Inflammation and stories on medicine

drones can save livesThird-world development programs use drones to advance projects more quickly and with fewer expenses. Pilots can volunteer for projects that provide humanitarian aid to remote areas, such as delivering medicine, blood, specimens for lab testing, vaccines and anti-venom. A skilled drone pilot can provide support across the globe to help people in need. Drone pilots can support relief efforts after major natural disasters, and civilian drone pilots (who have the proper authorization) can work with officials in search and rescue missions, provide aerial photography data to help find lost persons, map out disaster areas and help assess damage to an area. Here’s how a drone pilot can use their skills to help save lives around the world.

Four Ways Drone Pilots Can Save Lives

  1. Volunteer Organizations: One of the most well-established humanitarian drone pilot associations is the UAV Aviators Organization founded by Dr. Patrick Meier. This group has more than 3,300 members worldwide and represents 120 countries. Of those members, more than 600 are drone pilots. A drone pilot can find out about volunteer opportunities by registering with the Humanitarian UAV Network and agreeing to the UAV Humanitarian Code of Conduct. There is no cost to join this association. Another volunteer organization is S.W.A.R.M. More than 7,500 SAR pilots volunteer with this organization, serving more than 40 countries. It has an active Facebook group with more than 4,400 members. 
  2. Third-World Development Projects: The World Bank reports there are many benefits when using drones for development projects in third-world nations. Some benefits include easier planning, faster project implementation, less risk to local workers and communities, lower operational costs and surveying before access infrastructure is built in remote areas. The World Bank seeks drone pilots as volunteers and interns for drone flying projects to work in land use administration, forest management, coastal zone protection and environmental risk assessment. Drone pilots can help with medical deliveries, firefighting, contamination sensing and weather prediction. They can also help with guarding endangered animals and natural resource conservation.In 2016, the World Bank executed a drone project to conduct mapping in Kosovo. This mapping occurred after the Balkan wars ended in the late 1990s. The $13.86 million Real Estate and Cadastre Project was operated by the Global Land and Geospatial Unit of the World Bank. Women from Kosovo, who lost their husbands and sons in the wars, worked alone or with other women to rebuild their homes. The wars made it impossible to prove the land was theirs because all the documentation was lost. Without the ability to prove ownership, they could not work the farmland or get loans from the bank. These women had no ability to pay for traditional surveyors. Surveying the land through the use of drones helped them register their rightful ownership to their family’s land.
  3. Disaster Relief With Search and Rescue: Coordinated efforts with local authorities create the most beneficial effects. It is important for pilots to avoid any unintentional consequences of drone deployments in disaster zones, which might interfere with official rescue and relief efforts. Following Typhoon Yolanda, which hit the Philippines in 2013, four key drones were launched by different local and international groups to support the relief efforts. They were used to discover safe and effective areas for NGOs to set up camp, identify passable roads, assess the damage from the storm surge and flooding and determine which villages were most affected by the typhoon. Drone surveillance determined some of the most affected areas, and the data was given to different humanitarian organizations to aid the relief efforts. In Dulag, aerial imagery was used to determine which areas had the greatest need for new shelters. This allowed Medair, a Swiss humanitarian organization, to identify how much material was needed and better allocate their resources to help people as quickly as possible.
  4. Vaccine and Medical Supplies Delivery: In December 2018, a drone delivery brought a life-saving vaccine to a remote part of the island of Vanuatu in the South Pacific near Australia. With funding for the humanitarian project supported by UNICEF and the government of Australia, volunteers working with a company called Swoop Aero were able to deliver vaccines through 25 miles of rough mountainous terrain. Drone use helped the vaccines maintain the proper temperature due to the speed available through drone transport and delivered them and other critical medical supplies to remote areas.In Africa, UNICEF funds a company called Zipline. The staff of volunteers delivers vaccines and other medical supplies by using drones. The deliveries have been made to remote villages in the countries of Rwanda and Ghana since 2016. UNICEF sponsors other projects of a similar kind in Malawi and Papua New Guinea. It may take days to reach these remote villages by car or on foot. A drone can fly to them in minutes and land in a small jungle clearing a plane or helicopter could not use. UNICEF also sponsors programs that use drones to transport specimens from remote locations back to laboratories for testing. This helps health care practitioners make the correct diagnosis and administer life-saving treatment to patients quickly.

Drone pilots have plenty of ways to use their skills to help fight poverty and get involved in global relief efforts. Pilots are encouraged to volunteer to help out locally and/or internationally. As Dr. Peter Meir says, “The best use of a drone is to save a life.”

