Since 2004, Laurie Garrett has been a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in New York. Ms. Garrett is the only writer ever to have been awarded all three of the Big "Ps" of journalism: the Peabody, the Polk, and the Pulitzer. Her expertise includes global health systems, chronic and infectious diseases, and bioterrorism.
Ms. Garrett is the best-selling author of The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1994) and Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health (Hyperion Press, 2000). Over the years, she has also contributed chapters to numerous books, including AIDS in the World (Oxford University Press, 1993), edited by Jonathan Mann, Daniel Tarantola, and Thomas Netter, and Disease in Evolution: Global Changes and Emergence of Infectious Diseases (New York Academy of Sciences, 1994), edited by Mary E. Wilson. Her latest book is I Heard the Sirens Scream: How Americans Responded to the 9/11 and Anthrax Attacks.
She graduated with honors in biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She attended graduate school in the Department of Bacteriology and Immunology at University of California, Berkeley, and did laboratory research at Stanford University with Dr. Leonard Herzenberg. During her PhD studies, she started reporting on science news at KPFA, a local radio station. The hobby soon became far more interesting than graduate school, and she took a leave of absence to explore journalism. At KPFA, Ms. Garrett worked on a documentary, coproduced with Adi Gevins, that won the 1977 George Foster Peabody Award.
After leaving KPFA, Ms. Garrett worked briefly in the California Department of Food and Agriculture, assessing the human health impacts of pesticide use. She then went overseas, living and working in southern Europe and sub-Saharan Africa, freelance reporting for Pacifica Radio, Pacific News Service, BBC Radio, Reuters, Associated Press, and others. In 1980, she joined National Public Radio, working out of the network's San Francisco and, later, Los Angeles bureaus as a science correspondent. During her NPR years, Ms. Garrett received awards from the National Press Club (Best Consumer Journalism, 1982), the San Francisco Media Alliance (Meritorious Achievement Award in Radio, 1983), and the World Hunger Alliance (First Prize, Radio, 1987).
In 1988, Ms. Garrett left NPR to join the science writing staff of Newsday. Her Newsday reporting has earned several awards, including the Newsday Publisher's Award (Best Beat Reporter, 1990), Award of Excellence from the National Association of Black Journalists (for "AIDS in Africa," 1989), Deadline Club of New York (Best Beat Reporter, 1993), First Place from the Society of Silurians (for "Breast Cancer," 1994), and the Bob Considine Award of the Overseas Press Club of America (for "AIDS in India," 1995). She has also written for many publications, including Foreign Affairs, Esquire, Vanity Fair, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and Current Issues in Public Health. She has appeared frequently on national television programs, including ABC's Nightline, NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, The Charlie Rose Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Dateline, The International Hour (CNN), and Talkback (CNN).
Ms. Garrett is a member of the National Association of Science Writers and served as the organization's president during the mid-1990s. She lives in Brooklyn Heights, New York.
The Human Microbiome and the Health of Individuals and Their Environments
The last decade has witnessed a shift in scientific perspective, driven by biologists' newfound ability to rapidly sequence the genetic blueprints of ecologies ranging from the human gut to Arctic permafrost. A global scale change to microbiomes, which are the aggregate of microorganisms such as bacteria, that inhabit the human body and all other environments, is underway, with deleterious effects on the world in which we live. Although the urgency of this situation is gravely understood by microbiologists, it is little known or understood by the general public or political leaders. From a foreign policy point of view, my interest is in considering how changes to microbiomes may serve as "canaries in the coal mine" for climate change impact, and how essential planetary functions may be altered by substantial microbiome damage. Are such transnational impacts subject to treaties, regulation, or global action? Can recognition of microbial impact provide a new political dimension to the global climate debate, and urgency for action given recognition that there are links to human health? My work on these issues will result in a book. I also convene the Human Microbiome and the Health of Individuals and Their Environments Roundtable Series to discuss these questions.
The current Ebola epidemic, which began in March 2014 in Guinea, has been described as spiraling out of control by the World Health Organization, and is expected to persist well into 2015. The strain of virus claiming lives today is the same one that first emerged in 1976, in the Congo rainforest, an outbreak about which I wrote in my book, The Coming Plague. I was also awarded a Pulitzer Prize in journalism in 1996 for my coverage of the Ebola epidemic in Kikwit, Zaire—which was also chronicled in my book Betrayal of Trust—and have been providing analysis and insight into the current outbreak, primarily through op-eds and magazine articles, and also through media appearances.
Addressing the Last Mile Issues of Universal Health Coverage
The United Nations (UN) is currently creating a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will build upon the Millennium Development Goals that is to expire at the end of 2015. Among the seventeen SDGs, Goal Three focuses on health: “Ensuring healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.” While advocates are jockeying for the inclusion of a number of specific health targets in SDG Goal Three, achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) leads the list of potential sub-goals. Indeed, because progress toward UHC seeks to ensure affordable and quality healthcare for everyone, it is considered central to reaching the SDG goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030. In order for the negotiations to move forward in a constructive and efficient manner, it is imperative that the involved parties gain a clear understanding of the critical issues surrounding the UHC concept. Co-directed by me and my colleague Laurie Garrett, the Project on Addressing the Last Mile Issues of Universal Health Coverage will hold three roundtable meetings and produce several briefing papers to address pertinent issues related to UHC as they are brought up in UN meetings. Two roundtable meetings have been held in New York, with the first focusing on the cost of providing UHC and the second on the role of human resources in implementing UHC.
This project is made possible through the support of the Rockefeller Foundation.