Jason Beaubien

Jason Beaubien is NPR's Global Health and Development Correspondent on the Science Desk.

In this role, he reports on a range of health issues across the world including the mobilization of massive circumcision drives in Kenya; how Botswana, with one of the highest rates of HIV in the world, has managed to provide free, life-saving drugs to almost all who need them; and why Brazil's once model HIV/AIDS program is seen in decline.

Prior to moving into this assignment in 2012, Beaubien spent four years a NPR foreign correspondent covering Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. From his base in Mexico City, Beaubien filed stories on politics in Cuba, hurricanes in Haiti, the FMLN victory in El Salvador, the world's richest man and Mexico's brutal drug war.

For his first multi-part series as the Mexico City correspondent, Beaubien drove the length of the U.S./Mexico border making a point to touch his toes in both oceans. The stories chronicled the economic, social and political changes along the violent frontier.

In 2002, Beaubien joined NPR after volunteering to cover a coup attempt in the Ivory Coast. Over the next four years, Beaubien worked as a foreign correspondent in sub-Saharan Africa, visiting 27 countries on the continent. His reporting ranged from poverty on the world's poorest continent, the HIV in the epicenter of the epidemic, and the all-night a cappella contests in South Africa, to Afro-pop stars in Nigeria and a trial of white mercenaries in Equatorial Guinea.

During this time, he covered the famines and wars of Africa, as well as the inspiring preachers and Nobel laureates. Beaubien was one of the first journalists to report on the huge exodus of people out of Sudan's Darfur region into Chad, as villagers fled some of the initial attacks by the Janjawid. He reported extensively on the steady deterioration of Zimbabwe and still has a collection of worthless Zimbabwean currency.

In 2006, Beaubien was awarded a Knight-Wallace fellowship at the University of Michigan to study the relationship between the developed and the developing world.

Beaubien grew up in Maine, started his radio career as an intern at NPR Member Station KQED in San Francisco and worked at WBUR in Boston before joining NPR.

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Shots - Health News
3:00 am
Fri April 26, 2013

A $5.5 Billion Road Map To Banish Polio Forever

A health worker marks a baby's finger after giving her a polio vaccine in Moradabad, India.
Michaeleen Doucleff NPR

Originally published on Fri April 26, 2013 6:59 pm

Polio isn't going easily into the dustbin of history.

The world needs to push it in, throw down the lid and then keep an eye out to make sure it doesn't escape.

That's the gist of a new plan released Thursday by the World Health Organization and other foundations at a vaccine meeting in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

It's a six-year, $5.5 billion program, and its goal is to wipe out polio for good.

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Shots - Health News
7:05 pm
Wed April 10, 2013

A New Way To Make The Most Powerful Malaria Drug

An extract of sweet wormwood has been used in China for thousands of years to treat malaria, but being able to make mass quantities of the extract has been elusive, until now.
Sarah Cuttle Getty Images

Originally published on Wed April 10, 2013 7:39 pm

Researchers in California described Wednesday their new method for mass-producing the key ingredient for the herbal drug artemisinin, the most powerful antimalarial on the market. Already, the French drugmaker Sanofi is ramping up production at a plant in Italy to manufacture the ingredient and the drug.

Global health advocates say they expect this new method of producing artemisinin will at last provide a stable supply of the drug and cut the overall cost of malaria treatment.

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Shots - Health News
11:38 am
Mon April 8, 2013

Dengue Fever Cases Have Been Seriously Underestimated

Dengue fever patients are treated in a hospital in Asuncion, Paraguay, in January.
Norberto Duarte AFP/Getty Images

A new paper in the journal Nature says scientists have been seriously underestimating the amount of dengue around the globe.

The study says there could be as many as 400 million dengue infections worldwide each year making it more prevalent than malaria. This is four times higher than the current dengue prevalence estimate of the World Health Organization.

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Shots - Health News
6:20 pm
Tue April 2, 2013

How To Get Rid Of Polio For Good? There's A $5 Billion Plan

A child is immunized against polio at the health clinic in a farming village in northern Nigeria. The procedure involves pinching two drops of the vaccine into the child's mouth. For full protection, the child needs three doses, spaced out over time.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Tue April 2, 2013 9:56 pm

Polio is on the verge of being eliminated. Last year there were just over 200 cases of polio, and they occurred in just two remote parts of the world — northern Nigeria and the rugged Afghan-Pakistan border region.

