Saving Premature Babies Globally with Scientific Research
Globally, an estimated 15 million babies are born prematurely, meaning they have completed less than 37 weeks of gestation. Scientific research throughout the years has been successful in saving premature babies on a global scale. For instance, India is a developing country whose focus is on saving the lives of preterm babies.

Achievements of Scientific Research Regarding Premature Babies

In 1953, researcher Dr. John Clements discovered that there was a way to save millions of premature babies around the world through his understanding of lung functionality. He found that a slippery substance, a surfactant, can help lessen the surface tension in the alveolar membranes. Therefore, scientists discovered that a lack of surfactant connects to human lung disease.

Another researcher, Dr. Mary Ellen Avery, in 1959, used Dr. Clements’ research to find that the lungs of premature babies cannot produce surfactant. Since then, saving premature babies globally has been made more possible through the FDA approval of five synthetic surfactants, which helps prevent respiratory distress syndrome in premature babies.

A recent innovative, surfaxin, was approved in 2012 and is a method to help with stopping the disease in premature babies. Dr. Clements say: “When we began this work back in the 1950s, the mortality from RDS was above 90 percent. Today, that mortality is 5 percent or less.” The original findings of Dr. Clements helped lead to a solution of saving the lives of preterm babies all over the world.

Premature Babies in India

Due to having the most significant number of premature babies in the world, the vast size and population of India can find hope through these scientific discoveries. In addition to this prevalence, one should also consider gestational age.

Usually, ultrasound imaging is completed in the first trimester. One thing that makes this hard is that ultrasound calls for training to receive the images accurately. This can be hard to do because ultrasound imaging is not practiced regularly; instead, the mothers are asked the date of the last period, which results in inaccurate assessments of the time of conception.

Increasing Affordability and Impact

Moving forward, a more affordable and recent hardware-software can be made possible through positive changes in the ultrasound hardware, such as modifications to the core technology.

An issue in this field is that there is consistently a lack of trained healthcare workers. Machine learning and development of software technologies have improved to combat this deficiency and reduce the need for trained healthcare personnel overall.

Recent discoveries have shown that a deficiency of selenium could be related to more preterm babies’ births. The researchers performed a genome-wide association study in an extensive database and combined it with independent data to acquire results.

Future Discoveries on the Horizon

Research is being done in Africa and Asia to see if such processes actually work. These areas are predominantly where selenium deficiency is present, but these tests could prove crucial to saving premature babies globally as selenium contains proteins present in body functions.

Preterm births are traced back to inflammation, and the body function of producing antioxidants prevents inflammation. This is one example of how scientific research can greatly impact studies on premature births.

In fact, scientific research has made it possible for successful progress to be achieved in India and all around the world when it comes to saving the lives of premature babies. All of these recent discoveries create a positive sense of hope around the world in the quest of ending the problem of premature babies. The world is getting closer day by day to having more babies born healthy.

– Kelly Kipfer
Photo: Flickr

Parliamentary Democracy Government
There are several types of democracies, and here we will explain what a parliamentary democracy is by comparing it to a presidential democracy, which we have in the United States.

In short, a parliamentary democracy is a system of government in which citizens elect representatives to a legislative parliament to make the necessary laws and decisions for the country. This parliament directly represents the people.

In a presidential democracy, the leader is called a President, and he or she is elected by citizens to lead a branch of government separate from the legislative branch. If you remember back to government class, you will remember that the United States has three branches of the government: the executive, the judicial, and the legislative. The President leads the executive branch of government.

 

Role of Parliamentary Democracy

 

In a parliamentary democracy, you have a Prime Minister, who is first elected as a member of parliament, then elected Prime Minister by the other members of the parliamentary legislature. However, the Prime Minister remains a part of the legislature. The legislative branch makes the laws, and thus the Prime Minister has a hand in law-making decisions. The Prime Minister works directly with other people in the legislature to write and pass these laws.

In our presidential democracy, we still have a legislature, but we also have a president. He is separate from the legislature, so although he works with them, it is not as direct as if he were a Prime Minister. The laws that the legislature wants to pass must first go through the president; he can sign them into being or he can veto them. The President can go to the legislative branch and suggest laws, but they ultimately write them for his approval.

