Healthcare in Barbados

Healthcare aids in the prevention, treatment and diagnosis of an illness. Healthcare has greatly improved through research and newly discovered science and medicine. Although, the outbreak of COVID-19 has hurt many populations around the world. As a result, healthcare was forced to adapt radically and rapidly. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), almost every country experienced a disruption to its health services. Low and middle-income countries reported the greatest difficulties. However, Barbados’s response to the COVID-19 crisis has proven to be more successful than other nations.

Barbados

Healthcare in Barbados is of high standard and easily accessible to everyone. The Queen Elizabeth hospital has about 600 beds and offers care in areas such as radiology and obstetrics. Furthermore, there are eight government Polyclinics that provide free medical treatment for minor ailments, five Geriatric hospitals for elderly care and a network of Child Care facilities. With a population of about 287,375 people, the country has seen around 365 COVID-19 cases and seven deaths.

Combatting the Virus

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) planned to strengthen laboratory capacity for early detection of COVID-19. Barbados ‘Bet-dos Santos Public Health Laboratory’ became one of the first in the Caribbean to acquire test kits and reagents for COVID-19 detection. Additionally, Barbados received concurrent training of laboratory personnel in the new testing protocol.

According to Barbados Today, COVID-19 patients were receiving an experimental drug called Remdesivir and were recovering quickly in April. The doctor leading the trial said, “the patients taking part in a clinical trial of the drug have all had severe respiratory symptoms and fever but were able to leave the hospital after less than a week of treatment.”

Barbados’s government established a COVID Rapid Response Unit and a COVID Engagement Unit to monitor quarantine sites and crack down on violation of COVID-19 protocols. A Cuban medical team in Barbados won the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for its outstanding work in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in December. David Comissiong, the Ambassador of Barbados to CARICOM (Caribbean Community) nominated the nation. Additionally, medical teams have gone to up to 38 countries and 12 Caribbean countries.

Adjusting for Visitors

Barbados is a popular tourist hotspot and it still wishes to accommodate visitors. The government created the Welcome Stamp, a new visa for remote workers. This visa allows visitors to stay for up to 12 months and work remotely. According to the Insider, Barbados’s new incentive allows people to relocate to a popular destination and still continue to work from home. Barbados had 1,693 Welcome Stamp applications by the end of October. Travel guidelines have been implemented to prevent the spread of the virus. Thus, airports require health screening procedures and quarantine procedures.

Barbados is a thriving country that successfully utilizes its accessibility to healthcare. Healthcare in Barbados is vital. The country is not selfish or prejudice with its medical management. Furthermore, it lives by an egalitarian system regarding health protection. Barbados has used its resources to aid other countries and provide solutions and trials to carriers of the virus. The country and its medical teams will continue to take the proper precautions to protect its inhabitants and those in other countries.

– Thomas Williams

Photo: Flickr

Healthcare Inequity and the COVID-19 Crisis in PalestineThe COVID-19 crisis in Palestine is worsening due to conflict in the region. Palestine is comprised of two territories that are separated by Israel. This includes Gaza and the West Bank. With Israelis preventing Gazans from leaving the area, Israeli soldiers are destroying agricultural lands that are vital for the Palestinian economy.

Palestinians, specifically those living in Gaza, have lived their entire lives relatively isolated from much of the outside world. A wall that was erected along Gaza’s borders prevents Palestinians from leaving the territory and subjects them to Israeli discretion. Help from NGOs and humanitarian aid can reduce the COVID-19 crisis in Palestine.

Pre-Pandemic Healthcare in Palestine

One consequence of the Israeli occupation is the scarcity of healthcare providers and resources in Palestine. In order to access Israeli health facilities, Palestinians must obtain travel permits, but these permits are frequently denied. There are 300,000 Palestinians living without access to adequate healthcare in the West Bank. The few healthcare facilities that do exist in the occupied territories face equipment and medicine shortages. The effort to increase the number of health facilities in Gaza has been hindered by Israeli refusing to grant construction permits and restrictions on medical imports and exports.

Impacts of COVID-19 on Palestinian Healthcare

The COVID-19 crisis in Palestine devastated its already inadequate Palestinian healthcare system. Gaza and the West Bank have a total of 375 ICU beds and 295 ventilators between them, for a population of over three million. The lack of available resources has severely hindered pandemic response in the territories, with health officials halting COVID testing in June due to a shortage of test kits in Gaza.