A new $5.5 billion plan being pushed by the World Health Organization strives to eliminate polio entirely, phase out vaccination campaigns and secure polio vaccine stockpiles in case the virus somehow manages to re-emerge.

If the effort is successful, polio would be just the second disease in human history, after smallpox, to be eliminated by medical science.

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Shots - Health News
10:14 am
Fri March 15, 2013

Power Shift Under Way As Middle Class Expands In Developing World

Brookings Institution

Originally published on Mon March 18, 2013 9:00 am

"The meek shall inherit the earth" — that seems to be the latest message from the United Nations Development Program.

Their 2013 Human Development Report chronicles the recent, rapid expansion of the middle class in the developing world. It also predicts that over the next two decades growth in the so-called "Global South" will dramatically shift economic and political power away from Europe and North America.

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Shots - Health News
3:42 am
Thu February 28, 2013

What Happened To The Aid Meant To Rebuild Haiti?

Many homes that were rebuilt after the earthquake in 2010 are even more dangerous than the original ones. This three-story home was put up after the quake but is already slated for demolition to make way for an 18-unit housing project.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Mon March 4, 2013 4:39 pm

After a devastating earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, governments and foundations from around the world pledged more than $9 billion to help get the country back on its feet.

Only a fraction of the money ever made it. And Haiti's President Michel Martelly says the funds aren't "showing results."

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Shots - Health News
3:25 am
Fri February 22, 2013

Treating HIV Patients Protects Whole Community

HIV drugs not only can keep patients healthy but also can stop the sexual transmission of the virus. Here an HIV-positive mother picks up medications at a hospital outside Johannesburg, South Africa.
Alexander Joe AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri February 22, 2013 9:51 am

Over the past few decades, one of the most perplexing questions in global health is how to stop HIV.

There have been campaigns involving condoms, abstinence and even the circumcision of all men younger than 46. But one relatively new strategy, called treatment as prevention, is causing quite a buzz.

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Latin America
3:01 am
Thu February 14, 2013

Will 'Made In Haiti' Factories Improve Life In Haiti?

Workers prepare the foundation for a new warehouse and manufacturing facility at the Caracol Industrial Park in northern Haiti. The park, which opened last year, is still under construction.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Fri February 15, 2013 3:05 am

Three years after the devastating Port-au-Prince earthquake, one of the largest international relief projects in Haiti isn't anywhere near where the quake hit. It's an industrial park on the north coast halfway between Cap-Haitien and the border with the Dominican Republic.

Aid agencies are pouring millions of dollars into the project to encourage people to move out of the overcrowded capital and create jobs. Critics, however, say the jobs don't pay enough to lift people out of poverty.

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Shots - Health News
10:47 am
Tue February 12, 2013

Attacks On Health Workers Put Fight To End Polio Under Fire

A Nigerian health commissioner Dr. Sani Malam vaccinates a child for polio during a national immunization drive in Bauchi, Nigeria, last week.
Deji Yake EPA /Landov

The global effort to eradicate polio has reached a bizarre stage: More people have been gunned down recently over the disease than actually infected with it.

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Shots - Health News
8:34 am
Wed February 6, 2013

Nigeria Moves To Clean Up Lead Pollution From Gold Mines

A boy works at an illegal gold mine in northern Nigeria. Lead from these mines has sickened thousands of children in region.
David Gilkey NPR

Finally, the Nigerian government is fulfilling its promise to help thousands of kids, who have been exposed to toxic levels of lead.

After months of delay and red tape, the government has released $4 million to clean up lead in soil near illegal gold mines in northern Nigeria.

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Shots - Health News
6:01 pm
Fri February 1, 2013

Quick TB Test Builds Up Arsenal Against Drug-Resistant Bacteria

A medical worker in Carletonville, South Africa, examines a sample at a mobile testing facility for tuberculosis.
Alexander Joe AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sat February 2, 2013 5:56 pm

The people on the front lines of tuberculosis control have their hands full, but their biggest challenge for the moment may be containing strains of the disease that are resistant to drugs.

Worldwide the number of TB cases is going down. The bad news is that the number of drug-resistant cases is going up. The World Health Organization estimates that the number of reported TB cases that were multi, extremely- or totally-drug resistant doubled between 2009 and 2011.

