World TB Day
Every year on March 24, World Tuberculosis (TB) Day is observed all around the world. World TB Day is an official global health campaign marked by the World Health Organization (WHO). The day is meant to bring awareness and response to Tuberculosis around the world.

The event commemorates the date that Dr. Robert Koch discovered Mycobacterium Tuberculosis in 1882. This is the bacteria that causes Tuberculosis. Thanks to modern medicine, Tuberculosis is now treatable and even curable, though it remains widespread through most of the world.

History of World TB Day

In 1982, the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (IUATLD) proposed that March 24 should be World TB Day. This was in honor of the hundredth anniversary of Dr. Koch’s discovery. However, World TB Day was not officially recognized by the World Health Organization and United Nations until 1995.

Meetings, conferences and programs are being conducted around the world in support of the day. The goal of World TB Day is to not only spread awareness about what the disease does but also about how to prevent, treat and cure Tuberculosis. Many global health organizations have supported and promoted World TB Day since its installment, including the World Health Organization, the National Association of Country and City Health Officials and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The Goals of 2018

On March 24, 2018, the world observed its twenty-fourth World TB Day. The day outlined the international medical goals for this year and beyond. This year’s theme was, “Wanted: Leaders For a TB-Free World.” The World Health Organization is planning to completely eradicate Tuberculosis all over the world. However, that means putting a heavier stance on treatment and prevention methods, both of which will be a heavy influence in this year’s campaign.

The goal is to mobilize political and social movements about Tuberculosis and make further commitments toward eliminating the disease. A full set of campaign material and content about the 2018 day became available March 1 on the website for the Stop TB Partnership.

The Global Goal

As of 2018, Tuberculosis is still the world’s leading infectious killer. It is the cause of over one million deaths worldwide every year. The Stop TB Partnership has three main goals associated with World TB Day:

  1. By 2020, at least 90 percent of the people afflicted with Tuberculosis will have access to proper treatments and therapies.
  2. By 2030, end the current Tuberculosis epidemic.
  3. By 2035, completely eradicate the disease on a global level.

The partnership hopes to create a healthy future for the next and continued generations. By raising awareness about Tuberculosis, many global health organizations can increase funding for proper medical treatments in impoverished areas. Leaders and medical professionals still have a long way to go before people will be able to live in a completely Tuberculosis free world.

As medical advancements are escalated, diseases also escalate. Tuberculosis has mutated into many multi-drug-resistant strains, making prevention harder. In impoverished countries, where they have little to no advanced medicine, prevention and treatment are nearly impossible.

However, advancements toward the Stop TB Partnership’s goals have already started and will continue. The awareness and knowledge spread by World TB Day can slowly help move the world toward a disease-free future.

– Courtney Wallace

Photo: Flickr

India’s fight against Polio
Polio, or poliomyelitis, is an infectious disease spread through poliovirus. Since the early twentieth century, polio has been widespread in many countries, causing paralysis in thousands of children every year. With the help of various nonprofit organizations and the Global Polio Eradication initiative, the disease is now narrowed down to a handful of nations.

In 2014, India was certified as a polio-free country, leaving Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan on the list for polio eradication programs. India’s fight against polio is a remarkable achievement because of the various challenges the country faced. Nicole Deutsch, the head of polio operations for UNICEF in India, called it a “monumental milestone.”

Polio: Cause and Prevention

Poliovirus is highly contagious, infecting only humans and residing in the throat and intestine of the infected person. It spreads through feces and can contaminate food and water in unsanitary conditions.

The virus affects the brain and spinal cord of the infected person, causing paralysis which cannot be cured. Immunization through inactivated poliovirus vaccine and oral poliovirus vaccine are the only possible methods to fight against the virus. In the case of India, it was the second option which was administered.

India’s Fight Against Polio: the Challenges Faced

India’s fight against polio faced unique challenges, such as its huge population density and an increased birth rate. The number of people living in impoverished conditions with poor sanitation is huge, making them vulnerable to the polio disease.