The sole laboratory in Palestine capable of processing COVID tests was forced to close as it lacked sufficient equipment. Household resources such as hand sanitizer, antibacterial wipes and even soap are scarce in Gaza and the West Bank. This is due to the lack of financial means. In addition, Palestinians don’t have the luxury to use social distancing to prevent the spread of the pandemic as the territories are severely overcrowded.

The ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict has exacerbated the severity of the COVID-19 crisis in Palestine. In July 2020, Israeli forces destroyed a quarantine facility in the West Bank, thus further decreasing the amount of pandemic-response resources available to Palestinians. Moreover, hospital space that could be used by COVID patients is largely occupied by the high volume of people seeking treatment for injuries acquired from conflict with Israelis.

Israel has also imposed restrictions on medical supplies, subsequently reducing treatment capacity in Gaza. In April 2020, Israeli authorities destroyed a Palestinian COVID testing center. It has been reported that water, sanitation and hygiene facilities are also casualties of Israeli attacks.

Aiding Pandemic Response in Palestine

The World Health Organization published an updated COVID-19 Response Plan for Palestine in April 2020. This plan involves increasing testing capacity, providing additional hospital beds and educating the Palestinian public about virus prevention. It also aims to increase the amount of personal protective equipment available to health professionals.

Palestinian healthcare providers rely heavily on humanitarian aid and NGOs such as Anera. Anera works towards increasing healthcare access in Palestine by distributing medication, wheelchairs and funding to healthcare providers in Gaza and the West Bank. In addition, Doctors without Borders or, Medecins Sans Frontieres, provides medical care such as trauma support, mental health services, surgeries and treatment for burn patients in the occupied territories.

The COVID-19 pandemic and other preceding disease-outbreaks have often been referred to as “great equalizers,” as they are able to affect all people. Yet, as noted by Dr. Stephen Mein, low-income populations and racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to contract these diseases. Socioeconomic disparities and political situations such as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict prevent pandemics from becoming equalizers. This is because disadvantaged groups are disproportionately being impacted.

In the case of Palestine, tensions between Palestinians and Israelis have had devastating effects on the pandemic-response. The isolation of Gaza and the West Bank should have prevented the COVID-19 situation in Palestine from escalating so rapidly. Yet, the lack of funding and medical resources as well as political tensions and overcrowding in the territories, have resulted in many potentially preventable fatalities.

Although the COVID-19 crisis in Palestine remains a critical issue, the number of daily COVID cases has been continuously declining. Support from organizations such as Anera has alleviated pressure from the Palestinian leadership.

– Maariyah Kharal
Photo: Flickr

Telemedicine Clinics in GuatemalaNew telemedicine clinics in Guatemala are providing vital resources to women and children living in remote areas with limited access to healthcare specialists. This advancement in healthcare technology increases Guatemala’s healthcare accessibility and follows a trend of a worldwide increase in telemedicine services.

Guatemala’s New Telemedicine Clinics

Guatemala’s Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance (MSPAS), in conjunction with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization, launched four new telemedicine clinics in Guatemala in December 2020.

The clinics were designed to improve accessibility to doctors and specialists for citizens living in rural areas, where unstable or lengthy travel can deter patients from getting the care they need. Lack of staff is another barrier telemedicine hopes to overcome. Special attention will be given to issues of child malnutrition and maternal health.

The funding of the program was made possible through financial assistance from the Government of Sweden and the European Union. aimed at increasing healthcare access in rural areas across the world.

Guatemala’s State of Healthcare

Roughly 80% of Guatemala’s doctors are located within metropolitan areas, leaving scarce availability for those living in rural areas. Issues of nutrition and maternal healthcare are special targets for the new program due to the high rates of child malnutrition and maternal mortality in Guatemala.

Guatemala’s child malnutrition rates are some of the highest in all of Central America and disproportionately affect its indigenous communities. Throughout the country, 46.5% of children under 5 are stunted due to malnutrition.

Maternal death rates are high among women in Guatemala but the country has seen a slow and steady decline in maternal mortality over the last two decades. The most recently reported maternal death rate is 95 per 100,000 births.

Guatemala does have a promising antenatal care rate, with 86% of women receiving at least four antenatal care visits during their pregnancies. By increasing the access to doctors through telemedicine clinics, doctors can better diagnose issues arising during pregnancy and prepare for possible birth difficulties that could result in maternal death.

