Originally published by the New York Times

Matt Cone writes about teaching students about global issues in the classroom, with a special nod toward Senator Bill Frist. Cone is a teacher at Carrboro High School in North Carolina.

Of the more than 8,000 class periods that I have taught, one stands out as my favorite — not only for what happened in the class but also for how it transformed my teaching. The class took place in the fall of 2004 and what strikes me about it now is how primitive it was by today’s technological standards. Indeed, the entire class consisted of the students sitting in a circle, staring at a speakerphone, and engaging in a dialogue about global health with a guest on the other end of the line. Fortunately for us, the guest was Dr. Paul Farmer, a path-breaking physician who co-founded the organization Partners in Health and who is the subject of a book the class had read, “Mountains Beyond Mountains.” For forty minutes, the students peppered Farmer with questions about Haiti, about how to best use one’s talents to address global health issues, and about how he had worked with Republicans and Democrats to ramp up global health funding.

As soon as we hung up, it was immediately apparent that the talk had lit a fire under the students: they not only wanted to track down the books and films that Farmer had referenced, but they also wanted to form a global health club. I returned home that night and told my wife, “I need to find a way to do this more often.” Over the past ten years, I have pursued having students study complex global issues in depth and then engage in discussions with a range of experts. The good news is that teaching about global issues through the use of technology and expert speakers is far easier than one might expect, it has great appeal for teenagers, and it frequently leads to learning that extends far beyond the classroom.

Thanks to the Internet, exposing students to global issues and to experts who work on them has never been easier. When I started my career, finding articles and videos on international issues was an arduous process that required hours of sleuthing and juggling VCR tapes; today it is possible with just a single computer to find and within minutes share information about even the most underreported international news stories. So, for example, if my class wanted to know more about the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa, we could accomplish the following within a single period: find articles about it online, locate websites to track the disease’s spread, set up Google Alerts to keep us abreast of the latest news, and reach out to experts in public health, journalism, history and government who could help us to understand the issue in greater depth. Since staging a dialogue with Paul Farmer a decade ago, we have been fortunate to arrange dozens of meetings or Skype calls with a wide range of experts that includes Muhammad Yunus, Jim Yong Kim, Laura Bush, Colin Powell, Jeffrey Sachs, Noam Chomsky, Bill Frist, Dan Ariely, Paul Collier, Alan Mulally, Christy Turlington, Adam Hochschild, Peter Singer and many more.

Learning about global issues through the use of technology and expert speakers appeals to teenagers for two reasons. First, it’s not “busy work.” When students know that they are reading chapters from a macroeconomics text so that they can prepare for a wide-ranging dialogue with Jeffrey Sachs, they are eager to prepare as thoroughly as possible. Students appreciate that when they speak with an expert, they are able to ask critical questions and engage in an intellectual give-and-take with someone who (usually) treats their questions and opinions with respect. In fact, this goal of critically examining the issues and approaches that we are studying is one that is modeled by the experts with whom we speak. So, for example, my students spoke with Sachs and heard his ideas about why foreign aid can provide the big push that lifts nations out of poverty, and we also spoke with one of Sachs’ most vocal critics, Nina Munk, whose book “The Idealist” maintains that much of Sachs’ efforts have failed. Similarly, my students met with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim on the same ...

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As the CDC treats the nation’s first two Ebola cases there are a lot of questions and concerns about the disease in America—Could it become an epidemic here? How contagious is it? How is it caught?

Although my medical specialty is cardiothoracic surgery, I have spent a good deal of time working on global health issues in Africa and elsewhere, and I have been in close contact with the CDC over the past week. I thought it might be useful to highlight some of the features of Ebola that make it more—and less—dangerous.

As a viral disease, Ebola follows a fairly predictable timeline.

This articile originally appeared at Tennessee Christian News.

A Tennessee nonprofit with big-name ties is trying to make a difference throughout the developing world.

Nashville-based Hope Through Healing Hands promotes quality of life through a variety of ways, including emergency relief and addressing such health issues as HIV and clean water, Dr. Jennifer E. Dyer, executive director, told the Tennessee Christian News. Former U.S. Sen. Bill Frist is chairman and founder.

Its flagship initiative, she said, is the Frist Global Health Leaders Program. That initiative offers modest grants to universities and medical centers for graduate level students and residents in the health professions to do service and training around the world.

The group’s website is hopethroughhealinghands.org.

Now, Hope Through Healing Hands is partnering with The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to emphasize birth control. That effort is called The Faith-based Coalition for Healthy Mothers & Children.