Lack of education and prejudice among certain sects of the population also hindered the immunization process. Other challenges faced were the unstable healthcare system, which does not support people from all levels of society, and the geographically-dispersed inaccessible terrain, which made the immunization process difficult.

Overcoming these Challenges

Overcoming the challenges of polio eradication was possible due to the combined help provided by UNICEF, WHO, Rotary Club, the Indian government and millions of frontline workers. They took micro-planning strategies to address the challenges faced by the socially, economically, culturally and linguistically diverse country that is India.

India began its oral polio vaccine program in 1978 but it did not gain momentum until 1994, when the local government of New Delhi successfully conducted a mass immunization program for children in the region. From the year 1995, the government of India began organizing National Immunization Day, and in 1997, the first National Polio Surveillance Project was established.

Other initiatives taken include:

  • Involving almost 7,000 trained community mobilizers who went door-to-door, educating people in highly resistant regions.
  • Engaging 2.3 million vaccine administrators who immunized almost 172 million children.
  • The government running advertisements on print media, television and radio.
  • Enlisting famous Bollywood and sports celebrities to create awareness among common people.
  • Involving religious and community leaders in encouraging parents to vaccinate their children.

Inspiration for Other Countries

In 2009, almost 741 polio cases were reported in India, which dropped down to 42 in 2010, until the last case was reported in 2011 in the eastern state of West Bengal. This unprecedented success is an inspiration for countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, where the disease is still looming at large.

India’s fight against polio has set an example in the world that the country can be proud of, but the fight is not over yet. Although India has been declared polio-free by the WHO, it is of the utmost importance that the nation continue to assist other nations still facing the polio epidemic.

– Mahua Mitra

Photo: Flickr

medical advancements in Ethiopia
With a population of approximately 106 million, the nation of Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa. Along with this large population, Ethiopia also has one of the highest poverty levels in the world and is one of the most underdeveloped countries on the continent.

Due to this underdevelopment, Ethiopia has many medical and healthcare related concerns that have historically not been able to be addressed. Recently, the government of Ethiopia has made the health of its citizens a priority, leading to many medical advancements in Ethiopia.

The current health system in the African nation is unable to provide for over half of its large population. One of the main reasons that Ethiopia has been unable to provide medical care to so much of its citizens is because there are not enough medical facilities in the country, and many people do not have access to the ones that do exist.

According to the World Health Organization, only 75 percent of urban families and about 42 percent of rural households are within walking distance from a hospital. When individuals are able to access a medical facility, they are often met with facilities that are understaffed, have workers with low qualifications and do not have many standard clinical supplies.

One of the ways that medical advancements in Ethiopia are occurring is by working on improving this shortage of medical facilities. An example is the expansion of St. Paul’s hospital in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. Though this is an existing medical facility, the expansion will help the hospital take in more citizens than it has previously been able to. Currently, the hospital has between 12 and 14 beds in the emergency room; after the expansion is complete, the emergency room will hold up to 50 beds. This expansion is partially possible because of the partnership between Millennium Medical College in Ethiopia’s capital and the University of Michigan.

Another way in which medical advancements in Ethiopia are being made is by the nation’s dedication to treating HIV and AIDS. With the help of the United States, the Ethiopian government has committed to providing free treatments for HIV and AIDS. U.S. aid has been a vital part of this effort and has been working to provide the needed treatments. According to USAID, in just one year the number of Ethiopians accessing HIV counseling and testing increased from 500,000 to more than nine million. It is also reported that the number of people on anti-retroviral therapy increased from 900 in 2005 to 394,000 in 2015.

This expansion of current medical facilities and commitment to the treatment of HIV and AIDS are just two ways in which medical advancements in Ethiopia are being made. The University of Michigan has said that Ethiopia is experiencing a “medical revolution,” and it appears that this is just the beginning.

– Nicole Stout

Photo: Flickr

The DIY Oral Rehydration KitThe incidence of gastric problems, such as vomiting or diarrhea, is all too common in developing countries. To make matters worse, there is also the dehydration that results from fluid loss. The practice of handwashing with soap and stricter guidelines for food hygiene are paramount as preventive measures. Nevertheless, these practices may not always take place, and gastric diseases can spread. The DIY oral rehydration kit is a practical means to remedy dehydration, as it uses basic, easy to find ingredients.

