MobileODTThe World Health Organization (WHO) has called for the global elimination of cervical cancer. Innovations in health technologies, such as the smart colposcope from MobileODT, are helping reach this goal.

The Global Context of Cervical Cancer

In 2020, it is estimated that there were 604,000 new cases and 342,000 deaths from cervical cancer globally. Of those, 90% were thought to have been from low-and-middle-income countries. The highest mortality rates are seen in African countries, where rates can be as much as 10 times higher than those of higher-income countries.

Those in low-and-middle-income countries often face limited access to cervical cancer preventative measures, such as vaccinations and early detection screening programs. They also face a reduced availability of treatment options.

To achieve reduced cervical cancer instances, the WHO wants to screen 70% of women by age 35 and again by age 45. The organization aims to have 90% of girls vaccinated with the HPV vaccine by 15 years of age. To complete this by 2023, screening services in low-resource settings need to be addressed.

Cervical Cancer: Early Detection

A colposcopy is a procedure utilized by gynecologists to visualize the cervix. The colposcope acts as a microscope and, by using various stains, the gynecologist will assess the extent of any abnormality. This aids with diagnosis and treatment.

Colposcopy services are scarce in low-and-middle-income countries. One reason for this is the cost of the equipment. Traditional colposcopes can cost up to $15,000, making availability limited for the equipment required for screening.

MobileODT Innovations

MobileODT is a FemTech company revolutionizing the approach to cervical cancer screening by delivering affordable and practical health care innovations. The company has implemented its technology in over 50 countries to successfully screen more than 400,000 women.

The company has developed a smart colposcope – the EVAPro – which acts as a medical-grade case that can affix to a mobile phone. The case comes equipped with a light source and magnifying lens that enhances the ability of the phone camera, enabling it to act as a colposcope. This allows it to capture detailed images of cervical tissues.

The device is considerably cheaper than a traditional colposcope. At around $1,800, its use is widely accessible, particularly in low-resource settings. Furthermore, in countries with a shortage of trained gynecologists, nurses and midwives can easily use the device.

Innovations in women’s health technologies are vital to meet the World Health Organization’s targets. With devices like the EVAPro from MobileODT, women in low-resource settings are receiving essential screening.

– Jess Steward
Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS in GhanaThe Ghana AIDS Commission reports that 346,120 people are living with HIV/AIDS in Ghana. The HIV prevalence rate stood at 1.7% among people aged 15-49 in 2021, the World Bank says, marking a steady decrease since 2000. However, infections among females are almost double the rate of infections among males. Organizations are committed to reducing the number of people infected with HIV/AIDS in Ghana.

HIV/AIDS and Poverty

HIV and poverty have a two-way connection. Conditions of poverty increase the risk of contracting HIV and HIV contributes to the condition of living in poverty. According to the International Labour Office, “Poverty also drives girls and women to exchange sex for food and to resort to sex work for survival when they are excluded from formal sector employment and all other work options are too low-paying to cover their basic needs.”

HIV/AIDS can also push people into poverty due to the expense of medical care/treatment. “HIV/AIDS causes impoverishment when working-age adults in poor households become ill and need treatment and care because income is lost when the earners are no longer able to work,” the ILO explains. Losses of human capital and reductions in the labor force also slow a country’s economic growth.

The far-reaching impacts of HIV/AIDS show that the epidemic stands as a significant obstacle to poverty reduction and progress toward the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, particularly in the poorest countries.

Ghana’s Progress

In 2020, UNAIDS announced a new set of targets for countries to strive toward in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The goals, with a target date of 2025, aim for “95% of all people living with HIV to know their HIV status, 95% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection to receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and 95% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy to have viral suppression.”

According to the Ghana Aids Commission, currently, 71% of individuals living with HIV are aware of their status, 99% of HIV-positive individuals are on sustained antiretroviral treatment and 79% of those individuals have achieved viral suppression. With just two years to go, significant action is necessary to ensure that Ghana meets these goals.

A Differentiated Service Delivery (DSD) Approach

According to the World Health Organization, Ghana is working toward these UNAIDS goals with the use of a Differentiated Service Delivery (DSD) approach. This person-centered approach adapts health services for people with HIV/AIDS so that service delivery is improved and the health care system does not become overburdened.

