Inflammation and stories on healthcare

Cervical Cancer RatesCervical cancer is defined as a malignant tumor in the lowermost part of a woman’s uterus. Many cancers do not have prevention tactics. However, cervical cancer is one of the few that does. Doctors can fend off this cancer by putting a stop to the human papillomavirus virus (HPV), the pathogen that causes the disease. The treatment is a simple vaccine most preteens receive around the age of 11 or 12, as well as screenings using Papanicolaou (Pap) smears. However, treatments are not as easy for women in the developing world to receive, causing cervical cancer rates in these areas to surpass those in higher-income countries. 

The Stats

According to the National Library of Medicine, cervical cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide, with 80% of cases located in the developing world. Approximately 190,000 women in low-and-middle-income countries die from this illness each year. Poorer countries lack access to information and awareness about the risks and development of cervical cancer. Women can also encounter major cost barriers that block them from getting proper screenings. For example, in Zambia, cervical cancer is the most common cancer in the country, with 65.5 cases per 100,000 women. It accounts for 23% of all cancer cases. Another example of this phenomenon is in Tanzania. In 2020, 9,770 cervical cancer cases were reported for every 100,000 women. Of these cases, 6,695 were fatal.

Not only do many underdeveloped countries lack knowledge and screenings for cervical cancer, some do not have access to the HPV vaccine. Places such as Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba have yet to implement this vital inoculation process because of cost restrictions.

Missions to Help

Several organizations work with underdeveloped countries to find ways to diminish the barriers that create high cervical cancer rates. In 2020, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) came together to create a new plan for reducing cervical cancer numbers in impoverished places. The project’s goal is to heighten national support and awareness to mobilize and expand resources for prevention, research, diagnosis and treatments. 

Also in 2020, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) created a three-pillar plan to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem by the end of 2099. PAHO strives to make every country reach the following targets by 2030: 90% of girls vaccinated with the HPV vaccine by age 15, 70% of women having two high-precision screenings between ages 35 and 45 and 90% of diagnosed women receiving treatment.

How Everyone Can Help

According to the World Health Organization’s 2020 Cervical Cancer Elimination Modeling Consortium, cervical cancer rates are presumed to decrease by one-third of the current rate by 2030 through proper execution and continuous commitment to helping poorer countries fight against the disease. Findings show that if girls in low-and-middle-income countries receive HPV vaccinations at a young age, as well as screenings for cancer twice in their lifetime, cervical cancer rates will decrease by 89% in those areas. 

Fortunately, there are non-governmental organizations that help women suffering from cervical cancer, particularly in African countries. One example of this charity is the Elekta Foundation. Created in January of 2022, its main purpose is to educate and train professionals to build clinical capabilities in radiotherapy, develop tools to increase cancer care and create awareness and prevention tactics through local governments for African countries. Since the organization is fairly new, directors are still in the piloting process of their fundraising efforts in the sub-Saharan region of Africa. However, from the knowledge gained through this phase, the charity will be able to expand and give access to screenings, diagnostics and treatments all throughout Africa.

Ultimately, staying up to date with cancer-related news in developing countries can be potentially effective in amplifying their voices and addressing their challenges. Educating others about the situations in impoverished regions can also drive increased donations and potentially save lives. Therefore, advocating for the importance of cervical cancer prevention and raising awareness about ways to support the cause appears to be essential steps to actively participate in the cancer prevention movement.

– Nina Donlin
Photo: Unsplash

Poverty Eradication in FinlandAcross the world, more than 150 million people are homeless, around 783 million lack food security and more than half the global population lacks essential health services. Among countries, Finland stands out as a pioneer in implementing innovative solutions to combat mass poverty. The following is a brief look into innovations behind poverty eradication in Finland.

Decline in Homelessness

From 2006 to 2007, Finland experienced a spike in the number of homeless people, the first since 1998. This prompted a focus on addressing homelessness and led to innovations in poverty eradication. The main innovation Finland implemented was the Housing First policy. Enacted in 2008, the Housing First policy has dropped the number of homeless people from more than 8,000 to 3,686 in 2022. This correlates to a 50% reduction in the number of homeless people in Finland in 14 years. The Housing First policy works by granting homeless people access to long-term housing as opposed to the more common temporary shelters. These rental housing units are innovative as they are financially viable and provide the homeless with substantial social support, such as better employment opportunities.