A persistent bout of vomiting and diarrhea leads to fluid loss at a higher rate than the body can take in. Without adequate fluids, the body cannot properly carry out crucial functions. Water is needed to regulate temperature, dissolve nutrients from food, transport them around the body for cells to stay alive and reduce the burden on kidneys by flushing out waste.

Dehydration is particularly hazardous to children and the elderly. Young children are vulnerable to dehydration because their bodies are less efficient at conserving water than adults. In addition, their small body size means it takes less fluid loss to lead to dehydration.

Dehydration triggers a response to consume a large quantity of water. This can create an imbalance by flushing out vital chemicals and electrolytes, such as glucose, fructose, sodium and chloride. These play a crucial role in the transmission of nerve impulses and in regulating the body’s fluid balance.

The ideal concoction already exists in the form of a sports drink, such as Gatorade. The DIY oral rehydration kit is cheaper and simple but equally as effective, as it uses salt and sugar, which are more widely available. For each serving, six teaspoons of sugar and half a teaspoon of salt are mixed into one liter of water. This kit eliminates side effects from caffeinated beverages, which cause further dehydration. Juices made from orange or lemon can be acidic and further aggravate the stomach.

In the 1960s, researchers in South Asia found that a balanced proportion of sugar and salt in water could be easily absorbed through the intestinal wall. Therefore, drinking this solution is an easy way to replace fluids lost from diarrhea. In 1971, a massive campaign to orally administer this solution to sufferers was implemented throughout India and Bangladesh during a cholera outbreak. Of the 3,700 treated sufferers, 96 percent of them survived after drinking the oral rehydration solution.

The Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee has provided workshops to educate Bangladeshi mothers on how to mix the solution and administer it to their children to prevent dehydration when a child falls ill with diarrhea.

With the support of UNICEF, over 500 million packets containing the ingredients of the DIY oral rehydration kit are being mass produced annually in 60 developing nations, at a cost of $0.10 each. Millions suffer daily from gastric problems and the resulting dehydration. Nearly half of all diarrhea cases in developing nations are now treated with oral rehydration therapy, compared to the initial 1 percent usage in the 1980s. Because it is more accessible, millions of lives are saved daily thanks to this kit.

– Awad Bin-Jawed

Photo: Flickr


Volunteer Adofo Antwi (right) explains to mother-of-four Ama Konadu in Apenimadi, Bonsaaso Millennium Village, how to hang a bednet. Trained by Millennium Village Project staff, volunteers across the cluster work with communities to hang bednets at all sleeping sites and educate local people about the dangers of malaria. Since 2006, over 30,000 long-lasting insecticide-treated bednets have been distributed, covering all households in the cluster.

Malaria prevention in Ghana is a focus of the nation’s Health Service efforts and is seen as the largest epidemic tormenting the Ghana people. Malaria is a potentially deadly disease caused by a one-celled parasite known as Plasmodium. This parasite is carried and transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito that feeds of humans.

People who become infected with malaria often show flu-like symptoms such as: fever, chills, aches and more. The devastation of this disease on not just the people, but the social and economic structure of Ghana, cannot be understated.

Who is Most Vulnerable to Malaria?

Over three million people contract malaria every year in Ghana which accounts for 44.5 percent of all outpatient attendances. Nearly half of all malaria cases in Ghana are children under the age of five and the disease is responsible for 12 percent of under-five deaths. Of those who die from malaria, 85 percent of them are children.

With such devastating numbers, especially for the nation’s children, it is no wonder malaria prevention in Ghana is the top priority of health officials. Not only are the children of Ghana at a greater risk of contracting malaria, but it also disproportionately affects pregnant women whose immune systems are lowered and more vulnerable during pregnancy.

Pregnant women who contract malaria can see severe adverse health effects such as maternal anemia which leads to: miscarriages, low birth weight, and even maternal mortality.

How does Malaria Affect Ghana?

