Information and stories about global health.

Global hepatitis eliminationHepatitis-related illnesses kill someone every 30 seconds. While many strains have treatments, the disease is incredibly prevalent. About 354 million people have hepatitis B or C and around 80% are unable to receive the appropriate care. The illness appears all over the world, as 116 million have it in the Western Pacific Region, 81 million in Africa, 60 million in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, 18 million in South-East Asia, 14 million in Europe and 5 million in the Americas. Global hepatitis elimination is possible with additional steps and education. However, as of right now, hepatitis is clearly very significant across the globe.

What is Hepatitis?

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver often from infection or liver damage. While acute hepatitis often does not have symptoms, some symptoms can occur including:

  • Muscle and joint pain
  • High temperature
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dark urine
  • Pale, grey fecal matter
  • Itchy skin
  • Jaundice

Types of Hepatitis

There are five prominent types of hepatitis:

  1. Hepatitis A: Caused by the hepatitis A virus, people usually catch it when consuming food or drink contaminated with the fecal matter of an affected person. It is more common in places with poor sanitation and typically passes within a few months but could potentially be life-threatening. While there is no specific treatment, professionals recommend vaccination if a person is at “high risk of infection” or traveling to an area where it is more prevalent.
  2. Hepatitis B: Caused by the hepatitis B virus, hepatitis B spreads through “the blood of an infected person.” Hepatitis B is very common globally and typically spreads from an “infected pregnant woman to her babies or [through] child-to-child contact.” Sometimes it spreads through injecting drugs or unprotected sex but that is fairly rare. This strain is significant in southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Most adults who get it recover in a couple of months, however, children often develop a long-term infection that can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer. A vaccine exists for hepatitis B.
  3. Hepatitis C: The hepatitis C virus causes this strain and is fairly common globally. Typically, the virus spreads through blood-to-blood contact with an infected person, so sharing needles is significant. Since many do not have symptoms, most people may not know they are sick without testing. One in four people is able to fight off the infection, however, it will stay in others for years. Chronic hepatitis C could cause cirrhosis and liver failure.
  4. Hepatitis D: Caused by the hepatitis D virus, this strain only affects those with hepatitis B. Spread through blood-to-blood or sexual contact, it is prevalent in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and South America.
  5. Hepatitis E: Caused by the hepatitis E virus, people usually catch it by eating raw or undercooked pork, venison, shellfish or offal. Typically, it is a “mild and short-term infection that does not require any treatment,” but people with a weakened immune system may be more at risk.

Other forms include alcoholic hepatitis, which occurs when a person drinks large amounts of alcohol. There is also autoimmune hepatitis, which is rare and occurs when “the immune system attacks and damages the liver.” A medication to reduce inflammation is available. Global hepatitis elimination needs to focus on all strains but especially B and C.

Methods of Reduction

By 2030, diagnostic tests, awareness campaigns, testing and vaccines could prevent 4.5 million deaths in low and middle-income countries. Currently, only 42% of children receive the birth dose of the hepatitis B vaccine. Nevertheless, global hepatitis elimination is very possible. A daily medication taken for 8-12 weeks cures most with hepatitis C and medications for hepatitis B are available. Both hepatitis A and B are preventable with safe and effective vaccines. Vaccinating more children would significantly reduce cases and be a major step towards global hepatitis elimination.

Additionally, since hepatitis A and E both spread mostly in areas with poor sanitation, improvements in sanitation could drastically reduce infections. Testing is another important step as many do not know they have it. In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) “estimated that only 10% of people with hepatitis B and 21% of people with hepatitis C worldwide knew they were infected. Of these, 22% and 62% had received treatment, respectively.”

Goals for 2030

The World Health Assembly called for the near or total elimination of viral hepatitis by 2030. This would entail:

  • A 90% reduction in new cases of hepatitis B and C
  • A 65% reduction in deaths
  • Treatment for 80% who have the illness

The Global Immunization Strategic Framework has laid out how to achieve global hepatitis elimination. Goals include strengthening vaccination services, helping improve access to testing and improving the response to outbreaks. Safe vaccines for hepatitis A and B already exist, so improving access to them is important. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that only 10% of people with hepatitis B and 21% with hepatitis C know they are sick. That means that improvements in both testing and education are vital first steps before improving vaccination rates. Therefore, global hepatitis elimination is possible with increased testing and vaccination rates.