As more homeless people acquired jobs, the unemployment rate dropped by 2.6% from 2015 to 2022. This has, in turn, stimulated Finland’s economy and compensated for the cost of these rental units, thereby highlighting the efficiency of the Housing First policy. Overall, the Housing First policy benefited more than 4,000 individuals through housing, and an additional 137,208 through job opportunities.

Stable Food Security

Food security has become a non-issue in Finland due to innovative approaches dominating the Food and Agriculture industry. One such innovation is the prevalence of vertical farms. Vertical farms have revolutionized food security within Finland as they maximize space (no need for arable land), are pesticide-free, decrease water usage by 90%, cultivate up to 2.5 times more yield and have rapid scaling potential (from 500 to 20,000 sq.m). Vertical farms have proven to be positively transformative as they have successfully increased access to cheaper and healthier foods. Each vertical farm, such as the one in Pirkkala, Finland, has the potential to feed more than 20,000 people.

Another innovation in Finland is the recent creation of Solein, a natural protein produced using air and electricity. The creation of Solein has the potential to increase food security in Finland as it exceeds the bounds of traditional proteins. Solein can be used in meat, cheese, dairy, bread, pasta, drinks, etc. Solein’s versatility makes it suitable for various food products, offering a cost-effective alternative for nutritious food seekers.

As a result of these food security innovations, Finland achieved a score of 83.7 on the Global Food Security Index (GFSI) in 2022, the highest among countries. As opposed to the world average of 11.7 % in 2022, Finland’s food insecurity rate remains relatively low at 2.5%. The country’s innovations have prevented 511,233 people from falling into poverty.

Effective Health Care

Finland is lauded for its health care system as it offers a variety of services at affordable prices. One way Finland achieves this is through the innovative Kela Card. In terms of health care, the Kela Card plays a key role, in reimbursing people for medical prescriptions, ill-related absences, travel and a portion of private health care expenses. The Kela Card is an integral component of Finland’s health care system because every citizen and permanent resident of Finland receives it. The Kela Card also provides social security and employment benefits. Its very design allows it to assist those who are struggling to maintain a stable income and provides them with social benefits. This has, in turn, benefitted more than 360,000 people in Finland each year.

Innovations in poverty eradication in Finland extend to medical hardware as well. Finnish tech company Sooma developed a portable medical device for depression treatment. This device is portable and requires no expertise to use, thus reducing the medical costs associated with depression. Another medical instrument, created by Optomed, captures retinal images and diagnoses diabetic retinopathy, a leading cause of blindness worldwide. This device is innovative as it is the most affordable camera of its kind. The efficiency of medical equipment in Finland has allowed people to avoid the excessive costs associated with modern health care.

What is Next?

Finland continues to pursue poverty eradication through ongoing innovation. These modern solutions have already contributed to a 1.4% drop in poverty rates between 2019 and 2020. Ultimately, the success of Finland’s innovations could serve as a model and inspiration for other countries looking to alleviate poverty.  

– Manav Yarlagadda
Photo: Unsplash

Healthcare in RwandaIn 2016, more than half of Rwanda’s population, 52%, lived below the international poverty line of $2.15 per day. Despite this, Rwanda boasts a 90% vaccination rate and 91% of Rwandans have access to universal health coverage. The quality of health care in Rwanda may come as a surprise, but the country’s system could serve as a blueprint for other nations recovering from conflicts.

Rwanda’s Healthcare History

The story of health care in Rwanda has not always been one of high quality and success. The brutal genocide against the Tutsi people in 1994 caused a collapse in the health care system. This led to the destruction of hospitals, with doctors fleeing the country amid the emergence of several cases of HIV/AIDS.

The situation was dire and required drastic action. To make things even more challenging, 83% of the Rwandan population lived in rural areas. This meant that the government could not simply focus its attention on building hospitals in urban areas, as this would leave the majority of the population without a local health center. Instead, the government had to focus on spreading its health care efforts across the country to ensure that everyone had adequate access to medical care in Rwanda.

The Transformation of Health Care in Rwanda

The Rwandan government has recognized the importance of rural health coverage and has adopted a community-based health care approach. To achieve this, the government initiated the training of health care professionals in each of Rwanda’s 15,000 rural villages.

In these villages, the health care professionals mainly functioned as information providers to offer preventative healthcare services. The information they shared with community members played a vital role in preventing unnecessary hospital visits, thereby preventing overwhelming the health care system.

