Diarrhea: Let’s Talk About It

Apr 06, 2010


Ever tried to talk about diarrhea at a cocktail party?

Probably not, but if you have, you might reasonably fear this scenario: From the first mention of the word, your current conversation circle begins to disperse - friends slink or dash away, with various levels of speed, revulsion, and disgust-scrunched noses. After the third or fourth utterance of the word, you find that your sole companion is the “fart-joke” guy (who, let's admit, is always at the party). He's been waiting for the chance to display his new material, and you've given him the perfect window of opportunity. The demise of your evening looms large in front of you. Such a scenario might lead a sensible person to one conclusion. Discussing diarrhea in “polite” company? Not such a good idea.

Last year at PATH we threw caution to the wind and decided to try it anyway. We organized an event at the 2009 Global Health Council Conference in Washington, DC, that might have been the first of its kind. It was called, “Get the Scoop on Poop: Cocktail Conversations on Diarrheal Disease.”

We didn't know if anyone would show up, and we weren't entirely sure what would happen if they did. To our surprise, more than 125 people packed the room, filling the tables and lining the walls, to hear—and most importantly talk—about diarrhea. The event was great, and the conversation vibrant (not a single nose wrinkled in disgust), but it was too soon over. At the end of the evening, everyone was exhorted to “join the movement” - and then they all went home. We all wanted more.

This new blog, and our redesigned Web site, newsletter, and twitter feed are a chance to continue, and broaden, the conversation. If you're reading this, you probably know that diarrhea kills more kids in low-income countries than nearly any other illness (only pneumonia kills more). That's more than 4,000 kids a day. You likely also know that diarrhea in most wealthy countries typically is no more than an inconvenience - common, rarely deadly, and hardly ever discussed. What you might not know is that we have the tools in hand, today, to prevent and treat diarrhea everywhere in the world. The solutions are simple, they are cost-effective, and they work.

What we must do is make sure these interventions reach the people who most need them—by raising our voices to policymakers, to donors, and to other advocates who can help us get the right messages to the right people at the right time. And the right time, in case you're scheduling your calendar, just happens to be right now.

So watch our new video, then explore our web site for information and resources to help you continue the conversation. Sign up for our twitter feed to learn more about the issue and what you can do. And remember, with an issue as taboo as diarrhea, change isn't just about new policies or more funding. It's about raising the levels of education and awareness - not only about the problem, but how we can solve it.

Join the movement, and join our party. Let's talk about it.