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); Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health (Hyperion Press, 2000); I Heard the Sirens Scream: How Americans Responded to the 9/11 and Anthrax Attacks (Amazon Books, 2011); and the e-book EBOLA: Story of an Outbreak (Hachette, 2014). Over the years, she has also contributed chapters to numerous books, including: AIDS in the World (Oxford University Press, 1993); Disease in Evolution: Global Changes and Emergence of Infectious Diseases (New York Academy of Sciences, 1994); Controversies in Globalization (CQ Press, 2010); Practicing Sustainability (Springer, 2013); How Did This Happen: Terrorism and the New War (Public Affairs, 2001); Beyond Humanitarianism: What You Need to Know About Africa and Why It Matters (Council on Foreign Relations, 2007); Health and Development (Palgrave, 2009); and most recently To Save Humanity: What Matters Most for a Healthy Future (Oxford, 2015).
A native of Los Angeles, Garrett 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 radio station KPFA, winning the 1977 George Foster Peabody Award. She worked briefly in the California Department of Food and Agriculture, assessing the human health impacts of pesticide use. Garrett 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 as the network’s Science Correspondent. During her NPR years, Ms. Garrett received outstanding achievement awards from the National Press Club, San Francisco Media Alliance and World Hunger Alliance.
In 1988, Garrett left NPR to join the science and foreign desks of Newsday. Her Newsday earned numerous awards, including the Award of Excellence from the National Association of Black Journalists (1989); Deadline Club of New York: Best Beat Reporter (1993); First Place from the Society of Silurians (1994); Bob Considine Award of the Overseas Press Club of America (1995); and George C. Polk Award (1997, 2000). Garrett was three times a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Journalism, and received the Pulitzer in 1996 for her coverage of the 1995 Ebola epidemic in Kikwit, Zaire. 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). Among her most recent awards for her global health work executed while at the Council on Foreign Relations are the 2014 NYU School of Medicine “Outstanding Contributions to Global Health,” and the 2015 Internationalism Award from the American Women for International Understanding.
Garrett has been awarded three honorary PhDs, honoris causa, from Wesleyan University (Illinois), University of Massachusetts (Lowell) and Georgetown University.
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 Yanzhong Huang, 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.