Mark Sheehan
Photo: Unsplash

Emergency Medical Care in Developing NationsNearly 88 percent of injury-related deaths happen in poverty-stricken countries. There is an urgent demand for emergency care in low- to middle-income countries. One study found that, in these countries, emergency professionals see 10 times the number of cases that a primary doctor does, and the rate of death in these areas is extremely high.

Many emergency care centers in developing countries are severely underfunded and under-resourced. Some lack basic medical instruments while others have medical professionals that work without training or any sort of protocol. The burden of emergency medical care in poor nations is not only due to the lack of medical care or training, but also poor infrastructure. Together for Safer Roads outlines the difficulties presented by deteriorating roads or indirect routes that affect both transport to the emergency scene and transport to the hospital. Improving these roads reduces the likelihood of crashes and unsafe traffic routes and increase the efficiency of trauma transport.

Kenya

Another study done by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) has outlined a significant lack of emergency care. Only 25 percent of Kenyans are covered by health insurance, meaning that many must pay for medical care themselves. With so many bearing the financial burden of medical care, it is less likely they would seek it in an emergency.

There are barely any skilled professionals working in emergency medical clinics, resulting in a lack of specific training for emergency medical situations. However, it has recently been recognized as a specialty by both the Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board and the Clinical Officers Council (COC). The other issue at hand in Kenya is the lack of resources. The nation is severely lacking in ambulances, and due to the significant cost of transport by ambulance, many patients take private means like taxis. There is also not a reliable dispatch system in Kenya, making the rapid response of an ambulance unlikely.

The study concluded that there needs to be a creation of new policies at a national level to improve access to emergency care. It also states it is crucial that Kenya recognize emergency care as a significant part of the healthcare system in order to develop authority for emergency response, improve the expensive cost of emergency care and implement a communication network for an emergency system.

Haiti

The country of Haiti has been struck by several natural disasters, making the need for an adequate emergency system crucial. One of the largest issues is the location of clinics and hospitals. The country has around 60, but they are primarily located in larger cities, leaving rural areas with little to no access to trauma care.

Basic necessities like gloves and medicine are things patients have to pay for before they can receive care. Even asthma attacks can be fatal because some cannot afford the inhaler. Also, the medical instruments patients have to pay for out-of-pocket are not necessarily the most up-to-date or high quality. Similarly to Kenya, medical professionals are rarely trained to deal with emergency situations. However, some groups have begun the effort to train professionals in Haiti to be prepared for emergency situations. Dr. Galit Sacajiu founded the Haiti Medical Education Project for this purpose after the earthquakes of 2010. Her courses not only train the nurses and doctors of Haiti but also provide them with the knowledge of what to do with the little or substandard medical instruments they have access to.

Economic Benefit of Improvement

If the amount of injury-related deaths that occur in developing nations was reduced to that of high-income countries, over 2 million lives could be saved. The same study also set out to find the economic benefit of improving emergency care. They found that, if these deaths were reduced, it could add somewhere between 42 to 59 million disability-adjusted life years averted. By using the human capital approach, they also conclude that there is an added economic benefit to the reduction in mortality of $241 to $261 billion per year.

There are several factors that contribute to the effectiveness and availability of emergency medical care in developing nations. These factors mainly concern infrastructure or quality of medical care. Although the issue of trauma care seems far from being solved, a study done by the Brookings Institution states there are indications that it may improve. By monitoring the improvements in medical care in high-income countries, they found that similar improvements were beginning to occur with emergency medical care in developing nations. As trauma care becomes increasingly recognized as an urgent need, it can improve and save thousands of lives.

– Olivia Halliburton
Photo: Wiki

Epilepsy, Indigenous
Epilepsy represents an important public health issue, particularly in low-income communities where significant disparities are present in the care available to patients with epilepsy.

Where there is annually between 30 to 50 per 100 thousand people in the general population in high-income countries who suffer from epilepsy, this figure could be two times higher in low- and middle-income countries. Up to 80 percent of people with epilepsy live in low- and middle-income communities.

Due to the higher incidence of psychological stress, nutritional deficiencies and missed medication, poverty-stricken countries are prompted with greater seizure triggers, situations that precipitate seizures. Mortality associated with epilepsy in low-income countries is substantially higher because of untreated epileptic seizures.

According to a study by The World Bank, indigenous peoples are more likely to be poor as opposed to the general population due to their likelihood of living in rural areas and lack of education. Therefore, what can be said about their epilepsy rates?