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Latin America
1:21 pm
Tue January 29, 2013

For Your Next Caribbean Vacation, Haiti ... Maybe?

Mont Joli Hotel looks out over Cap-Haitian in northern Haiti. The owner says he's usually fully booked and plans to double the hotel's capacity. Haiti is trying to expand its tourism infrastructure and tap in to the multibillion-dollar Caribbean travel market.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Mon February 4, 2013 2:29 pm

Haiti used to be a tourist hot spot in the Caribbean. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton regularly recounts how he and Hillary honeymooned in Haiti in 1975. There used to be a hopping Club Med just outside Port-au-Prince, but it closed in the '90s.

Now, the Haitian government is trying to revive some of its former allure, launching an aggressive campaign to market the poorest country in the hemisphere as a vacation hub.

President Michel Martelly says tourism could be a major driver of economic growth and could help lift Haitians out of poverty.

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Shots - Health News
4:41 pm
Fri January 11, 2013

Despite Billions In Aid, Many Haitians Still Live In Squalid Camps

Jacqueline Syra has been living in the La Piste camp for three years. She says she has no idea when she will be able to leave.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Mon January 14, 2013 9:06 am

Saturday marks the third anniversary of the powerful earthquake that destroyed much of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. The quake killed roughly 200,000 people and left 1.5 million Haitians homeless.

Despite billions of dollars in international aid and pledges to help Haiti rebuild from the disaster, very little new, permanent housing has been built. And about 350,000 Haitians are still living in squalid, makeshift camps — where they face an array of health challenges.

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Shots - Health News
3:48 am
Wed January 2, 2013

Mosquito Maven Takes Bites For Malaria Research

Chiara Andolina, a malaria researcher in Thailand, feeds her mosquito colony by letting the insects bite her right arm. These mosquitoes are picky and will dine only on live human blood.
Ben de la Cruz NPR

Originally published on Wed January 2, 2013 11:47 am

Most of us do everything possible to avoid mosquitoes. But one Italian researcher literally sacrifices her right arm to keep the lowly insects alive.

Chiara Adolina is studying a new malaria drug, and she needs the little suckers for her experiments. So she feeds them each day with her own blood.

She extends her arm into a mosquito cage to give the insects "breakfast." Several dozen mosquitoes spread across her forearm and jam their proboscises into her skin. "Can you see how fat they become?" she says. "Look at that tummy."

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Shots - Health News
4:35 pm
Wed December 19, 2012

How The U.S. Stopped Malaria, One Cartoon At A Time

The U.S. Army distributed a monthly pinup calendar to GIs, which encouraged them to protect themselves from malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
Cartoon by Frank Mack for the U.S. Army. Courtesy of the Images from the History of Medicine.

Originally published on Thu December 20, 2012 1:28 pm

"Her business is robbery and coldblooded murder ... they call her Annie Awful ... She's a thief and a killer. She stops at nothing."

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Shots - Health News
3:48 am
Wed December 19, 2012

Fake Malaria Drugs Fuel Rise Of Drug-Resistant Disease

In rural areas of Myanmar, villagers can buy inexpensive packets of drugs, called Ya Chut, when they have malaria. But these local remedies often don't contain adequate amounts of malaria medicines.
Ben de la Cruz NPR

Originally published on Thu December 20, 2012 5:44 am

Counterfeit drugs are a growing scourge around the world. They're generating millions of dollars in revenue for organized crime and fueling the rise of drug-resistant parasites.

Anti-malarials are among the most popular drugs to fake. But these faux pharmaceuticals are particularly dangerous because malaria can kill a person in a matter of days.

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Shots - Health News
12:34 pm
Tue December 18, 2012

A View From The Ground: Thailand Confronts Drug-Resistant Malaria

Dr. Aun Pyae Phyo examines a baby at the Whampa malaria clinic on the Thailand-Myanmar border.
Ben de la Cruz NPR

Originally published on Thu December 20, 2012 3:16 pm

Global efforts to combat malaria are under threat from new strains of drug-resistant malaria, which are cropping up in Southeast Asia.

Over the last decade, the number of malaria deaths around the world has dropped sharply, from just over 1 million in 2000 to roughly 600,000 last year.

Much of that progress is due to the widespread use of drugs containing artemisinin. The new malaria drugs quickly kill the parasite.

