Inflammation and stories on healthcare

Global Heatlh EquityThere have been many advances in healthcare from the discovery of germs and the invention of vaccines to high-tech solutions like telesurgery and gene editing. Yet, with all of the advanced healthcare systems in the world, some people still lack access to even basic services. According to a study from the World Health Organization and the World Bank, more than half of the population lacks access to healthcare.

Global Healthcare Access

If a random person were selected on the street, it would be more likely that they wouldn’t have access to essential healthcare services. And for people who have access to healthcare, it can be prohibitively expensive. The study also found that an additional 100 million people spent so much on healthcare that it forced them into extreme poverty.

When the study was released in December 2017, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was disturbed by the fact that so many people still didn’t have access to basic health services. He believes “A solution exists: universal health coverage allows everyone to obtain the health services they need, when and where they need them, without facing financial hardship.” One path to improving healthcare is by increasing the number of qualified healthcare professionals.

University of Global Health Equity

The fight to get everyone in the world access to healthcare is called global health equity. In 2004, a medical journal defined global health equity as an approach to medicine that centers on the issue of the extreme lack of access to healthcare. They wrote, “[r]egardless of their origins, social and economic inequalities are reflected epidemiologically: disparities of outcome in and between countries are now major challenges in medicine and public health.”

One recent initiative aiming to tackle these challenges is the University of Global Health Equity in Kigali, Rwanda. The initiative formally began in 2014. The campus opened last year. The university is a collaboration between the government of Rwanda and the U.S.-based nonprofit Partners in Health (PIH). PIH helped build primary healthcare facilities in 10 different countries, including Rwanda. Additionally, it has also helped establish health equity-focused programs in U.S. medical schools.

The purpose of this university is to bring equity-focused medical education to a place directly affected by health inequity. The founders write that the university “stands alone in both its focus on equity and its proximity to health systems that face the very challenges that students will grapple with in the classroom.” Gary Gottlieb, CEO of PIH says that “[t]he vision of…being able to create that educational pipeline is the foundation of the University of Global Health Equity.”

Making Medical School More Accessible

Another part of the problem that the university is trying to solve is the “brain drain.” This is when medical graduates from impoverished countries cannot find well-paying jobs in their home countries, so they travel to more economically stable countries instead. As a result, impoverished countries frequently do not have enough medical professionals even when they have enough medical schools.

The University of Global Health Equity aims to help its students find job opportunities that focus on health inequity. It also has a blind admissions process, so it can admit all qualified students regardless of their ability to pay. Dr. Abebe Bekele, Dean of Health Sciences at the university believes that neither sex nor economic background should get in the way of someone realizing their dream of becoming a doctor.

On average, students have 91 percent of their tuition funded by scholarships. So far, 37 students have graduated. Furthermore, 88.5 percent of them work in nonprofits or the public sector in accordance with the university’s mission of an equity-based approach to healthcare. This is an important step in global health equity that will help create more jobs in the medical field around the world.

-Sean Ericson
Photo: Mass Design Group

MSF Uses Virtual Reality to Build Better HospitalsMédecins Sans Frontières (MSF), or Doctors Without Borders to the English-speaking world, is a global organization that provides professional medical care wherever poverty, war, disasters or otherwise raise a need. According to the group’s International Activity Report, 6.3 million donors funded 11.2 million outpatient consultations, 750,000 inpatients’ treatment and more than 100,000 major surgical interventions in 2018 alone. MSF consistently achieves a huge global impact. While generous donors and devoted staff are part of this success, the organization also improves its operations to ensure progress. MSF takes every opportunity to evolve and utilize resources more efficiently. Most recently, MSF uses virtual reality to build better hospitals.

Building Innovation

One such evolution began back in November 2013 when Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines. After providing several weeks of emergency support from tent hospitals, MSF determined the municipality of Guiuan needed a more permanent solution. Plans to build a transitional hospital quickly began, and four months later, the organization completed the sturdier facility for use.

Two years later, MSF found an opportunity for innovation. With the help of design firm Pyxis, MSF’s technical team built a 3D printed model of the Guiuan hospital. Designers then turned the same 3D layout into an interactive virtual landscape, which was explorable through a virtual reality (VR) headset. But why should MSF redesign plans for an already built hospital?

