Warrior Nun and 99% Invisible

99% Invisible

John: 99% Invisible is a podcast hosted by Roman Mars, and is consistently one of the most interesting shows I listen to. Each show tells a story related to design: the way form follows function, and how design effects us all. Whether it’s the creation of an innovative product, or the way streets make us experience a neighborhood differently, there’s always something that’ll make you understand how the world is innovated.

This week’s show wasn’t about the design of a thing, it was about the design of a system: an innovation to part of the emergency health care system. This is the story of the first paramedics.

We get an interview with a few personalities, one of which was one of the first trained paramedics. Not only do we get to see his introduction to the concept, we also hear how statistically better off patients were who were brought in by paramedics rather than the police officers who used to bring people to emergency rooms. Why don’t we hear about this story? Because the first paramedics were black people, in Philadelphia. The program was so effective it changed how people are brought to hospitals, but racism tanked the Freedom House Ambulance Service and rebooted it in a different color (you know the one).

This episode is even-handed documentary journalism as always, but this story tells us two things incredibly relevant to today: the police may be doing jobs that could be better served by a department that doesn’t exist yet (a new kind of social worker system, say), and racism is a problem at the foundation of pretty much everything.

Roman Mars takes on subjects like this from time to time, showing how the past overcame giant problems. I’m remembering one about car safety happening once some brave governmental folks were able to stop the deluge of fatal traffic accidents by finally changing the common attitude that “cars don’t kill people, people kill people.” This one is very much in that vein. The late ‘70s saw a way to improve a system where a ton of people were dying on the way to hospitals even though it could easily be changed by employing techniques that military medics already used. Having vehicles built with proper proportions and equipment in them, plus technicians trained to use them made for undeniable evidence that the police force stopped being the organization that would come to you in a medical emergency. It was now the EMTs’ job. This podcast was an excellent chronicle of the struggle of how this change happened.

I can only hope there’s another story like this 30 years from now about similar changes we know we need but haven’t quite made the leap to fix.

Freedom House Ambulance Service

Those are our recommendations this week! What are yours? Let us know in the comments!

Written by TV Obsessive

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