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PLoS Medicine and the lack of coverage of Binayak Sen, a true global health champion

Posted by anantbhan on 11 May 2009 at 13:52 GMT

As a reader, admirer (including one of the early ones to join the PLoS Facebook page) and past contributor to PLoS Medicine, I welcome the renewed planned focus of the journal on global health. It’s commendable that the editorial team wants to highlight diseases that “affect a large proportion of the world’s population” and the “need to look beyond just the biological causes of disease”.

I think it’s very well known that for a lot of people living in the developing world, health is often provided by dedicated individuals who work in difficult situations and often devote their lives to improving the health of communities they work in. These true champions and ambassadors of global health need to be supported and recognized by all of us, and I expect PLoS Medicine to be a leader in this area.

However, the lack of any mention of Binayak Sen (, a pediatrician and community health practitioner from India in PLoS Medicine has been disappointing. Binayak is globally respected for his work in health, as well as human rights. He has dedicated his life to working among the underprivileged in India, especially in the state of Chattisgarh. Binayak has been unfairly imprisoned on charges which not have been substantiated by the state government, and the movement for his release has been a global one. The support for his release has come from community health activists, human rights organizations, academics, Nobel laureates, and perhaps most importantly from the very communities who he worked all his life for. Various journals including the BMJ and Lancet have covered his incarceration, and his trial on a regular basis. While in jail, Binayak was also awarded the 2008 Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights (http://www.globalhealth.o...).

Covering global health is not only about reporting the latest research in an open access format. It’s also about highlighting the work and struggles of those who strive for improving the health of those who live in deprived circumstances. I call upon the editorial team of PLoS Medicine to write about and highlight the work of Binayak Sen (whose work has “encompassed the social, environmental, and political determinants of health, as well as the biological”), and join the global movement for his release. Doing this would be operationalizing the true spirit of the April 2009 PLoS Medicine editorial.

On 14th May 2009, Binayak will finish two years in jail, and events have been planned all around the world to draw attention to his work and calling upon the Chattisgarh state government in India to release him. I hope PLoS Medicine, as a leading global health journal, will join this group.

Anant Bhan

Competing interests declared: I am a supporter and admirer of Binayak Sen, and his work.