Benefits of Creating a 3D Printed Model

These steps were not just for novelty; they served as a proof-of-concept for an innovative approach to the construction process. Since then, MSF has used this innovative virtual reality technology to build better hospitals. The tangible nature of the 3D printed model promotes a more user-friendly design stage. Planners can clearly determine if the facility’s design suits the environment it will serve.

On a more granular level, doctors can also optimize the facility’s layout before people start laying the foundation. The most immersive VR model supports this aspect. Is the main corridor wide enough to accommodate high traffic? Are the sterile processing rooms, scrub sinks and operating rooms in a useful order, or would doctors have to retrace their steps in situations where seconds matter? These details are crucial to the efficiency of a finished hospital.

The worst crises also benefit from the new approach. For example, the World Health Organization named the current Ebola virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo a global health emergency, and the Ebola outbreaks require a quick response and reliable facilities. In this case, the best health care facility is the one that is operable first. Virtual reality expedites the construction process. Designers can create and build more nuanced plans potentially months faster than with traditional blueprints.

MSF uses virtual reality to build better hospitals by improving and expediting the construction process. VR landscapes and 3D plans are easier to visualize, edit and share amongst MSF staff around the world. Better yet, adopting VR technology now only makes it easier for designers to utilize future innovations. CAVE-CAD software, for example, is one such advancement that would allow architects to make changes to VR schematics while still inside the virtual environment. One thing is for sure; Médecins Sans Frontières continues to receive positive attention for the care it provides. As for hospitals, if MSF builds it, those who need it will come.

– Molly Power
Photo: Flickr

Health care in YemenYemen is currently in the midst of a violent civil war. The war has had a destabilizing effect on Yemen’s health care system. The Yemeni people face high rates of malnutrition, a cholera epidemic and a lack of access to necessary medical resources. This article provides 10 facts about health care in Yemen, the war’s effect on health care and the role of foreign aid in addressing the country’s health problems.

10 Facts About Health Care in Yemen

  1. Because medical facilities in Yemen lack access to necessary resources like clean water, diseases that are treatable elsewhere become deadly. Approximately 80 percent of Yemeni people are malnourished, forced to drink unclean water and cannot afford health care, making them more susceptible to diphtheria, cholera and other diseases. The current civil war has also been greatly destructive to infrastructure and health care in Yemen.
  2. Bombing frequently damages hospitals in Yemen and it is difficult for hospitals to maintain electricity and running water in the midst of airstrikes. Continuous fighting leaves little time to address structural damage and meet the needs of the Yemeni people. Families are often required to bring the sick and injured to hospitals without the aid of ambulances. All but one of Yemen’s 22 provinces are affected by fighting.
  3. Within less than a year of fighting in Yemen, airstrikes hit 39 hospitals. Troops from both sides of the conflict blocked outside access to the country, preventing the flow of medicine needed to treat diseases, such as cholera. This puts the Yemeni people, especially children, at risk; 144 children die from treatable diseases daily and more than 1 million children are starving or malnourished.
  4. Yemen’s rural populations lack easy access to hospitals and medical care. Rural facilities, such as those in the northern mountains, cannot provide adequate food to patients. The lack of food in many hospitals prevents successful treatment of malnourishment.
  5. The cholera epidemic began in Yemen in 2016, a year after the beginning of the civil war. By 2017, the disease spread rapidly. In 2019, cholera is still a serious problem in the country. It caused 2,500 deaths in Yemen within the first five months of 2019.
  6. Nearly one million cases of cholera were reported by the end of 2017. Yemen’s cholera outbreak is more severe than any other outbreak of the disease since 1949. Poor water filtration and sanitation triggered the outbreak’s severity.
  7. Around 80 percent of Yemen’s population, including 12 million children, require aid. During the first half of 2019, cases of cholera in children rose dramatically. 109,000 cases of cholera in children were reported between January and March of 2019. Nearly 35 percent of these cases were found in children below the age of 5.
  8. Between 2015 and 2018, Doctors Without Borders provided aid to 973,000 emergency room patients in Yemen. Volunteers for Doctors Without Borders treated about 92,000 patients injured by violence related to the war, treated 114,646 cases of cholera and treated 14,370 cases of malnutrition. Doctors Without Borders provides vital support to the health care system in Yemen.
  9. USAID cooperates with UNICEF and WHO to provide health care aid to Yemen, with a special emphasis on the health of mothers, infants and children. In 2017, USAID trained 360 health care workers at 180 facilities to treat child health problems. The facilities also received necessary resources from USAID. They also work with the U.N. Development Program to improve working conditions throughout Yemen, including the health care sector.
  10. During the 2018-19 fiscal year, USAID provided $720,854,296 in aid to Yemen. This aid funded a variety of projects, such as repaired water stations to ensure improved access to clean water. The U.S. also funds WASH, a program intended to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene. The ultimate goal of WASH is to improve health care in Yemen, especially for the rural poor.

