Jason Beaubien

Jason Beaubien is NPR's Global Health and Development Correspondent on the Science Desk.

In this role, he reports on a range of health issues across the world including the mobilization of massive circumcision drives in Kenya; how Botswana, with one of the highest rates of HIV in the world, has managed to provide free, life-saving drugs to almost all who need them; and why Brazil's once model HIV/AIDS program is seen in decline.

Prior to moving into this assignment in 2012, Beaubien spent four years a NPR foreign correspondent covering Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. From his base in Mexico City, Beaubien filed stories on politics in Cuba, hurricanes in Haiti, the FMLN victory in El Salvador, the world's richest man and Mexico's brutal drug war.

For his first multi-part series as the Mexico City correspondent, Beaubien drove the length of the U.S./Mexico border making a point to touch his toes in both oceans. The stories chronicled the economic, social and political changes along the violent frontier.

In 2002, Beaubien joined NPR after volunteering to cover a coup attempt in the Ivory Coast. Over the next four years, Beaubien worked as a foreign correspondent in sub-Saharan Africa, visiting 27 countries on the continent. His reporting ranged from poverty on the world's poorest continent, the HIV in the epicenter of the epidemic, and the all-night a cappella contests in South Africa, to Afro-pop stars in Nigeria and a trial of white mercenaries in Equatorial Guinea.

During this time, he covered the famines and wars of Africa, as well as the inspiring preachers and Nobel laureates. Beaubien was one of the first journalists to report on the huge exodus of people out of Sudan's Darfur region into Chad, as villagers fled some of the initial attacks by the Janjawid. He reported extensively on the steady deterioration of Zimbabwe and still has a collection of worthless Zimbabwean currency.

In 2006, Beaubien was awarded a Knight-Wallace fellowship at the University of Michigan to study the relationship between the developed and the developing world.

Beaubien grew up in Maine, started his radio career as an intern at NPR Member Station KQED in San Francisco and worked at WBUR in Boston before joining NPR.

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Goats and Soda
5:39 pm
Sun March 1, 2015

The Brother Went To Fight Ebola. So Did His Sister. Mom Was 'A Wreck'

How do siblings get around the "no touching" rule during the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone? Alex and Jen Tran grabbed a rare hug when they were geared up for training.
Courtesy of Alex Tran

Originally published on Sun March 1, 2015 7:43 pm

When Alex Tran went off to Sierra Leone to work as an epidemiologist, his parents were worried. His mom was "a wreck," according to his sister Jen, who followed him into the Ebola hot zone a few weeks later.

Last fall as the Ebola outbreak raged in West Africa, Alex, 28, was working at USAID. Jen, who's a registered nurse, was deployed with the U.S. Navy on a ship in the Arabian Gulf. They both were itching to get to the front lines of the epidemic to help.

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Goats and Soda
3:36 am
Fri February 20, 2015

The World Could Be On The Verge Of Losing A Powerful Malaria Drug

A mother holds her ailing son at a special clinic for malaria in Myanmar.
Paula Bronstein Getty Images

Originally published on Fri February 20, 2015 7:21 pm

A new study finds a disturbing trend in the battle against malaria. There are highly effective drugs called artemisinins — and now resistant malaria is turning up in parts of Myanmar, the reclusive country also known as Burma, where it hadn't been seen before.

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Goats and Soda
4:39 pm
Thu February 12, 2015

Nigeria Is On The Verge Of Bidding Goodbye To Polio

In this 2012 photograph, Adamu Ali carries his 4-year-old son, Omar, who was stricken with polio earlier that year. They live in the Nigerian village of Minjibir.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Fri February 13, 2015 6:29 pm

Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the three countries where polio transmission has never been brought to a halt.

Now Nigeria may be leaving this unfortunate club.

In 2006 the West African nation recorded more than 1,000 cases of polio-induced paralysis. Last year it had only six; the most recent was in July.

