BREAKTHROUGHS BLOG

July 16, 2013

Telling the untold story of tuberculosis

Vice President of External Affairs
Aeras

In this guest post, Kari Stoever, vice president of External Affairs at Aeras, writes about a new film series that tells the story of the tuberculosis (TB) pandemic.

TB kills 1.4 million people each year.

Nearly 9 million people become sick with the disease annually.

Controlling the global epidemic is anticipated to cost upwards of $24 billion through 2015 in low- and middle-income countries alone.

If you’re like most people, this is where you start to tune out.

While these numbers are staggering and should worry those of us who live in an interconnected world where contagious, airborne and deadly diseases thrive, most people remain unfazed by such statistics. We’re immune to the millions and billions. But by putting a face on these huge numbers—a story about a real person whom we can relate to—we can reach beyond the confusion and sterility of abstract statistics and motivate people to pay attention and act.

Deborah Small, a Wharton marketing professor who has done groundbreaking research on how statistics can suppress giving, claims that it is far better to appeal to the heart than to the head. Feelings, not analytical thinking, drive donations.

But how do we create a story that sticks and, hopefully, goes viral? In order for stories to grab a reader’s attention, they must be brief, relevant, and meaningful. They must have the element of surprise. And they must have enough power to make them worth repeating.

Aeras produced a four-part film series called EXPOSED: The Race Against Tuberculosis. The series tells the stories of four different people whose lives have been affected by TB. Credit: Aeras.
Aeras produced a four-part film series called EXPOSED: The Race Against Tuberculosis. The series tells the stories of four different people whose lives have been affected by TB. Credit: Aeras.

When I first joined Aeras, a global nonprofit biotech advancing TB vaccines, more than a year ago, I remember reading the comprehensive, high-quality report published by the World Health Organization on the status of the TB epidemic. Being a global health geek, I found the statistics astounding and frightening. I couldn’t imagine why so many people outside the global health space thought TB was a disease of the past or that we could be vaccinated and protected from it. These misconceptions inspired me and my team at Aeras to tell the untold story of TB. We decided to capture the stories of individuals who have been impacted by this disease and the front-line heroes working day in and day out to find better solutions to this increasingly challenging epidemic.

With gifted filmmaker Mo Scarpelli, we produced a four-part film series called EXPOSED: The Race Against Tuberculosis. The series tells the stories of four different people whose lives have been affected by TB:

With this film, we are trying to convey the urgent need for new TB vaccines. We’re doing it by showing how this epidemic is affecting people across all continents and all socioeconomic groups, from the patients and their families who must endure the disease and its onerous and outdated treatment, to the doctors and researchers who valiantly give their time and talent to alleviate the impact of this deadly epidemic.

While scientists around the world are working to develop vaccines to protect our families, communities, and countries from this ancient scourge, we also need support from political leaders and the public. Our hope is that this film series educates, inspires, and motivates people to act—to galvanize organizations and governments across the world to make a greater investment in research and development for new vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics. As a global community, we should have righteous indignation that we have allowed this epidemic to come back with a vengeance. Without adequate protection through vaccination, we remain exposed.

EXPOSED is a four-part series of short films that tells the story of the deadly global epidemic of TB. The series focuses on current efforts to halt this airborne disease, which is growing more difficult to address, as well as the urgent movement to develop new tools to prevent it. By telling the stories of four inspiring individuals, interspersed with expert commentary from some of the world’s top TB physicians, scientists, advocates, and policymakers, EXPOSED brings viewers to the forefront of the race against TB. We need your help to spread the word. Watch and share at www.aeras.org/exposed . For more information or to organize a screening, email film@aeras.org.

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