Yemen’s health care system is in dire need of aid. The country’s government, overwhelmed by war, cannot serve the medical needs of its people, especially in light of the ongoing cholera epidemic. The efforts of USAID and other relief organizations can provide the support that Yemen’s health care system needs at this time.

– Emelie Fippin
Photo: Flickr

five global healthcare organizationsIn 2017, the World Health Organization and the World Bank have reported at least half of the world’s population does not have access to essential health services, such as medical care and health care. WHO and the World Bank have also reported this causes millions to live in extreme poverty, as they must pay out-of-pocket health care expenses. Although this is a global and life-threatening problem, there are many nongovernmental organizations dedicated to providing care to those who in need. Here are five global health care organizations you should know, all of which accept donations.

5 Global Health Care Organizations Everyone Should Know

  1. Doctors of the World
    Doctors of the World is an international human rights nonprofit committed to providing long-term medical care to those who cannot afford it. With over 400 programs in more than 80 countries, this organization is located in war zones, refugee camps and even rural communities. Doctors of the World successfully provides emergency and long-term medical care to those who greatly need it. In doing so, this organization treats those afflicted by poverty, disease, armed conflict, natural disasters or chronic, structural disparities. Doctors of the World helps treat 1.6 million people each year.
  2. Medic Mobile
    Medic Mobile is a nonprofit organization that strives to improve health care for those living in hard to reach communities. To do so, Medic Mobile builds software to ensure health care workers being able to deliver equitable care to communities everywhere around the world. Moreover, the organization is the core contributor to the Community Health Toolkit. CHT is a software that helps health workers deliver medical items safely, track outbreaks of disease faster, treat illnesses door to door, keep stock of essential medicines and communicate emergencies. Medic Mobile now impacts 14 countries in Africa and Asia, having trained and equipped 24,463 health workers.
  3. International Medical Corps
    International Medic Corps is a nonprofit organization with a mission based on improving the quality of life by saving lives and relieving suffering through health care training and relief and development programs. Based in the United States and the United Kingdom, International Medic Corps offers training and health care to local populations. The organization also provides medical assistance to those at the most risk. In 2017, International Medic Corps estimated it performed 4.8 million medical consultations, benefitting 8 million people directly and 50 million people indirectly.
  4. Mothers 2 Mothers
    Mothers 2 Mothers is a unique nonprofit organization dedicated to employ, train and help to empower HIV-positive women as community health workers in Africa. The “Mentor Mothers” work in local African communities and understaffed health facilities. They provide advice, essential health education and support to other HIV-positive mothers on how to protect their babies from HIV infection. Mothers 2 Mothers also works to ensure women and families are getting proper health advice and medication, are linked to the right clinical services and are supported on their treatment journey. Since 2001, Mothers 2 Mothers has reached over 10.5 million women and children. In 2017, the organization reported it had served 1 in 6 of the world’s HIV-positive women.
  5. Mercy Ships
    Mercy Ships is an organization committed to helping those struggling without medical services in Africa. To do so, the organization uses the Africa Mercy, a floating hospital ship with volunteer medical teams and sterile operating rooms. As a result, Mercy Ships directly aids those who would otherwise receive no care. Aboard the Africa Mercy, medical treatments are free of charge, such as removing tumors, correcting clefts and straightening legs. Since being founded in 1978, Mercy Ships has reported it has performed more than 100,000 surgeries.