"This I believe is the first time in history that they've gone this long without having a case," says Gregory Armstrong, chief of the polio eradication branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Goats and Soda
4:28 pm
Wed February 11, 2015

The U.S. Helped Beat Back Ebola — Only Not In The Way You Might Think

Boys run from blowing dust as a U.S. Marine vehicle takes off from an Ebola treatment center under construction in Liberia in October. In the end, the centers weren't always needed, but the military's ability to ferry supplies was critical in fighting the outbreak.
John Moore Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 12, 2015 7:08 pm

Hundreds of U.S. troops, sent to help fight Ebola in West Africa, are now coming home. That's the news from the White House today.

Did they make a difference?

Not in the way you'd think. The grand plans to build 17 new field hospitals in Liberia and train thousands of health care workers, announced in September, didn't quite come off. Several of the hospitals weren't needed and were never built. Others opened after the epidemic had peaked and were practically empty. Only a fraction of the promised health workers were trained.

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Goats and Soda
11:07 am
Fri February 6, 2015

Critics Say Ebola Crisis Was WHO's Big Failure. Will Reform Follow?

Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization, has said of Ebola: "It overwhelmed the capacity of WHO, and it is a crisis that cannot be solved by a single agency or single country."
Fabrice Coffrini AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri February 6, 2015 12:37 pm

Ebola was the Hurricane Katrina for the World Health Organization — its moment of failure. The organization's missteps in the early days of the outbreak are now legendary.

At first the agency that's responsible for "providing leadership on global health matters" was dismissive of the scale of the problem in West Africa. Then it deflected responsibility for the crisis to the overwhelmed governments of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. After eight months, it finally stepped up to take charge of the Ebola response but lacked the staff and funds to do so effectively.

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Goats and Soda
10:56 am
Fri February 6, 2015

Measles Vaccination Rates: Tanzania Does Better Than U.S.

This World Health Organization map shows the percent of the population vaccinated for measles in each country in 2013. Dark green is at least 90 percent. Light green is 80 to 89 percent. Orange is 50 to 79 percent. Red is less than 50 percent.
Courtesy of WHO

Originally published on Fri February 6, 2015 2:51 pm

As debate mounts in the U.S. over whether or not to require measles vaccinations, global immunization rates show something interesting: Many poor countries have far higher vaccination rates than rich ones.

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Goats and Soda
11:09 am
Wed February 4, 2015

New Clues To Mysterious Kidney Disease Afflicting Sugar Cane Workers

A new study finds that strenuous labor in the sugar cane fields of Central America is contributing to a mysterious form of kidney failure. Above: Workers harvest sugar cane in Chichigalpa, Nicaragua.
Jason Beaubien NPR

Originally published on Wed February 4, 2015 11:48 am

Something is destroying the kidneys of farm workers along the Pacific coast of Central America. Over the past two decades, more than 20,000 people in western Nicaragua and El Salvador — mostly men and many of them in their 20s and 30s — have died of a mysterious form of kidney failure. Researchers have been able to say definitively that it's not diabetes or other common causes of kidney failure.

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Goats and Soda
6:35 pm
Fri January 30, 2015

Measles Is A Killer: It Took 145,000 Lives Worldwide Last Year

A Vietnamese boy is treated for measles in a state-run hospital in April 2014.
AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon February 2, 2015 8:43 pm

The number of measles cases from the outbreak linked to Disneyland has now risen to at least 98. But measles remains extremely rare in the United States.

The rest of the world hasn't been so fortunate. Last year roughly 250,000 people came down with measles; more than half of them died.

Currently the Philippines is experiencing a major measles outbreak that sickened 57,000 people in 2014. China had twice that many cases, although they were more geographically spread out. Major outbreaks were also recorded in Angola, Brazil, Ethiopia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

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Goats and Soda
6:12 pm
Tue January 27, 2015

For Dollars Donated To Vaccine Campaigns, Norway Wears The Crown

A Pakistani polio vaccination worker gives a dose to a child in Islamabad during a 2014 campaign.
Farooq Naeem AFP/Getty Images

GAVI asked and the world gave.

GAVI is the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization. At a conference in Berlin today, the nonprofit group asked for help in meeting its goals of vaccinating 300 million children in low income countries against potentially fatal diseases.

The response was extraordinary: a total of $7.5 billion pledged to cover GAVI's 2016-2020 efforts.