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Shots - Health News
3:36 pm
Thu December 6, 2012

Nigeria Pressured To Clean Up Lead-Contaminated Villages

A boy works at an illegal gold mine in northern Nigeria. Lead from these mines has sickened thousands of children in the region.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Thu December 6, 2012 3:57 pm

The Nigerian government has been slow to fulfill a promise it made last spring. And, its sluggishness is putting kids at risk for lead poisoning, the advocacy group Humans Rights Watch says.

Last May, the Nigerian government pledged roughly $5 million to clean up lead contamination around illegal gold mines in northwest Nigeria. But so far, that money hasn't been released.

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Shots - Health News
2:59 pm
Tue December 4, 2012

A Polio Outbreak In Pakistan Reveals Gaps In Vaccination

A child is inoculated with the polio vaccine at a traffic checkpoint just outside Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. Roadside vaccinations help health workers reach children in mobile populations.
Jackie Northam NPR

Originally published on Wed December 5, 2012 9:55 am

Pakistan has made a lot of progress this year in wiping out polio. There are signs that one type of poliovirus is gone and transmission of other strains seems to be slowing.

But a recent outbreak of polio there has health officials concerned about the overall effectiveness of the effort to eliminate polio in that country.

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Shots - Health News
3:18 am
Fri November 9, 2012

Stakes Rise In Malaria Battle As Cracks Appear In Drug's Armor

This 5-year-old boy was carried to a Thai malaria clinic by his mother from deep inside Myanmar. If the mother had waited even a day longer, doctors say, the child probably would have died.
Ben de la Cruz NPR

Originally published on Thu November 15, 2012 3:25 pm

Malaria remains a huge problem in much of the world, but over the past decade the number of people getting sick and dying from the disease has gone down dramatically.

Health workers attribute much of this progress to the widespread use of artemisinin-based drugs. The problem now is that resistance to these drugs is starting to develop in Southeast Asia.

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Shots - Health News
1:23 pm
Tue November 6, 2012

Drug-Resistant Malaria On The Rise In Southeast Asia

Daw Khin Twon, an undocumented immigrant from Burma, rests at home after receiving malaria treatment at the Mae Tao Clinic in Mae Sot, Thailand.
Ben de la Cruz NPR

For malaria in Southeast Asia, there's good news and bad news right now. Overall, the number of cases is down, but there's a growing problem of drug resistance in the cases that do crop up.

Researchers worry that superstrains of the parasite — strains immune to the most common medications — could wipe out the recent progress against malaria.

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Shots - Health News
1:16 pm
Tue October 16, 2012

At Polio's Epicenter, Vaccinators Battle Chaos And Indifference

Kano, in northern Nigeria, has been called the "epicenter" of the current polio outbreak. This part of Nigeria is the only place in the world where polio cases are increasing.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Thu November 1, 2012 4:16 pm

Polio was eliminated from the Western Hemisphere in the early 1990s. It was stamped out in Europe a few years later. And now, even the Congo and Somalia are polio free.

But in Africa's largest oil-producing nation, Nigeria, polio has been a difficult, contentious foe.

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Shots - Health News
4:07 pm
Mon October 15, 2012

Wiping Out Polio: How The U.S. Snuffed Out A Killer

On April 12, 1955, Dr. Jonas Salk and his research team at the University of Pittsburgh released the first successful vaccine for polio. In 1979, the U.S. reported its last case of the paralyzing virus.
Courtesy of Images from the History of Medicine (NLM).

Originally published on Wed January 23, 2013 2:55 pm

Sixty years ago, polio was one of the most feared diseases in the U.S.

As the weather warmed up each year, panic over polio intensified. Late summer was dubbed "polio season." Public swimming pools were shut down. Movie theaters urged patrons not to sit too close together to avoid spreading the disease. Insurance companies started selling polio insurance for newborns.

The fear was well grounded. By the 1950s, polio had become one of the most serious communicable diseases among children in the United States.

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The Two-Way
5:57 am
Sat October 6, 2012

Fallout From Financial Crisis: Thousands Of Nigerian Kids Poisoned By Lead

Women and their children wait for medication and instructions on how to use it at the clinic in Dareta, Nigeria. Treating children with high levels of lead is a painstaking process that works only if their environment at home is free from lead.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Sat October 6, 2012 8:27 pm

Gold in general has great PR. It's slick, it's hip, it's bling. But in a remote corner of West Africa, it's killing children.