During the post-genocide reconstruction period, Rwanda partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) to enhance health care access by constructing health centers.

Despite the significant improvement due to the health centers, there was still a need for more effort. Prior to 2020, the average citizen had to walk for 95 minutes to reach the nearest health center. To address this challenge, the government built health posts between rural communities and health centers, reducing the walk time to 47 minutes.

Health posts play a crucial role in improving health care access in Rwanda. These posts enable patients to consult with health care professionals, receive primary care and if necessary, get referrals to specialists at health centers or hospitals. The Rwandan government aims to further reduce the walk time to 25 minutes by 2024, and it has already made promising progress, constructing 1,179 posts since 2021.

The Benefits of Rwanda’s Health Care Policies

Healthcare improvements in Rwanda have significantly transformed the lives of its people. One such example is Musanabera, a mother whose baby needed medical attention due to a cough and fever. Fortunately, a nearby health post was recently established in her community. Due to its proximity, she only had to take a short walk to get the necessary help for her baby.

Musanabera recalls past experiences where medical assistance was necessary, but the almost 2-hour walk meant that by the time a person reached a health center, their health had already deteriorated and the situation had become much more dangerous.

Musanabera’s story is not unique, and there are many others whose lives have seen drastic improvement as a result of the government’s healthcare policy. Additionally, 91% of Rwandans have universal health coverage, which has several benefits. For example, vaccination rates increased from 30% to 90% between 1994 and 2015. Universal health coverage has also enabled a substantial improvement in living standards and life expectancy.

A Blueprint for Others?

The case study of health care in Rwanda is useful, as it provides a powerful lesson for other countries scarred by conflict. By developing a community-based approach to health care, the Rwandan government was able to improve access to high-quality medical care for its citizens.

– Tom Eccles
Photo: Unsplash

Poverty in the DRCThe Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), despite its vast mineral wealth, faces significant challenges in socio-economic development due to high poverty levels. Political corruption, limited economic opportunities and ongoing conflict all contribute to the persistent poverty in the country. The following is a brief look into the extent and causes of poverty in the DRC.

Causes of Poverty

Gaining insight into the factors contributing to poverty is essential when analyzing the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to the International Trade Administration, the country holds significant untapped potential. In 2020, it emerged as the leading cobalt producer, accounting for 41% of global production, and ranked sixth in diamond production with 3.7 million carats. Despite agriculture being the largest sector, it has not effectively mitigated poverty, which has persisted for decades.

Statistics and Reasons for Poverty in the DRC

According to the World Bank, a significant portion of the population in the DRC, approximately 60 million people or 62%, live on less than $2.15 per day as of 2022. In 2021, the GDP per capita in the DRC was $577.20.

The prevalence of political corruption has been a major contributor to the high levels of poverty in the DRC. Political interests have taken precedence over crucial socio-economic matters, hindering the country’s development. The nation has faced persistent political conflicts due to lengthy presidential reigns, further exacerbating the challenges that citizens face.

Rather than prioritizing economic development and improving the lives of people, political issues and policies have taken precedence in the DRC. According to Africa’s Organised Crime Index, low salaries and poor treatment within the police force have resulted in a lack of seriousness in addressing monetary-related crimes, allowing perpetrators to evade punishment.

The life expectancy of a Congolese person at birth is only 59 years, as reported by the World Bank in 2021. This figure is significantly lower compared to many other countries, such as the U.S., where the average stands at 76 years. The underdevelopment of public sectors, coupled with low-income levels for the majority of Congolese people, perpetuates the cycle of poverty in the country.

Taking Action

Oxfam, an organization that has been working in the DRC since 1961, has played a vital role in promoting sustainable access to water and good hygiene practices. Through local initiatives, communities and schools have received the necessary support to maintain their access to these essential resources. Oxfam’s impactful efforts include providing life-saving aid to 700,000 displaced individuals, ensuring access to clean water and food.

Coopi, an Italian humanitarian organization, is also actively engaged in the DRC. Its initiatives encompass various areas such as providing free health care, offering support to malnourished mothers and children and promoting agricultural activities by assisting farmers in cultivating and marketing their products.