For example, a “multi-month dispensing approach” can allow virally suppressed patients to receive their medications for multiple months at a time. This lowers the workload of health workers as patients need to visit less frequently and also saves patients from making multiple trips to the clinic.

The implementation of the DSD approach has seen positive results. For example, Kpone Polyclinic in Ghana has increased its success rate of providing ART from 85% to 99% in just one year as of March 2023.

PEPFAR’s Efforts

The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has worked in Ghana for 20 years. Over the last 14 years, PEPFAR has invested $140 million in efforts to address HIV/AIDS in Ghana. PEPFAR Ghana supports community organizations in dissolving stigmas surrounding the disease, encouraging people to undergo HIV testing and for infected individuals to begin a treatment program promptly.

Looking Forward

Ghana aims to achieve universal health care. Its vision for 2030 is for all of the country’s people to have “timely access to high-quality health services irrespective of their ability to pay at the point of use.” Although conditions in Ghana are improving, large gaps are still present in the control of HIV/AIDS in Ghana. With the continued assistance from supporting countries and ongoing work in Ghana, incidents of HIV/AIDS in Ghana can reduce along with poverty.

– Leah Smith
Photo: Flickr

Diseases in Latvia
Currently, 23.4% of the Latvian population is in poverty. This number has risen from the 2019 rate of 21.6%, partly due to the low health care budget and lack of care accessibility. Low socioeconomic status often leads to poor access to health resources. BioMed Research International article states, “Less education, low income or unemployment and lower position in the hierarchal society have a strong positive association with lower levels of perceived health.” Diseases in Latvia affect those in poverty at higher rates and push others into poverty in the aftermath of their destruction.

COVID-19 in Latvia

COVID-19 had significant negative impacts on the steady growth of Latvian life expectancy. Latvia has one of the lowest life expectancies in the European Union (EU). The country was largely unprepared for the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and the national health system still struggles with underfunding and supplying equipment and staff. Latvia’s health expenditure per capita is among the fourth lowest in the EU and the country has one of the highest out-of-pocket health care spendings in the EU. Often those in poverty cannot afford health care because of the high out-of-pocket cost. Those fortunate to afford health care often experience severe impacts from the high spending it necessitates and 15% of households have reported spending “catastrophic amounts” on health care.

General Heath and Cancer

In 2019, less than half of the Latvian population stated they were healthy. Only 25% of those in the lowest income quintile reported feeling healthy. In comparison, 69% of those in the highest income quintile reported being in good health, according to the State of Health in the EU report.

Many of the diseases in Latvia causing destruction are preventable and treatable. However, timely health care is necessary to prevent diseases in Latvia from killing more impoverished people. Cancer is one of the most prominent diseases plaguing Latvia. Cancer screening rates, though growing, remain under the average for the EU, contributing to the country’s below-average five-year survival rates, according to the same report. Latvia has attempted to increase screening for cancer through informational campaigns in 2017 and 2019, as well as educational seminars in the workplaces and financial incentive tests to increase screening rates.

How Disease Affects the Poor

In Latvia, 4.3% of the population reported not getting necessary medical care because of out-of-pocket expenses, according to the State of Health in the EU report. In Article 111, the Latvian Constitution declares that “The State shall protect human health and guarantee a basic level of medical assistance for everyone.” Unfortunately, those in poverty in Latvia often do not receive these rights. Often health care providers are also concentrated in urban areas, constricting the availability of needed services to those living rurally.

The Good News

The European Commission hopes to combat the low access to health care and high costs in Latvia and other countries through its newly adopted pharmaceutical strategy. According to the State of the Health in the EU report, Latvia implemented this strategy in November 2020 and focused on making needed medicines affordable by improving the sustainability and capacity of the EU’s pharmaceutical industry. Through this initiative, the EU hopes to ensure access to affordable medicine, address unmet medical needs, and develop safer and more effective medication. Ensuring the availability of medication is one of the essential factors in preventing and treating diseases in Latvia.