Malaria prevention in Ghana doesn’t just save the lives of children and their mothers, but it also is necessary for the economic and technological growth of Ghana. Malaria has historically been the number one cause of illness and morbidity in Ghana, but malaria is also a major cause of poverty and poor productivity.

With nearly half of the three million malaria cases every year attributed to children, staying in school falls to the wayside as families focus on the recovery of their children. Being taken out of school, greatly affects one’s future earning capacity for themselves, their family, and their future children.

Obtaining an education is often the biggest tool to improving living conditions of not just the individual and their family, but the community as well.

Not only are children at a risk of death after contracting malaria, but children who survive and fight the disease carry long-term consequences into adulthood such as seizures and brain dysfunction. These conditions can make it difficult once the disease is gone to go back to school and receive an education.

Treating and fighting the malaria endemic costs Ghana a significant amount that causes economic growth to be slowed by 1.3 percent a year in Africa; the annual economic burden of malaria is estimated to be 1-2 percent of the Gross Domestic Product in Ghana.

Roll Back Malaria Initiative: Goals and Successes

In 1999, Ghana signed onto the Roll Back Malaria initiative developing a strategic plan of action for implementation. The goal of malaria prevention in Ghana, as dictated by the initiative, is to reduce malaria specific morbidity and mortality by 50 percent by 2010 and 75 percent by 2015.

While Ghana did not meet those deadlines at the expected times, Ghana continues to strengthen health services to make malaria prevention techniques more available to the people of Ghana. Strategies for malaria prevention in Ghana as seen on Ghana’s Health Services page includes the:

  • Promotion of insecticide treated bed nets usage; chemoprophylaxis in pregnancy and environmental management to reduce rate of infection
  • Improve malaria case management at all levels (from household to health facility);
  • Encourage evidence-based research to come up with effective interventions and
  • Improve partnership with all partners at all levels.

The Roll Back Malaria Initiative in Ghana empowers the nation to pursue goals to better equip health facilities with malaria diagnostic tools (microscopes or RDTs) and effective antimalarial drugs. Furthermore, the implementation of indoor residual spraying and the spread of insecticide treated materials such as bug nets, have shown success.

The Need for Scale-Up

Nearly 750,000 lives have been saved across Africa due to the Roll Back Malaria Initiative, but the fight for malaria prevention in Ghana still has a long journey ahead. Ensuring children in rural areas have access to clinics and malaria treatment options can be tricky.

Ghana still calls for a scaling up of this community-based treatment in more secluded districts; in districts where treatment is available, the cost of treatment can be out of reach for many families. The inability to access such resources decreases community engagement in treatment, and demonstrates how great the need in Ghana is for affordable malaria prevention methods.

– Kelilani Johnson

Photo: Flickr

Vaccines Prevent Disease and PovertyVaccines are known to save lives and protect against diseases, but now can be credited for preventing poverty as well. A study done at Harvard University alongside Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance researched the economic effects of vaccines for 10 different diseases in 41 developing countries. The study concluded that vaccines would help to prevent 24 million people throughout the world’s poorest countries from falling into poverty by the year 2030. The study also estimated that vaccines given between 2016 and 2030 would prevent the deaths of 36 million people.

Vaccines contain the same antigens that are responsible for causing diseases. The antigens in the vaccines are killed or severely weakened and are unable to cause the disease, but are strong enough to allow the body’s immune system to produce the antibodies needed to become immune to the disease. Therefore, the protection comes without the child having to be sick or suffer from a disease. This reduces the cost of healthcare for families and allows them to save and spend more money, boosting the country’s economy.

Dr. Seth Berkley, the CEO of Gavi, talked about the effects on a child who receives vaccinations and their school attendance. He stated that a child who is healthy is more likely to attend school and become a productive member of society, and their families will not be obligated to pay the expensive healthcare costs that come with diseases. Healthcare expenses cause about 100 million people to fall into poverty each year, as medical treatment is one of the main reasons families are forced below the poverty line. With the use of vaccines, countries will be better protected from both disease and poverty.