– Alex Alfano
Photo: Flickr

Mental health awarenessMental health is an issue that, until recently, people shied away from talking about. While it can be a sensitive topic for people, it is one that society needs to talk about. By discussing mental health, people can help raise awareness of the issue. Celebrities are known to have an influence on their fans, so when they speak about a cause they care about, people tend to listen. Here are a few celebrities who are known mental health awareness advocates.

5 Celebrities Advocating for Mental Health Awareness

  1. Demi Lovato. Actor and singer Demi Lovato has frequently spoken about their struggles with mental illness. Lovato has been a mental health activist since 2015 when they revealed they were diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Wanting to help others struggling with mental illness, Lovato started the Mental Health Fund, which provides people with free counseling during the COVID-19 pandemic. In society, asking for help can be seen as a weakness. Lovato believes otherwise. In an interview with Deseret News, Lovato said, “The strongest thing someone can do is take that first step in getting help, whatever shape or form that is.” This charity raises money for the Crisis Text Line and crisis counseling options in Canada and the United Kingdom. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on the public’s mental health so organizations like these have a significant impact on society.
  2. Kristen Bell. Actress Kristen Bell is a longtime and well-known advocate of mental health awareness. Fighting the stigma that surrounds mental illness, Bell believes mental health check-ins should be as common as going to the dentist or doctor. Bell has struggled with depression and has spoken about why mental health screenings should be taken more seriously. There are often stereotypes surrounding depression, but like Bell said in an interview with NAMI, “You can’t tell someone has depression just by looking at them, especially since it’s such an internal battle.” With celebrities like Bell speaking about their own struggles with mental illness, fans will better see that there is no shame in asking for help.
  3. Simone Biles. Simone Biles is the most awarded gymnast in history. The Olympian also has her own battles with mental illness. Biles goes to therapy on a regular basis and takes anxiety medication. These revelations arose after Biles stood up as a survivor of Larry Nassar’s abuse. Victims of sexual assault have an increased risk of developing PTSD, depression and anxiety. In 2017, Biles partnered with the #BeUnderstood campaign, which advocated for learning disabilities and ADHD awareness during the month of October. Biles has also spoken out about her experience with ADHD.
  4. Chyler Leigh. Chyler Leigh, known for her roles on Grey’s Anatomy and Supergirl, has not shied away from sharing her experiences with bipolar disorder. As the new face for the Be Vocal: Speak Up campaign, Leigh shared her experiences of growing up without a diagnosis. Leigh says that she did not have an environment where she could speak up, so she kept quiet. She also spoke about self-medicating with alcohol and the struggle she went through with getting help. Joining Be Vocal was a way of opening up to the public. By sharing her story, Leigh hoped for people to hear her experience and relate, knowing that they are not alone in feeling that way.
  5. Justin Bieber. In his YouTube docuseries “Seasons,” Justin Bieber gave his fans an inside look at his struggles with addiction and mental health challenges. His addiction to marijuana became so serious that he became dependent on it. He also spoke about his use of stronger substances like MDMA or hallucinogenic mushrooms. Bieber got help and replaced illegal substances with antidepressants. In his efforts to help advocate for mental health, Bieber gave a fan $100,000 to support her career in social work. Part of the donation helped the fan attend grad school while the rest of it went to Active Minds, an organization that raises mental health awareness for college students.

Global Mental Health

Though raising mental health awareness domestically is essential, there are many people without access to proper mental healthcare globally. As of 2016, high-income nations spent around 5% of their health budgets on mental health. For lower-middle-class nations, that number fell to less than 2%. There are fewer trained psychiatrists in developing countries, which makes it hard to address everyone’s illnesses.

In Indonesia, there was one psychiatrist for every 350,000 people. Haiti, a country with roughly 10 million people, has only about “10 licensed psychiatrists.” Without the proper funding, developing countries struggle to make mental health a priority.