– Brooklynn Rich
Photo: Unsplash

About MeaslesMeasles is a communicable disease caused by a virus. Persian physician and scholar Abū Bakr Muhammad Zakariyyā Rāzī discovered the disease in the ninth century but it became a global term in the 16th century. In 1757, measles-infected blood was transmitted to healthy donors where Scottish doctor Francis Home discovered that a highly infectious bacterium causes measles. Measles only become a nationally recognized disease in the United States in 1912, when there were 6,000 deaths annually. To this day, measles is considered to be one of the world’s deadliest diseases, especially in developing nations, despite treatment efforts. Here are three facts about measles.

3 Facts About Measles

  1. In 2022, the creator of the measles vaccine Samuel L. Katz passed away at the age of 95. Before the development of the vaccine, almost every child had measles by the age of 15 and nearly 4 million people were infected every year. Five hundred people died from measles each year, there were 48,000 hospitalizations and 1,000 people had swelling of the brain due to the infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 1956, there was a disease breakout at a school in Boston, Massachusetts, where John F. Enders and Dr. Thomas C. Peebles collected blood samples from infected students and isolated the disease within David Edmonton’s blood. In 1963, they developed Edmonton’s virus into a vaccine and it officially received a license in the United States, where Maurice Hilleman and his research team further improved it in 1968.
  2. Before the vaccine, there was an epidemic every two to three years that caused around 2.6 million deaths each year worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Even after the vaccine, in 2018, 140,000 people died from measles, most of which were children under 5. Unvaccinated children, pregnant women and non-immune people are most at risk of getting measles, though it is particularly common in developing nations, such as countries in Africa and Asia. In addition, more than 95% of deaths happen in low-income households and countries with underdeveloped health services, WHO reports. Once one has measles, there is no anti-treatment available. However, vitamin A can reduce the complications and risk of death from measles after taking two doses a day apart. The vaccine is a routine procedure in the U.S. and costs $1 per vaccine. However, many developing nations cannot afford the vaccine. This has led to 19.2 million infants not receiving a single dose in 2018. Around 6 million of these infants were from India, Nigeria and Pakistan, where the number of cases is significantly rising.
  3. According to the WHO, measles spreads through coughing, sneezing and being in close contact with infected patients. It can stay airborne and on infected surfaces for as long as two hours and can infect people four days before and after a rash occurs. The first symptoms of measles show 10 to 12 days after exposure to the virus, lasting for four to seven days. It initially has cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, cough, red and watery eyes and a fever. Patients also develop small white spots on their cheeks. This develops into a rash after 14 days, which could last for six days. Without treatment, complications could occur, such as blindness, brain swelling, diarrhea, dehydration and ear and respiratory infections. Though, complications occur more in malnourished children with a lack of vitamin A or those who have weak immune systems from other diseases.

Looking Ahead

In 2010, the World Health Assembly stated three targets to eradicate measles by 2015. First, to enable more first-dose vaccines during routine coverage to more than 90%. Second, to reduce case numbers to less than five cases per million annually. Third, to reduce measles-related deaths by at least 95%. Furthermore, in 2012, the World Health Assembly supported the Global Vaccine Action Plan of “eliminating measles in four WHO regions by 2015 and five regions by 2020,” the WHO reports. These goals were successful and as of 2018, mortality rates had decreased by 73% with the development of the vaccine coverage. The Measles and Rubella Initiative, founded in 2001 and the Gavi Vaccine Alliance also supported this by preventing 23.2 million deaths, where most of the deaths would have been in Africa and the countries that the Gavi Alliance support.

– Deanna Barratt
Photo: Flickr

Health Care Poverty
Living in poverty is one of the primary obstacles to accessing health care. The financial relationship between income and proper health care is often linear: the more money an individual has, the better care they will receive. Poor health, however, is also a major cause of poverty. This is partly due to the costs of receiving care but also other costs such as transport, informal payments to providers and loss of income. Here are three books to read to learn more about the relationship between poverty and health care inequalities.