Access to medical care and healthcare are necessary, affecting global health, economy and living conditions. To learn more about any of these five global healthcare organizations, visit their sites. All five global healthcare organizations accept donations to continue providing much needed medical and healthcare. While a country’s infrastructure may not currently be equipped to meet the needs of its population, NGOs, such as these, can make a significant difference.

Natalie Chen
Photo: Flickr

5 Organizations That Empower Women
Women’s empowerment in the developing world is a major tool that countries can use to alleviate socioeconomic issues like poverty and corruption. Here are the top five organizations that empower women.

5 Organizations That Empower Women

  1. Women’s Global Empowerment Fund
    The Women’s Global Empowerment Fund (WGEF) is an organization committed to creating opportunities and addressing inequality, strengthening communities and families and using political, social and economic programs to support women. WGEF’s programs provide frameworks for women to create opportunities for themselves at the grassroots level. As of January 2017, WGEF’s Credit Plus Program provided more than 10,000 microcredit loans, which help women create and expand sustainable, viable businesses in developing countries. That same year, many of the WGEF’s clients applied for their fourth or fifth loans to further grow their businesses. Since its inception, WGEF’s literacy program reached more than 1,500 women in rural or poor communities, and 416 women were reached in 2016 alone. The literacy program takes place twice a week over the course of six months and costs $80 per person annually. Ten of WGEF’s clients, many of whom benefitted from the literacy program, ran for local and regional offices during national elections in 2016.
  2. Panzi Hospital
    Panzi Hospital is located in Bukavu, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since its founding in 1999, it has served as a general hospital for local residents. Still, the hospital has become a well-known organization that empowers women because of its efforts to help victims of sexual violence and women suffering from complicated gynecological issues. Panzi Hospital is now comprised of four departments: obstetrics and gynecology, surgery, internal medicine and pediatrics. In 2012, the team at Panzi Hospital implemented a project to provide cervical cancer screenings to patients, the first of its kind in the region. Patients at Panzi Hospital also have access to psychological care, socioeconomic assistance and legal assistance. From 1999 to 2015, Panzi Hospital served 85,864 women. As of the end of 2015, 48,482 of the hospital’s patients were victims of some form of sexual violence. Forty to 60 percent of the women treated at Panzi Hospital cannot return to their home communities because of conflict and the stigma surrounding sexual violence and reproductive injuries. These women are housed at the hospital’s aftercare center, Maison Dorcas.
  3. Her Farm
    Her Farm is located in Nepal and supports women in the rural areas at the base of the Himalayas. The organization’s mission is to provide women with the tools they need to be self-sufficient, including access to healthcare, economic opportunities and education. Her Farm is owned and operated by women and for women; the women freely farm the land and make all the decisions regarding Her Farm themselves. Currently, Her Farm provides employment and safe living conditions for 30 women and children, and they educate 12 children daily. As a result of Her Farm’s efforts, 300 people have access to an emergency center. Annually, Her Farm has 150 visitors.
  4. Orchid Project
    Orchid Project is an organization battling female genital cutting (FGC). FGC refers to a practice that involves removing parts or all of a girl’s external genitalia, or any injuries associated with the practice. Usually, girls go through FGC before the age of five, but it can occur at any time between birth and adolescence. The practice of FGC is largely cultural; there are no religious obligations associated with FGC. Globally, the practice of FGC impacts over 200 million women and girls, with 3.9 million girls at risk annually. Today, FGC occurs in at least 45 countries worldwide. The practice is internationally recognized as a violation of human rights. Orchid Project, like other organizations that empower women, focuses on education and advocacy to eliminate FGC. The organization partners with other nonprofits like Sahiyo and Tostan on the ground in countries where FGC is still practiced to host knowledge-sharing workshops within impacted communities. This approach recognizes that FGC is a cultural phenomenon and allows the members of the community to come together and choose to abandon the practice. From 2015, Orchid Project has held 12 workshops across Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Somaliland.
  5. Equality Now
    Equality Now is committed to changing laws to promote socioeconomic change for women and girls around the world. The organization’s network of lawyers and activists are currently fighting to end female genital mutilation (FGM), sexual violence, human trafficking, child marriage and gender inequality. In 2017, 11 laws that Equality Now had been fighting for were changed or strengthened. The organization also provided training to 50 lawyers and judges and its supporters sent more than 21,300 advocacy letters.