The coalition aims to gather support among faith leaders across the United States on the issues of maternal, newborn and child health in developing countries, according to a press release. The coalition will place a particular emphasis on the benefits of healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies, including access to a range of contraceptive options, in alignment with its members’ unifying values and religious beliefs.

On July 14, the coalition sponsored a panel discussion at Belmont University in Nashville. Frist and Melinda Gates led the discussion, titled, “The Mother & Child Project: Simple Steps to Saving Lives in the Developing World.” U.S. Olympic figure skating champion Scott Hamilton, who with his wife Tracie is an active global health advocate, moderated the event. More than 250 individuals representing the faith community, global health NGO and higher-education sectors throughout greater Nashville attended the discussion to learn how they can get involved in the issue.

Frist said, “Contraception is a pro-life cause,” according to the press release. He added, “…if you delay first pregnancy to 18 years old, you can increase survival in countries where 1 in 39 women die in childbirth, and cut the chance of children dying by 30 percent, enabling them to stay in school and become productive members of families.”

Dyer said the partnership with Gates will continue for at least the next year and a half through a grant, although she hopes to extend the grant beyond that period.

Endorsements for the coalition include actress Kimberly Williams Paisley; musicians Jennifer Nettles, Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith; Jena Lee Nardella of Blood:Water Mission; Pastor Mike Glenn of Brentwood Baptist Church; Pastor Rick White of The People’s Church; Bishop T.D. Jakes of The Potter’s House; and Elizabeth Styffe of Saddleback Church, among others.

Published at ForeignPolicy.com on August 4, 2014

The news coverage of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has left Americans reasonably unsure whether the threat is real or hype. In fact, it is both. The outbreak's startling spread and high mortality rate is indeed a real crisis, but it is unlikely to pose a serious threat to Americans at home. Stark differences in natural, cultural, and capacity factors between West Africa and the United States, and the way the virus is transmitted among humans make it extremely unlikely that the United States will face the kind of crisis that has swept through Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

The low likelihood of a serious threat to us from Ebola, however, does not mean we should be unconcerned. Though the story is becoming part of a hype-and-fizzle news cycle that contributes to dangerous complacency and even cynicism about the very real threat of a global pandemic, such as from H5N1 influenza ("bird flu" or "avian flu") that could mutate and become readily transmissible among humans, it still carries important lessons.

Like bird flu, Ebola is an animal virus whose novelty among humans makes it highly pathogenic. But Ebola is spread only through direct contact with body fluids of an infected person, and a person directly exposed to Ebola is not contagious if he or she shows no symptoms, which makes travel possible and screening and response relatively straightforward, if admittedly challenging, for competent authorities.

By contrast, a traveler infected with a mutated bird flu could be asymptomatic yet contagious for days, giving no indication of the acute public-health threat they represent and rendering global point-of-entry-focused security measures dangerously ineffective. This scenario is the most common one discussed regarding a potential global pandemic -- it's not far-fetched and should be added to the growing list of things that keep a president up at night.

For its part, the Obama administration has responded to Ebola appropriately thus far, and has not treated the situation as a crisis it shouldn't waste. That said, a bit of "good crisis" thinking is perhaps in order to improve our ability to prepare for and respond to a future pandemic threat. Instead of allowing the "lessons learned" process around Ebola . . .

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Touch, the dog

Aug 04 2014

Senator Frist is working with the Old Friends Dog Sanctuary to create a dog statue to auction off for their fall fundraiser. His dog, Touch, started out blank, but thanks to some local students, Touch is becoming complete little by little.
As I hope you’ve heard, there is an outbreak of the Ebola virus in Western Africa right now, particularly in Liberia. Two American aid workers, Dr. Kent Brantly with Samaritan’s Purse and Nancy Writebol, a volunteer working with the faith group Service in Mission, were recently infected.

I’ve been discussing the situation with the Centers for Disease Control, and I wanted to write a little bit about the transmission and natural history of the virus.

Ebola is a type of viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF). Four families of viruses cause VHFs, and Ebola is from the family Filoviredae. Dengue fever, Yellow fever, Crimean Congo fever, Hantavirus and Lassa fever are other types of VHFs you may have heard of.

For more information:

Contact: Melany Ethridge (972) 267-1111, [email protected]

Or: Kate Etue (615) 481-8420 (m)

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE, July 14, 2014 – Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, M.D., founder of Hope Through Healing Hands, and Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, today, led a community conversation on “The Mother & Child Project: Simple Steps to Saving Lives in the Developing World,” on the campus of Belmont University.