Guatemala’s COVID-19 rates have also impacted the ability of patients to seek healthcare. The threat of the virus makes it difficult for those traveling to seek medical treatment due to the risk of contracting COVID-19.

Trends in Worldwide Telemedicine

The world has seen a rise of telemedicine clinics as the pandemic creates safety concerns regarding in-person visits with doctors. Doctors are now reaching rural communities that previously had little opportunity to access specialized medicine. Telemedicine is an important advancement toward accessible healthcare in rural areas. While the telemedicine clinics in Guatemala are limited in numbers, they set an important example of how technology can be utilized to adapt during a health crisis and reach patients in inaccessible areas.

June Noyes
Photo: Flickr

Bipolar Awareness in IndiaIndia is the second-most densely populated nation in the world, with more than 1.3 billion people. Of that number, more than 82 million citizens suffer from bipolar disorder, according to data from 2019. Bipolar disorder in India often goes undiagnosed and untreated for reasons ranging from ancient superstitions to the cost of treatment, but, bipolar awareness in India is steadily progressing.

Bipolar Disorder in India

Improved bipolar awareness in India exemplifies how a concerted effort can reduce stigma and create an affordable and readily available avenue for treatments such as therapy and medication. Indians, mostly women, have been disowned and abandoned by family or a spouse after receiving a bipolar diagnosis. In a country where the consequences of a mental condition are isolation and disconnection, the need for awareness and education is paramount.

A nation that once attributed bipolar disorder to demonic spirits, planetary alignments or a sinful past life, has come extremely far in its understanding of the illness. But, the stigma surrounding the disorder is still prevalent in India, and many, especially those from rural locations, believe bipolar disorder is a choice or an illness reserved for the rich and privileged.

BipolarIndia Organization

One resource improving bipolar awareness in India is the organization BipolarIndia. The community was created in 2013 by Vijay Nallawala, an Indian man that suffers from bipolar disorder, and his mentor and friend, Puneet Bhatnagar. BipolarIndia’s mission is to create an empathetic, judgment-free environment for bipolar people to find information, treatment, and most of all, support from those that can relate to their struggle.

BipolarIndia hosts a National Conference every year on World Bipolar Day to create awareness for the illness and educate residents from all over the country. In 2015, the organization began hosting monthly support meetings for individuals to speak with peers that can understand their struggle. It has also recently developed a way for patients to receive real-time support through the Telegram App when they feel they may need immediate help. Resources such as the Telegram App are invaluable due to the lack of mental health professionals in India.

The Mental Health Care Bill

Data from a 2005 report shows that there are only three psychiatrists per million citizens and only 0.06% of India’s healthcare budget goes toward improving mental healthcare. The Indian Government passed a Mental Health Care Bill in June of 2013 laying out a mission to improve bipolar awareness in India as well as reduce stigma surrounding all mental health issues. The bill has been undergoing revisions and policy modifications based on the guidance given by the Indian Association of Psychiatry.

Efforts to Raise Awareness

The government’s efforts to raise awareness about the complexity of bipolar disorder and the number of Indians that suffer in silence is vital to the disorder being understood. The Indian government aims to provide communities with adequate care and reliable information, leading the nation to a better understanding of a complicated mental disorder.

Bipolar awareness in India has improved with private organizations such as the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF) funding research on effective treatments and raising awareness across the globe.

Also fighting for bipolar awareness, Indian celebrities, including Deepika Padukone, Rukh Kahn, Yo Yo Honey Singh and Anushka Sharma, have stepped forward and opened up about their personal battles with bipolar disorder, combatting the stigma surrounding the illness.

The Road Ahead

Bipolar awareness in India has slowly improved but still has a long way to go. If the government aims to change the attitude toward bipolar disorder and improve treatment, a significant investment in research is vital as well as a comprehensive understanding of the disorder.

–  Veronica Booth
Photo: Flickr

Addressing migrant and Refugee HealthAt the end of 2019, there were 79.5 million recorded forcibly displaced people in the world, with 26 million labeled as refugees. Roughly 68% of those displaced come from just five countries, which means that resources can be scarce for many of these people and their physical and mental health may become less of a priority in lieu of other needs. More focus needs to go toward addressing migrant and refugee health in order to protect the well-being of one of the most vulnerable populations.