These organizations, among others, are committed to improving the living conditions of the Congolese people. By imparting knowledge on securing basic needs, they contribute to positive changes in poverty levels in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

– Christelle Wealth-Mukendi
Photo: Courtesy of Christelle Wealth-Mukendi

Hong Kong’s Elderly
Hong Kong is a special administrative region in China, located at the south-eastern point of China. The region covers Hong Kong Island, Lantau Island, the Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories, including 261 outlying islands. The constitutional document of the “Basic Law” ensures that Hong Kong maintains its autonomy, due to its integral concept of “one country, two systems.” This grants the region its own independent executive, judicial and legislative power. As of 2022, the region had an estimated population of 7.35 million. Despite being efficient, Hong Kong’s health care is reported to be underdeveloped. In order to better serve its aging population, the government is making a change to its system. Currently, the aim of health care is to become more centered on community prevention. And the recent launch of Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s health management app reflects a step forward in improving Hong Kong’s elderly health care.

Hong Kong Has an Aging Population

The region has one of the world’s most rapidly aging populations. By 2039, those aged 65 and above are projected to increase from 1.5 million in 2021 to 2.52 million, comprising 31% of the population. Similarly, those aged 80 and above will increase from 0.4 million in 2021 to 0.93 million in 2039. This will be an increase from 5% to 11.5%. As people age, the prevalence of chronic diseases and illnesses rises, leading to increased health care demands. As of 2020-2021, 47% of people who suffered health problems were aged 65 and above. This is around 2.2 million people, with estimates suggesting that the number could increase to 3 million by 2039.

Elderly Poverty

Hong Kong’s Oxfam found that up to 85% of its elderly cannot retire due to financial hardship. In 2020, a situation report revealed that 45% of citizens aged 65 and above live in poverty. Many have no choice but to keep working in order to support their unemployed spouse, leaving them to doubly work as caregivers. Consequently, the elderly become more susceptible to illnesses. The fees for government medical services are increasing and waiting times exceed one year. An elderly person has to wait an average of three years before being admitted to a subsidized home, with more than 6,000 individuals passing away during this waiting period.

Reforming Health Care

In December 2022, the government introduced the Primary Healthcare Blueprint, aimed at enhancing Hong Kong’s elderly health care. Its main objective is to focus on disease prevention rather than focusing on treatment. This will improve the population’s health status and provide functional healthcare services that will form a sustainable health care system. Considering the increase in service demand, the Hospital Authority is monitoring the use of various medical services to better serve the public.

The mHealth App Provides Interactive Nursing Support

Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s School of Nursing has developed a mobile health management app for the elderly in collaboration with a local telecommunications company. The app includes 24/7 nursing interaction, allowing users to initiate video calls with nurses for physical and mental support. The app is also connected to a health monitoring device, which can trigger early interventions by alerting a nurse or caregiver when it detects abnormalities in vital signs.

Positive Impact: Improving Quality of Life

A pilot study involving 221 elderly participants aged 60 and above occurred at five elderly service centers of the Hong Kong Lutheran Social Service. Each participant had at least one chronic health condition such as hypertension or diabetes. After using the app for six months, the study reported reduced depression levels and decreased use of medical services. Additionally, participants experienced an increase in self-efficacy and an improved quality of life.

Why Does this Matter?

The combination of digital technology and nursing assistance can help reduce the pressure on public medical services. The use of PolyU’s mobile app is a significant step toward improving Hong Kong’s elderly health care and alleviating its elderly poverty. Research teams recommend the use of digital technology for health management and plan to integrate artificial intelligence into the app to better cater to the needs of the elderly. With the growing demand for public medical services in the face of its aging population, Hong Kong’s latest app development demonstrates the use of innovative solutions to aid the elderly and general health care.

– Grace Clay
Photo: Pexels

Doctors Without Borders
Doctors Without Borders, also known as Médecins Sans Frontiers (MSF), is a global organization dedicated to providing essential medical care worldwide. The program collaborates with countries in need of emergency medical assistance. As reported by The Guardian, the devastating Turkey-Syria earthquakes of February 2023 resulted in the loss of 47,000 lives, with thousands of people missing and millions displaced from their homes. Doctors Without Borders has been actively involved in providing aid and support to the affected areas. Here is how Doctors Without Borders has been helping people in Turkey during the recent crisis.

