused on matters of domestic governance and the calls for impeachment. He stressed, however, Zika and Zika-related issues are not likely to go away soon.
….After our meeting with Temporão, . . . [we visited] Santa Marta, a favela in Botafogo. Our guide for the afternoon, Veronica . . . first gave us a tour of Santa Marta, which is built on the Morro Dona Marta, a hill in the South of Rio. Santa Marta is home to about 8,000 residents. . . . After climbing up and down several streets and, of course, the inevitable downpour, we gathered in Veronica’s house for a meeting with some of her friends. ... we talked about Zika, mosquito control, politics, the multitude of visitors, women’s rights, and, eventually, abortion. ... One woman told us that she had helped her fourteen-year-old daughter get an abortion, even though she personally would not have done so. Other women were against abortions – if a woman had allowed herself to get pregnant, with the contraceptive resources available, then it was her fault and her problem. There was then push back from a woman who received a monthly injection – what if the clinic didn’t have her injection one month? What was she supposed to do then?
The conversation closed with a discussion of our role as outside researchers, started by one of the women. It was common to see researchers and tourists in the community and the women wanted to know more about what we were doing and how we were going to help them. One woman, a former teacher, spoke about how they needed better educational opportunities; another talked about the lack of jobs and how her sons couldn’t even get hired at McDonald’s.  The first woman explained the frustration of being photographed as a “face of the favela,” imagining those viewing her photo from afar with little understanding of the circumstances of her life. The second advocated that foreigners should move to Brazil and live the same lives and face the same challenges of the people they often misguidedly intend to help.....
It was a vibrant and honest conversation, and we were extremely grateful to Veronica for opening her home to us and gathering her friends.

Pictured below: GHJP Practicum students at Instituto Fernandes Figueira/Fiocruz, the Ministry of Health’s research and training institute for women’s and children’s health. From left to right: Shane Kunselman (YLS), Anna Fiastro (YSPH/FES); Camila Vega (YLS); Paige Baum (YSPH);           Miriam Rosenbaum (YLS).

GHJP students visit Santa Marta, a favela community in the heart of Rio de Janeiro.



Erinma Kalu pictured on the right in this image from the NY Times article on the GHJP Ebola report.
GHJP Alumni Spotlight: Erinma Kalu
Erinma Kalu, who graduated from Yale College in 2014 and finished at the Yale School of Public Health through the B.A.-M.P.H. program in 2015, worked with GHJP on the Ebola report released last December. In this feature, she discusses her specific role as a GHJP fellow and reflects on her experience working with interdisciplinary teams during her time here.

1. Can you briefly describe the work you did as a GHJP fellow?
As a GHJP fellow, I worked with a team of students (in law, public health, medicine, and forestry) and supervisors to co-author a report with the ACLU. The report argued that U.S. state-based quarantines hurt the fight against the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and violated individuals' rights. Our work included interviewing U.S. state health departments, medical relief workers, and federal officials at both the CDC and NIH. Also, we did significant desk research on state and federal quarantine policies.
2. How did your experiences with GHJP inform what you have done since leaving Yale? Perhaps you could reflect a bit on your current work and maybe some of the skills that you developed with GHJP that might help you in what you do now. Alternatively, you could describe any challenges you have encountered that a human rights or global justice framework has helped you to negotiate, if something comes to
mind? After Yale, I worked as a coordinator for a study that aimed to reduce gender-based violence and sexual risk behaviors among teenage girls involved in Rhode Island’s juvenile justice system. GHJP taught me that health justice is a necessary framework for thinking about health disparities; for my work in Rhode Island, I quickly understood that the sexual health inequities I witnessed were inseparable from, and even a result of, structural injustices related to poverty and race. This critical thinking skill—conceptualizing health disparities as justice problems in need of concrete legal and policy solutions—was immensely helpful in my work.  

More concretely, GHJP sharpened my policy analysis skills. Through the GHJP, I learned to ask essential, analytical questions about laws and policies that affect health, both domestically and globally: Who makes and shapes these laws and policies? Who is impacted? Does the impact vary by identify categories such as race, gender, or class? What do these laws and policies tell us about power and how power is distributed?  
3. What advice might you give to current GHJP fellows or students in the practicum about doing work at the intersection of health, policy, human rights, and law? What are the challenges and benefits with working in multidisciplinary teams, and what are some best practices you might suggest? Don’t exoticize health justice and human rights. A lot of times, we think we need to travel abroad to do real, substantive work to advance health and human rights, but the reality is that so many injustices are taking place right next to us in our cities, our universities, and even our own social groups. I believe it’s important to think about how you can do work on a national or even global scale on rights-based issues, but you should also integrate this analysis and commitment into your own personal life and interactions.

Another piece of advice is to find an issue area in health, human rights, and/or law that deeply motivates you. Working on issues of injustice can take an emotional toll, even though it can also be very rewarding. Finding an issue that excites you—whether that issue be women’s health and rights, environmental health justice, or focusing on a specific region—can really give you fuel to keep you moving.
When working on multidisciplinary teams, I think it’s important to be humble and accept that, even if you are an expert on an issue in your field, there are certainly other team members who can contribute new and useful insight from disciplines separate from your own. Also, when working on multidisciplinary teams, it can help to actively step out of your comfort zone, and make contributions to a part of the project that you don’t have previous experience with.
Keep up with GHJP over the summer on Twitter, Facebook, and our website. We'll be posting regular updates, news, and publications on relevant media outlets.

Join the GHJP listserv and receive information on upcoming events and opportunities by clicking here or scanning the QR code below 

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