Without empowering its women, no country can hope to eliminate issues like poverty. These 5 organizations that empower women are committed to ending inequality in the developing world.

– Shania Kennedy
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Morocco
Morocco is a country in North Africa that borders the Atlantic Ocean in the west and the Mediterranean in the north. Its location makes it a strong competitor in international trade and business. Forbes has classified Morocco as an emerging country with financial, educational and political potential. In 2015, the Government of Morocco and the World Health Organization (WHO) teamed up to improve the public health situation in the country, focusing on five regional priorities: health security and control of communicable diseases, mental health and violence, nutrition, strengthening health systems and responsiveness to health crises. Here are the 10 facts about life expectancy in Morocco.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Morocco

  1. Life expectancy at birth in Morocco has increased by over 35 years since 1950. A recent report found that Moroccans should reach a 77-year life expectancy compared with the 42 years of average life expectancy in 1950. The Ministry of Family Solidarity, Equality and Social Development carried out this study in partnership with the National Observatory for Human Development.
  2. The same study found that the life expectancy of Moroccan women was age 60, which was 21 years longer instead of just 17 years longer as recorded in 1980. There was a similar increase with Moroccan men at age 60, who now should live 19 years longer instead of 17 years longer in 1980.
  3. The 2014 Moroccan census showed that nearly 3.2 million Moroccans are over 60 years old, while in 1960, less than one million Moroccans lived to be 60 years old. The aforementioned study predicts that by the year 2030, the number of people who live to be 60 and above will double to almost six million Moroccans, which is 20 percent of the population.
  4. Morocco is currently going through a demographic transition. The population is increasing but at a declining rate, as the overall life expectancy from birth continues to increase but women are having fewer children. Morocco is following development trends; the more it develops, the more the rate of its population goes down. When Morocco reaches the status of a developed country, its population will decline like countries across Europe and the United States of America.
  5. Overall infant, child and maternal mortality rates have decreased as there is more emphasis on expanding access to vaccinations, adequate nutrition, hygiene and better primary health care. Various international organizations and nonprofits, such as the WHO and CARE have managed to improve the overall health care situation in Morocco. All of these contribute to the decrease in mortality rates and the increase in life expectancy.
  6. Morocco has a shrinking population of children which reflects the decline in the total fertility rate from five in the mid-1980s to 2.2 in 2010. Total fertility rate (TFR) relates to the total number of children born or likely to be born to a woman in her lifetime, assuming she is subject to the age-specific fertility rate of her society’s population.
  7. Aging is the main trend in demographic shifts. The joint report found that by 2050, Morocco will have approximately 10 million senior citizens. This again points towards increased life expectancy and Morocco’s increasing overall development.
  8. The joint report also indicated that poverty in urban areas decreased from 4.9 percent to 0.7 percent and in the countryside from 14 percent to 4.5 percent in the span of almost a decade. This decrease in poverty, as well as the tendency of elderly to live in urban areas with increased access to health care, are all contributing factors to the increased life expectancy of elderly, as well as the general population.
  9. The study found that proper medical care and social care for the elderly is lacking, despite the increasing senior population in Morocco. Currently, there is not enough investment in welfare programs or senior living facilities and arrangements. This makes it more difficult for seniors to participate in Moroccan society by posing challenges to their own mobilization and physical health.
  10. The Ministry of Family, Solidarity, Equality and Social Development stress that research on life expectancy help the government to assess and develop adequate social welfare and health care programs. The increase in elderly people in the population implies the government should be investing in senior accommodations such as senior living homes.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Morocco should help the country adequately serve its people through health care and social programs. With this knowledge, the country can prepare to provide care and housing for an older population.

– Laura Phillips-Alvarez
Photo: Flickr

Access to HealthcareThe West Bank is a region of Palestine but has been occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War in 1967. Due to this occupation, as well as the West Bank’s landlocked location, citizens often struggle to gain access to healthcare. Without sufficient medical resources, individuals living in the West Bank are subject to higher infant mortality rates, untreated psychological ailments and the risk for chronic disease to become acute. Despite these barriers, both physical and political, there are Israeli and Palestinian organizations working to aid people most at risk in the West Bank including women, children, elderly, disabled and the rural poor.