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Goats and Soda
5:40 pm
Thu January 22, 2015

30-Year Sentence Lifted For Woman In El Salvador Abortion Case

In November, women in El Salvador marched for the freedom of 17 women accused of abortion, including Carmen Guadalupe Vasquez Aldana. She was pardoned this week.
Luis Galdamez Xinhua /Landov

Seven years ago, Carmen Guadalupe Vasquez Aldana went to jail in El Salvador. She was initially charged with abortion but prosecutors elevated the charge to aggravated homicide, arguing that the fetus was viable. Vasquez always contended that she did not have an abortion but had lost her unborn son due to medical complications late in the pregnancy.

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Goats and Soda
4:09 pm
Mon January 19, 2015

What's Most Likely To Kill You? Hint: Probably Not An Epidemic

Indian sand artist Sudersan Pattnaik touches up his sculpture for World No Tobacco Day at Golden Sea Beach in Puri, India.
Asit Kumar AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed January 21, 2015 9:34 pm

Noncommunicable diseases have become the leading killers around the globe. In 2012, two-thirds of all deaths worldwide were the result of conditions such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and respiratory infections. The mortality rate from noncommunicable diseases was even higher in low- and middle-income countries.

What is it that's most likely to kill you? The World Health Organization says that in the 21st century, it's your lifestyle.

And it's not just a Western problem.

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Goats and Soda
10:55 am
Thu January 15, 2015

Prediction: All Predictions About Ebola Are Unpredictable

This photo was taken in November, a tough month for Sierra Leone, with Ebola cases reportedly on the rise. A staff member is disinfecting an office where Dr. Komba Songu M'Briwah talks on the phone.
David Gilkey NPR

Throughout the Ebola outbreak the two big questions have always been: How bad is this going to get? And when is it going to end?

Current data show that the numbers of new cases are dropping in all three of the hardest-hit West African countries. A new study predicts Ebola could be eliminated from Liberia by June.

But Ebola specialists are leery of predictions, even from the most reputable of sources.

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Goats and Soda
4:24 pm
Wed January 7, 2015

A Cow Head Will Not Erupt From Your Body If You Get A Smallpox Vaccine

This did not really happen. Cows' heads did not emerge from the bodies of people newly inoculated against smallpox. But fear of the vaccine was so widespread that it prompted British satirist James Gillray to create this spoof in 1802.
H. Humphrey Henry Barton Jacobs Collection, Institute of the History of Medicine, JHU

Originally published on Wed January 7, 2015 6:17 pm

It all started with milkmaids.

Edward Jenner, an 18th-century English country doctor, noticed that they seemed to be immune to smallpox.

And that was a time when smallpox was a truly terrifying disease. Each year, it killed hundreds of thousands of Europeans. It made people terribly sick. Its oozing blisters scarred many of its victims for life. And there was no cure.

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Goats and Soda
6:59 am
Sat December 27, 2014

Ebola Survivor: The Best Word For The Virus Is 'Aggression'

Dr. Ian Crozier stands with a group of survivors and a nurse at the Kenema Government Hospital in Sierra Leone. He contracted Ebola and was on the brink of death, but he survived.
Courtesy of WHO/J Amone

Originally published on Sat December 27, 2014 11:10 am

When Dr. Ian Crozier arrived in West Africa this past summer, he was stepping into the epicenter of the Ebola hot zone. The American doctor was working in the Ebola ward of a large, public hospital in Sierra Leone's dusty city of Kenema.

The trip nearly cost him his life. First came a fever, then a severe headache. "My first thought was, 'Oh, I must have missed a few days of my malaria prophylaxis,' " Crozier recalls.

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Goats and Soda
9:40 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Pakistan Keeps On Vaccinating Despite Tough Terrain And Terror Threat

A Pakistani health worker administers a polio vaccine to a child during a campaign in the northern city of Rawalpindi.
FAROOQ NAEEM AFP/Getty Images

Between the rugged terrain and the constant terrorist threats, vaccinating Pakistani children against common diseases hasn't been easy. Mountains make it hard — at times even impossible — for vaccinators to reach people in the north. In the south, health workers have to use four-wheelers and camels to travel through Pakistan's harsh deserts.

