Sneak Peek: Indonesia Series Explores Rising Power’s Major Health Challenges

BY Talea Miller  July 14, 2011 at 3:29 PM EST

Updated with all the series reports on July 19.

While Indonesia boasts the world’s fourth-largest population, the biggest Muslim population, 6,000 islands and a top 20 economy, many Americans know very little of the Southeast Asian nation — save that President Barack Obama spent part of his childhood there.

A new series from the NewsHour’s global health unit sheds light on the diverse nation’s changing political landscape and health challenges.

The first of four reports airs Monday, July 18, on the NewsHour broadcast, but you can watch each report online first, starting with the heart wrenching story of mentally ill patients in Indonesia kept locked up because of lack of treatment options and understanding:




And here’s another online only preview from the series: Would Indonesia be a good model for new democracies like Egypt? Learn more about the rising economic power’s transition to democracy and its struggle with corruption in this second report from the series:


Our third report, which airs July 20, looks at promising new research into a possible daily male birth control pill made from a plant found in Indonesia:


Finally, Ray Suarez looks at how rising food prices are affecting family budgets in Indonesia, and are causing higher rates of malnutrition:


Before the series aired, Ray Suarez sat down with Hari Sreenivasan to recap his trip and talk about his impressions of the country:


Our team was busy in Indonesia and you don’t have to wait to read some of their earlier reporting. Ray Suarez describes the shocking scenes at facilities for the mentally ill:

The stench of urine and feces are overwhelming, like being slapped across the face in the intense heat. Men sit in various states of undress, talking to themselves, rocking back and forth, staring into space. Some have stripped off their clothes, and stare passively at the visitors. Others, chained to posts, rave and strain against their bonds, circling the pole that is their world for the day.

In a second piece, Suarez explores Indonesia’s rapid growth and attempts to provide opportunities to the poor. Reporter Cat Wise relates the perils of Jakarta’s traffic, not just as a source of road rage, but as a public health crisis.

You can also watch a slideshow and learn about the harsh effects of higher food prices on one small Indonesian village and read about an interesting law that encourages breast feeding:

A new law stipulates that all babies should be breastfed for the first six months of life, and anyone who prevents a mother from doing that — a company, coworker, family member, etc — can face up to a year in jail and $11,000 in fines.

We’ll have much more from Suarez and his team as the Indonesia series airs. Remember, you can catch an early glimpse of each segment before it airs, right here on the PBS NewsHour’s website starting Friday.