The greatest poverty reducer will be vaccinations, by reducing the number of people who are living in poverty due to hepatitis B. Gavi anticipates this will help 14 million people avoid medical impoverishment. Poverty cases that are due to measles will be reduced by vaccines, which is anticipated to prevent 5 million cases as well as preventing 22 million deaths. Disease and poverty are linked through a cause and effect in that medical costs cause poverty in many developing countries.

The study also showed that the poorest 20 percent of the global population represented more than one-fourth of deaths that can be prevented by vaccinations. Furthermore, the study concluded that introducing vaccines in the poorest countries would have the largest impact on lowering the number of deaths and the number of people falling into poverty due to their medical expenses. Therefore, vaccines prevent both disease and poverty.

– Chloe Turner

Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Latin AmericaPolicies related to mental health in Latin America continue to be a back-and-forth struggle between political parties, legislation and social stigmas.

Recent History

Over the last 10 years, Latin America has battled to better its mental health services, however, significant obstacles persist. Social stigmas prove to have the most negative consequences on those who suffer from mental illness. Stigmas around mental health in Latin America specifically revolve around the person’s personal life and their “lack” of productivity at work, both of which are heavily emphasized in society. Stereotypes and prejudices about mental illness often focus on the unpredictability of the illness, including capacities for violence and endangering those around them.

Originally, Latin American mental health policies shared the same overall attitude as the society did: lack of proper planning and institutions were not necessarily important. That attitude changed with the Declaration of Caracas in 1990 which implemented the following reforms in regional mental-health policies:

  • To anchor mental health within primary care services
  • To develop community-based mental health services
  • To reduce the stigma associated with mental illness

Organizations that Implement Policy

Since then, several organizations have emerged to help align the reforms with practices.

Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)

The Pan American Health Organization protects and improves people’s health by acting as the international health agency for the Americas. It believes in supporting everyone’s right to good health by providing access to healthcare when they need it. This is done by:

  • Promoting technical cooperation between countries
  • Partnering with ministries of health, civil society organizations, other international agencies, universities, and other institutions.

Its mental health program works within the Department of Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health (NMH) to promote and strengthen national abilities to develop the following areas in order to improve mental well being:

  • Policies
  • Plans
  • Programs
  • Services

World Health Organization Assessment Instrument for Mental Health Systems (WHO-AIMS)

WHO-AIMS works in Latin America and the Caribbean to promote, maintain and restore mental health. Its plan is derived from 10 overall recommendations from the 2001 World Health Report:

  1. Provide treatment of mental disorders in primary care
  2. Make psychotropic drugs available
  3. Give care in the community
  4. Educate the public
  5. Involve communities, families, and consumers in the treatment process
  6. Establish national policy and legislation
  7. Develop supportive human resources
  8. Link with other sectors
  9. Monitor community mental health
  10. Provide resources for more research

This organization focuses mainly on financing the investigations to find which obstacles affect mental health services the most. Since its implementation in Latin America, there has been a 30 percent increase in the creation of mental health policies, as its focus evolved to a more positive trend of protecting human rights.

In Conclusion

Negative stigmas will continue to circulate around mental health in Latin America as the lack of knowledge and understanding surrounding mental illnesses persist. Organizations like the ones listed previously will continue to work against these stigmas and encourage understanding through education.

– Chylene Babb

Photo: Google

HIVAIDS Rates in Cambodia Are Dropping Down to Virtual Elimination
In 2005, the HIV/AIDS death rates in Cambodia were ranked at number 5, and by 2016 dropped down to rank 24. This decrease totaled 71 percent, and Cambodia is now part of the United States Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) as well as the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF).

HIV/AIDS rates in Cambodia have dropped so low that the country is one of few countries titled with being incredibly successful at reversing this epidemic.

AHF

AHF works to provide health treatments and care at the local communities for HIV and AIDS. AHF also offers numerous free services such as testing, education, condoms, ARV’s, OI drugs and even some transportation. As of January 2017, AHF is working with more than 50 percent of people in Cambodia who live with HIV.