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Global Health
4:39 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Dreaming Up A Safer, Cooler PPE For Ebola Fighters

This design of this new anti-Ebola suit will make health workers more comfortable and could also save lives.
Courtesy of Clinvue and Roy Heisler

Originally published on Sun January 4, 2015 4:32 pm

Here's what it takes to design a better Ebola suit: a roomful of university students and professors, piles of canvas and Tyvek cloth, sewing machines, glue guns ... and chocolate syrup.

Even Youseph Yazdi, head of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design (CBID), still isn't sure what the syrup was for.

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Goats and Soda
5:11 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

You Don't Want To Monkey Around With Monkey Malaria

In Southeast Asia, the battle against malaria is growing even more complicated. And it's all because of monkeys, who carry a form of malaria that until a few years ago wasn't a problem for people.

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Goats and Soda
6:47 am
Sat December 6, 2014

Idris Elba Plays A Soccer Coach Out To Crush Ebola In New Ad Campaign

In a new public health campaign, British actor Idris Elba plays a soccer coach whose team is squaring off against Ebola.
Courtesy of Africa United

Originally published on Tue December 9, 2014 12:27 pm

The soccer coach is giving his team a pep talk: "This is not an ordinary game," he declares as he paces in the locker room. "This is life or death. Ebola has defeated thousands in West Africa. Its key strength is passing."

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Goats and Soda
2:20 pm
Wed December 3, 2014

Startling Statistic: Only 8 Patients In Largest Ebola Hospital

A health care worker wheels a stack of freshly washed boots to ELWA 3 Ebola treatment unit in Monrovia, Liberia.
John W Poole NPR

Originally published on Wed December 3, 2014 5:04 pm

Sometimes you stumble across statistics that just scream at you. I was looking this week through some reports on the Liberian Ministry of Health's website. The screaming statistic was an "8" listed as the number of people "currently in treatment" at the ELWA 3 Ebola treatment unit run by Doctors Without Borders in Monrovia.

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Goats and Soda
3:50 am
Thu November 27, 2014

School For Husbands Gets Men To Talk About Family Size

They're participants in Niger's School for Husbands.
Ron Haviv/VII for NPR

Originally published on Thu November 27, 2014 1:28 pm

It's a bunch of guys sitting around talking.

About the benefits of birth control.

About how a woman should take care of herself when she's pregnant.

About breast-feeding.

You know, the kind of things guys never talk about.

There are 12 of them, sitting in a circle under a tin roof. Some wear long, colorful tunics. Their flip-flops are scattered around the outer edge of the carpet. They're part of the "School for Husbands" program in the village of Chadakori in the West African nation of Niger, the country with the highest birth rate in the world.

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Goats and Soda
5:30 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

The Whole World Is Fat! And That Ends Up Costing $2 Trillion A Year

This Chinese teenager weighs 353 pounds. At a "slimming center" in China's central Hubei province, he's exercising and undergoing acupuncture to lose weight.
Color China AP

Originally published on Sun November 30, 2014 5:37 pm

Obesity used to be an issue primarily in well-off countries. It was one of those things flippantly dismissed as a "first-world problem." Now people are packing on the pounds all over the planet. In some fast-growing cities in China, for example, half the people are now overweight.

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Goats and Soda
3:32 am
Fri November 14, 2014

Mali Already Has An Ebola Cluster: Can The Virus Be Stopped?

A town crier rides his moped through the city of Kayes in Mali, using his megaphone to warn people about Ebola.
Nick Loomis Courtesy of Global Post

Originally published on Fri November 14, 2014 7:58 am

"This is not just one case," says Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "It's a cluster." He's talking about the Ebola situation in Mali, where two people have likely died of the disease in Bamako, the capital, and two others have tested positive.

Hundreds more may have been exposed. Officials from the U.N., the World Health Organization, the government of Mali and the CDC are all calling for swift action to keep Mali from descending into the Ebola chaos that's hit neighboring Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

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Goats and Soda
3:25 pm
Wed November 12, 2014

Mali Is Worried About Ebola, Quarantines Nearly 100

A police officer stands in front of the Pasteur clinic in Bamako, which was quarantined after a nurse there died from Ebola.
Habibou Kouyate AFP/Getty Images

Mali slapped quarantine orders on nearly 90 people on Wednesday and closed a mosque and a health facility in an effort to contain an Ebola outbreak.