6 Ways That Doctors Without Borders is Helping the People in Turkey

  1. Rapid Assessment: The medical teams from MSF in northern Syria immediately provided urgent medical care to patients following the disaster. In Idlib, the organization successfully treated more than 200 patients within the first hour of the crisis. Due to the extensive damage, numerous hospitals, including MSF’s two maternity centers in Northwestern Syria, became unusable.
  2. Medical Assistance: MSF provided medical assistance to 3,465 injured individuals in Syria, ensuring they received the necessary care. It also supplied medical kits to hospitals and clinics. In Idlib, MSF established mobile clinics to offer ambulance services, facilitating the transfer of critically ill patients for proper treatment. Although MSF was not initially present in Turkey during the earthquake, it swiftly intervened to provide aid.
  3. Mental Health Support: In the aftermath of the disasters, the destruction of numerous buildings and homes posed significant challenges for the survivors, making it exceedingly difficult for them to cope with the immense devastation and its repercussions. In response, MSF initiated efforts to offer psychological assistance to those who had lost their loved ones and residences. The fear of earthquakes left people feeling unsafe even indoors, leading to a range of mental health issues, including sleep disturbances, aftershock-related anxiety, nightmares and high levels of stress. To address these concerns, MSF volunteers collaborated with local non-governmental organizations to provide specialized psychological support, particularly for children, through the implementation of various therapeutic activities such as drawing, dancing and music.
  4. Water and Sanitation: In the affected areas, while the urgency for rapid assessment has diminished, crucial future needs still require attention. These include the provision of clean water, sanitation, hygiene and education, among others. As of April 2023, MSF has made significant progress in meeting these needs. The organization installed 61 water tanks, 312 toilets and 160 showers, and has provided over 2.5 million cubic meters of water to the crisis-affected population. Additionally, the NGO has donated substantial amounts of firewood, fruits, vegetables, hygiene kits, tents and other essential materials. MSF’s efforts have also resulted in the implementation of clean running water in the camps, effectively safeguarding the people from waterborne diseases.
  5. Collaborations: In collaboration with local partners, MSF in Turkey teams provided 38,154 hygiene kits, 2,624,721 liters of water, served 390,500 meals and distributed more than 50 tons of firewood by April 25, 2023. Generous donations from individuals around the world have greatly contributed to MSF’s efforts in assisting those who the disaster affected. All MSF operations partner with local organizations, such as Imece Inisiyatifi, Yardım Konvoyu, Maya Vakfı and others. These partnerships have been instrumental in providing aid to affected people in Turkey located in Adıyaman, Gaziantep, Hatay, Kahramanmaraş, Kilis and Malatya provinces.

Looking Ahead

The efforts of MSF teams were vital in providing essential aid and medical assistance to the earthquake survivors in Turkey and Syria. They worked diligently to assess medical needs quickly and offer psychological and hygiene support, ensuring that the affected communities had access to basic facilities. Additionally, MSF teams provided training to local staff to ensure the sustainability of their efforts. Their primary focus was on enhancing the capacity of health care and relief services for those facing crises.

– Gurjot Kaur
Photo: Flickr

Improvements in Neonatal Health Care
Neonatal mortality is a pressing global epidemic that claims the lives of approximately 6,400 infants under one-month-old every day worldwide. Reducing the number of global neonatal deaths is possible through improvements in neonatal health care.

The prominence of neonatal mortality closely aligns with fiscal poverty and access to adequate health care. In 2019, BMC Pregnancy Childbirth published a study by Yousra A. Mohamoud and others revealing that in high-poverty nations, children are 38% more likely to die during their first month of life. Underfunded hospital systems in developing nations often lack the necessary personnel and resources to provide quality neonatal and maternal care. This leads to a higher number of home births without proper sanitation in low-income areas, along with difficulty acquiring crucial vaccinations for newborns.

Improvements in Neonatal Health Care: Chlorhexidine Gel

Few physicians could have anticipated that an ingredient in mouthwash would be a key player in improving neonatal health care, but oftentimes solutions present themselves in unexpected ways. Over the past decade, chlorhexidine, an antiseptic used in store-bought mouthwashes, has become a revolutionary agent in newborn health care.

In developed nations, it is typical to cut a baby’s umbilical cord and allow the stump to fall off without any special treatment. However, in developing nations, where birth conditions often lack proper sanitation, bacteria including Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli can enter the stump and cause fatal infections.

In 2012, the United Nations released a report encouraging the use of chlorhexidine to clean newborns’ umbilical cords, claiming it could save nearly half a million children’s lives within 5 years. It sounded like a cut-and-dry solution to umbilical infections, yet, there was a catch; liquid chlorhexidine was not widely available in impoverished areas.