7 Facts About Migrant and Refugee Health

  1. The Immigrant, Refugee and Migrant Health Branch (IRMH) is a branch of the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine that works to improve the health and well-being of refugees. The IRMH also provides guidelines for disease prevention and tracks cases around the globe in migrant populations. The organization has three teams and five programs that work both in the U.S. and around the world to combat infectious diseases.
  2. Refugees are affected by illness and health issues through transit and in their host communities. Most refugees are likely to be in good health in general, according to the CDC, but migrating tends to be a social determinant in refugee health. Health inequities are increased by conditions such as restrictive policies, economic hardship and anti-migrant views. Poor living conditions and changes in lifestyle also play a role.

  3. Refugee health profiles are compiled through multiple organizations to provide information about important cultural and health factors pertaining to specific regions. Refugees from different areas often have very different health concerns. For example, anemia and diabetes are priority conditions in Syrian refugees but parasitic infections and malaria are the focus for Congolese migrants.

  4. About one-third of migrants and refugees experience high rates of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders. Mental health is a vital part of all refugee health programs and the priority for youth mental health programming is especially necessary. Forced displacement is traumatic and while there is likely a reduction of high anxiety or depression levels over time after resettlement, some cases can last for years.

  5. Healthcare is often restricted based on legal status within refugee populations. The 1946 Constitution of the World Health Organization articulated that the right to health is an essential component of human rights but many people are limited to claiming this right. Activists for refugee health along with many NGOs call for universal health care and protection for migrant populations.

  6. Important needs in refugee health include the quality and cost of disease screenings. HIV, hepatitis, schistosomiasis and strongyloidiasis are diseases that are prevalent among vulnerable refugee and migrant populations. However, ease and quality of medical screenings are not guaranteed in many centers or camps.

  7. Mothers and children face many barriers due to their unique needs and few refugee health care providers are able to properly address them. There is an increased need for reproductive health services and many of the barriers provide more difficulty than aid to many women. These include language, costs and general stigma.

Prioritizing Vulnerable Populations

The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is well known for its work to safeguard the rights and well-being of people who have been forced to flee. Refugee International is another organization that advocates for the rights and protection of displaced people around the world. Awareness of refugee health facts and concerns enables organizations to take a direct stance on improving conditions and procedures. With the growing number of refugees around the world today, addressing migrant and refugee health must be prioritized in order to better protect these vulnerable populations.

– Savannah Gardner
Photo: Flickr

The Safe Delivery AppAcross the globe, thousands of women die every year as a result of complications during birth. A variety of organizations have been developing to combat these preventable deaths. The Safe Delivery app, a maternal healthcare app, provides one of these solutions. Below are four facts outlining the app’s purpose as well as its successes since its release in 2012.

4 Facts about the Safe Delivery App

  1. Maternal mortality is an issue around the world. Every year, more than 300,000 women die from causes related to pregnancy. Women typically die in pregnancy and childbirth for five main reasons: “severe bleeding, infections, unsafe abortion, hypertensive disorders, and medical complications like cardiac disease, diabetes, or HIV/AIDS.” There is also a greater chance of death for pregnant women who lack proper assistance. Unfortunately, in sub-Saharan Africa, less than 50% of women during birth have a trained midwife, nurse or doctor to help them through the process. Many instances of maternal mortality are 100% preventable when access to quality maternal care is provided.
  2. The Safe Delivery App educates. The University of Copenhagen, the University of Southern Denmark and the Maternity Foundation launched the app to provide skills and to assess knowledge of those assisting with births in remote areas of developing nations. The app consists of 12 modules that address numerous childbirth emergencies and the appropriate preventative procedures for each. It uses “animated instruction videos, action cards, drug lists, practical procedures, and an individualized e-learning component, MyLearning,” to guide healthcare workers. The Safe Delivery app also works offline so healthcare workers can access the modules in any place, at any time.
  3. The app’s creators collaborate. Some key partners include The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Jhpiego, the Danish Emergency Relief Fund and MSD for Mothers. The app’s creators have teamed up to prep for launching the app in even more countries. For instance, Merck for Mothers is working with the Maternity Foundation to incorporate user feedback into the app’s design. They are also collecting user data through case studies and stories to help improve the app’s adoption in other countries. Additionally, the creators of the Safe Delivery App partnered with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to study the effectiveness of the app; for the study, the app trained 58 birth attendants across four different regions. After collecting feedback, the UNFPA found there was an “association between high user engagement and improvements in the health workers knowledge and competencies when handling childbirth emergencies.”
  4. The Safe Delivery app is succeeding and improving. The Safe Delivery app boasts over 17,000 downloads in 44 low- and middle-income countries. In 2019, the top five countries were Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Somalia and Togo. Also in 2019, a total of 10,418 users actively used the quiz functions. According to research conducted by Merck for Mothers, “Workers’ skills in handling complications increased by more than 100%” after using the app for 12 months. In 2017, a Hindi version of the app launched for users in India; this drastically increased healthcare workers’ skill sets in the region. The Maternity Foundation has also released multiple case studies that show the positive impact of the Safe Delivery app. For example, the Maternity Foundation tracked the app usage of 62 health workers across eight facilities in Congo. According to the Maternity Foundation, “The study showed a significant increase in the healthcare workers’ knowledge and confidence when handling post-partum hemorrhage and neonatal resuscitation.”

