HealthBridge works with partners world-wide to improve health and health equity through research, policy and action.


Reflections of an Optimist

A blog by Debra Efroymson

“A defeatist attitude guarantees defeat”

Recent Blog Entries: Debra Efroymson

Public spaces need the public

January 15, 2012 By Debra Efroymson Dhaka, Public Spaces Post a comment!

One day during the monsoon season, as I was walking with my dogs at Dhanmondi lake in Dhaka, it started to pour. Shortly after, a beggar who I regularly greet passed by and urged me to take her umbrella. I could imagine people’s reaction: foreigner takes umbrella from beggar, so I refused despite her insistence. Recently I heard that a decision has been made to start a…

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Push us too far and we just might resist

January 12, 2012 By Debra Efroymson Cycling, Dhaka Post a comment!

Yesterday, for (almost) the first time in 14 years of living in Dhaka, I lost it. I stood outside my office and yelled at the top of my lungs. (The university students lingering nearby promptly burst into spontaneous applause.) I used to find it wrong that crossing the street is the most dangerous thing I do every day. Now I realize the real problem: ten times a week I risk…

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Another one bites the dust

January 9, 2012 By Debra Efroymson Cycling, Dhaka, Public Transit, Walking Post a comment!

I wrote last month about a journalist friend who has lost part of his leg after being run over by a bus while crossing the street here in Dhaka. Yesterday, a journalist here was killed while crossing the road on a motorbike, again by a bus. Motorbikes cause a number of problems, and can themselves (unlike pedestrians and, other than a few exceptional cases, cyclists) kill others as well…

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Reclaiming the streets

December 31, 2011 By Debra Efroymson Dhaka, Public Transit Post a comment!

Yesterday, for the first time, I rode in a critical mass ride. That such a thing could occur in Dhaka was almost unbelievable; they only started a few months ago. The ride was great fun, and the level of interest in cycling and obsession over different types of bikes by local youth was impressive; who knew? The turnout, though less than usual, was over 100, including several women and a…

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Accidents are no accident

December 29, 2011 By Debra Efroymson Cycling, Dhaka, Public Transit Post a comment!

Yesterday morning a friend who is a well-known journalist got off the bus in front of the press club in Dhaka and, as he started to cross the street, was hit by another bus. His left foot was severed; people tied the tourniquet too tightly, so he may lose the whole leg. Given his status, the incident is gaining much media attention, which is the only unusual thing about…

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Sometimes things go right

December 17, 2011 By Debra Efroymson Public Transit Post a comment!

Recently HealthBridge’s local partner Work for a Better Bangladesh (WBB Trust) organized a nationwide advocacy campaign to push for a separate Ministry for rail, as part of their Liveable Cities program. Travel by train is cheaper and safer than by bus, requires a lot less land, and generates far less pollution than road-based transport. But when road and rail travel are included together, rail tends to get…

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Fear, risk, and an odd acceptance

December 11, 2011 By Debra Efroymson Cycling, Dhaka, Public Transit, Walking Post a comment!

Yesterday evening I was looking at photos from earlier in the day of Dhaka riot police attacking protesters. Later that evening I heard what sounded like gunshots or Malatov cocktails not far from our home, followed by screaming. I was almost as frightened as my dogs, though I soon calmed down and realized I was at no risk (today someone told me that it was just fireworks from a…

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Joy in darkness

December 7, 2011 By Debra Efroymson Children Post a comment!

The photo accompanying this blog, by the way, is at a sort of orphanage in a small city in Bangladesh. I sat in a room with the kids, who greatly enjoyed the company of a foreigner. It was pitch black; there were, for some reason, no lights. Some of the children actually have families, but were not safe at home and so were sent by their parents to this…

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What is abnormal about our cities…

December 7, 2011 By Debra Efroymson Cycling, Dhaka, Livable Cities, Urban Planning, Walking Post a comment!

Today the opposition party has called a hartal (political strike). There will be demonstrations in parts of the city, probably accompanied by violence, but otherwise the city is quiet and peaceful. There are very few motorized vehicles of any sort and virtually no cars on the streets. I ask a colleague to go with me on a bike ride; we ride to and around Dhaka University, stop for fresh…

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Introduction to my blog

December 4, 2011 By Debra Efroymson Public Spaces, Public Transit, Urban Planning Post a comment!

A big part of my job is to work with people in different Asian countries to advocate for the kinds of policies that make it easier for people to lead healthy lives. The issues I address include tobacco control, urban transport, urban planning, and gender issues.

The hardest part of the work is the various obstacles one faces: objections from people that what we are campaigning for…

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