This success has been astounding, according to AHF, because of “firm political commitment, focused and appropriate strategic planning, sound management, broad-based stakeholder partnerships, and effective implementation based on standardized operating procedures.”

PEPFAR

PEPFAR is a USAID program focused on transforming the global response to HIV and AIDS. Currently, PEPFAR is working in over 50 countries helping more than 13.3 million people. This program has further contributed to the successful drop of HIV/AIDS rates in Cambodia.

However, in Cambodia, PEPFAR works closely with four specific provinces most in need of aid: Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

Since Cambodia has had such a high success rate, PEPFAR is now focusing heavily on sustainable financing for its government over a two-year period. This effort began in 2017 and works to strengthen national systems in discovering new cases, and prevent new cases of HIV from spreading.

PEPFAR is also working hard to achieve fewer than 300 new HIV infections in Cambodia annually by 2025; if accomplished, this feat will be considered a virtual elimination of the disease.

Various Successes

Constant efforts from both AHF and PEPFAR have resulted in massive drop rates of the HIV/AIDS rates in Cambodia. For instance, 2.2 million babies are now born HIV-free, even when their mothers are HIV positive. PEPFAR is also helping more than 6.4 million orphans, vulnerable children and their caretakers.

According to AHF, the rate of HIV/AIDS from ages 15-49 declined all the way down to 0.6 percent in 2015, and will continue to decrease to the hopeful virtual elimination by 2025. This elimination is contributed heavily to the 2016-2020 plan by the Strategic Plan for HIV/AIDS and STI Prevention and Control in the Health Sector in Cambodia.

Potential for Progress

Over the past 25 years, Cambodia had made immense progress in reducing the HIV/AIDS rates. Every year since has resulted in a continuation of this decrease to virtual elimination. Even now, in 2018, Cambodia may be considered a success story for both PEPFAR and ATH.

Both of these organizations work tremendously well to help HIV/AIDS rates in Cambodia drop and continue to decline every day.

– Amber Duffus

Photo: Flickr

 

The Link Between Poverty and EpidemicsWhen Bill Gates, the famous humanitarian, entrepreneur and founder of Microsoft, was asked in an interview with Vox about the greatest threat to humanity in the coming decades, his answer was scientific, reasonable and startling. Rather than mentioning the kinds of threats usually brought up in such discussions, dangers such as nuclear weapons, climate change and planet-killing asteroids, Gates pointed to something else with a much higher likelihood of occurrence but with the potential to be just as devastating.

A widespread pandemic is the most likely cause of a mass extinction event in the 21st century, yet despite its relatively high probability of occurring, it remains less discussed than many flashier topics like war and environmental disaster. The last time the risk of pandemic sparked widespread fear and discussion was in 2014, with the spread of the Ebola virus devastating communities in West Africa, and, in rare cases, spreading to other countries as well.

Though the topic has since faded from national conversation, the threat remains real. Even more important, unlike reducing carbon emissions or preventing nuclear proliferation, one major remedy for disease is relatively straightforward and within our capability. The human race could significantly reduce the likelihood of a pandemic disaster by eliminating extreme global poverty.

In 2014, West Africa suffered an outbreak of the Ebola virus, which devastated communities and killed more than 11,000 people by 2016. It also shed international light on the link between poverty and epidemics. Ebola became such a threat in 2014 because the region was impoverished and lacked the basic healthcare infrastructure necessary to fight the outbreak. This allowed the disease to spread at a fierce pace, risking a worldwide epidemic and sparking fears around the globe. Many patients were at first handled without proper caution, which led to an increase in cases and the rapid spread of the virus throughout the region.

If the United States invested more in these countries, especially toward improving their medical infrastructure and quality of life, such spending would not only create a new market for American exports, but it would also decrease the likelihood that a virus-like Ebola could spread without proper defensive strategies from the medical community. If healthcare infrastructure in West Africa had been better in 2014, the outbreak could have been contained much faster and the death toll reduced drastically.