Responding to this challenge, scientists at GSK Pharmaceuticals formulated a chlorhexidine gel that could be easily applied and transported. The gel was designed to withstand the high temperatures of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia and it has reached more than 30,000 newborns so far. A study that occurred in Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan suggests that the use of chlorhexidine gel reduces neonatal mortality by an impressive 23%.

The Brilliance Lamp

Another common health threat that infants face is untreated jaundice. Every year, 6 million newborns suffer from jaundice, which is a build-up of bilirubin in the bloodstream, without receiving sufficient treatment.

Typically, jaundice is treated with specially-engineered phototherapy lamps, but in low-income areas, hospitals rely on expensive, inefficient and difficult-to-replace fluorescent lightbulbs. About 95% of global phototherapy technology in low-income health care systems fails to meet basic performance standards.

D-Rev, a California nonprofit focusing on medical innovation, noticed this gap in health care technology and began to formulate a solution called the Brilliance Jaundice Lamp.

The Brilliance Jaundice Lamp is a phototherapy machine that replaces traditional light bulbs with long-lasting LEDs. While a typical bulb can treat 50 babies, an LED bulb can treat 1,000, making it a cost-effective and low-maintenance model for health care systems.

As of 2020, health care workers have used the Brilliance Lamp to treat more than 500,000 babies and the lamp has saved 7,500 lives. D-Rev has distributed the lamp to developing countries and rural hospital systems worldwide and is currently dominating the Indian neonatal health market.

PeriGen AI Software

Low-income hospitals often struggle with low nurse-to-patient ratios, making it nearly impossible to continuously monitor infants for health issues. However, with PeriGen AI, overworked nurses have one less task on their plate.

PeriGen’s fetal monitoring technology scans infants’ vitals without interruption, transmitting data to PeriGen’s Houston, Texas headquarters for assessment and sending data back instantly, notifying doctors if there is any change in regularity. This allows a single remote command center to monitor multiple facilities in rural or understaffed hospitals.

Dziwenji Makombe, head nurse matron at the Area 25 Hospital in Malawi, shared, “Adopting the use of artificial intelligence to inform health care providers about the fetal condition has proven to be the best quality improvement strategy in preventing birth asphyxia and stillbirths in this setting.”

PeriGen’s groundbreaking use of artificial intelligence has allowed for detailed neonatal monitoring and timely treatment, saving countless lives. Thousands of health professionals across the world currently use it.

Improvements in Neonatal Health Care Through Scientific Ingenuity

From 1990 to 2020, the number of neonatal deaths across the globe decreased from 5 million to 2.4 million, with scientific innovation playing a massive role. Using chlorhexidine as a post-birth treatment, the Brilliance lamp and PeriGen’s AI are just a slim sampling of the creativity and dedication to change that is transforming the neonatal health care field.

– Elena Unger
Photo: Flickr

Kenyan Health Care System
The 3D printing approach, also known as additive manufacturing, is a method of creating three-dimensional objects by building up layers of material based on a computer-generated design or blueprint. Unlike traditional production processes that involve cutting or subtracting material from a larger piece, 3D printing, therefore, adds material, resulting in less waste. To print an object using a 3D printer, one must create the design blueprint on a computer and save it on a memory card. Then, one must insert the card into the 3D printer, which melts a plastic material called a filament to produce the desired object. This technology is improving the Kenyan health care system in several different ways.

Why People Are Using 3D Printing

In response to the need for medical and laboratory equipment in rural areas of Kenya, 3D printing emerged as a viable and efficient solution to address accessibility challenges in the country’s health care system during a humanitarian crisis. Engineers from Pennsylvania State University’s med-tech startup, Kijenzi (meaning “little maker” in Swahili), recognized the potential of using portable 3D printers to produce affordable medical equipment in Kenya.

However, they soon realized that accessing the necessary 3D printing design blueprints posed a significant obstacle. As a result, Kijenzi developed a virtual cloud system that enables doctors and medical professionals to access the files online, with approximately 400 parts available, which the machinery can print in 3D. Additionally, Kijenzi is training individuals across the country to use 3D printers to produce these medical devices, offering them livelihood opportunities.