Epilepsy in Indigenous Populations

Within the indigenous populations of Bolivia, the prevalence of this non-communicable disease is 12.3 persons out of 1000. This prevalence is also reflected within Canada’s First Nations, wherein 122 per 100,000 persons were found to have epilepsy, twice more than the non-indigenous populations. The numbers were even greater among the Australian Aboriginals, with over 44 percent of patients who were admitted to hospitals identifying as indigenous.

Despite the similarity in epilepsy syndromes among the indigenous and non-indigenous populations, the former presents with more serious degrees of the disease when diagnosed. Research has stated this is related to the inequitable access of healthcare resulting from geographic isolation and cultural issues to treatment.

Geographic Isolation and Epilepsy

The Bolivian Guaraní live in the Bolivian Chaco, a hot and semi-arid region of the Río de la Plata Basin. This area is sparsely populated, but of the 49 percent of indigenous persons, 68.9 percent of them live in conditions of poverty, with everyday issues of energy and sanitation.

Nevertheless, in 2012, an educational campaign directed to the Bolivian Guaraní has been implemented by general practitioners to teach the population about the main causes of epilepsy, its diagnosis, treatment and first aid. They also target the social stigma that exists around the disease.

With the help of programs like Bono Juana Azurduy, Programa Mi Salud, Ley de Gratuidad and Seguros Departamentales, there has been an increase in the social security and improvement in the treatment for epilepsy among the geographically isolated community.

Cultural Issues

Apart from geographic isolation, indigenous populations such as the Aboriginals of Australia also have traditional health beliefs about the causes of epilepsy. For instance, environmental factors like the moon are seen as an epileptic precursor. They also associate a connection with the supernatural due to transgressions as causes of the diseases, making it more difficult to find treatment for the neurological condition.

When such cultural issues arise due to a difference in beliefs, it is important for general practitioners and patients to find a suitable course of treatment that is acceptable for both parties. Various clinics in Far North Queensland, where many Aboriginals reside, have assessed and managed the situation through gathering as much information as possible about the person’s original function and the impact of the disease on them.

They also advise other hospitals treating Aboriginal people to identify and implement strategies, whether they be medication, behavioral, environmental or social, to be developed in conjunction with the patient, their families and communities. In time, it is believed that this will lead to the best interim solution for all parties in the support network and the patient themselves.

Within the Aboriginals living in Canada, the British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS) has also successfully delivered treatment for epilepsy patients by working as a liaison between service agencies and clients to find the best possible treatment. Their services extend to alleviate anxiety from patients who have previously had negative experiences with healthcare.

Moving Forward

Knowing that epilepsy is a neurological condition that receives substantial stigma in indigenous communities, there is a barrier for patients to have access to biomedical treatment and have it become integrated within the society they live in. Therefore, in order to reduce the burden of epilepsy in poor regions of the world, and especially within indigenous populations, hospitals, non-governmental organizations and the government have much to do. Aid can come in the form of risk factor prevention, offering check-up clinics in rural areas, stigma-reducing educational programs, improving access to biomedical diagnosis and treatment as well as providing a continuous supply of good quality anti-epileptic drugs to patients who need it, irrespective of their background.

– Monique Santoso
Photo: Pixabay

Airstrikes on Syria's Health IndustryIn recent months, Syria has been subject to a series of airstrikes often brought on by its own government, which have had devastating effects on the country. In particular, Syria’s health industry has taken a hit from these bombings with the complete destruction of many medical centers, and the displacement of many doctors and other qualified medical officials. The harsh effects of airstrikes on Syria’s health industry have been devastating.

Located between Lebanon and Turkey and bordering the Mediterranean Sea, Syria is a tiny Middle Eastern nation with a massive global presence. Almost 20 million people make up the population of this country which is roughly one and a half times the size of the state of Pennsylvania. Particularly since 2011, Syria has been involved in a civil war with multiple failed resolution efforts. As a result, as of December 2018, more than 11 million Syrians remain displaced both internally and externally. Roughly 5.7 million Syrians have registered as refugees across Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and other parts of North Africa.

Effects of Airstrikes on Syria’s Health Industry

Since late April 2019, Idlib, a northwest province in Syria, has been under constant attack by government forces as well as its militia and Russian allies. Reports state that the violence has hit or completely destroyed 19 hospitals and medical centers in this time, leaving doctors without a location to practice. However, since the civil war began in 2011, others have attacked roughly 350 health care centers throughout Syria on more than 500 individual occasions, leaving almost 900 medical workers dead.