The moves come after a nurse at a private clinic in the capital, Bamako, was confirmed as an Ebola victim.

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Goats and Soda
9:30 am
Fri November 7, 2014

Guinea Is Seeing More Ebola Cases: Can The Trend Be Stopped?

Originally published on Fri November 7, 2014 2:08 pm

In the current Ebola crisis, much of the focus has been on Liberia and Sierra Leone. But the virus also continues to spread in Guinea, where the first case in the current outbreak was identified in March.

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Goats and Soda
5:27 pm
Wed November 5, 2014

U.S. Military Response To Ebola Gains Momentum In Liberia

Air Force personnel put up tents to house a 25-bed, U.S.-built hospital for Liberian health workers sick with Ebola in Monrovia, Liberia's capital. The hospital is scheduled to open this weekend.
John Moore Getty Images

Originally published on Thu November 6, 2014 10:23 am

Two new U.S. Ebola treatment facilities are expected to open in Liberia over the next week. One is a 25-bed field hospital near Monrovia's airport, specifically to treat local health care workers who get infected. The other is a 100-bed Ebola treatment unit, or ETU, in the town of Tubmanburg, north of Monrovia.

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Shots - Health News
5:52 pm
Thu October 30, 2014

Ebola Researchers Banned From Medical Meeting In New Orleans

Originally published on Fri October 31, 2014 12:45 pm

Louisiana health officials say that anyone who's been in an Ebola-affected country over the last three weeks will be quarantined in their hotel rooms.

The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene is telling researchers who've recently traveled to Ebola-affected parts of West Africa that they can't come to the society's annual meeting. That wasn't the medical group's idea.

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Goats and Soda
12:51 pm
Tue October 28, 2014

Happy Birthday To Google Doodle Honoree Dr. Jonas Salk!

Jonas Salk was born on October 28, 1914 in New York City. Google is celebrating the birth of the man who developed a polio vaccine with a special Google doodle.

During the fervor of the current Ebola outbreak, it seems like a good moment to tip our hats to one of the heroes of an earlier epidemic. Salk developed a vaccine for polio in 1953. At a time polio was sweeping across the United States crippling children and terrifying parents.

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Goats and Soda
5:40 pm
Mon October 27, 2014

Medical Journal To Governors: You're Wrong About Ebola Quarantine

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (right) and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo both insist on mandatory quarantine for healthcare workers who've had contact with Ebola patients. Christie wants them held in a medical facility; Cuomo says a home quarantine with outside monitoring would do.
Mark Lennihan AP

Originally published on Tue October 28, 2014 12:13 pm

The usually staid New England Journal of Medicine is blasting the decision of some states to quarantine returning Ebola healthcare workers.

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Goats and Soda
4:03 pm
Tue October 14, 2014

Back On Its Feet, A Liberian Hospital Aims To Keep Ebola Out

Dr. Wvennie MacDonald, the administrator of the JFK Memorial Hospital, has helped put new procedures in place to keep Ebola out, including a triage station to identify possible Ebola patients at the front gate.
John W. Poole NPR

Originally published on Thu October 16, 2014 7:20 pm

John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital is the largest public hospital in Liberia. It has a trauma unit, a maternity ward and an outpatient clinic that serves hundreds a day.

But there's one illness that the facility won't treat: Ebola. JFK is not equipped to treat or contain it if it gets inside their wards. A new triage unit in the driveway detects patients with the virus and sends them to a dedicated Ebola center.

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Goats and Soda
3:25 am
Mon October 13, 2014

On Front Lines Against Ebola, Training A Matter Of Life Or Death

Dr. Patrick Kamara adjusts his googles on the final day of training and the first "dress rehearsal" before being sent out to Ebola treatment units. The World Health Organization is ramping up to train up to 500 new health workers a week as part of the effort to stem the spread of Ebola.
John W. Poole/NPR

Originally published on Tue October 14, 2014 7:20 pm

One of the biggest roadblocks in West Africa to containing the Ebola outbreak is the lack of isolation wards for people who are infected.

President Obama has announced plans to build 17 new Ebola Treatment Units in Liberia. Those new medical facilities will require thousands of additional workers who are trained and willing to work in them.

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