Philanthropic impact: The power of one

Vice Dean Ellie Starr with a young resident of the Kaula Bandar slum community in Mumbai.

Vice Dean Ellie Starr with a young resident of the Kaula Bandar slum community in Mumbai.

[ Spring/Summer 2012 ]

This March, Deans Julio Frenk and David Hunter and I traveled to India with several faculty members and friends of the School. For more than four decades, HSPH has been partnering with government agencies, nonprofits, and research colleagues on everything from raising nutrition standards and improving maternal and child health to battling infectious disease and advancing the cause of universal health care. In India, the experience was nothing less than transformative. Everywhere were illustrations of the ways in which one person devoted to public health can change the lives of millions.

Take, for instance, Anita Patil-Deshmukh, MPH ’05. More than half of Mumbai’s 22 million people are estimated to live in slums four times as crowded as Manhattan; Anita has made it her mission to improve their lives. We visited a slum where 12,000 people reside in tiny makeshift houses situated on alleys so narrow that, when walking down the street, you can touch the homes on both sides at once. There’s no public water or electricity.

The children who live here have no birth certificates or medical records: they are the unknown generation of India. Anita and her nonprofit, PUKAR (Partners for Urban Knowledge Action and Research)—staffed by a dauntless cadre of “Barefoot Researchers”—are weighing, measuring, and vaccinating these children, and giving them medical identities.

On my first trip to this land of 1.2 billion people, I saw countless examples of resilience and hope. Our faculty members, alumni, and partners are making a difference—whether it’s a child safe and happy in a temporary worksite day-care center, or a villager getting treatment for a long-neglected chronic disease, or a toddler newly vaccinated against deadly infections.

To everyone who has contributed to our efforts in India, and around the world, THANK YOU! Each one of you is a shining example of how one person can change the lives of millions … and that gives me the most hope of all!

Ellie Starr
Vice Dean for External Relations

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