As a result of both the immediate violence that citizens face on a daily basis and the decreasing access to health care, life expectancy in Syria has dropped from almost 76 years in 2010 to 55.7 years in 2015. Additionally, many children under the age of one can no longer access vaccinations for preventable diseases such as measles. At the start of the civil war, 20 percent of these children were without access to vaccinations; by 2014, that percentage went up to 46. By 2017, that number had decreased to 33 percent, as medical professionals made efforts to reach and vaccinate children in areas often more challenging to access.

Due to the decrease in the availability of health care facilities and personnel, Syrian citizens are the ones who face the effects of airstrikes on Syria’s health industry the most. Much of the remaining medical care is focused on treating emergencies such as people injured from explosions or car accidents. Thus, specialized care like gynecologists or orthopedic care is limited. While people can still find emergency care, physical therapy and additional follow-up care are extremely challenging to locate. The violence has to have externally displaced many citizens for them to get this follow-up care to their injuries.

Efforts to Help

An organization called Hand in Hand for Aid and Development (HIHFAD) has been active in providing aid to those still living in Syria. It has mobilized on the ground in teams and worked diligently to provide care to patients. These teams specialize in diagnosing patients, providing equipment and treatment of said patients. Additional NGOs working to provide medical and health-related aid to Syria include Handicap International, International Medical Corps, CARE U.S.A, Save the Children and UNICEF U.S.A.

There is no way of knowing for sure when the civil war in Syria will end and the effects of airstrikes on the health industry continue to devastate Syrians that remain in the country. However, many NGOs are attempting to provide medical care, as are countries harboring an influx of Syrian refugees. The futures of the medical centers and personnel that remain in Syria are undetermined. But for as long as they can, they will continue to provide the best care they can to those in need.

– Emily Cormier
Photo: Flickr

Role of STEM in Developing CountriesScience, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics are important for building and maintaining the development of any successful country. From the medical scientists, who develop treatments for diseases, to the civil engineers, who design and build a nation’s infrastructure, every aspect of human life is based on the discoveries and developments of scientists and engineers. The importance of STEM today should not be underestimated as its role is becoming increasingly significant in the future. The technology produced today is altering people’s lives at a rate faster than ever before. Consequently, it is vital for countries seeking to reduce their poverty levels to adopt new scientific research and technology. In doing so, these countries can improve their economy, health care system and infrastructure. As this impacts all aspects of society, the role of STEM in developing countries is of significant importance.

STEM and Economic Progress

STEM education fosters a skill set that stresses critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. This type of skill set encourages innovation among those who possess it. Similarly, a country’s economic development and stability are dependent on its ability to invent and develop new products. Technological innovation in the modern age is only obtainable through the expertise of specialists with knowledge of recent STEM research. Therefore, the role of STEM in developing countries is important because a country’s economy is completely dependent on new developments from technology and science.

Overall, the economic performance of metropolises with higher STEM-oriented economies is superior to those with lower STEM-oriented economies. Within these metropolises, there is lower unemployment, higher incomes, higher patents per worker (a sign of innovation), and higher imports and exports of gross domestic products. According to many experts, this holds true at a national level as well. The world’s most successful countries tend to efficiently utilize the most recent scientific developments and technologies.

In recent years, there is a major increase in the number of science and engineering degrees earned in India. India now has the largest number of STEM graduates in the world, putting the country on the right track for economic development. This has led to widespread innovation in India and a consistent increase in its gross domestic product. The role of STEM in developing countries can thus improve its economy. As of early 2019, India has seen an increase of 7.7 percent in its total GDP.

STEM and Health Care

Over the past 50 years, the Western world has made remarkable progress in medical science. With new breakthroughs developed through vaccinations and treatment, many serious diseases in developing countries are now curable. Common causes of death for children in developing countries are diseases such as malaria, measles, diarrhea and pneumonia. These diseases cause a large death toll in developing countries, but they have been largely eradicated from developed countries through proper vaccinations. As a result, these diseases take a large toll on the children of developing countries. In developing countries, a high percentage of the population is under 15 years of age. As such, it is important to prevent diseases that affect children under 15.

Lately, Brazil has seen an epidemic level of yellow fever which has resulted in numerous deaths. Brazil has addressed this by implementing a mass immunization campaign. In particular, this program will deliver vaccines to around 23.8 million Brazilian citizens in 69 different municipalities. The role of STEM in developing countries with preventable diseases will be vital to improving health and life expectancy rates.

Engineering and Infrastructure

Engineers build, create and design machines and public works to address needs and improve quality of life. Engineers construct and maintain a nation’s infrastructure, such as its fundamental facilities and systems. This includes roads, waterways, electrical grids, bridges, tunnels and sewers. Infrastructure is vital to a country, as it enables, maintains and enhances societal living conditions.