3 Books Explaining the Relationship Between Health Care and Poverty

  1. “The Moment of Lift” by Melinda Gates: In Melinda Gates’ book, “The Moment of Lift,” she emphasizes the key point that lifting a society is contingent on investing in women. Gates explores an array of topics from health care poverty to unpaid work and concludes that for a society to grow and flourish, women must also be empowered. From her experience abroad documenting and comparing the lives of women around the globe to her own experiences as a mother, Gates tackles heavy topics such as sexism, domestic violence and sexual assault. Gates writes, “It’s especially galling that some of the people who want to cut funding for contraception cite morality. In my view, there is no morality without empathy, and there is certainly no empathy in this policy. Morality is loving your neighbor as yourself, which comes from seeing your neighbor as yourself, which means trying to ease your neighbors’ burdens — not add to them.”
  2. “Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World” by Tracy Kidder: “Mountains Beyond Mountains” is a beautifully written biography about Dr. Paul Edward Farmer, a man set on dedicating his life to treating the world’s poorest people. Dr. Farmer, an empathetic, self-assured and brilliant doctor opens Kidder’s eyes to the world of health care poverty. The book tells tales of both immense triumphs, but also incredible losses. In exploring the effects of health care stigma, manipulation and inequality around the world Kidder exposes the harsh realities of the world. Dr. Farmer stresses the importance of doing everything possible for every patient, noting that the way some deem certain groups expendable is the source of many of the world’s problems. Kidder writes, “Some people said that medicine addresses only the symptoms of poverty.”
  3. “An Imperfect Offering: Humanitarian Action for the Twenty-First Century” by James Orbinski: Written by the former president of Medicins Sans Frontieres, also known as Doctors without Borders, Dr. James Orbinski expands on the humanitarian efforts made in order to improve global health. The story follows Dr. Orbinski as he works in various disease outbreaks, conflict zones and extreme poverty to fight for universal health care. He travels to Afghanistan, Chechnya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Peru, Kosovo, Somalia, Sudan and Zaire, with the goal of impacting as many lives as possible. The book exposes the harsh realities of the developing world and is not for the light-hearted. Writing about his time in Somalia, Dr. Orbinski revealed the brutal nature of his travels by stating, “I couldn’t sleep that night. There were three doctors in the entire Baidoa region, and thousands of people still dying.”

These three books clearly indicate the correlation between poverty and limited access to health care. These books help highlight potential solutions for those living in poverty who need to access quality health care.

– Opal Vitharana
Photo: Flickr

Health Care Access among Asylum Seekers
Historically, migrants, particularly asylum seekers and refugees, experience several barriers when it comes to accessing health care and also face increased risks of various illnesses and health complications. Difficulties faced by refugees have intensified amid the COVID-19 pandemic and with the introduction of the Nationality and Borders Act, a piece of legislation that increases the standard of proof required to obtain permission to receive asylum and support in the U.K. By educating the public and advocating for vital policy changes, the U.K. is striving for improved health care access among asylum seekers and refugees.

An Interview with Dr. Dominik Zenner

Dr. Dominik Zenner is a general practitioner in London and also specializes in infectious disease epidemiology. Prior to this, he worked as the senior migration health advisor for the European Union and European Economic Area.

Dr. Zenner confirms the increased vulnerabilities of migrant populations to infectious diseases. He cites a systematic review from the 2018 Lancet Commission series on migration and health, which found that, on average, deaths from infectious diseases are higher among migrants than among native populations.

One can attribute these vulnerabilities to infectious diseases in part to migrants’ “origin and circumstances,” Dr. Zenner says. Furthering this vulnerability are barriers to effective treatment. According to Dr. Zenner, health workers in the U.K. may be “less familiar with some illnesses, including tropical diseases, risking a delay in diagnosis.”

The Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has likely increased existing vulnerabilities in both direct and indirect ways. Even before the pandemic, many migrants were unsure of their health care entitlements and how to access health care. The WHO ApartTogether survey shows that during the pandemic itself, one out of every six undocumented migrants did not seek medical support for themselves or their household when suffering from COVID-19 symptoms. However, twice as many respondents with citizenship or permanency accessed health care services when faced with these symptoms.

Dr. Zenner names “closures and inaccessibility” as significant barriers to health care, specifically “the shift to teleconsultations,” which can be more difficult for migrants to access. A study by his colleagues revealed an approximate 20% drop in consultation rates for migrants during the first year of the pandemic. This stands in sharp contrast to the approximate 9% drop in consultations for non-migrants.