The way in which a given disease spreads and becomes an epidemic is a complicated issue that depends on many factors. Poverty, however, has been shown to be a major determinant of how many people will be infected and how quickly. A World Health Organization report found that poverty in Africa correlated with an increase in the likelihood of contracting HIV, which researchers speculated was due to poor sexual education and high levels of economic disparity in impoverished regions. Similarly, the National Health Institute found in a 2012 report that communicable disease and poverty were linked to one another.

Though correlation did not imply causation, the researchers stressed that it would be foolish to disregard the link between poverty and epidemics, and that environmental conditions like economic status played a major role in the spread of disease. They argued that the link was likely caused by poor education, crippled healthcare infrastructure and the lack of clean water and food, all of which are common in areas suffering from extreme poverty. By investing in the healthcare infrastructure of other nations, the United States could help both itself and the world by reducing the likelihood of a major global pandemic, as the link between poverty and epidemics is a major risk that could become even more dangerous to the future of humanity than nuclear warfare.

– Shane Summers

Photo: Flickr

Vaccination Acts As a Solution to PovertyOver the past few years, the health status of many developing countries has improved significantly as the goal of increased accessibility and affordability of basic healthcare services became attainable across different regions of the world. Recently, researchers at Harvard University have debated the fact that vaccination is the key solution for not only lowering the number of deaths in developing countries, but also for alleviating the burden of medical expenses inflicted by poverty on the population and government.

The study was carried out by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health faculty, and was published in the journal of Health Affairs. Results highlighted that investments in preventive healthcare, particularly immunization which allow individuals to have access to 10 types of vaccines (measles, hepatitis B, human papillomavirus, yellow fever, rotavirus, rubella, Hib, pneumococcus, Neisseria menpngitidis and Japanese encephalitis) in 41 low-and-middle-income countries, could prevent a total of 36 million deaths over a period of 15 years.

It was also seen that 24 million cases of medical impoverishment could be prevented since most out-of-pocket medical expenses are usually associated with vaccination services in third world countries.

How Vaccination Acts As a Solution to Poverty

The following are five ways of how vaccination acts as a solution to poverty:

  1. Positive Economic ImpactAccording to Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of the Vaccine Alliance-GAVI, vaccines not only save lives, but also generate huge economic impacts for families, communities and society at large. He further explained his point of view by stating that a healthy child who has received all of his/her vaccination will become a productive member of society and can then contribute positively to the prosperity of the country. The family of vaccinated children can also avoid any strenuous costs associated with vaccine-preventable diseases.
  2. Increased Health Equity

    By legislating new policies allowing people to afford the necessary vaccinations, poverty will eventually decrease, leading to improved equity on the global development agenda. New vaccination policies could be considered as a milestone contributing to the process of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and universal health coverage.

  3. Reduced Mortality Rates

    Poverty-related statistics reveal that people living in extreme poverty tend to benefit the most from increased access to vaccines since they are more susceptible to preventable infectious diseases. Increasing their access to complete vaccine doses can lower their risk of contracting deadly communicable diseases, and thus lower their overall healthcare costs.

  4. Increased Life-Expectancy

    A study conducted by John Hopkins University in 2016 found that every $1 spent on immunization efforts is equivalent to $16 saved on healthcare costs. Therefore, the more the population saves money by avoiding additional healthcare costs, the higher its productivity and income due to improved health. As a result, people are offered the opportunity to lead longer, healthier lives, and the return on investment rises to $44 per $1 spent on vaccines.

  5. Reduced Burden of Preventable Infectious DiseasesHepatitis B was estimated to cause 14 million cases of medical impoverishment per year, while measles and meningitis A generated 5 million and 3 million cases of poverty per year, respectively; Rotavirus was also set to cause 242,000 poverty cases per year. By providing people with the necessary vaccines, morbidity and mortality rates will decline significantly and thus lead to overall reduced poverty rates. Currently, measles vaccine is projected to prevent around 22 million deaths each year.

The assumption that vaccination acts as a solution to poverty is a highly supported public health issue that has caught the attention of medical professionals and public health workers all over the world. Such a powerful primary prevention method should be widely dispersed among the public in order to initiate the start of a bright, equitable future and a world where poverty is defeated.

– Lea Sacca
Photo: Flickr