A quick look at Bulgaria’s “Gallup International”

A quick look at Bulgaria’s “Gallup International”

Something in this WSJ story about Russian meddling in Bulgaria caught my eye – the bits about “exaggerated polling data” and this rather curiously-named polling firm:

“A Bulgarian polling company, Gallup International, which isn’t related to U.S. pollster Gallup Inc., accurately predicted Mr. Radev’s victory. The company, which is being sued by Gallup Inc. for using its name without authorization, also co-published a February poll that said citizens of four NATO members, including Bulgaria, would choose Russia, rather than NATO, to defend them if they were attacked. Those results were at odds with a similar poll by Gallup Inc., published a few days earlier, showing that most NATO members in Eastern Europe, including Bulgaria, see the alliance as protection.

Gallup International didn’t respond to requests for comment.

“This wrapped-in-secrecy poll had no details on methodology nor funding sources,” said Ilian Vassilev, Bulgaria’s former ambassador to Moscow. “Russian media strategists and their Bulgarian proxies used the Western name to fool people about its credibility and spread their message.””

So I decided to take a quick look at Gallup International’s website, here. Without digging into the actual polls they do themselves, not much to comment on here.

Things are a bit more interesting on the affiliations page.

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Screenshot, March 24, 2017

First on their list of affiliations is the WIN/Gallup International, “made up of the 80 largest independent market research and polling firms in their respective countries.” It’s an affiliation I’ve never come across and has several members I’ve either never heard of or are minor players in their respective countries (not including Leger in Canada, who’s well established in Canada and, coincidentally, also part of ESOMAR), which I guess underscores the “independent” part of the description.

But it’s the ESOMAR bit which interests me most. ESOMAR is a large, well-respected international network of market research firms who abide by a code and guidelines on market research. Not everyone’s a member of ESOMAR (in fact, none of the big firms I worked for were members) but it’s a reassuring thing to see on a polling firm’s site if you know nothing about them.

But this is what you get when you do a search for Gallup International in the ESOMAR directory.

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Hmm. (Screenshot, March 24, 2017)

I double-checked the list of Bulgarian members to make sure I didn’t miss them. There are eight Bulgarian members of ESOMAR, according to the directory. Gallup International isn’t one of them.

Hmm.

 

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Ten things you should know about TB in Ukraine

Ten things you should know about TB in Ukraine

Did you know Friday is World Tuberculosis Day? You do now.

Ukrainian? In Ukraine? A Ukraine-watcher, whatever that means? Here’s a list of ten things you should know about TB in Ukraine:

  1. The TB incidence rate in Ukraine in 2016 was 67.6 per 100,000 persons – which, for perspective, is anywhere from ten to twenty times the rate in countries like the US, the UK or Canada (to say nothing of the absurdly high rates among First Nations and Inuit in Canada, but I digress).
  1. Fewer Ukrainians were diagnosed with TB in 2016 than in 2015 – a 4.3% decrease in the number of new diagnoses. Good.
  1. Ukraine has, alongside Russia, a spot on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) list of 20 countries with the highest estimated burdens of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). There’s more than 8,000 new cases of MDR-TB registered in Ukraine every year, and it’s increasing. That’s bad.
  1. Anyone can get TB in Ukraine, including children – especially if you don’t vaccinate them. OMFG BCG vaccine pls FFS.
  1. TB’s still a disease concentrated in at-risk groups in Ukraine. According to stats from Ukraine’s Public Health Center (thankfully renamed from the unwieldy “Ukrainian Center for Social Disease Control of the Ministry of Healthcare of Ukraine”), around 70% of new TB cases in 2014 were in so-called “socially vulnerable groups” like unemployed people of working age and drug/alcohol abusers. (NB. these are the most recent breakdowns they seem to have but I don’t see any reason why these would’ve changed at all over 2015/16).
  1. One the major groups of people at risk of TB, particularly MDR-TB, are people with HIV/AIDS. As I wrote about earlier this week, more than half (52%) of deaths from AIDS-related causes in Ukraine last year were from TB – much higher than the one-third of deaths globally from TB in people with AIDS.
  1. HIV/TB co-infection is increasing in Ukraine – a “noticeable increase” according to the Public Health Center, increasing year-on-year from 2013. All this “[reflects] the increasing burden of HIV infection in the country.”
  1. There aren’t any numbers on TB, HIV or anything coming out of the non-Ukrainian-government-controlled parts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts (“DNR”/”LNR”), but everyone assumes the TB situation there is pretty bad. One senior international official I spoke to last month told me “we hear about used needles, terrible conditions there” with the at-risk population in the east – largely in and around Donetsk, which has long been an HIV hotspot in Ukraine. “I’d say of course HIV is growing there, TB is growing there, because the conditions in which they are spending time in is terrible,” this official told me.
  1. As Oksana Grytsenko reported in the Kyiv Post a few days ago, Ukraine struggles to provide effective TB treatment. Read her piece. No point in me rehashing it here, other than to add this quote from the Public Health Center: “Especially dangerous is the untimely addresses for medical assistance, late TB diagnostics, and HIV/TB co-infection, which causes a high level of mortality due to TB and results from the lack of a comprehensive approach to the combination of preventive and treatment programs at the national and regional levels into a single system of counteraction”
  1. There’s cause for some cautious optimism, I think. To plug again what I wrote about HIV earlier this week, state funding for TB treatment is being increased in 2017 and activists I spoke to seemed confident that the Ministry of Health and the government as a whole is (re)recognizing HIV/TB as a priority. Still, we’ll see.