Prenatal ‘Baby Pictures’

This tickles me: a clever way to draw women to prenatal care is to tap into their desire to “see” their developing baby. What a useful psychological insight! It’s not manipulative, brings pleasure to the mama-to-be, and serves a medical (and public health) purpose.

A group of Canadian doctors is pioneering what appears to be a very effective way to entice rural African mothers to visit clinics long before their due dates. They offered ultrasounds advertised on local radio with the words: ‘You will be able to see your baby.’ …

The medical charity Bridge to Health Medical and Dental tested the concept in the highlands of southwest Uganda in 2014. Their study, published by PLOS One this year, found that when doctors set up temporary clinics in rural villages, six times as many pregnant women visited when free ultrasounds were advertised, compared with the turnout in villages where the ultrasounds were not offered or were advertised only by word of mouth…

New York Times, Donald G. McNeil, Jr., published 11/10/17


I am one happy project manager! Last week my organization, US Common Sense, launched our public finance sustainability website, GovRank*. We’ve been sweating it out for months and now we’re live.

Screengrab of the GovRank landing page

Here’s hoping the site will foster good research, debate about our methods, and more public awareness of the state of local finance. Here’s our description of GovRank:

We want all citizens, journalists, and public officials to have greater access to information about their governments’ finances. Recognizing the challenges of data availability, comparability, and transparency, US Common Sense compiled data for over 13,000 local governments and all 50 states dating back to 2008-09… We collected more than 97,000 financial reports and nearly 70,000 budgets; extracted “top line” financial figures; and ranked local and state governments’ relative performance.

Several people have told me that the site’s data gives ammunition to folks who want to cut public employee pensions and benefits. But, I point it, it can also be used to advocate for funding of such benefits responsibly. As a humanist, I have to believe making information available improves the world.

*US Common Sense has closed and GovRank is no longer available online (Oct.2020).

A Perspective-Changing Map

A graduate school friend introduced me to this map of the Sahara-Sahel region. It repays a few minutes of close study. It helps explain, for instance, the relationship between the fall of Qaddafi and the strengthening of the Mali rebels. It also shows the routes of global drug trafficking and the presence of the US military in so-called godforsaken places. Perhaps most importantly, it illustrates that political maps of countries and capitals are totally silent on important transnational political and economic phenomena.