This was the first public event held by the Faith-Based Coalition for Healthy Mothers and Children Worldwide, a joint partnership of Hope Through Healing Hands (HTHH), a Nashville-based global health organization, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

More than 250 individuals representing the faith community, global health NGO and higher-education sectors throughout greater Nashville attended the discussion, hosted by Belmont University. U.S. Olympic figure skating champion Scott Hamilton, who with his wife Tracie is an active global health advocate, moderated the event.

“As I began to talk with women around the world, it became very clear to me the spacing and timing of pregnancies we take for granted in the U.S. is a matter of life and death for them,” said Gates. “So I got very involved in contraceptives, because it truly starts the cycle of life, where they can feed their children, get their children in school, and honestly, not die themselves.”

Sen. Frist agreed, saying, “Contraception is a pro-life cause.” He went on to explain that, “…if you delay first pregnancy to 18 years old, you can increase survival in countries where 1 in 39 women die in childbirth, and cut the chance of children dying by 30 percent, enabling them to stay in school and become productive members of families.”

“Second, if you can push out the interval between pregnancies to three year period, the child is twice as likely to survive the newborn stage.”

Today, more than 200 million women in developing countries want the ability to plan if and when they become pregnant, but lack access to information about planning their families. Increasing access to a range of contraceptive options, and providing women with the ability to time and space their births is critical to improving the health of mothers and children.

At the event, Gates reflected on her upbringing in Dallas, Texas, where she attended Catholic parochial school from grades K-12, and confirmed she remains a practicing member of the Catholic Church. While Gates recognizes the tension between her work and the Church’s position on contraceptives, she has found common ground on healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies, even though organizations embrace different tools to achieve it.

Sen. Frist expressed his support for Melinda’s efforts, explaining that the Faith-based Coalition for Healthy Mothers and Children Worldwide has a critical role to play in engaging members of the faith community to help disseminate this simple message.

He likened this initiative to a similar movement of Americans in 2002 that shared a vision with houses of worship across all faiths, which lead to the support and eventual funding of PEPFAR, the largest health initiative in history that turned the tide on the HIV/AIDS. 

“The millions of people dying of HIV/AIDS worldwide led to a major U.S. tax-payer led movement to save lives, resulting in more than what is now 12.9 million individuals currently on anti-retroviral medicine,” he said, noting we can do it again on what is becoming another global pandemic, saving over 287,000 women’s lives each year. 

The Faith Based Coalition on Healthy Mothers and Children Worldwide’s mission is to galvanize support among faith leaders across the U.S. on the issues of maternal, newborn and child health in developing countries. The coalition will place a particular emphasis on the  benefits of healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies, including access to a range of contraceptive options, in alignment with its members’ unifying values and religious beliefs. 

Several faith leaders already involved in this issue also participated in the program by echoing their support of this new initiative.  “The best way to see change in Africa is to change the lives of African mothers,” said Steve Taylor, recording artist and filmmaker.

Jena Lee Nardella, co-founder with Jars of Clay of Blood:Water Mission, shared their experience in the global fight against HIV/AIDS.  “We were inspired not by the statistics, but by the compelling stories.  As a Church, let’s not forget to tell the story, but make it personal.”

Mike Glenn, pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church, added, “The Evangelical church is often accused of loving the child and not the mother; but in doing so, we lose God’s mosaic.  We believe in ‘Imago Dei,’ the dignity of every human being.”

“It all comes down to the mother and child nexus and the healthy timing and spacing of births,” Sen. Frist concluded. 

Information about members of who have joined the coalition to date, as well as how others can help, is available at http://www.hopethroughhealinghands.org/faith-based-coalition.  Endorsements for the Coalition are available at http://www.hopethroughhealinghands.org/endorsements.

Hope Through Healing Hands is a Nashville-based 501(C) 3 nonprofit with a mission to promote improved quality of life for citizens and communities around the world using health as a currency for peace.  Sen. Bill Frist, M.D., is the founder and chard of the organization, and Dr. Jenny Eaton Dyer, Ph.D., is the CEO/Executive Director.

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Note to editors: For more information, visit http://www.alarryross.com/newsroom/hope-through-healing-hands-2/.

Originally published in The Tennessean

Philanthropist Melinda Gates said she never imagined growing up in a devout Catholic household in Dallas that she would one day lead a global effort to promote family planning and contraceptives in the developing world.

"I wrestled with my faith," said Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, speaking in front of a Belmont University audience. "I absolutely needed to talk with my parents, my children. I wrestled with my own use of contraception, about which I am very public."

But it was ultimately her faith — including the Catholic Church's longstanding commitment to aiding people in poverty — and being a firsthand witness to the hardships of mothers as she traveled in Africa and Asia with her then-fiance Bill Gates that led her to join an effort to address the need for women to decide when and whether to have children.