The Benefits

The Kijenzi 3D printing system is now helping manufacture parts for dialysis machines, microscope parts, incubator latches, prosthetic limbs and various other medical equipment and devices. One of the high points of this 3D printing system is that one can use it to print on demand and as necessary, in what was once a lengthy and unpredictable importation process. As well as cutting down waiting times, the items that the 3D printing system manufactures are completely customized and are of a higher quality than similar items that hospitals would have imported previously.

By virtue of the 3D printing system, hospitals can now easily replace parts from broken or worn-out equipment which require urgent replacement, keeping many hospital departments running when they would have had to close previously. It has also saved certain medical machinery from obsolescence by allowing the reproduction of parts from digital blueprints rather than becoming discontinued from a larger factory’s catalog. The higher production volumes and turnover of items also allow the Kenyan health care system to provide medical equipment to countries like Somalia and Ethiopia in times of need.

The use of 3D printing in the Kenyan health care system is not free from its own set of limitations, unfortunately. The filament, which is the printing material, requires importing, which can be time-consuming as well as expensive. However, there is a high potential to overcome this obstacle — some have suggested that printing the filaments available in Nairobi could be a better option than imported ones. And using locally sourced filaments would reduce the overall cost of the 3D-printed equipment. Additionally, it would speed up waiting times for the import of filaments, allowing people to receive medical attention more quickly.

Looking Ahead

Overall, 3D printing has revolutionized the Kenyan health care system and has no doubt impacted the lives of many people in Kenya in a positive way. It has not only improved the efficiency of Kenya’s medical system but has created jobs and afforded people in Kenya a more secure and self-reliant medical service.

– Molly Wallace
Photo: Flickr

Health Care Workers in EthiopiaThere is a lack of health care workers in Ethiopia, particularly in the areas with the highest poverty rates. This has significantly impacted the availability and caliber of health care services, thereby aggravating public health issues. Trading Economics reports, “Physicians (per 1,000 people) in Ethiopia was at 0.1059 in 2020, according to the World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially recognized sources.” The country has one of the lowest health care worker-to-population ratios.

Inadequate Wages and Training Institutions

Ethiopia has around 30 recognized medical schools as of 2013. This is not enough to satisfy the needs of the nation in terms of health care. There is also the problem of low wages for medical staff. A 2018 Global Health Action article reports, “In multiple job holding, staff [members] augment basic salaries by engaging in a wide range of academic and non-academic activities within and outside their home institutions. How the practice is viewed and judged varies. Many recognize and understand the underlying reasons.” According to a World Bank report, blaming medical workers for looking elsewhere for additional income is hard considering the low wages they receive.

Migrating Professionals

Inadequate pay and unfavorable working conditions, along with the lack of resources to properly treat patients, are the main factors driving the exodus of health care professionals. According to Reuters, “The doctors identified 117 deaths and dozens of complications, including infections, amputations and kidney failure,” which was due to “shortages of essential medicines and equipment.” These unfortunate trends suggest that increasing pay and benefits, better workspaces and tools and professional training opportunities could encourage qualified health care employees to stay back.

Another strategy could involve encouraging health care professionals who have left the nation to return. According to the Ethiopian Ministry of Health, an estimated 2,000 Ethiopian medical experts leave the nation every year. A 2012 study reports that “around 53% of medical students hoped to migrate upon graduating, particularly to the United States [U.S.] and Europe.” The government may address this by providing incentives like tax rebates and debt forgiveness programs to medical professionals to return and work in the Ethiopian health care system.

Ongoing Efforts

The Ministry of Health of Ethiopia launched the Five-Year National Health Equity Strategy in August 2022, as highlighted in a high-level advocacy workshop organized by the World Health Organization (WHO). Dr. Nonhlanhla Diamini, Deputy WHO Representative to Ethiopia, emphasized the organization’s commitment to ensuring the right to good health and well-being for every Ethiopian. The successful implementation of strategies like the National Health Equity Strategy could be crucial in attaining this goal, and WHO is ready to collaborate with the Ministry of Health and other partners to make it a reality.

Looking Ahead

Despite the challenges of a shortage of health care workers and inadequate resources in the Ethiopian health care system, efforts are underway to address these issues. The launch of the Five-Year National Health Equity Strategy is indicative of the government’s commitment to equitable access to quality health care for all Ethiopians. Collaborative initiatives with organizations like WHO aim to strengthen the health care workforce, improve working conditions and incentivize the return of skilled professionals, ultimately leading to better health outcomes for the population.