Five Obstacles in Access to Healthcare

  1. Mental Health Stigma: Mental health in occupied areas is an immediate and crucial concern, but it is often stigmatized by locals and, therefore, is unaddressed and unrecognized. Of the patients who manage to get access to a medical practitioner, adults will frequently complain of PTSD related symptoms like headaches, generalized weakness and palpitations. Children are also overlooked when it comes to mental health. According to the Palestine Medical Relief Society (PMRS), an NGO working to increase access to healthcare, 54.7 percent of children in a sample of 1,000 have experienced at least one instance of trauma. Despite the high rates of trauma in children, however, parents are often unaware and unable to recognize the signs of PTSD present in their children like nightmares, insomnia and bedwetting. Instead, they assume the symptoms are normal child behaviors.
  2. Infant Mortality Rates: Children are at a high risk of death when there is impaired access to medical services. World Bank data shows the infant mortality rate in the West Bank and Gaza is 18 per 1,000 live births and 21 per 1,000 live births for children under 5. Compared to Israel’s three and four live births per 1000 respectively, these are extremely high numbers and show the direct consequences of poor healthcare access.
  3. Limited Access to Essential Drugs: In an article about Palestine, the World Health Organization notes that for people low on the socio-economic scale, healthcare expenditures are one of the most financially burdensome household expenses. The unavailability or unaffordability of medicine enormously impacts patients dealing with a chronic disease like hypertension, asthma and diabetes.
  4. Long Ambulance Rides: Numerous military checkpoints and barriers physically obstruct the ability of ambulances to bring patients from the West Bank to hospitals in Israel. According to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, wait times at checkpoints can last up to 15 minutes. For a patient in critical condition, delays like these can hinder their ability to get the right medical treatment in time.
  5. Revoked Treatment in Israeli Hospitals: A recent declaration by the Palestinian Ministry of Health to cease funding in Israeli hospitals means that many patients, especially those in poor rural areas, are unable to gain access to healthcare. There are few other options available for these individuals to seek treatment, especially those living in poor areas that cannot incur travel costs.

NGOs Improving Access to Healthcare

Healthcare access on the West Bank is limited due to a number of interrelated reasons. In order to make it more accessible to those who are most affected, NGOs have been developed in both Palestine and Israel. In particular, the Palestine Medical Relief Society was founded in 1979 to aid the most vulnerable members of society. They have a mobile clinic program that includes a first-aid training program to help people gain access to healthcare in remote areas.

Another prominent NGO is Physicians for Human Rights (PHR). Founded in 1988 by Israeli physicians, this organization focuses on humanitarian aid and policy change. Furthermore, there are volunteer medics who provide free services to people with limited or no access. PHR serves more than 20,000 individuals each year.

Both of these organizations recognize the importance of addressing the fundamental issue through and data collection, policy and education, and they are working to improve access to healthcare on the West Bank.

– Tera Hofmann
Photo: Wiki

Healing in the Nuba Mountains
Located in East Africa with a maritime border along the Red Sea, Sudan is a country plagued with a violent past. Since gaining its independence from joint British-Egyptian rule in 1956, Sudan’s sovereignty has been unstable. Its first civil war erupted in 1962, and since then Sudan has continued to struggle with violence. A referendum was passed for the independence of South Sudan. Since then, however, there has been continued fighting between the two nations.

The Nuba Mountains

A point of particular conflict has been in the Nuba Mountains, which lies on the border of the two countries. Since 2011 the Nubian people have sought independence from Omar al Bashir’s Sudanese government. This caused the Bashir regime to lead what is called by some a “genocidal” war against the Nubian people. However, one man’s care has given hope to the Nubian people for over a decade, bringing healing in the Nuba Mountains.