Subsequently, poor infrastructure can seriously hinder a nation’s economic development. This is the case in many African countries. Africa controls only 1 percent of the global manufacturing market despite accounting for 15 percent of the world’s total population. Ultimately, poor infrastructure, such as transportation, communications and energy, stunts a country’s ability to control a larger share of the national market.

Afghanistan has improved its energy infrastructure, using a large portion of the assistance received from the U.S. Through this effort, they have been able to reduce electricity loss from 60 percent to 35 percent. Consequently, they have improved long term sustainability and created a reliable energy system for their citizens. The role of STEM in developing countries is important on a large scale, improving infrastructure to impact their citizens’ daily lives.

STEM and the Future of the World

Societies seeking new scientific knowledge and encouraging creative and technological innovations will be able to properly utilize new technologies, increase productivity, and experience long term sustained economic growth. The developing societies that succeed will be able to improve the living standards of its population. As our world becomes more interconnected, countries prioritizing STEM education and research will make significant advances in alleviating poverty and sustaining economic, cultural and societal growth. Undoubtedly, the role of STEM in developing countries is of significant importance, just as it is in our modern world.

Randall Costa
Photo: Flickr

MSF in Yemen: Helping Amid ConflictInstability continues to plague Yemen, exposing almost 20 million people to food insecurity and more than one million to cholera. The damage is evident in Yemen’s weak healthcare system, which leaves millions of people vulnerable. Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), or Doctors Without Borders, is an organization that provides healthcare for people affected by conflict and poverty. Though warfare complicates operations on the ground, MSF in Yemen is not giving up.

The Challenges of Aid in Yemen

In 2018, an airstrike destroyed a newly built cholera treatment center. Fortunately, there were no patients or workers present at the time, but the vital project had to be put on pause until repairs and reconstruction could begin. Events like this threaten the effectiveness of MSF in Yemen and risk the lives of the 16 million people who lack basic healthcare.

MSF also runs 12 healthcare centers of its own in addition to the 20 hospitals the organization supports. Its operations have treated more than 1.6 million people suffering from injuries, disease and chronic illnesses. MSF’s activities in Yemen take place in a constantly changing and dangerous environment. Since 2015, constant fighting between various militant groups has damaged countless Yemeni health facilities, leaving only half fully functioning. Many hospitals and health facilities in the areas have closed down because of safety concerns or because they cannot pay workers.

MSF in Yemen

The facility that was destroyed was one of many new treatment centers responding to the cholera outbreak. Cholera is a serious issue in Yemen and has killed 2,184 people since April 2017. Because of the violence, almost 16 million Yemenis have suffered from reduced access to clean water and sanitation, which increases their vulnerability to cholera. MSF quickly reacted to the outbreak by opening 37 treatment centers and oral rehydration points. In just six months after the breakout, MSF admitted more than 100,000 cholera patients. While the threat of cholera has decreased since 2017, treatment centers remain a vital safe haven for those afflicted.

MSF responded to another issue caused by the lack of healthcare facilities: pregnancy. In 2017, MSF in Yemen helped 7,900 women deliver their babies. Pregnant mothers are especially vulnerable because they lack access to clinics. Even when there is a health facility nearby, traveling may be too dangerous or time-consuming. Consequently, mothers give birth at home, which exposes them to health risks.  Many pregnant women also don’t have access to prenatal care and can have preventable but fatal complications.

Treatment Centers In Yemen

MSF in Yemen dealt with the re-emergence of diphtheria in 2017. The organization acted quickly by opening up a treatment center in Ibb where 70 percent of cases were concentrated. MSF treated around 400 patients that year alone. As successful as that operation was, others remain an issue, like renal failure. Multiple renal failure treatment centers have been forced to close due to the conflict. Many facilities are under-equipped and some 4,000 patients are still left untreated.

Treatment centers are often too far, or treatment itself is too expensive. Patients require three dialysis sessions a week, so many will reduce the number of treatments to lower the cost. Unfortunately, this can be dangerous and ineffective in treating renal failure. MSF responded to the crisis and has helped more than 800 patients by offering 83,000 dialysis treatments and importing 800 tons of supplies.

More than 20 million Yemenis are in need of humanitarian assistance, facing hunger, disease and displacement. MSF continues to provide aid through one of its largest programs in the world. Since 1986, MSF in Yemen has been compensating for the lack of effective healthcare, even amid the conflict.