Housing and COVID-19

Poverty, housing and COVID-19 are also closely connected, with the COVID-19 mortality rate increasing for those from low-income backgrounds. The living conditions of poorer people, such as densely populated living spaces, increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Dr. Zenner also discusses living conditions in refugee camps. These camps face “increased transmission of respiratory viruses, alongside decreased access to care, with high-density camps seeing the worst of this.” Some camps’ locations in remote areas may heighten risks, meaning that “emergency care and ambulances might not arrive there fast enough.” In general, Dr. Zenner states that camps are definitely “not ideal human habitats.”

The Nationality and Borders Act

The Nationality and Borders Act may exacerbate the health care access struggles faced by migrants. The act’s introduction of a higher burden of proof to gain refugee status could make it harder for asylum seekers to access health care support and security. Dr. Zenner highlights the concern of the increased difficulty gaining refugee status with these changes, which could lead to “adverse health outcomes and worse health care access for those seeking safety.”

Dr. Zenner’s travels and visits to refugee camps support his view that “health care access should be universal, not just in terms of legal eligibility but accessibility.” However, this is currently “not always the case for many migrants and definitely not for asylum seekers,” he says.

Roles and Responsibilities of the UK Government

Dr. Zenner says U.K. aid cuts have resulted in “research projects promoting our knowledge of infectious diseases being downsized or canceled, further limiting scientific advances.” He argues that access to care can be an even bigger issue than eligibility and that more signposting and support services for migrants are necessary. “The government should ensure that there is access to free care for everyone. We have witnessed tragedies; mothers unable to access maternity care and being criminalized when they can’t afford treatment. These tragedies are entirely preventable,” he says.

When asked about the U.K.’s divergence from WHO guidelines, Dr. Zenner says “for most areas, divergence is for good reasons.” For example, the U.K. has “conducted more TB screenings than initially recommended by WHO, but this turned out to be the right idea and set a precedent.”  In fact, the U.K. plays a key part in informing WHO guidance.

Provisions for Future Improvement

Some measures to improve health care among asylum seekers and refugees are visible in the U.K. These are available at a local level, from organizations offering mental health support services, and at a government level with the NHS Low Income Scheme, through which migrants and other disadvantaged groups can apply for financial aid to cover health costs.

Also, GP practices can register new patients without a passport and there is no obligation to ask for proof of immigration status. Doctors should not deny registration to those who cannot provide documents and the rules are flexible in this regard.

Dr. Zenner strongly feels that “the needs of migrants should be addressed as a matter of urgency,” not only to benefit individuals but also for public health reasons in general. This includes sustainable and robust funding and a recognition that there will be no equality until vulnerable communities receive sufficient support.

– Lydia Tyler
Photo: Flickr

Child death in Honduras
Child death in Honduras is becoming a significant problem as a combination of factors is creating a crisis of poverty in the country. With the Central American country already being one of the poorest in Latin America as well as having the second-highest poverty rate in the LAC according to the World Bank data in 2020, the children of the country experience the brunt of this poverty. The most significant impact this rising poverty rate has had is pneumonia which has grown due to malnutrition, lack of safe water and sanitation and health care.

Poverty in Honduras: An Overview

  • Poverty in Honduras has been a concern for a long time. Before 2020, 25.2% of the country lived in extreme poverty and according to the World Bank, 4.4 million people lived in poverty. Since 2014, there has been very little decline in poverty levels as well.
  • When it comes to human development as well, Honduras has performed very poorly and has the lowest human development outcomes in Latin America. Children in particular suffer from child malnutrition as a result of this. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), 23% of children under 5 experience stunting and anemia affects 29%.
  • The reasons for Honduras’ struggle with poverty have roots in economic, political and environmental factors. The climate makes food insecurity in the region much worse, with extreme droughts in Honduras’ Dry Corridor and irregular rainfalls that resulted in the loss of more than half of the crops in 2015. Moreover, 72% of the country relies on agriculture which makes matters worse.

Rising Cases of Pneumonia

The worsening poverty rates and resulting poor nutrition have resulted in an increase in child mortality rates in Honduras. One of the leading causes of child death in Honduras is pneumonia, which according to UNICEF is 16% of deaths of children under 5 years of age in 2019. The cause of the rising cases of pneumonia is the amount of malnutrition rising in the population due to the poverty crisis. With malnutrition comes a lack of safe drinking water, lack of sanitation and poor healthcare systems. Some parts of the country, such as the south region, are mountainous areas where finding safe drinking water is difficult and jobs are lacking.