Spreading Awareness

Mental health issues are very common in society, but they often do not spark the necessary discussion. Part of this reason is because of the stigma surrounding mental illness. Everyone is capable of contributing to mental health awareness. By posting about mental health on social media, donating to mental health organizations or supporting people with resources, an ordinary individual can contribute to improving mental health globally.

– Ariel Dowdy
Photo: Flickr

End Global Poverty by 2030In 2015, the United Nations (UN) created the Sustainable Development Goals, a group of 17 goals that aimed to create an equal and prosperous society. Many of the goals are centered around ending discrimination, providing quality education to all, and other measures to improve equality. However, the most important goal out of the 17 developed is to end global poverty by 2030, which would significantly impact the lives of billions around the world. With America having the strongest economy in the world, even during the pandemic, the U.S. has many ways to reach this goal and finally end global poverty.

Provide Natural Resources

Currently, the U.S. holds the greatest amount of natural resources in the world, especially oil and natural gas. These resources are extremely important to help those in other countries. For instance, in countries without access to electricity, life expectancies are 20 years shorter. Electricity is necessary to provide better education, improve food supplies, upgrade healthcare and so much more. Thus, by improving electricity, America can provide the resources necessary for families to survive and potentially end global poverty by 2030.

Similarly, while electricity is essential to uplift people in developing countries, it also provides profits to America itself. The most important of these benefits is that when the U.S. exports more energy, allied countries have to rely less on authoritarian countries such as Russia and China. This helps reduce prices for these countries to purchase energy and improves confidence in the energy supply. For America, it means that trade will boost the economy and will invest in American citizens.

Improve COVID Aid

In countries across the globe, COVID has been surging due to a lack of vaccines. In fact, in Africa, the number of cases rose by 39% in June 2021. Similarly, at least 20 countries in Africa have experienced a third wave of infections. Nevertheless, wealthier nations have only promised to deliver vaccines to Africa by 2023, prolonging the spread of COVID throughout the continent.

While the U.S. has tried to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Africa, they failed in 2020 to meet the requirements for a sustainable recovery. For example, out of the $9.5 billion that the U.S. was required to contribute as part of a 2020 COVID global response, they only contributed $3.8 billion. In fact, in countries like Bangladesh and the Philippines, the U.S. only contributed 27.2% of the necessary funds.

However, in 2021, America has made many improvements to its foreign policy to aid countries in fighting COVID. The most significant of these is the $11 billion of foreign aid issued as part of the American Rescue Plan in March 2021. Furthermore, the U.S. has provided over $2 billion to COVAX, an organization that provides COVID vaccines to 92 low-income countries. With the vaccines helping potentially millions of people, the U.S. is aiding these countries to exit the current pandemic-induced recession. Although this effort likely won’t be able to end global poverty, America is providing a strong foundation for families in low-income countries.

Help Children in Poverty

Even though billions of adults live in poverty, children are twice as likely to live in poverty. Over 1 billion children worldwide are multidimensionally poor, meaning that they have no access to education, nutrition, housing, water, and more. Children who experience multidimensional poverty die at twice the rate of their peers from wealthier families.

To address this, the United States needs to recognize the flaws currently in place with regards to aiding children. For instance, only 2.6% of humanitarian funds go to education, stifling 128 million children from going to school and having the necessary abilities to succeed in the future. Financial contributions by the U.S. could help millions achieve a quality education. With better education, these students will have the resources to economically support themselves and ultimately lift themselves out of poverty.

While economic problems continue to persist, especially during the pandemic, the U.S. can help millions of families. If the U.S. uses its economic might, it could finally remove burdens for families and end global poverty.

– Calvin Franke
Photo: Pixabay

Vatican Pontifical CouncilEvery other year, the Vatican Pontifical Council is held in Vatican City for the purpose of improving human health and well-being. From May 6-8, 2021, the Cura Foundation and the Science and Faith Foundation joined the Pope, influential scientists, Christian leaders, humanitarians, ethicists and lawmakers to discuss recent advances in technology and medical science that will make for a better world.

