Client: University of California San Francisco's Center for Health and Community


UCSF's Center for Health and Community — a nationally recognized research group of over 200 academics and practitioners who span biomedical, psychological, and sociological research — wanted to launch a newsletter to raise the group's profile both inside and outside the academic community. I was called in to help with the inaugural issue in 2000 and have been writing the newsletter ever since. The piece below is from a 2007 issue on global health.


A few years ago, Robert Okin, chief of psychiatry at San Francisco General Hospital, was in Peru as a member of a human rights group. While there, he found himself speaking with about 25 poverty-stricken women living on the outskirts of Lima. Originally from farming communities, the women had been uprooted by a bloody civil war that robbed them of their land and forced them to witness the horrific murders of their male relatives.

It came as no surprise to Okin that the women were sad and angry; many were clinically depressed. What was surprising was that when Okin asked the women what would make them feel better, many answered: "Sewing machines that would give us the chance to work."

"Their response suggests that the treatment of conditions…such as depression, anxiety or post traumatic stress disorder that have been brought on, sustained, or intensified by impoverished circumstances or pervasive national trauma needs to be more broadly conceptualized than it is in traditional clinical models. Helping people cope with and address the difficult political and economic realities of their lives will prove to be more powerful than more narrow biological or psychological approaches, and in many cases must occur hand in hand with the latter in "curing" even rigorously defined mental disorders," Okin says.

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Andrew is great to work with. He understands the issues, takes a personal interest in the topics, and is always timely. Our newsletter has generated broad interest and helped us develop a community identity. Here are some comments from readers: 'The latest edition of Exchange is terrific.' 'This issue really begins to get across the idea of community as a different level of analysis and intervention. What may have seemed very abstract to a lot of people is conveyed with very nice substance in the articles.' 'It was smart, relevant, and had a nice edge.'

- Susan Garritson,
Assistant Director, Center for Health and Community at UCSF