These levels could rise as famine will likely hit the dry corridor of Honduras as well as Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica. In an interview with The Guardian, Ramón Turcios, the southern regional director for the Ministry of Agriculture, places the blame for this rising poverty on the government’s lack of response to the droughts. Although The Guardian reported that the World Food Programme (WFP) is providing supplementary nutrition to children in the Vado Ancho region, many doctors and healthcare providers are concerned about the future. “I’m scared that, as a result of the drought, the situation will get worse and there will be more cases of pneumonia, especially in children under five,” said a doctor at a local health center in an interview with The Guardian.

Hope For the Future

While the future looks bleak, there is hope that Honduras might be able to tackle this crisis and help millions of children. The World Bank currently has 11 projects in Honduras that it has committed $814 million. These commitments aim to address sanitation, health care and food security. The World Bank has pledged $70 million to specifically provide water to the Dry Corridor. It is also working on a new Country Partnership Framework with Honduras as of April 2022. Honduras also partnered with UNDP in 2019 to tackle child malnutrition specifically. Although there are fears for the future, many international organizations are working with Honduras to abate the number of pneumonia cases and reduce child death in Honduras.

– Umaima Munir
Photo: Flickr

Partners in Health Fights Poverty
Poverty is often viewed as the inability of an individual to provide the most basic needs, such as food, water and shelter. There are many causes of poverty – one of the largest causes is due to poor health care. Worldwide, there are approximately 689 million people facing poverty. More than half a billion people face extreme poverty due to poor health care.

In the summer of 1983, Paul Farmer, not yet a medical student, visited Haiti to volunteer at a local hospital, Mirebalais, in the village of Cange. Upon his arrival, Farmer met Ophelia Dahl, an American advocate and another volunteer at the hospital. Although young and inexperienced, both Framer and Dahl recognized Haiti’s dire call for help. Looking back on her initial viewpoint of Haiti, Dahl reported, “If you had gone to Cange in 1983, you did not have to be a social scientist to say, ‘this is terrible.’ There is no option for health care, not enough food, no housing or school, nothing.”

The Creation of Partners in Health

Despite these daunting challenges, Dahl and Framer agreed to advocate for the country’s lack of health care. As Dahl said, “We are going to Cange, where we already know people and where we have each other. Let’s just see what we can do,” according to the Partners in Health Medium article. Thus, Partners in Health began its journey.

Traveling from Haiti to Boston, Farmer recruited more volunteers, expanding the idea of providing free, organized and efficient health care to desperate villages in impoverished countries. Eventual co-founders of Partners in Health – Todd McCormack, Jim Yong Kim and Tom White joined Farmer in Haiti and began to eliminate the presence of HIV and tuberculosis, according to Medium.

Deadly Disease

Viewed as a death sentence, HIV and tuberculosis were rampant in Haiti; however, Farmer and his team discovered that larger, more developed countries were able to cure these diseases and eliminate their presence. A strong correlation between the economy and health care was the cause of the presence of certain diseases in certain populations.

In 1987, Partners in Health officially established itself as an independent, nonprofit organization.

Partners in Health Fights Poverty

After healing thousands of patients in Haiti, Partners in Health looked onward. Farmer sought to develop an international program offering free, comprehensive health care to impoverished countries. In 1994, Partners in Health expanded into Peru, battling the multidrug-resistant tuberculosis epidemic. Through the creation of the MDR-TB treatment program, Peru saw an 80% cure rate and, yet again, inspired by the success, Farmer looked to the rest of the world.

Four years later, Partners in Health developed tuberculosis treatment plans in Russia and launched the HIV Equity Initiative. Today, this initiative provides antiretroviral therapy to HIV-positive patients in Haiti.