The Cura Foundation and the Science and Faith Foundation seek to improve global health by partnering with doctors and researchers who are nearing medical breakthroughs. At this year’s Vatican Pontifical Council, they and other foundations took center stage. The Cura Foundation’s mottos, “unite to prevent,” and “unite to cure,” described the purpose of the discussions. Here are five promising developments from the Council.

Top 5 Highlights of the Vatican Pontifical Council

  1. The solution to global health spending according to Dr. Mark McClellan, director of Duke University’s Robert J. Margolis Center for Health Policy. Recalling the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. McClellan explained why the U.S. and other wealthy countries need to increase their spending on aid for developing countries. He explained that meeting countries on their level will mean considering digital care, care teams, medicine availability and more. In addition, prioritizing healthcare equality will not just benefit developing countries, but wealthy countries as well. The U.S. will see minorities such as Black and Native people, who statistically earn less money than whites, gain more equality. Focusing on health equality for the world will lead to more open-minded communities and better quality of life for minorities.
  2. Pope Francis explains the union of mind, body, and soul. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the union of the mind, body and soul is essential. Many factors can cause division between them, but unity encourages intellect and progress. Interdisciplinary research that works toward uniting mind, body and soul is the reason various leaders and initiators have been able to improve global health as they have.
  3. Sanford Health shares its findings on regenerative medicine. Many retired athletes and elderly people experience chronic joint pain that seems untreatable. However, Sanford Health explained that regenerative medicine can be useful in combating chronic pain. Regenerative medicine helps to speed the healing process and can especially aid practitioners in orthopedics. If regenerative medicine is integrated into care more widely, the physical quality of life will improve greatly for many people worldwide.
  4. Rick Anderson advocates for digital technologies. According to the president of DarioHealth, Rick Anderson, digital technologies are particularly beneficial for those with chronic diseases since they offer a wide variety of treatment options. For example, people with diabetes can use digital devices to test their blood sugar. Getting these devices to people who need them worldwide is a challenge, however. Anderson says the aid needed most in this scenario is internet access. Even low-speed internet can let people order what they need.
  5. New treatments for rare diseases. Dr. Michael Yeaman of UCLA has been studying neuromyelitis optica (NMO), a rare disease that disrupts proteins in the eyes and spinal cord and can lead to mobility loss. Different people can have widely different manifestations of NMO. Dr. Yeaman focuses on personalized medication to meet each patient’s needs. Dr. Jill Weimer, a senior director for Sanford Research, also discussed changing patients’ gene mutations as a cure for disease. While this possibility needs more research, it shows much promise.

The innovations in health and technology discussed at the fifth Vatican Pontifical Council will help minimize not only disease but also poverty. Worldwide improvements in health lead to fewer preventable deaths, more stabilized economies and more people finding jobs. Though this was the fifth Vatican Pontifical Council, it was the first virtual one, demonstrating that the Council is adapting to the pandemic and continuing to make a difference.

– Selena Soto
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Greenland's Foreign Aid
Many countries around the world benefit from foreign aid, but few rely on it for their livelihood. Greenland is one of the few countries that would struggle to exist at all without it, as Greenland’s foreign aid is essential to its economy. Each year, Denmark, Greenland’s former colonial ruler, gives the island nation about $591 million in subsidies. That represents about 60% of the Greenlandic government’s budget and comes to more than $10,000 for every person living in Greenland. The subsidy, however, is not the cure-all Denmark might hope it to be.

Greenland’s Foreign Aid and Social World

Greenland is a land of contradictions. It is the largest island in the world, yet has a population of fewer than 60,000 people. Its average income is about $33,000, placing it far above the international average, yet Greenland also suffers from a suicide rate seven times higher than in the United States, and a poverty rate of 16.2% as of 2015. Traditional practices remain the norm in many parts of the country. Fishing accounts for 90% of Greenland’s exports, and dog sleds are still a common sight in the island’s undeveloped interior.

How can Greenland receive so much aid and still suffer from such social ills? Part of the answer lies in international politics. Although Greenland is nominally independent, many of its politics are still under the control of Denmark. Worried about losing influence in Greenland, Denmark has often blocked other countries’ efforts to invest in Greenland.