Massarath Fatima

Photo: Flickr

Maternal Mortality in Africa

Upon learning they are pregnant, most women do not immediately wonder if it’s a fatal diagnosis. However, that is the stark reality for many women in developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Maternal mortality in Africa is a pervasive and devastating issue. Far hospitals, scarce doctors and poor healthcare systems all contribute to maternal mortality. Most maternal deaths are preventable and caused by complications treatable in developed nations. It is important to recognize the causes of maternal death and solutions already in place to further reduce maternal mortality in Africa.

Causes of Maternal Mortality

The most common causes of maternal mortality are severe bleeding, infections, high blood pressure during pregnancy, delivery complications and unsafe abortions. In most cases, these are treatable with access to trained medical staff and proper medication. Access to maternal health care varies around the world. “A 5-year-old girl living in sub-Saharan Africa faces a 1 in 40 risk of dying during pregnancy and childbirth during her lifetime. A girl of the same age living in Europe has a lifetime risk of 1 in 3,300,” according to Dr. Greeta Rao Gupta, deputy executive director of UNICEF. Factors such as “poverty, distance, lack of information, inadequate services, [and] cultural practices” prevent women from having access to the proper medical services they need.

Additionally, warfare in developing countries causes the breakdown of healthcare systems. This further prevents women from accessing life-saving medical care. For example, when the 11-year civil war in Sierra Leone ended in 2002, it left less than 300 trained doctors and three obstetricians to treat the country’s 6 million people.

Solutions to Reduce Maternal Mortality

Many NGOs work throughout the region to combat maternal mortality in Africa. In fact, the United Nations initiated the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health, 2016-2030. Their goal is to “reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births” by 2030.

According to a study by the World Health Organization, there needs to be better documentation of maternal mortality in Africa to create more effective policy solutions. Currently, less than 40 percent of countries have a registration system documenting the causes of maternal mortality. Hence, this lack of information makes it difficult for the U.N. and NGOs to create effective solutions.

An unexpected yet effective way maternal mortality in Africa has been combated is through photography. Pulitzer-prize winning war correspondent Lynsey Addario took her camera to the region to document maternal mortality. Addario documented the experiences of many women, including 18-year-old Mamma Sessay in Sierra Leone. Sessay traveled for hours by canoe and ambulance while in excruciating labor to reach her nearest hospital. Addario stayed with Sessay for the entire experience, from the birth of her child to her subsequent hemorrhage and death. Addario even traveled with Sessay’s family back to their village to document Sessay’s funeral and her family’s grief.

Ultimately, TIME published Addario’s photographs. And as a result, Merck launched Merck for Mothers, giving $500 million to reduce maternal mortality rates worldwide. Addario stated, “I just couldn’t believe how unnecessary her death seemed, and it inspired me to continue documenting maternal health and death to try to turn these statistics around.”

The Bottom Line

The international community must continue to address maternal mortality, a preventable tragedy. No woman should have to fear for her own life or the life of her unborn child upon discovering she is pregnant. Through documentation, reporting and care, the international community can fight to reduce maternal mortality in Africa.

Alina Patrick
Photo: Flickr

Medical Tourism in India
India is, surprisingly to some people, known today for cost-effective and high-quality medical treatments, and the country achieves this by using the latest technologies and skilled doctors. This has turned India into a hub for medical tourism, with many foreign patients traveling to the country for treatment. Several countries, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria and the United States are all utilizing medical services in India.

The Growth of Medical Tourism in India

Medical tourism in India is estimated at $3 billion and continues to grow rapidly. In fact, it is projected to grow to $8 billion by 2020. This leads to job creation in both the public and private sectors in the country and promotes development and poverty alleviation in India. This thriving industry has the support of government agencies as well as the private sector. Besides medical services, there are many auxiliary service providers who also participate, including public and private transport operators, hotel and guest house owners.

Advantages of the Indian Medical Care System

India offers high-quality medical facilities and skilled medical personnel for a much lower cost in some of the more developed countries, thus attracting patients, that can as well be considered medical tourists. For example, treatment costs in India are around a tenth of the price in the United States.

With thousands of experienced doctors and nurses, India also offers a high quality of care. Another advantage of medical tourism in India is a lack of a language barrier. For English-speaking patients, India is a convenient destination for medical care, as English is the official language in this country. To aid those who are not proficient in English, some hospitals have hired translators fluent in languages of Eastern Europe and Africa.

The Government Role in Medical Tourism Growth

Almost 500,000 medical tourists came to India for treatment in 2017 and India holds 18 percent of the global medical tourism market. The government of India has removed visa restrictions for this type of tourism to further spur growth. In fact, e-tourist visas are now being offered for such treatment, including for short-term ailments. By speeding up the visa process and creating designated immigration facilities, the government is attempting to encourage the growth of this industry by attracting tourists from all over the world. The number of medical tourism visas in India has risen by 45 percent in 2016 compared to the previous year.