– Lorraine Lin

Photo: Flickr

Treating Clubfoot
Clubfoot is a congenital condition found in babies, where one or both feet turn inwards, making it difficult to walk if left untreated. In economically thriving countries, clubfoot is an easily treatable condition, but the same is not true in developing nations where it can impact and determine a child’s entire life. On the bright side, some organizations are treating clubfoot and making a difference.

About Clubfoot

Roughly 200,000 babies are born with clubfoot every year, with only 20% being in high-income countries where treatment commences quickly after birth. Article 26 in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states that all people with physical conditions should be able to attend rehabilitation centers for treatment. However, many citizens in low-income nations do not get this opportunity. Sadly, numerous cases are neglected and turn into debilitating life-long conditions.

When treating clubfoot, surgery is often unnecessary. Doctors can straighten the foot using the Ponseti Method, a treatment that works in roughly 95% of instances. It incorporates massage of the affected foot and placement in a plaster cast, allowing the muscles to loosen so the bones can grow properly. Once the position is assumed, children will wear tailored boots for five years to keep their feet in place. It is the most favored method of clubfoot treatment, with proven success for more than 50 years. Though the procedure is uncomplicated, the lack of health care centers is often an obstacle for those seeking treatment in Africa. For this reason, many cases of clubfoot remain undiagnosed.

Clubfoot Affects Mental Health

People with untreated clubfoot bear weight unevenly as they begin walking, developing wounds on the weight-bearing side. Furthermore, uneven weight-bearing often means shoes wear down more quickly.

However, those with clubfoot in the developing world do not just suffer from physical challenges. Often due to archaic cultural mentalities, those bearing a disability may endure stigmatization. Many citizens in remote parts of Africa believe spirits cause disabilities as a punishment for alleged misconduct. When these children grow into disabled adults, society shuns and neglects them, making it almost impossible to find employment or form relationships. Those who have become immobile do not have much independence. They often rely on family members who may hold grudges for their lack of participation in housework. Mothers can often face blame for their child’s disability, sometimes leading to marriage breakdown and divorce. This can cause financial insecurity for many women who rely on their husband’s wages to feed their children.

It is due to the work of the following charities that children born with clubfoot or who have developed “neglected clubfoot” as a result of lack of treatment in impoverished countries can access the medical care available and begin to look forward to better living conditions in the future.

Hope Walks

Hope Walks is a Christian charity dealing with clubfoot treatment. It also educates parents and trains health care professionals to deliver the best care possible to patients. Its mission is to remove the burdens plaguing those affected by clubfoot and their families and give people hope as they look toward the future. Since commencing its clubfoot program in 2006, the charity has changed the lives of 150,000 children in 15 countries suffering from the condition.

The program encourages donors to commit to monthly amounts by joining the Clubfoot Crew. Each month, donors receive emails sharing inspirational stories of children now walking unaided following treatment, so they can see exactly where their donations go. Small donations to the nonprofit have life-changing impacts. Just $15 a month can provide a child with a brace that they will use until they are 5 years old. A monthly donation of $40 for one year provides a child with all hospital appointments and necessary treatment. As the charity’s president Scott Reichenbach explains, donations are “the difference between a life of begging on the streets and a life of hope.”


Founded in 2010, MiracleFeet brings the knowledge and quality of care present in high-income countries to developing nations. Now functioning in 36 countries and spanning four continents, MiracleFeet has provided more than 70,000 children with the help necessary to combat clubfoot. Last year, the charity helped 12,000 people, more people in one year than ever before. This was a remarkable achievement considering the COVID-19 pandemic erased four years of progress in alleviating global poverty.

MiracleFeet is part of the Global Clubfoot Initiative, a partnership dedicated to treating clubfoot and eradicating the condition through effective treatment plans by 2030. The scheme raises awareness of clubfoot, ensures communities understand it is a curable disability and provides health care workers with training to guarantee all children receive a diagnosis.

Looking Forward

Organizations like Hope Walks and MiracleFeet are making a significant impact in treating clubfoot and improving the lives of affected children. Through ongoing initiatives and partnerships, these organizations provide accessible and effective treatment, educate parents and health care professionals and combat the stigma associated with disabilities. These efforts offer hope to children and families, ensuring a brighter future and the opportunity for better living conditions.

– Yasmin Hailes
Photo: Flickr