Insecticide-Treated Bed NetsDespite the overall decrease in malaria deaths, which comes in at a solid 29 percent drop from 2010 to 2016, the reality is that the fight against malaria is still an ongoing battle with massive casualties. Some 429,000 malaria deaths occurred in 2015 alone. In fact, over half of the world’s population is still at risk of malarial contraction, and those living in sub-Saharan Africa are particularly vulnerable due to the area’s malarial-conducive environment. The risk of contraction in this particular region can be greatly mitigated through the use of a simple tool: insecticide-treated bed nets (ITN). The product has revolutionized the fight against malaria and ultimately become the cornerstone of malaria prevention in sub-Saharan Africa.

In a study conducted in the three northern regions of Ghana in 2015, it was found that the mortality rate for children under five that slept beneath ITNs was 18.8 percent lower than those that did not sleep beneath an insecticide-treated bed net. Furthermore, the majority of gathered research shows a significant correlation between widespread ITN usage and decreased malarial death levels. This is attributed to the fact that insecticide-treated bed nets prevent the spread of malaria by not only physically inhibiting mosquitoes from infecting individuals, but also by killing those mosquitoes which encounter the net. This is significant, as it reduces the population of malarial transmitters.

The fact that insecticide-treated bed nets actually kill, and consequently decrease, potential malaria transmitters is exactly why insecticide-treated nets are so essential in the campaign against malaria. Yet, most ITNs require that the nets be periodically retreated with insecticides every three to six months. Such repeated treatments are both expensive and time-consuming, a combination which means that most re-treatments are never done. This ultimately means that ITNs are no better than the average bed net. The identification of this weakness led to the birth of the long-lasting insecticide net (LLIN).

The LLIN was a product that was created in 2003, in a Tanzanian textile factory called A to Z Textiles. After gaining support from Acumen Fund, an internationally-renowned venture-capital organization, A to Z was able to collaborate with Sumitomo Chemical and ExxonMobil to begin producing chemically-treated bed nets that are effective for up to 5 years. This is a huge shift from the previous technologies that required repeated treatments.

By injecting the nets with long-lasting insecticide, A to Z ignited its collaboration with the World Health Organization and UNICEF in an effort to distribute the nets to the most vulnerable individuals. Today, the factory employs over 7,000 people, most of whom are women, and is the largest producer of LLINs in Africa, with a total production of over 29 million bed nets a year. It maintains a commitment to accessibility and has engineered a way to reduce production costs to only five dollars in order to make the nets more financially accessible to those who need it the most.

Though the battle against malaria in sub-Saharan Africa is ongoing, it is greatly aided by the increased usage of ITNs, and LLINs specifically. As long as organizations like A to Z continue to innovate new and accessible methods of prevention, there can be hope for a malaria-free world.

Kailee Nardi

Photo: Flickr

Climate Change and Public Health: A Crucial ConnectionPublic health and the environment do not, on the surface, seem like related topics, but their relationship is crucial to protecting all people and living things.

More and more scientists and health professionals are agreeing that the connection between climate change and public health is an area of increasing concern. As the effects of climate change on lessening biodiversity and worsening severe weather become more transparent, the changing environment is having dire effects, especially on impoverished populations.

While human health is now, by most metrics, better than it has ever been, ongoing planetary changes threaten to reverse this progress. These threats require a new approach to health research and policy called “planetary health.”

In broad terms, planetary health asserts that humanity cannot sustain itself while ecological life suffers. Like traditional public health, it defines health broadly, including physical, mental and social well-being. It therefore considers health not just on an individual basis, but across entire populations.

For example, nutrition is becoming a growing concern as water scarcity and social degradation continue as they currently are. Decreased biodiversity also limits how many crops people can grow as well as threatens the livelihoods of many – especially rurally based and often impoverished demographics. City dwellers and those in developed countries might not see immediate losses, but those who produce the least emissions while living in poverty will be at the greatest disadvantage.

Many health organizations are now recognizing this connection between climate change and public health. Child Family Health International recently vouched support for the Planetary Health and One Health Movements, each dedicated to applying a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach to address potential or existing risks that originate at an ecological level. The organization offers many programs under both movements to target a wide array of disciplines aiming to support planetary health, food waste reduction, low environmental impact diet, improved governance, efficient water usage, ending deforestation and family and city planning.

Even an influential medical journal has recently brought awareness to climate change and public health. The Lancet now publishes information about planetary health, focusing on climate policies and their health benefits. Global warming itself brings public health challenges – with tropical diseases like malaria expanding their range and storms or floods triggering sanitation problems. By discussing productive ideas like shutting down coal plants to cut greenhouse gas emissions and preventing people from getting sick or dying from breathing or heart problems, planetary health can turn into an entire field of study driven by educated minds.

Solving climate change and public health concerns is no easy feat. However, through a multifaceted perspective highlighting the important relationship between these two issues, global efforts to improve lives can better supporting everyone toward a more sustainable future.

Allie Knofczynski
Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in GeorgiaLocated in Southwestern Asia – just between Russia and Turkey – lies the sovereign nation of Georgia, a former member of the Soviet Union. With a size hardly larger than the U.S. state of West Virginia, Georgia’s population teeters just above 4.9 million. Here are the most common diseases in Georgia:

Ischemic Heart Disease
A condition characterized by narrowed heart arteries which reduce blood flow to the heart, ischemic heart disease can ultimately result in untimely heart attack. Also known as coronary artery disease, ischemic heart disease was assessed to be the most fatal of the common diseases in Georgia in 2005. By 2015, it was still the most fatal, and the prevalence of deaths by the disease had actually increased by 1.4 percent.

Cerebrovascular Disease
Cerebrovascular disease refers to disorders affecting blood flow to the brain. Such disorders often result in aneurysms, carotid stenosis, intracranial stenosis, vertebral stenosis, stroke and vascular malformations. In 2015, cerebrovascular disease was the second most fatal common disease in Georgia, and had been for the past decade. However, the disease had fortunately decreased in prevalence by 0.9 percent within those 10 years.

Hypertensive Heart Disease
Hypertensive heart disease is a disease of the heart that results from elevated blood pressure. In Georgia, hypertensive heart disease was the third most fatal disease in 2015. This is a drastic change from 2005, when it was only the fifth most common cause of death. The decade unfortunately saw a staggering 145.6 percent increase in prevalence of the disease.

As heart disease has been a consistently growing problem in the country, the Georgia Department of Public Health has decided to participate in the national public health initiative called Million Hearts. The organization’s primary goal is to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes.

Through partnerships with community organizations, local health departments and hospitals, the Georgia Department of Public Health is addressing heart disease and aiming to reach ambitious goals for improvement. If the Department of Public Health addresses ischemic heart disease and cerebrovascular disease as well, surely these common diseases can also begin to see improvement in Georgia.

Shannon Golden

Photo: Flickr