What if music could help eradicate some of humankind’s most serious diseases? Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology Austin C. Okigbo has been asking that question in his research and in his recently published book. 

“The elimination of polio was set back years when people refused to immunize their children because they had heard the vaccine caused sterilization,” Okigbo says. “You can go in equipped with scientific skills, but if you don’t have the cultural skills to get through to communities, the most effective vaccines in the world will be useless.” 

Okigbo says music could be the decoder health care workers need to help eliminate epidemics. “Aid workers can find the best way to get through to people by learning about their cultural traditions through their music.”