Public Health Watch is a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization that focuses on threats to America’s well-being. We illuminate weaknesses and injustices in the nation’s health infrastructure and policies, expose inequities and highlight solutions. National in scope, we collaborate with media outlets large and small, and college journalism and public health programs. Our aim is to uncover truths that hold institutions and individuals accountable and compel change.
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Sandro Galea, dean of the Boston University School of Public Health, speaks frequently of Blind Willie Johnson, a Texas-born gospel blues musician whose recordings were popular in the early 20th century. Poor and Black, Johnson was blinded in a domestic-violence incident when he was 7. His house burned down when he was an adult, and he lived in the ruins, sleeping on a damp bed and developing malaria, to which he succumbed at 48. “It wasn’t just malaria that killed him,” Galea says. It also was violence, substandard housing, racism, poverty and lack of access to medical care. We view public health through an expansive lens to show how such factors still contribute to needless suffering and death a century later.