Since the launch of this maternal healthcare app, researchers have seen great improvements in healthcare knowledge. While maternal mortality is still an issue around the world, innovations like the Safe Delivery app can eradicate the dangers of childbirth.

Sara Holm
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in MonacoWith nearly 40,000 people, Monaco is one of five European micro-states and is located on the northern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Monaco has one of the best global healthcare schemes. The World Health Organization established that an individual born in 2003 can expect to have, on average, the longest lifespan in Europe. The country also has the third-highest proportion of doctors for its population in Europe.

Healthcare Education in Monaco

Leaders in Monaco believe that prevention and screening are essential to maintaining health and it is customary for young people to access comprehensive health education. This education aims to promote high-quality lifestyles and prevent early-risk behavior, such as tobacco use, drug addictions and sexually transmitted diseases.

Caisses Sociales de Monaco (CSM)

The Caisses Sociales de Monaco (CSM) is the official agency responsible for supervising Monaco’s public health service. Public healthcare automatically covers all citizens and long-term residents who contribute to the agency. French and Italian citizens may also access public health facilities in Monaco upon evidence of regular contributions to their home country’s state healthcare scheme. Foreign visitors can receive health treatment at all public hospitals and clinics. However, without state insurance contributions, travelers and expatriates will be forced to pay for all healthcare expenses accrued from treatment.

Public Healthcare Coverage

Public healthcare insurance operates through reimbursements, so an individual who plans on using coverage provided by the CSM will be required to make up-front payments and then claim costs back. After joining the public healthcare system, an individual receives a card that provides access to medical and dental care. The card contains administrative information necessary to refund medical care.

The public healthcare system provides coverage for inpatient and outpatient hospitalization, prescribed medications, treatment by specialists, pregnancy and childbirth and rehabilitation. Some prescription drugs are also reimbursed through the CSM and emergency care is available to everyone at Princess Grace Hospital, one of three public hospitals. The hospital will be reconstructed to strengthen the complementary nature of all the hospitals in Monoco.

Out-of-Pocket Healthcare Costs

Out-of-pocket healthcare costs in Monaco are high and if the CSM fails to provide sufficient coverage, an individual may supplement with private insurance. Private health insurance is a tool for individuals who want to cover medical services and fees not paid for by the public healthcare system. Doctors fund privately-paid equipment and staff through private contributions. According to an article from Hello Monaco, most Monaco citizens take out extra private insurance to cover ancillary services and unpaid rates.

A Commendable Healthcare System in Monaco

Every resident in Monaco is eligible for public health insurance but private health insurance remains an option for those interested in more coverage. Healthcare in Monaco earned outstanding reviews from the OECD and officials continue to seek improvements by reconstructing medical buildings and providing health education for young people.

– Rachel Durling
Photo: Flickr

India's AIDS EpidemicIndia is the most populous country on the planet and one of the most densely populated countries. With over 1.38 billion densely packed people, diseases spread quickly and HIV/AIDS is no exception. Although only 0.2% of adults have HIV/AIDS, this equates to roughly 2.4 million people, a total far higher than any other country in Asia. For this reason, many new programs have started. Although their tactics differ, each program works to fight India’s AIDS epidemic.