Since its establishment, Partners in Health has provided its services to Haiti, Peru, Russia, Rwanda, Lesotho, Malawi, the Navajo Nation, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Partners in Health fights poverty through the creation of several organizations and programs that support suffering individuals. According to its website, some examples include:

  1. OpenMRS: Partners in Health helped develop a software system designed to keep track of medical records for developing countries electronically. Today, 64 countries and organizations use this program.
  2. Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence: This center opened in 2012 to provide accessible, lifesaving cancer treatment to patients in East Africa. Partners in Health worked with Rwanda’s Ministry of Health to develop this program to treat non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and lung disease.
  3. Fruits and Vegetables Prescription Program: This program was mainly targeted toward the Navajo Nation residing in the United States. This program assists families by providing fresh, healthy produce. By using a system of “prescription vouchers,” families facing this issue are able to receive a month’s worth of free fruits and vegetables.
  4. University Hospital (Mirebalais, Haiti): In 2013, Partners in Health opened a 300-bed teaching hospital that provides “high-quality health care and specialized residency programs to train the next generation of clinicians.”
  5. EndTB: Partners in Health created a partnership aimed at expanding global access to treatments for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. The EndTB program focuses on finding “shorter, more effective and less toxic” treatments for tuberculosis. With help from Partners in Health, this organization provides patients in impoverished countries with clinal trials and access to new drugs.
  6. Nightingale Fellowship: This program helps nurses improve patient care by allowing them to participate in the decision-making processes behind Partners in Health. This program provides women leaders with a judgment-free space to process experiences and emotions.
  7. University of Global Health Equity: Partners in Health helped create a university aimed at training new generations of global health leaders by providing a graduate degree in global health delivery. This classroom encourages students to develop solutions to real-world issues, thus equipping them with life-saving skills.

The Future

With these programs, Partners in Health could lift communities out of poverty, as affected individuals are no longer forced to leave their livelihoods and spend their savings on health care. As poverty lessens, these areas are inspired and pass on their benefits to the next generation. Today, an increasing number of individuals from impoverished countries are involved in the aspects of global health care. Communities worldwide are lifting themselves out of poverty because Partners in Health fights poverty and disease around the world.

– Sania Patel
Photo: Flickr

Help Pay Ukraine’s Health Care WorkersOn July 12, 2022, the U.S. and World Bank announced the provision of $1.7 billion in aid to help pay Ukraine’s health care workers and supply “other essential services.”

Ukraine’s Health Care Workers

Despite the ongoing Russian offensive, many Ukrainian health care workers have opted to remain in the country, performing their duties under extreme strain and hardship. These individuals are key to Ukraine’s continued resistance, providing essential medical services for soldiers and civilians alike. Ukraine’s minister of health, Viktor Liashko, expressed that “the overwhelming burden of war” has made it more difficult to pay health care workers, emphasizing the urgency of continued financial support.

Importance of Humanitarian Assistance

The latest aid package brings the total U.S. budgetary assistance to Ukraine, via USAID, to $4 billion as of July 2022. Ukraine has used this aid to maintain essential social services, such as ensuring schools and medical facilities receive gas and electricity, providing basic humanitarian supplies and supporting civil servants. USAID Director Samantha Power expects that Ukraine’s dependence on foreign aid will continue as the Russian offensive continues targeting Ukraine’s public services.

The importance of supporting Ukraine’s hospitals cannot be overstated. Russia’s offensive strategically targets health care institutions alongside other public works. Ukraine noted 269 attacks on Ukraine’s public health institutions as of June 2, 2022. Russia’s strategy has decimated vital supply lines and infrastructure. The recent U.S. aid to help pay Ukraine’s health care workers is a step in the right direction, however, continued international support for Ukraine’s humanitarian services remains essential.

Additional International Support for Ukraine

The U.S. has sent the most aid to Ukraine since the start of the war, however, many other countries have also stepped up to support Ukraine’s humanitarian and military needs in this time of crisis. As of July 4, 2022, the U.K. had committed about $3.5 billion and the European Union had pledged nearly $1.5 billion to the cause. The IMF and World Bank have also sent multiple aid packages worth several billion U.S. dollars since the conflict began. The private sector is also a valuable source of aid for Ukraine, with major corporations such as IKEA, Adidas and Google pledging millions of dollars worth of assistance.

Fund-tracking platforms such as Devex estimate that there are a total of about $100 billion in aid commitments to Ukraine as of July 2022. Unfortunately, only about $8.5 billion will be allocated toward humanitarian aid, with the remaining funds being tied up in military packages or loans that cannot be allocated toward emergency services.