The Gates' foundation has partnered with former Sen. Bill Frist and his Nashville-based global health organization Hope Through Healing Hands. Together, they created the Faith-Based Coalition for Healthy Mothers and Children Worldwide, whose mission is to spur faith leaders across the country to get involved in maternal and child health in the developing world.

On Monday they brought their message to Belmont, speaking to an audience of pastors, health experts and Nashville Christian musicians including Amy Grant and Steve Taylor.

Frist acknowledged that faiths diverge on the issues of contraceptive use. The coalition seeks faith-based supporters regardless of their approaches to family planning, whether that includes abstinence or natural family planning, he said. The coalition does not promote abortion.

A longtime abortion foe, Frist said "contraception is as pro-life an issue as you can possibly have. It is a pro-life issue because we save lives and reduce infant and maternal deaths."

Frist and Gates pointed to the success of HIV/AIDS prevention efforts in a short period of time. In 2002, only 50,000 people living with with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa had access to anti-retroviral drugs. Today, more than 12.9 million people have access to such drugs and mortality rates have plummeted.

Childbirth or complications from pregnancy kill 287,000 women each year. If young women delayed a first pregnancy at age 16 until they reached age 18, maternal mortality rates are cut in half, Frist said. Spacing pregnancies farther apart aids women's and children's health.

The coalition hopes to spur a national consensus about aiding parents in developing countries in deciding whether or when to have children.

Reach Anita Wadhwani at 615-259-8092 and on Twitter @AnitaWadhwani.

LEARN MORE

For more information about Faith-Based Coalition for Healthy Mothers and Children Woldwide, visit www.hopethroughhealinghands.org/faith-based-coalition.

In 2002, only 50,000 people living with with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa had access to anti-retroviral drugs. President George W. Bush sought to address the millions of people affected by the disease with his PEPFAR program and US participation in the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in 2002-2003. Today, over 12.9 million people now have access to ARVs worldwide, restoring health and life not only for individuals but also for families and communities.

While we may be winning the war on global AIDS, we still have much work to do in order to make comparable progress in improving the health of children and mothers.

Over 6.9 million children died last year in the developing world from preventable, treatable disease. Forty percent of those were newborns in their first month of life. Many of these children died of pneumonia, diarrhea, and malaria. And their deaths could easily have been averted with simple interventions like vaccines, oral rehydration, and bed nets.

Moreover, 1 of every 39 delivering women last year in Africa died in childbirth, and more than 287,000 women died worldwide from complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Yet there are simple methods to prevent these deaths as well. Successful models for healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies, alongside an increase in births taking place in health centers with skilled care during delivery and post-partum care, offer clear paths to reduce maternal mortality and improve child survival.

Isaiah 65 describes a new heaven and a new earth. The prophet foretells a time where the wolf will lie down with the lamb. When homes will be settled, and the land will bear fruit. And, "no more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days." Infant mortality will cease. Perhaps that day is closer at hand than we could have imagined.

The good news is that we have the information and highly effective tools for healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies, including both fertility-based natural methods and modern contraceptives, to combat maternal and infant mortality. For instance, if a young woman in Africa can "time" or delay her first pregnancy until age 18 or later, she is much less likely to die or be crippled by medical complications, and dramatically more likely to stay in secondary school, and perhaps even attend college, providing stable financial support for her family to have a brighter future. Then, if she can "space" her pregnancies just three years apart, her children are twice as likely to survive infancy.

Through Hope Through Healing Hands, Doctor-Senator Bill Frist and I support healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies as the most critical global health issue today. We believe it's set to have ripple effects across societies: combating extreme poverty, promoting gender equality, keeping young girls and children in schools, improving maternal and child health, and preventing infectious disease.

But for awareness of this issue to spread, we need Christian partners to recognize family planning as a global pro-life cause. Spacing pregnancies saves lives and improves lives. Notable faith leaders and influentials are among the Christian moms and parents who have joined our Faith-Based Coalition for Healthy Mothers and Children Worldwide. But we have just begun.

As we work together, let's also continue to pray for a new heaven and a new earth, as described by Isaiah, where maternal and infant mortality will be no more.

Jenny Eaton Dyer, Ph.D., is the executive director of Hope Through Healing Hands, a global health organization committed to improving the quality of life for communities around the world using health as a currency for peace. Dyer also teaches Global Health Politics and Policy at Vanderbilt School of Medicine. Currently, she directs The Faith-Based Coalition for Healthy Mothers and Children Worldwide, galvanizing faith leaders and other influentials for maternal, newborn, and child health.

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