Tom Catena’s work

Dr. Tom Catena established the Mother Mercy Hospital in the Nuba Mountains back in 2007. Since then, he has been the only doctor permanently stationed in the region for over twelve years. This anomaly stems from the fact that the Sudanese government does not allow humanitarian aid in its country. It is Catena’s faith that gives him the willpower to work, despite the government’s restriction. Catena’s defiance has led to the government bombing the hospital on more than one occasion. Working under such dangerous conditions, Catena has been advised several times to leave, but he has reaffirmed his commitment to the Nubian people, saying, “I felt that if I left, that would mean I valued my life over the lives of people I came to serve.”

Before his time in the Nuba Mountains, Dr. Catena volunteered at Saint Mary’s hospital in Nairobi for 6 years. He is now the sole doctor for a region the size of the state of Georgia with a population between 750,000 and 1 million. Catena and his 60 staff members are on call 24 hours at the 435-bed clinic. Dr. Catena typically treats 400 patients a day and estimates that he performs more than 1,000 surgeries per year. Along with treating malaria, tuberculosis, pneumonia and leprosy, Catena also treats victims of the ongoing war, further encouraging healing in the Nuba Mountains.

Catena’s impact has been so profound that he is often referred to as Jesus Christ by the Nubians who pray daily for his safety.

Awards and recognition

In 2015, Dr. Catena was ranked among Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. In 2017, his efforts were recognized again when he was named laureate of the 2017 Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity and awarded $100,000 to continue his work, as well as another $1 million to donate to charities of his choice. His work in Sudan has also been the topic of a documentary, The Heart of Nubia, which Dr. Catena hopes will shed light on the deteriorating conditions in Sudan.

Truly, Dr. Catena’s life story is an inspiration. The way he works toward healing in the Nuba Mountains is impacting thousands of lives, and in this war-torn nation, this aid is needed now more than ever.

– Henry Burkert
Photo: Flickr

 

Healthcare in AfricaMany think that underdeveloped countries in Africa will forever be stuck with poor healthcare. Yet, few media outlets show the innovative approaches African countries are taking to address this issue. In reality, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa are turning to the tech world to build better healthcare in Africa.

Mobile Technology Maps Medicinal Needs

The inefficient infrastructure in Africa puts people’s health at risk. Health clinics, which take some people hours to reach, are not always stocked with the medicine being requested by patients. For this reason, Uganda is utilizing mTRAC to construct a proper supply cycle.

On a weekly basis, healthcare workers report diseases, malaria cases and stock quantities of medicine via SMS. Then volunteer health workers in the Villiage Health Teams (VHTs) monitor the weekly count of malaria cases, severe malnutrition, ACT and amoxicillin stock.

The communities themselves provide the most impressive source of data. The people getting these services have the opportunity to provide feedback on healthcare issues such as the absence of health workers and out-of-stock medication. The data is processed onto a dashboard for the District Health Teams. The information is then filtered to the Ministry of Health in Kampala. Reporting their specific district and health facilities helps biostatisticians identify alerts and make informed decisions on drug redistribution and disease response initiatives.

There is a similar mobile pilot known as mHealth in Kenya. Novartis created mHealth to study medicine supplies for a more efficient distribution system. Pharmacists in Nairobi and Mombasa register patients in an SMS survey. The input creates a map of locations where medicine is needed. These digital technologies go a long way in delivering better healthcare in Africa.

A.I. Diagnostics Save Children

Mobile Apps also improve diagnostic procedures. Birth asphyxia is one of the world’s three leading causes of infant mortality. Annually, around 1.2 million infants die or suffer from disabilities such as cerebral palsy, deafness and paralysis due to perinatal asphyxia.

Ubenwa is a Nigerian A.I. that is programmed to detect asphyxia by analyzing the amplitude and frequency of an infant’s cry. The algorithm has been made available to smartphone users for an instant diagnosis. The availability of this app empowers Nigerian communities that do not have access to or cannot afford clinical alternatives.

Ugandan children between infancy and five years of age can receive an early diagnosis of pneumonia with a biomedical smart vest called Mama-Ope. Because of the similar symptoms of diseases like malaria, asthma or tuberculosis, it is not uncommon for pneumonia to be misdiagnosed. Mama-Ope is designed to avoid such inconsistencies in these diagnostics.