For example, Denmark raised objections to a $12.1 million aid package to Greenland from the U.S. in 2020. While politicians raised some valid concerns about the package (particularly in light of President Trump’s tactless 2019 offer to buy Greenland from Denmark), the fact remains that foreign investment would almost certainly enrich Greenlanders. This would be especially relevant if Greenlanders, rather than Danes, were the ones to make decisions about foreign aid.

Potential Wealth in Greenland

On the other hand, Greenland itself enjoys huge sources of potential wealth. The island is strategically located in the arctic region. Greenland also possesses valuable mineral deposits in its interior, which global warming will eventually uncover. Unfortunately, Denmark’s reluctance to permit foreign aid, and a lack of local capital, have prevented Greenland from taking advantage of these resources.

Greenland’s dependence on Danish money is a major source of instability for the country. Were the Danish government to change its policy, Greenland’s fragile economy would collapse. Greenland’s reliance on fish also creates uncertainty, since fish prices tend to fluctuate quickly. Economic development, as well as investment from a variety of countries, would remove much of the country’s economic uncertainty.

The goal of foreign investment should be to make countries prosperous and, eventually, self-sufficient. Greenland, however, shows few signs of becoming more economically independent from Denmark. Greenland’s GDP has grown very slowly and actually shrank between 2013 and 2014, despite Denmark’s funding. Danish aid to Greenland seems to have become an absent-minded gift, rather than an aid program with a clear purpose and goals.

Consequences of Denmark’s Aid

If Denmark sticks to the status quo of offering aid but preventing others from doing the same, Greenland will continue to suffer from its high poverty rate. Denmark will still have to pay huge sums of cash to keep the Greenlandic economy afloat.

However, if Denmark were to permit more investment in Greenland and put more emphasis on helping Greenland achieve self-sufficiency, Greenland would become wealthier and its economy would be more stable. This would in turn benefit Denmark because Greenland would eventually no longer need so much financial support. Whatever Greenland’s foreign aid future holds, it seems clear that it can do better than the status quo.

– Thomas Brodey
Photo: Flickr

 

global health systemsThe COVID-19 pandemic has brought a variety of challenges to people in many global health systems worldwide. The pandemic has highlighted several barriers that have prevented people from trusting healthcare systems for years. Some solutions can potentially help global health systems make major improvements and increase the number of patients seeking guidance.

The Importance of Using Telehealth

One service that can be convenient for people who do not have access to transportation or cannot make appointments to see healthcare providers is telehealth. The number of patients using telehealth has increased throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. More people have been taking advantage of telehealth due to not being able to see doctors face-to-face. Using telehealth can expand a variety of services to patients around the world. With many patients wanting to continue accessing services through telehealth, improving its quality can help improve global health systems.

Teladoc and Microsoft to Develop Virtual Care Program

A new collaboration between Microsoft and Teladoc Health will focus on expanding virtual care. Their goal is to find ways to increase positive experiences and improve the circumstances of healthcare systems. With more healthcare providers using online services, one component of the collaboration includes working on methods that make it easier for employees to do their jobs efficiently. Certainly, this collaboration can help improve healthcare systems with the option of providing healthcare services virtually.

THRIVE to Help Improve Healthcare Systems

Franz Strategic Solutions recently created THRIVE, an initiative to provide healthcare to people who do not have access to different services. Further, many people would receive healthcare benefits from a variety of programs. One of the initiative’s main priorities is on improving healthcare systems. THRIVE plans to create solutions to issues within healthcare systems through components such as technology. Through its partnership with RDI Healthcare, THRIVE plans to focus on increasing positive outcomes for patients within healthcare systems.

How COVID-19 Has Impacted Healthcare Systems

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted various issues that potentially led to many people not trusting health care systems. One area that requires focus is the number of healthcare workers because many parts of the world struggle due to the lack of people working in healthcare systems. Having more healthcare workers can bring some benefits, such as increased patient care and lower health disparities. Increasing the amount of money for health-related purposes can help improve the quality of healthcare systems. Another thing that requires consideration is the healthcare system’s components. It is necessary to provide certain services such as outreach and child care.