Alternative Medicine

While India is known for cardio therapy, transplants and orthopedics, alternative medicine and wellness procedures such as Ayurveda, Yoga and Acupuncture are also gaining popularity in the West, which draws patients to India, where there are experts in these fields as well.

The government is focusing on endorsing its wellness industry by setting up new facilities. It has set up the Ministry of AYUSH to promote research and education in this industry. The government has also invested in publicity and organization of events and seminars to promote this industry and attract private investment.

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry has launched a global summit to promote health care services export from India. The state tourism department of Maharashtra has launched a portal to make information about medical care more accessible. By consulting various stakeholders and government agencies, the county is attempting to create a feedback system to further assist patients.

Medical tourism in India is one of the ways in which the country has a chance to promote growth and development, while successfully leveraging its resources and facilities. The rise in the number of doctors, facilities and access to technology further enables India to be a viable destination for patients worldwide.

– Isha Kakar
Photo: Flickr

traditional Tibetan medicineDespite the ongoing desperate struggle in Tibet over freedom and territory, collaboration is growing between Tibetan healers and the Chinese healthcare system.

Advancing Medical Care, Advancing Camaraderie

Medical care and advancements have often been sources of truce, respect and mutual benefits between cultures in conflict or war with one another. Such medical neutrality is evident amid the chaos between China and Tibet.

Chinese authorities recognize value in traditional Tibetan medicine, and some Tibetans recognize value in merging with conventional technology.

The conflict in Tibet is still unfolding. Over 150 Tibetans burned themselves to death since 2009 in despair and protest of Chinese control, and some plead for the Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet from exile in India. The latest death from such desperate protest occurred in March 2018, with the self-immolation of Tsekho Tugchak in eastern Tibet.

Actions in Medical Neutrality

While the severe struggle for respect and freedom continues in Tibet, some traditional Tibetan healers are acting in medical neutrality beyond the conflict with China to preserve the benefits of their medical heritage and continue working as doctors. Also, mutual benefits are evident as traditional Tibetans are merging with more modern healthcare ways and patients are increasingly requesting integration of conventional methods.

New medical facilities and schools are growing in Tibet that merge traditional Tibetan medicine with more modern technology such as x-rays, MRI’s, antibiotic therapy and IVs. One such merging is happening in the Xinning, Amdo region of Tibet, where the Qinhai Tibetan Medical School connects with the Xinning Tibetan Medical Hospital.

The school includes a collaborative degree program of traditional and conventional medicine. At the hospital, traditional Tibetan doctors work with conventional Chinese doctors while innovating integrative treatments. There are several such schools and hospitals developing that integrate traditional and conventional ways.

Merging of Old and New

Scientific research efforts are also underway to use modern technological equipment for finding the active constituents of the plants that have been used for thousands of years by Tibetan healers. While traditional Tibetan healers use multiple plants in their remedies along with holistic methods, the research into active constituents may bring mutually beneficial “revolutionary drugs” and treatments.

Chinese authorities recognize such potential and are actively attempting to preserve ancient Tibetan medical knowledge. Employees of the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine are working to translate Tibetan medical documents, and the government of the Tibet Autonomous Region dedicates at least 10 million yuan (~$1.5 million) per year developing traditional Tibetan medicine, which includes preserving twelfth-century documents.

Use of Tibetan Plants in Tibetan Medicine

Many of the herbs used by traditional Tibetan doctors are not found in other cultures’ medicines, and an estimated 70 percent of the botanicals used in Tibetan medicine are local to the Tibetan plateau area. The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is known as “a gene bank for the world’s plateau plants.”

Many of these unique plants grow slow and don’t produce enough material to support a larger population’s medical needs. Therefore, an effort is underway to domesticate and cultivate wild botanicals unique to Tibetan land.

Tashi Tsering is the deputy chief of the Biological Research Institute of Tibetan Medicine (BRITM) at Men-Tsee-Khang in Lhasa, which is a hospital based in traditional Tibetan medicine that received quality-improvement funding of 256 million yuan (nearly $40 million) between 2014 and 2016 from the central government.

Cultivating Plants and National Success

BRITM has been working diligently to cultivate wild Tibetan herbs, which is no easy feat. Traditional Tibetan healers put extensive effort into learning what makes each plant medicinal, including many years of study and meticulous harvest and usage methods. These include efforts such as identifying which specific part of the plant to use and the correct weather for gathering.