Furthermore, in parliamentary systems, the legislature has the right to dismiss a Prime Minister at any time if they feel that he or she is not doing the job as well as expected. This is called a “motion of no confidence,” and is not as much of a drawn out process. In the US, impeachment is an extensive, formal process in which an official is accused of doing something illegal.

Some countries with a parliamentary system are constitutional monarchies, which still have a king and queen. A few examples of these are the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Japan.

It is important to remember that both of these systems of government are democracies. Ultimately, the citizens who vote have the voice.

– Alycia Rock

Sources: Wise Geek, Scholastic, How Stuff Works
Photo: Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants

 

parliamentary democracy government

Intelligence and PovertyFor people in poverty, we already know that it is difficult for them to escape the toxic poverty cycle. When one is poor, one cannot afford services that will take you out of poverty, which thus leads to more poverty. However, is there a relationship between intelligence and poverty?

In a 2013 scientific study, scientists took two groups of people, from rural India, and “from shoppers” in New Jersey. The results demonstrated a 13 point IQ difference between the two groups. As useful as this measure may sound, it fails to capture the wider context of differences between these two groups.

Firstly, the authors of this paper do not take any age into account, which, if poverty affected children and adults differently, would nullify the research. Of course, poverty does affect children and adults differently, but we do not know the exact effects it does have.

Another problem with the research is that the paper takes two groups of people from different cultures and attempts to compare them on the basis of an IQ test. This is not scientifically sound because measuring IQ in itself depends on one’s history and culture.

What this basically means is that the results of the test depend on how a certain person grew up, as well as how intelligent they truly are. In other words, the article is at best inaccurate. At worst, its conclusion is entirely false.

However, a new study by researchers in Bangladesh claims that children are much more heavily affected by the effects of poverty, by ways of malnutrition, sanitation and others. But one interesting thing to note is that people of all IQs fall into poverty, which accelerates cognitive aging and damages their brains permanently. This means that even people who are highly intelligent who fall into poverty are as much affected by the ravages of this struggle as people who don’t score highly on IQ and are educated.

Thus, there is a relationship between intelligence and poverty. A big part has to do with children growing up in poverty, while a smaller one has to with adults ending up poor. Although the topic sounds dreadful, it is extremely beneficial to know that intelligence and poverty has been studied, and it has been confirmed that we are all equals in the eyes of cognitive recession. Racism, genetic disorders and cultural clashes may divide the human race. Intelligence, however, will not.

Michal Burgunder

Photo: Flickr

International Students in India
A recent survey shows that the number of international students in India has decreased by nearly 1,000 students since the 2013-2014 school year.

The Association of Indian Universities conducted the survey. This survey showed that there were 30,423 international students in India according to the 208 Indian universities that responded to the survey. This is in spite of the fact that many Indian universities have policies that will allow international students to make up at most 15 percent of the student population.

According to The Pie News, most international students in India come from other Asian countries. Nepal sends the most students to India, followed by people of Indian descent born in different countries.

A significant portion of the students also arrive from African countries. The Pie News states that 20 percent of India’s international students come from Africa, most of whom are Nigerian. There is, however, little representation from European foreign students.

The study also illustrated some of the improvements India has made with regards to the international students that they admit. According to The Pie News, India accepted students from 208 different countries in the 2014-2015 school, a rise from 60 countries in 1984.

This survey is not a complete view of all of the potential international students in India. More than half of the Indian universities did not participate in the survey. The creators of the survey surmise then that those universities have little to no international students, and therefore did not want to participate.

One of the reasons for the low attendance of international students in India stems from minimal efforts from Indian universities to recruit foreign students. Sixty-two percent of Indian universities surveyed actually market to foreign students. Only 26 percent hire consultants to build international campaigns to entice foreign prospective students.

The executive vice president of global engagement and research at StudyPortals, Rahul Choudaha, acknowledges the issues that the low turnout of international students in India causes for the country as a whole. He explains how other Asian destinations gain more global talent due to catering to international audiences.

The secretary-general of the Association of Indian Universities Furqan Qamar also expresses how the lack of Indian international students affects Indians’ place in the global society. He states in Times Higher Education that “as a result, [the universities] are losing out on the advantage of not only generating some revenue but also of making their campuses diverse and thus [of] creating a global ambiance.”

