Disease Dilemmas talk with Jonathan Barden MBE

On Saturday 18th November, Jonathan Barden MBE delivered a fascinating talk on the topic of disease dilemmas, which was highly relevant to the new Geography A Level syllabus. This included discussing links between disease, economic development and politics, as well as the prediction and mitigation of diseases.

With Jonathan’s high level of expertise and experience in humanitarian aid and crisis management, we were able to learn more about the work of the WHO and his UK Emergency Medical team in coordinating a rapid response to disease outbreaks, as well as the efficient co-operation needed between NGOs, governments and the WHO to quickly control a pandemic.

A real highlight of the talk was Jonathan’s account of the UK’s response to the Ebola crisis in 2013-16. Much insight was provided on the causes of the spread, factors which exacerbated the epidemic and the subsequent measures that were put in place, to both halt the transmission and to cure the illness.

It was also interesting to hear about the difficulties faced when managing the outbreak, such as cultural barriers between the locals and medics, as well as an urgent need for education to stop the disease spreading via poor hygiene and contact.

Lastly, the question on whether diseases could be fully eradicated was debated and through case studies such as smallpox and rinderpest, we were able to understand more about the difficulties of eradicating disease and possible methods of doing so, such as vaccination. Overall, the talk was well enjoyed by all, as it was especially relevant to the geographers and future medical students present, as well as allowing us all to gain valuable insight into the work of global health. 

Stephanie Fong (SFC2)