A Voice of Health: Barbara Glickstein
Nurse and activist, Barbara Glickstein, 59, speaks out to help others understand how health issues impact them.
Raised by first-generation Americans, Glickstein, as a small child, would eavesdrop on her parents’ heated political conversations with friends. “I think I was an activist and then I became a nurse.” she said. Her parents saw their role in a democracy as voting and changing a situation themselves instead of complaining about it.
While a student in nursing school, Glickstein volunteered at a nurse-run radio show in New York City after she, herself, was invited onto the show as a guest. This show was a precursor to the current radio program HealthStyles on WBAI 99.5FM. She has since co-hosted this radio program with Dr. Diana Mason for the past 25 years.
They provide a platform for nurses, social workers and occupational therapists among others, who contribute a point of view that, Glickstein says, conventional media often doesn’t provide. When she entered the field of nursing it became clear to her the voices of nurses were missing in conversations around health.
Able to reach over eight million listeners, Glickstein uses the radio program as her health practice presenting complex health policy issues in a way the public can understand.
“The media gets an ‘F’ in coverage of health on the Affordable Care Act”, Glickstein said in reference to recent poll results released by The Kaiser Family Foundation. This study found over 40% of the American population are unaware the ACA, that reforms the U.S. healthcare system, is now a law. It is arguably the most significant piece of federal health legislation passed since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid almost fifty years ago.
Glickstein admits covering health issues can be difficult. “A good journalist can cover a lot of issues but health is pretty tough to cover. You have to understand a lot.”
Many Americans cannot afford health insurance and don’t qualify for Medicaid. The ACA, to be implemented in 2014, will expand Medicaid eligibility and will enable other people who still don’t qualify access to government-supported insurance. Glickstein currently works to notify the public of that information through the radio station and the blog, HealthCetera, at the Center for Health Media Policy at Hunter College of which she is the co-founder and director.
Since 2003, Glickstein has been involved with Project Kesher - a feminist, Jewish women’s international organization in Russia and former Soviet republics. It addresses issues such as domestic violence and gender inequality often taught through the lens of what it means to be Jewish. While she was there, the organization started tackling human trafficking.
Glickstein subsequently spoke out against trafficking in the US. “I came back (from Russia) and then knew that this was going on in the United States,” she says. “I realized that I was a nurse and I was here and I need to organize nurses globally around this issue because we're often the eyes and ears of communities.”
At the 2007 New York State Nurses Association Convention, Glickstein delivered the keynote address on the tragedy of human trafficking. This issue was subsequently brought to the attention of the American Nurses Association, which in 2008 passed a resolution to educate nurses on how to identify victims of trafficking and refer them to support and legal services. Addressing ways to confront the third largest illicit trade in the world behind drugs and arms, Glickstein says, “There are 13 million (nurses) worldwide so if we start having this conversation we can do something”.
“The feminization of HIV/AIDS and its rise globally is directly related to sex trafficking.” says Glickstein remarking on its health component. “When more women are forced not to wear condoms and uses unsafe sex in a sex slavery situation, the increase of HIV/AIDS is on the rise.”
Glickstein adds, “The increased rise in tuberculosis and other infectious diseases can (also) be related to trafficking.”
Viewing human trafficking first and foremost as a human rights tragedy, Glickstein believes that coming up with ways to address economic hardships is intrinsic to combatting human trafficking. She says, “When people have access to food, shelter, and jobs they don't have to leave home under vulnerable situations.”
Glickstein acknowledged ways people can do their part to stop human trafficking. She referred to organizations such as Free2Work who provide consumers with information on whether the brands they patronize have products made with slave labor. The Code is another organization that encourages responsible, sustainable tourism by companies in the international tourism industry.
When Glickstein spoke to nursing students recently about human trafficking, they brought new ideas to the fore on how to address the issue that she hadn’t thought of herself. Their creativity encourages Glickstein, who strives to incorporate these new ideas into her work. She freely offers educational presentations to anyone who asks, allowing that collective knowledge be constantly updated and reused.
A FUTURE OF TOLERANCE
Glickstein believes that to make a certain change in the world, one first must make that change within themselves. If she wants the people in regions such as Sudan, Israel, Palestine and Afghanistan to talk to each other, she said, she must be able to talk to those whose viewpoints are polar to her own.
Glickstein hopes to personally address this challenge and the prevalence of hate speech and hate crimes as a new board member of the organization, Not In Our Town. The organization works with leaders, schools and law enforcement to reduce hate crimes and increase tolerance. NIOT also partnered with Project Kesher to increase tolerance to cities in Russia and former Soviet republics.
Reflecting on her career, Glickstein says she learned that health is defined in a broader sense than she ever imagined. “As a nurse I created platforms to be that nurse in ways in 1985 when I got my nursing degree I didn't see as part of my future but I've been very grateful that I've been able to work to create that role.”
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous digital media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.