Telehealth has been an important service within healthcare systems throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Certainly, the collaboration between Teladoc Health and Microsoft is prioritizing virtual care options for healthcare systems. THRIVE is one initiative that can be beneficial to many healthcare systems. In conclusion, the number of healthcare workers and healthcare service options is essential to the quality of a healthcare system.

– Chloe Moody
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Italy's Pandemic Recovery
Italy quickly became a coronavirus hot spot at the pandemic’s onset, and its healthcare system and economy have struggled ever since. In early 2021, the Italian government announced a €235 billion Resilience and Recovery Plan (RRP) that will launch several economic initiatives over the next five years. Prime Minister Mario Draghi seeks to emphasize institutional reform and GDP growth in Italy’s pandemic recovery process.

How Italy Handled the COVID-19 Pandemic

Italy has documented more than 4 million COVID-19 cases over the course of the pandemic. It has confirmed more than 127,000 deaths as of July 6, 2021. The pandemic hit Northern Italy the hardest and fastest, with nearly 80% of COVID-related deaths coming from the northern region in the first four months of the pandemic.

Italy’s unemployment rate rose from 9.2% in 2020 to 10.2% in 2021, with youth disproportionately affected. In the regions of Sicily, Calabria and Campania, youth unemployment climbed to 46%. Additionally, 45% of Italians agreed that the pandemic has impacted their personal income.

A four-level color-coded system sorts locations in Italy by infection risk. White and yellow areas have “total freedom, by day and night,” representing a lower risk of coronavirus infection. Orange represents a higher risk, and red represents an extreme risk. Orange and red regions observe a curfew between 12 a.m. and 5 a.m. As of June 28, 2021, all regions are white areas. It is no longer mandatory to wear a mask outdoors, but the country is suggesting that people continue carrying one and observe safe social distancing rules.

Italy’s Plans for Tourism

Tourism is a vital component of the Italian GDP, and in just one year, the country saw a 60% drop in tourists due to COVID-19. Italy estimates a loss of around €120.6 billion in tourism revenue for 2020, and so far, 2021 has also been a lackluster year for tourism.

Italy’s pandemic recovery process includes once again allowing foreign visitors. In June 2021, the country opened to tourism from most European countries and a few others as well. Visitors from the U.S., Canada, Japan and the United Arab Emirates who arrive on COVID-tested flights can also enter the country. All tourists from outside the European Union, Israel or on COVID-tested flights must quarantine for 14 days and provide a negative COVID-19 test. However, most tourist attractions, including beaches, theaters and museums, are open to the public at limited capacity.

Italy’s Economic Recovery Plan

Draghi continues to work with the E.U. to secure aid for Italian citizens. As a result, Italy will receive the largest share of the E.U.’s €705 billion recovery fund because of the economic strain the pandemic placed on the country. The plan will offer environmentally conscious solutions for economic expansion.

The Italian government will allocate €18.5 billion to hospitals to reduce pressure on the healthcare system. The RRP will help hospitals digitize and will invest in “community hospitals” for patients not needing extensive care. It will also set aside €7 billion to strengthen home care. All these plans are efforts to relieve hospitals overwhelmed with patients.

Forty percent of the RRP is for green-related investments. A study by Scientific Reports found that Italy’s air pollution played a larger role in spreading the pandemic than population density, so Italy plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030. The RRP will also fund construction, which will offer many citizens job opportunities. The construction market is estimated to grow 3.5% in the COVID-19 recovery process.

Many Italians are looking forward to life returning to normal. Italy’s pandemic recovery plan offers hope that the country will succeed in its economic expansion and infrastructure development.

Camdyn Knox
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 Vaccinations in IndonesiaAs the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Indonesia continues to rise, Indonesia falls in the top 20 countries with the highest COVID-19 cases. In March 2021, the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) initiative provided its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccinations in Indonesia. The widespread distribution of vaccines brings hope for the country’s recovery as COVID-19 has severely impacted the Indonesian economy and pushed many into poverty. COVID-19 vaccinations in Indonesia bring the country one step closer to recovery and normality.

