Epidemiologist uses film in fight against S.Africa gold-mine TB

March 30, 2012

Jonathan Smith is trying to fight disease with facts, figures and – emotion.

Smith is using data-driven research as the basis for a documentary film he hopes will raise awareness about the plight of migrant workers in South African gold mines who, according to a 2011 report published in the American Journal of Public Health, contract tuberculosis (TB) at a rate 10 times higher than the populations from which they come.

Working conditions in the mines create a high-risk environment for TB transmission because of poor ventilation, exposure to silica dust and high HIV rates, said Smith, an epidemiology lecturer at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, in an interview.

Migrant workers are sent home “to die” by the mining firms once they contract TB, spreading it into other parts of Africa already hard hit by the disease, he added.

The conditions in South African gold mines, which also cause silicosis, a lung disease which makes people highly susceptible to tuberculosis, have inspired a class action legal case, which was reported in a Reuters exclusive last week.

Smith was in London this week for a meeting at Westminster and spoke with AlertNet at the Strand Palace Hotel about his film “They Go to Die”, which he says he has funded so far by working two part-time jobs and with a grassroots kickstarter campaign, which raised about $15,000.

Epidemiologist uses film in fight against S.Africa gold mine TB (mp3)

Related stories:

From gold dust, a billion dollar claim – Reuters

Exclusive: South Africa gold firms to face silicosis class action – Reuters

Funding cuts put 3.4 billion TB patients at risk-NGOs – AlertNet/Reuters

Picture credit: Jonathan Smith stands on The Strand in London, March 26, 2012. ALERTNET/Julie Mollins


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