Causes of the Epidemic

The causes of India’s HIV Epidemic stem from multiple, diverse issues. Two primary causes include the practice of unprotected sex between sex workers and the injection of drugs using infected needles. These two practices are most common among vulnerable populations such as low-income communities. Thus, India’s AIDS epidemic is centered in select regions; although only a small percentage of the total population has HIV, this number is high in certain regions, and extra precautions are necessary for prevention in these areas.

Despite these overwhelming statistical figures, recent research has provided optimistic results. The number of HIV infections per year decreased by 57% between 2000 and 2011, and the annual deaths from AIDS decreased by 29% from 2007 to 2011. Bold government programs inspired by independent research instilled this change within the Indian population. The programs’ success stems from a variety of HIV treatments and from education, challenging the stigma and misconceptions about the disease.

Methods of Success

One of India’s renowned HIV treatment methods is the Antiretroviral Therapy program, known as ART. ART is the provision of supplements and antiviral drugs for citizens infected with HIV. In 2004, the Indian government sponsored the program, striving to place 100,000 infected Indians on the program by 2007. This program likely played a major role in the steep decline in HIV-related deaths from 2007-2011.

Noticing the success of the ART initiative, the Indian government took a further step in 2017 by initiating the World Health Organization’s Treat All policy; this policy focuses on making the ART program accessible to all disadvantaged Indians. The Treat All policy increased the number of new monthly joiners by several hundred.

Along with these programs, the Indian government has sponsored adolescent education programs centered on preventing the spread of HIV; they aim to end the negative stigma towards the disease and those infected. These programs also provide basic sex education. Studies on these programs have shown extraordinary results; samples of students understand essential facts about the disease such as how it spreads and the current lack of a cure. Although direct government intervention is vital, ending India’s AIDS epidemic starts with educating the youth.

Plans for the Future

With such a large number of people carrying the disease, managing HIV in India is no small task. Although the aforementioned methods have shown optimistic results, the involvement of local communities, governments, and NGOs is essential to maintaining the trend. When discussing diseases such as HIV, the intervention of international bodies cannot maintain the health of individual citizens; ending India’s AIDS epidemic is ultimately the responsibility of Indians, and these new programs enable them to do so.

Joe Clark
Photo: Flickr

Smart Card IndiaIn South Asia, by the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea lies the second most populous country in the world, India. The country remains in poverty despite decades of work by development programs. However, one program that has proven effective is the Smart Card India initiative. A Smartcard is a plastic card with a built-in microprocessor, used for many purposes such as financial transactions and personal identification.

The Indian government uses Smartcards to aid people living below the poverty line. In Tamil Nadu, a rural region, impoverished people use Smartcards to take advantage of medical facilities and to find improved healthcare. In Bhubaneswar, Kerala, and Amritsar farmers use Smartcards to take out bank loans. Meanwhile, in New Delhi, the cards were used for parking, school administration and metro travel through cities including Mumbai, Bangalore, and Kolkata.

Overcoming Barriers

Overall, India’s state-sponsored welfare programs are inefficient; only 15% of investments in social programs reach the people in need. This corruption overburdens state finances and lowers the prospective influence of government programs. Shifting benefits using payment systems that incorporate biometric authentication to substantiate recipients’ identities can help in spreading awareness on the matter. Inviolable electronic transfers in India can lower dealings costs and financial outflows.

Innovative wages technologies such as Smartcards can improve corrupt and lagging public welfare programs. These programs have not fully utilized the Smart Card India initiative. Nevertheless, there was an increase in payment speed and a decrease in corruption with the implementation of the initiative. Additionally, Smartcards are inexpensive, and beneficiaries tend to like them.

While there are many benefits to the Smartcard system, there are also some drawbacks. The transition to electronic payments burdens those who opt-out of the Smartcard program. Similarly, program users may misplace their cards or experience technical difficulties.

Smartcard Case Study

In southeast India, the Andhra Pradesh government use Smartcards to distribute welfare. The government planned to use Smartcards for a variety of initiatives; however, they have focused on two social welfare enterprises. The Social Security Pensions (SSP) provides monthly allowances to the disabled and elderly, and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme (NREGS) ensures rural households a hundred days of paid employment every year.