10 Facts About the Indonesian COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout

  1. The first shipment of more than one million doses allocated to Indonesia under the COVAX initiative arrived in Indonesia on March 8, 2021, as part of more than 11 million doses allocated to the country.
  2. The shipment of vaccinations in Indonesia is part of the largest vaccine procurement and supply process of all time. Immunizing the world against COVID-19 is the most significant global vaccination attempt in history.
  3. Indonesia has initiated one of the world’s biggest immunization programs, aiming to vaccinate 181.5 million citizens in a period of 15 months. This equates to two-thirds of its population.
  4. COVID-19 vaccines have been requested by the Indonesian government from several companies as well as through the COVAX initiative.
  5. Indonesia has been included in COVAX’s Advanced Market Commitment (AMC) group. The AMC ensures that 20% of the country’s most vulnerable population will have access to COVID-19 vaccines by the close of 2021.
  6. There is a concern about logistical difficulties hindering COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Indonesia. COVID-19 vaccines would have to be transported from the country’s capital of Jakarta to more than 10,000 health centers throughout Indonesia. Some of these facilities are in remote locations and have limitations in terms of logistics, infrastructure, storage and other essential resources.
  7. Vaccine storage capabilities in Indonesia present another challenge as there are specific temperature requirements in order to preserve the effectiveness of the vaccines.
  8. Indonesian people have been open to child immunization, but the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about vaccine hesitancy. There are concerns about whether such vaccines would be considered halal as Indonesia’s population is predominantly Muslim. Other fears stem from misinformation and misconceptions about the COVID-19 virus and vaccines.
  9. Indonesia aims to prioritize health workers, police officers, teachers and other civil officials as it implements its COVID-19 vaccination program. The population younger than 60 will be next in line as Indonesia’s approach does not prioritize the elderly. The logic behind this is by slowing the spread in younger people, the elderly will be protected from getting COVID-19 via close relatives. This is because many households are intergenerational, which means separating the old from the young is nearly impossible.
  10. To improve vaccine equity, the COVID-19 vaccine campaign is using live tracking systems to register vaccine recipients, monitor COVID-19 exposure and easily spot gaps and issues.

The Road Ahead

The COVID-19 vaccination rollout in Indonesia is the first step to COVID-19 recovery for both the people and the economy. With immunity, the strain on Indonesia’s healthcare system and resources will hopefully be alleviated. With economic recovery, the pandemic-induced unemployment rate will go down and businesses will strengthen, contributing to overall poverty reduction in Indonesia.

Mary McLean
Photo: Flickr

Air Quality
The COVID-19 pandemic has renewed interest in air quality as lockdowns and public health restrictions have led to improved quality in many areas. Additionally, research has found a link between poor air quality and poor COVID-19 outcomes. The decline in pollution will be only temporary, and in many areas was actually smaller than scientists anticipated.

The impacts of poor air quality on global health beyond COVID-19 are numerous. However, curbing emissions and improving quality where it is already poor are huge undertakings. Nonetheless, looking at those living in urban areas where quality is monitored, more than 80% of people are experiencing air pollution in excess of the limits suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO). This makes air quality a pivotal global health issue.

Another important factor in addressing this issue is the distribution of the negative effects of poor air quality. In other words, the development of any program or policy interventions ought to consider the inequitable distribution of those effects. Research in the United States and the United Kingdom indicates that while wealthier people tend to be responsible for the majority of air pollutants, those living in impoverished areas disproportionately experience the harmful effects of those pollutants.

A. What Compromises Air Quality

There are two main categories of air pollutants: those naturally occurring and those human-made. While dust storms and wildfires can introduce harmful particulate matter, there are also numerous sources of pollution driven by human activities. These include automobiles, certain types of power plants, oil refineries and more. In addition to particulate matter, other pollutants that adversely affect health include sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and ozone.

Finding new yet affordable ways to decrease the pollutants we release into the air is challenging but not insurmountable. Putting this into perspective, 90% of people around the world are breathing unclean air according to WHO guidelines.

B. What Poor Quality Air Does to Our Health

Beyond the link between air pollution and poor COVID-19 outcomes, research also shows the negative impact air pollution has on the risk of stroke and heart disease, certain types of cancer, lung infections and diseases and even mental health. Furthermore, both air quality and environmental quality tend to be worse in areas of the world already comparatively disadvantaged.