Patients with pneumonia die when the severity of the disease is not recognized. It is vital that viral and bacterial pneumonia are differentiated during diagnosis. Otherwise, the result is an improper, life-threatening prescription of drugs. The smart vest measures all vital signs simultaneously, which reduces diagnostic time. Health workers are also able to use the telemedicine device for tracking and monitoring their patients’ records. With the capability of cloud storage, Mama-Ope can change healthcare in Africa.

3-D Printer Transforms E-waste Into Prosthetic Limbs

In the small country of Togo, wedged between Ghana and Benin, lies the tech hub WoeLabs, famous for using toxic e-waste to create the first 3-D printer in Africa. Electronic waste shipped from Western countries has polluted Africa with digital dumps. The material is burned, leaving behind hazardous gases.

Togo’s neighboring country Ghana holds the largest scrapyard to cushion the globe’s annual 42 megatons of e-waste. WoeLabs in Togo’s capital, Lomé, made a 3-D Printer with Ghana’s digital scrap in one year. To date, WoeLabs has produced 20 printers. This work inspired other labs to change healthcare in Africa. Sudan is now using 3-D printing to make prosthetic limbs, and Not Impossible Labs is also helping amputees through this innovative and unconventional use of technology.

Through mobile systems such as mTRAC in Uganda and mHealth in Kenya, healthcare systems are better able to improve drug redistribution in health centers in need of medical supplies. The smart vest Mama-Ope contributes to healthcare reform by not only by diagnosing patients but also by storing records in the virtual cloud. Finally, the 3-D printers built in Togo ultimately exemplify how these communities of underresourced people can transform a hazardous situation into an opportunity to improve healthcare in Africa.

Crystal Tabares
Photo: Flickr

Health System in MalawiThe topic of healthcare has become a worldwide focus in recent years. A push toward government-funded health services has indicated a shift towards the mentality that healthcare is a universal human right. Malawi, one of the smaller countries in southeast Africa, has a low gross domestic product, with 51.5 percent of the population living in poverty. With life expectancy at 64.5 years, the health system in Malawi needs improvement.

The Ouagadougou Declaration

In 2008, the Ouagadougou Declaration on Primary Health Care and Health Systems in Africa was adopted by African Region Member states, which includes Malawi. This declaration focused on nine major issues within healthcare: health governance, service delivery, human resources, health financing, health information systems, new technologies, community ownership and participation, partnerships for development and funding for health research. The Ministry of Health in Malawi is responsible for the implementation and the regulation of these health entities.

Health System in Malawi

Currently, Malawi operates a three-tier health system. The first tier is primary healthcare. This sector is in effect to meet the needs of general medical care, which includes community and rural hospitals and maternity units. The second tier consists of district hospitals. These see patients who receive a referral from their primary care physician to receive specialized services. This includes laboratory work and rehabilitation services. The final tier is tertiary care provided by central hospitals. This tier covers extreme conditions that require highly specialized care such as treatment for specific diseases. The linkage for these services comes through an elaborate referral system that trickles down the health system.

Although the 2008 doctrine worked to lay out different measures to ensure the quality of health service delivery in Malawi, major health concerns still persist. HIV/AIDS continues to be the number one cause of death in Malawi: 21.7 percent of deaths in 2012 were linked to HIV/ AIDS. Acute Respiratory Infections account for 8.6 percent of deaths, while Malaria accounts for 40 percent of hospitalized individuals.

Issues With Funding

A large cause of a lack of quality health services in Malawi comes down to funding. Approximately $93 is spent on each person in Malawi annually, which is around 11.4 percent of the overall GDP. The U.S. spends around $10,000 on healthcare per capita annually.

Due to these issues, the focus for healthcare in Malawi has been working on minimizing the burden of disease, increasing cost effectiveness, providing more widespread access to the poor and implementing proven successful health intervention. Implementation has been laid out through new quality assurance policies, improving standards and accreditation, and improving performance management with the Health Strategic Plan, which was created in 2011. While the government in Malawi works to assure quality health services in Malawi, non-profit organizations are working to help provide those health services. A few of these organizations include Care, which has provided 30.2 million people in Malawi with sexual and reproductive health resources, and the Fistula Foundation, which has given over $300,000 of funding for physician training.

Work being done by the Malawian government and non-profit organizations around the world is helping to improve the health system in Malawi.

– Claire Bryan
Photo: Flickr