Alexo Esperato-Martinez used to work for a pharmaceutical distributor in Brazil that let employees take damaged boxes of medications home for free. He remembers when some of the workers, who earned little more than minimum wage, were caught damaging boxes intentionally, as a way to obtain medicine they could not have afforded. After the company manager changed the policy and employees were no longer permitted to take the damaged drug boxes, Esperato-Martinez began to consider the relationship between health and social factors, such as personal income.
Esperato-Martinez, who speaks six languages, has continued to think about health within a broad context that encompasses social, political, clinical, and biological factors. As a consultant at the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization, he coordinated cooperation projects and researched policies aimed at improving patient safety in Latin America and the Caribbean. And he conducted joint activities with a diverse range of other programs, including human rights, ocular health, and the patient safety program at WHO-Geneva.
At Hopkins, Esperato-Martinez wants to learn how best to use research to attain evidence-based health policy in the developing world. He is especially interested in policies designed to improve health in Latin America and the Caribbean, where rapid urbanization coupled with an aging population has led to a sharp increase in the prevalence of chronic disease. “The clinical perspective has accomplished great public health feats such as vaccines,” Esperato-Martinez says. “But public health gives us the opportunity to import tools and instruments from other fields—such as law or industrial engineering—and test their impact on the health of populations.”
Senior Program Officer, Gates Foundation