According to research on the effectiveness of European climate and pollution policies, the number of people prematurely dying after exposure to fine particulate matter pollution decreased by approximately 60,000 between 2018 and 2019. Better yet, between 2010 and 2020, there was a 54% drop in premature deaths attributable to nitrogen dioxide pollution. Despite these positive outcomes, they also demonstrate the extent of the damage airborne pollutants can do to human health.

C. What Has Proven Successful in Protecting Air Quality

Like health policy progress, innovations in air quality programs and policies often start at the local government level. According to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), cities around the world are implementing ultra-low and zero-emission urban access zones, deploying hundreds of thousands of electric buses, and learning from their own successes in moving to clean municipal transportation in order to teach other cities to do the same.

The EDF notes the importance of gathering detailed data on air quality. This data allows organizations to identify communities disproportionately affected by pollution and develop targeted approaches to protecting and improving air quality. This type of data can help localities not only measure levels of pollutants over time but pinpoint hotspots. Hotspots include, for example, those caused by construction sites and manufacturing facilities. The need for this type of data is worldwide, but developing nations are in particular need of the tools necessary for thorough air quality monitoring.

Highlighting the successes experienced in air pollutant reduction efforts in wealthier counties may seem counterintuitive given the importance of addressing inequalities across the world. Still, they also represent numerous lessons for developing cities and countries to learn. The negative experiences of areas already developed have yielded data, technology and sample policies from which leaders worldwide can draw. Moving forward, it is essential that organizations and leaders around the world prioritize improving air quality.

Amy Perkins
Photo: Pixabay

The Top 5 Health Tech Companies in SpainThe world of health technology has been growing exponentially in the last decade and continues to grow, especially with the novel coronavirus still affecting the world. One of the most prominent locations for health technology is in Spain. The industry has a large quantity of health tech company startups in Spain; high-quality companies are making new drug discoveries for treatments and creating virtual therapies that can help those in impoverished areas receive the medical care they need. Here are the top five health tech companies making strides in Spain.

The Top 5 Health Tech Companies in Spain

  1. Elma Care is an app that combines comprehensive health insurance with remote medical consultations. This great new resource emerged in Barcelona, Spain, in 2017. Elma Care is one of the top five health tech companies in Spain because the app keeps all of a patient’s medical information in one place, allows consultation with primary care physicians remotely and offers tools like preventative medicine plans to help people access healthcare with more ease and efficiency. All of this is possible from the comfort and safety of the home, allowing for social distancing during the current global pandemic.
  2. Devicare is a specialty biotech company that focuses on chronic diseases. The company, founded in Barcelona, Spain, strives to develop solutions for the treatment process of chronic diseases. The company also offers a mentoring service with a team of experts and nursing staff. Often, chronic diseases involve a multitude of doctor visits and, in many cases, few answers. However, Devicare offers a cheaper and easier way of treating chronic diseases.
  3. Savana Medica provides a platform in which the clinical data for patients from healthcare organizations can be managed. EHRead, a form of Artificial Intelligence, or AI, technology, can obtain valuable health information that aids medical professionals in the diagnosis and treatment of patients. It is one of the top five health tech companies in Spain because this technology fosters quick and efficient access to records, which can help doctors understand a patient’s history of disease and illness.
  4. Genomcore is a company that has created an interface that stores a patient’s genetic information. Founded in 2015 in Barcelona, Spain, the platform that Genomcore provides for patient information can be efficiently shared with medical professionals when necessary. Genomcore helps foster more personalized treatment for patients and consequently the possibility of faster recovery from illness.
  5. Mediktor was founded in 2011 but has made a new name for itself due to increased use during the pandemic. Mediktor is an app that gives symptom assessments to patients via their own personal devices before even seeing a medical professional. In March 2020, the company released the COVID-19 symptom checker. With Mediktor, people were able to determine, with great accuracy, whether or not they needed to see a medical professional in relation to COVID-19 symptoms.

The top five health tech companies in Spain are instrumental to the world of healthcare today. While many people have restricted access to needed medical attention, these new technologies can change that.

– Grace Aprahamian
Photo: Flickr