The story of Geneva Health Files

Newsletter Edition #1

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Dear Subscribers,

I am pleased and honored to be writing my first post to you. Welcome to the Geneva Health Files community.  

An introduction is due for many new readers. I am an Indian journalist who has been working in Switzerland for the last decade. I publish Geneva Health Files, a website that tracks the governance of global health.

Geneva Health Files was born and launched in the midst of the on-going pandemic. Here’s a story of how we got here.

Global Health Geneva: a crucible of inter-disciplinarity

International development, with its defining silos was strangely alienating, when I first arrived. Even in those early days, I got a sense that there was more than meets the eye.

I came to find my corner in international development – in global health - through a degree in development studies that also led me to a brief stint at an UN public health agency. This gave me a limited glimpse of global health politics from the inside. Although it was a rich experience, soon, I chose to go back to my first love - journalism.

As a financial journalist, I was used to writing on how money flows. And when I started reporting on global health, I was intrigued. After all, global health is where public health meets politics meets money meets law. As a former student of both economics and science, I finally found home in global health.

So here we are, a few years later, embarking on this exciting yet challenging journey, at the height of a pandemic, to meet the demand for critical news reporting on global health from Geneva, where it all takes shape. A city that fluently melds disciplines and interests to create a dynamic ecosystem where private and public interests collide in fascinating and yet less visible ways.

This organic crucible of inter-disciplinarity is what attracts me the most. The field of global health is illustrative of this essence of inter-disciplinarity – simultaneously inhabiting many spheres. And therefore, the need to look at it, from a variety of different lens – science, politics, trade, finance, among others. Diverse forces collectively shape health choices (or not), for billions worldwide. Despite its importance, not enough attention has been given to examining these influences in global health, to understand the layers of complexities, often overlain with interests.

Geneva Health Files is an attempt to try and present a coherent narrative by tapping into this rich culture of expertise that Geneva breathes. It has also been a serious, dedicated effort to report about global health in Geneva in a way that is consistent and comprehensive.

The current pandemic and its ubiquitous impact, has shown complex challenges need broad, comprehensive solutions drawn from different disciplines. In response, reporting strategies also necessarily need to be inter-disciplinary to treat technical subjects with accuracy and rigor.

When the biggest story of our lifetimes was (and is) unfolding before us, earlier this year, I decided to self-publish to tell the urgent stories that needed to be told. Years of working independently had tempered my editorial decision-making and I was yearning to go. In April this year, when a source sent me information that simply had to go out, I set up a website overnight. Five months later, we have published numerous deep dives and analyses. Initially information found me from people I knew. Now, strangers trust us with their stories.

This initiative is not possible without its readers, who seem to want greater transparency and accountability in the governance of global health. This is far from straight-forward. I am being led by my readers.

Why Geneva Health Files?

Now more than ever, global health governance is attracting worldwide attention. Decisions affecting global public health, have long been made in Geneva, often far from the public gaze and under tremendous pressure. There is seldom any reporting that digs deep enough to reveal what is really happening even as billions of dollars are raised and spent.  

Geneva Health Files delivers the in-depth reporting required to cover intricate happenings on the city’s global health scene – ranging from informal negotiations to capturing changing landscapes as new structures take shape. The effort has always been to try and understand the motivations behind major decisions. 

Geneva Health Files leverages its expertise in global health analysis and its years of experience in journalism to connect the dots on issues that, hitherto, have been too distant or too technical for the mainstream media to cover.

We are embedded within the global health ecosystem. We keep an ear to the ground, are eager to learn and deliver tailored content for the policy actors who may be too busy to pick apart the specifics of negotiations or scrutinize the fine print in policies, or simply have no time to see the big picture. Geneva Health Files alerts those downstream of coming changes and offers insights drawn from technical experts, civil society, the private sector, among others.

The critical exploration provided by Geneva Health Files, is crucial as the city’s global health power continues to have an impact worldwide. Even though the center of global health decision-making may be shifting, perhaps irrevocably, all of this will continue to play out in Geneva for years to come. No matter who controls the levers in global health, the governance of public health cannot be effective while operating in the shadows. And hence this small effort to shine light on these linkages. 

What will you be reading about:

If you are new to Geneva Health Files, you will be delighted to know that every month, we bring you a couple of thorough, analytical, investigative stories. I am mindful of your time, so my goal has been and will be to bring perspectives and information that you would find most useful. This is slow, but in-depth journalism for readers who want to understand the fast-paced, and often unseen developments in global health.

Do not hesitate to write to me, if you want to share information, insights, or simply have suggestions. Write to me at Patnaik.reporting@gmail.com. You can also fill this on-going survey to give us feedback.  

How is it funded?

For now, Geneva Health Files is entirely self-funded. My heart-felt gratitude to my family, friends, and other supporters of this initiative for the encouragement.

While this newsletter will continue to remain free in the foreseeable future, this initiative will eventually depend on reader support. Do consider contributing in order to sustain this committed effort that takes 150+ hours every month. We intend to make this a reader-funded initiative in the long-term – a key to maintain editorial independence.

During these initial stages, we are planning on raising funds to meet immediate, urgent, operational expenses. Geneva Health Files welcomes technical, financial and editorial support, as long as they pose no conflicts of interest.

Starting next week, every Thursday, this newsletter will bring you analyses and curated content – the kind you have so far enjoyed reading. And yes, spread the word!  

Thank you for your time.

Priti Patnaik

Founding Editor, Geneva Health Files

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