Lead from illegal gold mines in northwestern Nigeria has sparked what Doctors Without Borders has called the worst case of environmental lead poisoning in years.

The catastrophe is part of the fallout from the collapse of the U.S. housing market.

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Shots - Health Blog
12:58 pm
Wed October 3, 2012

In Nigerian Gold Rush, Lead Poisons Thousands Of Children

Women and their children wait for medication and instructions on how to use it at the clinic in Dareta, Nigeria. Treating children with high levels of lead is a painstaking process that works only if their environment at home is free from lead.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Fri October 5, 2012 3:26 pm

Across a swath of northern Nigeria, a humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding, as lead from illegal gold mines sickens thousands of children.

More than 400 kids have died, and many more have been mentally stunted for life.

Doctors Without Borders, which has set up clinics to treat the children, is calling it one of the worst cases of environmental lead poisoning in recent history.

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Shots - Health Blog
1:09 pm
Sun September 30, 2012

On The Road: Reporting On Lead Poisoning In Nigeria

Four-wheel drive is no match for the mud on the road to a gold mine in northern Nigeria.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Thu November 1, 2012 4:20 pm

If you want to witness the health consequences of unsafe gold mining in northwestern Nigeria, the first thing you have to do is get to the mines

There's a crisis of severe lead poisoning near the mines that's killed hundreds of children and made thousands more sick.

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Shots - Health Blog
3:57 am
Mon September 24, 2012

South African Children's Hospital Closed Under Apartheid To Reopen

The Durban Children's hospital opened in 1931, as a facility for all races, but tensions during the apartheid era forced it to close in the 1980s.
Courtesy of KwaZulu-Natal Children's Hospital

Originally published on Tue September 25, 2012 9:08 am

A large children's hospital in Durban, South Africa, is being rebuilt two decades after it closed owing to apartheid. It opened in 1931 as a facility for all races, but racial tensions in the 1980s forced its closure.

Now with Durban and the surrounding province of KwaZulu-Natal extremely hard hit by AIDS and tuberculosis, local leaders are hopeful they can begin reopening the hospital early in 2013.

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Shots - Health Blog
1:55 pm
Tue September 18, 2012

Botswana Doctors Stop Cervical Cancer With A Vinegar Swab

Doreen Ramogola-Masire, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Botswana, hopes that a simple, quick screen for cervical cancer with vinegar will catch the disease early and save women's lives.
Jason Beaubien NPR

Originally published on Fri November 9, 2012 1:56 pm

In the U.S., the pap smear has become a routine part of women's health care, and it's dramatically reduced cervical cancer deaths. But in Africa and other impoverished regions, few women get pap smears because the countries lack the laboratories and other resources necessary to offer them.

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Shots - Health Blog
9:46 am
Thu August 30, 2012

A Troubling Rise In Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis

A doctor examines chest X-rays at a tuberculosis clinic in Gugulethu, Cape Town, South Africa in late 2007. The number of TB cases that don't respond to both first- and second-line medications is rising worldwide.
Karin Schermbrucker AP

Cases of drug-resistant tuberculosis are increasing around the globe, and at a faster rate than previously thought. And if that weren't enough, TB is quickly building resistance to more and more of the drugs commonly used to fight it.

The troubling picture emerged in a study just published in The Lancet.

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Shots - Health Blog
4:34 pm
Thu July 26, 2012

Amid An AIDS Epidemic, South Africa Battles Another Foe: Tuberculosis

A mobile clinic set up to test students for HIV is parked near Madwaleni High School in Mtubatuba, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa on March 8, 2011. Parts of the South African province have HIV rates that are more than twice the national average.
Stephane de Sakutin AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu July 26, 2012 6:24 pm

The province of KwaZulu-Natal has emerged as the epicenter of South Africa's HIV epidemic. South Africa already has more people infected with HIV than any other country in the world, but parts of KwaZulu-Natal have HIV rates that are more than twice the national average.

Now in addition to HIV and AIDS, the province is also dealing with a major tuberculosis epidemic.

In the northeastern part of KwaZulu-Natal, dusty dirt tracks wind through pastures and fields of sugar cane. The hillsides are dotted with small huts made of cinder blocks and field stones.

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