The $1.7 billion in U.S.-World Bank aid to help pay Ukraine’s health care workers and sustain essential services will bolster Ukraine’s health system and public institutions. As Russia’s offensive grows more protracted, the continuance of such humanitarian assistance is crucial.

– Mollie Lund
Photo: Flickr

Sickle Cell Disease in Zambia
Sickle cell disease is most common globally in sub-Saharan Africa. Up to 45% of sub-Saharan Africans are carriers of the disorder. Sickle cell disease appears to have evolved as an adaptation against malaria, which is why it would be so prevalent in these African countries. For example, Zambia is one of the 20 countries in the world with the highest malaria incidence and mortality. About 2% of the world’s sickle cell disease cases occur in Zambia, and about 5% of cases in eastern and southern Africa occur in the country.

Alarmingly, after significant progress in controlling the disease in the 2010s, sickle cell in Zambia started to escalate in 2020. In fact, during the first half of 2020, sickle cell cases, test positivity and mortality increased from 30% to 50% between 2018 and 2019. That is why as of 2021, the Zambian Ministry of Health recognizes sickle cell disease as a public health crisis. Specifically, 20% to 25% of the Zambian population is a carrier and 1% to 2% of children born in Zambia have the disease. That is why early screening programs are so important in fighting sickle cell disease in Zambia.

Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle cell disease is actually a group of conditions that cause misshapen red blood cells called “sickle cells.” Most red blood cells look like discs, but sickle cell patients have red blood cells that look like sickles or crescents. Sickle cells tend to stick together and obstruct the movement of blood, which makes sickle cell patients more vulnerable to infection. Also, sickle cells are more easily breakable than non-diseased red blood cells. This can lead to patients not having enough blood cells, a condition known as anemia.

Patients with sickle cell disease experience pain when the blood cells clog blood vessels. This pain may last a short time or for hours. Also, their anemia makes them often feel tired. Although it is not clearcut what triggers a sickle cell crisis, being overly cold or overly stressed seems to provoke incidents. Finally, other illnesses and dehydration trigger sickle cell crises.

Treatment for Sickle Cell Disease

Luckily, there are drugs that treat sickle cell disease. To prevent pulmonary infections, to which sickle cell disease patients are more prone, health professionals commonly prescribe penicillin. They also suggest that all sickle cell patients stay fully vaccinated. To prevent anemia, patients take folic acid to help the body manufacture new red blood cells. Additionally, medical professionals frequently prescribe the medication hydroxyurea to decrease the stickiness of red cells and adverse effects of the disease. If an infection or anemia still occurs, patients may need hospitalization. There, they receive more intensive medicine, including blood transfusions. Bone marrow transplants can cure sickle cell disease by replacing the diseased blood with healthy blood from a donor. However, not everyone is a candidate for a bone marrow transplant, and the procedure has a lot of risks.

Newborn diagnosis, careful monitoring and access to care results in survival to adulthood in 96% of cases of sickle cell disease. That is why all 50 states and the District of Columbia in the United States mandate sickle cell screening. European countries also have robust screening programs. However, in Africa, where newborn screening is sparse, up to 80% of children born with the disease die before they turn 5 years old. Zambia is working assiduously to improve its sickle cell screening and launched its newborn screening program in April 2021.

Zambia Launches Screening Program

Zambia’s Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) Newborn Screening (NBS) program focuses on early therapeutic intervention and builds on the country’s framework for early vaccination and HIV screening. The program hopes to annually screen 10,000 newborns and develop an electronic database of patient demographics, medical history and laboratory records. Initially, the program will screen at three sites in northwest Zambia.  The screening program involves taking a blood test sample from infants at different hospitals and sending the sample to its Tropical Diseases Research Center.

Additionally, through the Consortium of Newborn Screening in Africa (CONSA), scientists can use newborn screening data on the disease in the future so they can map out the disease in Zambia and across Africa to inform treatment and prevention. Dr. Jonas Kamina Chanda, the Zambian minister of health, claims that the new screening “marks an important milestone in the health sector, as well as those living or caring for someone with sickle cell disease.” Hopefully, Zambia will serve as a model for other African countries that do not currently screen to offer such a critical service to their citizens as well.

– Mikaela Marinis
Photo: Pixnio