Opinion, Berkeley Blogs

Actions we can take to help Haiti

By Steve Shortell

We have all been deeply affected by the human suffering we have seen and heard about in reports about the January 12 earthquake in Haiti. With more than 200,000 people dead and countless more seriously injured, the extent of the devastation is unfathomable.

Public health must be at the forefront of the response to this event and its aftermath. In a country where the prevalence of infectious diseases was already high, the lack of food, water, and shelter will drastically increase the threats posed by diarrheal disease, malaria, dengue, measles, and other infections. With its already inadequate health care infrastructure now decimated, Haiti will need emergency teams in the short term and the rebuilding of its health care delivery system in the long term.

Looking at the enormous scale of this disaster, it would be easy to feel helpless—but there are actions we can take. This has been demonstrated admirably by Dr. Paul Farmer, UC Berkeley's 2009 Public Health Hero, who proved that quality health care can be delivered in resource-poor settings. Dr. Farmer has been working in Haiti for the past 27 years helping treat infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and AIDS. The organization he founded, Partners in Health, has been the largest health care provider in rural Haiti. Now Partners in Health is supplying critical relief, including medication, supplies, and medical staff, to where it is needed most.

To donate to Partners in Health, or to sign up to receive news updates, go to http://www.standwithhaiti.org.

Please rest assured that we will remain alert to opportunities where the UC Berkeley School of Public Health can help out now and over the many years in future that it will take to rebuild in Haiti.