Despite initially unsuccessful attempts at domesticating the Tibetan botanicals since 2011, Tsering and his team persevered and have since successfully cultivated at least 27 endangered medicinal plants.

The organization’s success is in part due to its careful efforts in mimicking the plants’ natural environment, including temperature, light, moisture and soil condition. BRITM continues to grow and improve its laboratory and technological equipment, aiding in the effort to cultivate valuable Tibetan plants.

While specific herbs are important in traditional Tibetan remedies, they are only part of the equation for health according to adherents of the ancient practice. Successes of Tibetan holistic methods have resulted in increased adoption of such ways.

Steps Towards Peace in Tibet

The president of Arura Hospital in Xining, Konchok Gyaltsen, explains that the combination of unique herbs and philosophy cause good health. For example, 94 percent of patients with rheumatoid arthritis at Arura Hospital are cured of the illness through medicated baths, psychology and dietary changes.

As several traditional Tibetan healers continue with medical neutrality working as doctors and researches, sharing ancient knowledge and leading schools and clinics, they rise beyond the desperate struggle in Tibet and help humanity overall. However, the self-sacrificing painful pleas for help from the Tibetan protestors against China are symptoms of major problems in the world.

The United States passed the bipartisan resolution 429 in March 2018, for “Commemorating the 59th anniversary of Tibet’s 1959 uprising as ‘Tibetan Rights Day,’ and expressing support for the human rights and religious freedom of the Tibetan people and the Tibetan Buddhist faith community.” The resolution also includes that “the Secretary of State should make best efforts to establish an office in Lhasa, Tibet, to monitor political, economic, and cultural developments in Tibet.”

With such support from the U.S., and collaboration between traditional Tibetan healers and conventional Chinese medical professionals, perhaps there is a way towards peace and respect in Tibet.

– Emme Leigh
Photo: Flickr

Telehealth company revolutionizes medical access in Pakistan
Iffat Aga is no stranger to searching for flexible work options. Born in Saudi Arabia, Aga attended one of the best medical schools in Pakistan and started working for some the world’s most credible pharmaceutical research company. Aga later became pregnant,  miscarried and conceived again. In this experience, she found that versatile work options for women were not common, and in many instances didn’t exist.

Female Health Practitioners

Women in developing countries, especially Pakistan, are limited by familial and childcare commitment. However, the majority of students in local Pakistani medical schools are women, and are oftentimes unable to attend full-time because of these responsibilities.

Still having passion to continue her career as a physician, Iffat Aga gathered a group of women and founded Sehat Kahani. The Telehealth company specializes in connecting out-of-work female physicians to poor-income Pakistani communities; many of these populations desperately need access to medical care, but are often unable to afford it.

The company currently operates under 14 organizations across Pakistan and has assisted over 500 thousand patients. The first of its kind, the new Telehealth company revolutionizes medical access in Pakistan.

How Sehat Kahani Provides Dynamic Access

There are several ways in which Telehealth companies provide care to patients online; Sehat Kahani does so through videos, online chatting and preventive health drives.Her most popular is video health chatting and preventive health drives. Currently, the company motivates women in low-income communities to continue practicing good hygiene habits.

Washing hands and disposing of infant toiletry appropriately are two ways Sehat Kahani aims to begin protecting communities from disease. By the end of the program, the medical staff at Sehat Kahani says they plan to “ensure that there is an increase in the number of families exhibiting health hygiene practices and a reduction in diseases such as diarrhea and other infections.”

Though this may seem like a simple step to some of us, Sehat Kahani takes great steps to remind communities that even the most simple of steps can facilitate the most dramatic change. The new Telehealth company revolutionizes medical access in Pakistan through other outreach portfolios as well. One such method includes medical vehicles that travel across Pakistan if a patient is in need of physical care.

Women and Telehealth Company

Female nurses and assistants are present when the vehicle arrives, but are assisted by a physician through video communication. Thus far, the vehicles have stopped in the cities of: Peshawar, Hyderabad, Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi. Sehat Kahani has grown exponentially since its start up in April of 2018, and is projected to continue this path in the upcoming months. By 2020, the company aspires to create 100 online e-health centers across Pakistan.

Further goals of the organization also include continuation of mobile health centers, and women’s work advocacy through an all-female staff.

The Telehealth company revolutionizes medical access in Pakistan by allowing women in low-income countries to be freed from socioeconomic boundaries. Dr. Aga has changed popular beliefs regarding women in the medical field, and many large companies that support her forward-thinking anticipate where the future will take the powerhouse of Sehat Kahani.

– Logan Moore

Photo: Flickr