The time it took NREGS beneficiaries to collect payments plunged from 112 minutes to 21 minutes. The new Smartcard system also lowered the delay between receiving payment and working on an NREGS project from 34 days to seven days. Welfare recipients of NREGS in Smartcard system locations received weekly earnings that went from 146 rupees to 181 rupees. There was no crucial influence on the quantity the government spent on NREGS, which meant there was a depletion of leakages. The benefits from the SSP remained fixed, however, there was a 47% reduction in bribes for payment. Satisfaction with the new payment system was assured with 91% of SSP beneficiaries and 84% of NREGS beneficiaries finding it advantageous.

Additional Benefits

The Smartcard system is cost-efficient: management of the payment system costs the government $4 million. However, savings counterbalance this cost. Through the NREGS, there was a profit of beneficiary time savings of $4.5 million. Additionally, the Smartcard system diminished leakage from the SSP by $3.2 million per year, which is greater than the price of the project. The leakage minimizations symbolize redistributions from corrupt officials to recipients.

This program is designed to improve the lives of the needy by creating a quicker and honest payment process. The Smart Card India initiative has lowered transaction time, decreased leakages, and augmented beneficiary gratification. Hopefully, innovative technology will continue to improve future welfare programs with the Smartcard program leading the way.

– Shalman Ahmed
Photo: Flickr

Sickle Cell Anemia in Sub-Saharan AfricaThere are a total of 46 countries that compose sub-Saharan Africa. These countries account for 75% of the total cases of sickle cell anemia. Due to the high concentration of this disease in one area of the globe, high rates of early mortality have devastated sub-Saharan Africa. Researchers estimate that 50-90% of infants born with the disorder will die by the age of 5. In response, methodologies have been developed in hopes of eradicating sickle cell anemia in sub-Saharan Africa.

Early Screening

It is crucial to provide screening for newborns in order to diagnose children with sickle cell anemia as early as possible. Early detection of the disease is proven to increase survival rates. In under-resourced communities, many children have died without ever being diagnosed. Early detection allows for the initiation of treatments, therapies, physician follow-ups and medical attention. Previously, diagnoses of patients happened through isoelectric focusing and liquid chromatography, but they have shown to be inaccurate and expensive. Now, there are “point-of-care” diagnostic methods available that are affordable and provide accurate results.

Vaccinations

A consequence of sickle cell disease (SCD) is an exponential increase in the transmission of bacterial infections. The main vaccination that has resulted in improvement for patients with sickle cell disease is penicillin prophylaxis. With the increased availability of penicillin and medical monitoring, mortality rates for patients with sickle cell anemia in sub-Saharan Africa will significantly decrease.

Treatment Therapies

Once diagnosed, there are numerous preventive and therapeutic measurements that can alleviate the symptoms of SCD. Data collected through years of research have proven that hydroxyurea is the most effective therapy for patients with SCD. In addition, proper hydration and nutritious supplements are key to curing non-critical patients. The most critical patients receive blood transfusions. Lastly, stem cell transplantations provide great improvements in SCD patients; however, its high cost often prevents utilization of this method.

Health Education

A simple method to increase the life expectancy of SCD patients is to provide accurate and useful information about the disease. Parents well-informed on this condition can properly identify symptoms their children display and can seek immediate medical attention. This leads to early detection so their child can receive necessary medications, therapies, vaccinations and treatments.

Global Advocacy

In recent years, more institutions have recognized the prevalence of sickle cell anemia in African and have shifted their focus to aiding those countries. The U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Gates Foundation created joint efforts in order to cultivate gene-based cures for both sickle cell disease and HIV.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and American Society of Hematology announced one of their priorities is to support the impoverished, disadvantaged countries across Africa in regard to sickle cell anemia. Also, the NHLBI Small Business Innovation research grant allowed for the utilization of the affordable, precise “point-of-care” diagnostic methods for SCD patients. Further advocacy for underprivileged, poor families is necessary to continue the fight in reducing sickle cell anemia in sub-Saharan Africa.

Despite its challenges, Africa has made major strides in improving sickle cell anemia in the last forty years. Continuing to utilize these methods would not only save vulnerable children, but their economy would flourish as well. A higher life expectancy has a direct correlation with an increase in projected lifetime incomes. This would result in more people contributing to their country’s economy and mobilizing their personal socioeconomic statuses. It is vital to take the above approaches to support patients with sickle cell anemia in sub-Saharan Africa.

Bolorzul Dorjsuren
Photo: Flickr