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PlexusCall: Death by Distrust: Rumor and Reality in Fighting Ebola
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When: Friday, January 23, 2015
1-2pm ET

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Friday, January 23, 2015
1-2 PM Eastern Time
Death by Distrust: Rumor and Reality in Fighting Ebola

Guests: Helen Epstein and John Townsend

MP3 File


Helen Epstein, PhD, wrote a recent article in the New York Review of Books entitled Ebola: An Epidemic of Rumors. In researching the disease in Liberia, she found that part of problem causing the disastrous spread was political, which resulted in poor communication and false and misinterpreted information.


Helen Epstein’s articles on public health have appeared in The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, The Lancet, The Washington Post, The Times Literary Supplement, and other publications. She has worked as a consultant for such organizations as the World Bank, UNICEF and Human Rights Watch. She is the author of The Invisible Cure: Why We Are Losing the Fight against AIDS in Africa (Picador 2008) which was chosen as a New York Times Notable Book and’s best science book of the year. Since 2010 she has been Visiting Professor of Human Rights and Global Public Health at Bard College in Annandale, NY.


Dr. Epstein earned a BA at the University of California, Berkeley, a PhD at Cambridge University, and an MSc degree at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Dr. Epstein has been adviser to numerous international organizations on HIV prevention and a consultant on public health in developing countries to UNICEF, World Bank, Human Rights Watch, and other organizations.


John Townsend, PhD, is a vice president and director of the Population Council's Reproductive Health program. He provides leadership, directs research and advances policy innovations on family planning practices worldwide. He oversees research on basic biomedical studies, development of contraceptives, and social science research to identify causes of reproductive health outcomes. He also researches development, scale-up, financing, and sustainability of service delivery models. He works with international health and development agencies, ministries of health, and private healthcare providers to implement policies and programs that encourage more effective healthcare practices. Dr. Townsend joined the Council in 1984. He was director of the Frontiers in Reproductive Health program; director of operations research programs in Asia and the Near East (1993–1998); regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean in Mexico (1990–1993); director of operations research in Latin America and the Caribbean (1985–1990); and country director for the Council’s Colombia office (1984). In each of these roles, he designed and tested interventions that improved the coverage, quality, and sustainability of reproductive health service delivery systems.


Before joining the Council, he served as a social scientist with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Institute of Nutrition for Central America and Panama, and conducted research on such topics as child and maternal nutrition, physical growth and mental development of children, community development, and sustainable agriculture systems. Townsend is the co-chair of the International Medical Advisory Panel (IMAP) of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and a member of Institutional Review Board of the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW). Townsend has been a designated reviewer for peer-reviewed journals, including the British Journal of Education, Society & Behavioral Research, Journal of Women’s Health, Pan American Journal of Public Health, Studies in Family Planning, and Health & Sexuality, and has served as a technical reviewer for the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the World Health Organization. Dr. Townsend has worked and traveled extensively in more than 35 countries, and in 2006 he received USAID’s Marjorie Horn Operations Research Award for excellence in conducting and utilizing research. He holds a doctorate in social psychology with supporting studies in public affairs and educational psychology from the University of Minnesota. He received his Leadership Development Certificate from the Columbia University Business School’s Institute for Not-for-Profit Management, and earned undergraduate degrees in psychology and German from Marquette University.

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