Making a World of Difference: Stories About Global Health

Making a World of Difference: Stories About Global Health

By Erika Mills ~

Around the world, communities, in collaboration with scientists, advocates, governments, and international organizations, are taking up the challenge to prevent illness and improve quality of life. They recognize the multiple factors that cause illness and work on a wide range of issues—from community health to conflict, disease to discrimination. Making a World of Difference: Stories About Global Health, a new online exhibition, highlights examples of people coming together to improve health in their communities and beyond.

Adapted by Ashley Bowen, PhD, the exhibition revisits stories told in the 2008 NLM exhibition Against the Odds: Making a Difference in Global Health. Making a World of Difference showcases efforts that have increased access to primary health care, reduced discrimination, addressed health information needs, fostered medical discoveries through research, helped end conflict, and provided vital care during natural disasters. The online exhibition also features education resources, including a K-12 lesson plan about public health messaging and informational videos on immunization and mosquito-borne disease, and a digital gallery of NLM collection items related to revolutionary examples of global health intervention.

Here are some highlights from the exhibition:

A woman carefully puts something in a childs mouth..
A still from the film Erradicación de la Poliomielitis en las Americas, Pan American Health Organization, 1985
National Library of Medicine #101605828

Inspired by the success of the World Health Organization’s smallpox eradication effort, in 1985, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) launched Health as a Bridge for Peace, a program to end polio in the Americas. PAHO worked with governments, combatants, and local organizations in areas of Central and South American experiencing armed conflict to end hostilities and distribute polio vaccines. This Spanish-language PAHO video describes this history and impact of polio in the Western Hemisphere and describes eradication efforts.

Two Black wormin in white uniforms leave a house over broken concrete.
Delta Health Center nurses making a home visit, ca. 1960s
Courtesy Dan Bernstein

Based on an example from South Africa, the Delta Health Center, one of the first community health centers in the U.S., opened in 1967. As a community-based and patient-directed organization, the staff focused on the social problems that undermined health in the region, such as hunger and unemployment, in addition to medical care. The Delta Health Center helped establish a nationwide network of community health centers and continues to serve the region today.

People in uniform help a person on a stretcher surrounded by parked helicopters.
Evacuating patients after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, 2005
Courtesy DMAT San Diego CA-4

Hurricane Katrina caused a health crisis in the Gulf Region. Disaster relief teams provided emergency medical care to residents. The Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) from San Diego, CA set up a temporary clinic at the New Orleans airport and evacuated patients.

Making a World of Difference illustrates how our shared desire for health can be a powerful, mobilizing, and unifying force. Working together, we can all make a difference. Visit the exhibition for more!

Erika Mills is outreach coordinator for the Exhibition Program in the History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine.

Erika Mills


  1. Nurses are so brave, i wouldn’t have been able to go in a room full of sick people, they deserve tons of respect.

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