The Indian government hopes to change that. In ten years India hopes to have one million international students studying in its universities.

Cortney Rowe

Photo: Flickr

Poverty Rate in MongoliaThe decrease in the poverty rate in Mongolia is a slowly developing story that is trending in the direction of success. As of 2015 – due to Mongolia not publishing reports detailing its poverty statistics on a regular basis – the country’s poverty rate stood at 22 percent, which marks a decrease from its previous rate of 28 percent.

While this rate is still dramatically too high, it demonstrates that the correct efforts are being taken to decrease the poverty rate in Mongolia and should be studied and replicated in other impoverished countries.

Of the information available regarding the poverty rate in Mongolia, it is even more impressive that the country has managed to reduce its poverty rate in both its urban and, even more so, its rural environments. Urban poverty is typically easier to weed out because urban environments often see the benefits of economic development, which unfortunately take significantly longer to reach rural areas.

In the years 2012 and 2014, rural areas in Mongolia saw their poverty rates fall by nine percent and accounted for half the reduction in poverty during that two-year period. This decrease in poverty can be attributed to the spurt of economic growth that Mongolia has experienced over the past decade. Mainly due to the growth of its mining industry, Mongolia has enjoyed double digit growth rates, significantly helping to generate income for the country’s poor population.

That the Mongolian economy relies on mining, however, may prove to be its downfall and may force the poverty rate in Mongolia to once again take an upward turn. As the demand for coal and copper – Mongolia’s primary mineral resources – continues to fall, it will become imperative to develop a new industry to support the ongoing drop in its poverty rate.

Assisting in the reduction of poverty in Mongolia is the growth of its capital Ulaanbaatar. As it continues to gain significance in Asia and the rest of the world, it will allow for more money to be diverted to poverty reduction efforts and allow more jobs to be created. By creating more jobs in Mongolia’s capital city, people will increasingly be able to save money and eventually climb the economic ladder out of poverty.

– Garrett Keyes

Photo: Flickr

Effects of Poverty
Of all the social issues faced by a developing country, poverty often feels especially overwhelming. Of the many factors working against the poor, the effects of poverty on the brain development of children is probably the most daunting yet.

Researchers have long suspected a correlation between a child’s behavior and cognitive abilities and their socio-economic status. This correlation becomes even more apparent among people living in extreme poverty. In a 2015 study published in Nature Neuroscience, a team led by neuroscientists Kimberly Noble from Columbia University in New York City and Elizabeth Sowell from Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, California, imaged the brains of 1,099 children, adolescents and young adults in several U.S. cities. Their findings revealed that children from the lowest income bracket of less than $25,000 had up to six percent less surface area than children from families making more than $150,000. Within the poorest families themselves, income inequalities of a few thousand dollars were associated with major differences in brain structure and cognitive skills.

Within countries that live on less than a dollar a day, researchers have found other developmental problems such as stunted growth and cognitive issues. In an unprecedented study conducted in 1960, a team of researchers began giving out nutritional supplements to young children in rural Guatemala. The study was aimed at collecting data to test the theory that providing enough supplements during a child’s formative years would help in reducing stunted growth. This theory was proved in the early 2000s, when the researchers returned to check on the children who had received the supplements in the first three years of their life. They found that not only did the children grow one to two centimeters more than the control group; they even scored higher in cognitive tests. This experiment proved the effects of poverty on the brain development of children.

In 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a study into the heights and weights of children between birth and age five in Brazil, Ghana, India, Norway, Oman and the United States. The results showed that healthy children, regardless of their home countries, follow a very similar growth trajectory. Based on these results, the WHO established benchmarks for atypical growth. In countries like Bangladesh, India, Guatemala and Nigeria, over 40 percent of children meet the definition of stunted growth. In light of the growing awareness and consensus around effects of stunting, the WHO included the reduction in the number of children under five with stunted growth by 40 percent as one of its six global nutritional targets for 2025.

Similar studies were conducted in Brazil, Peru, Jamaica, the Philippines, Kenya and Zimbabwe, all with the same conclusion. However, pediatric cognitive development is a complex multidimensional problem and not all stunted growth, which affects an estimated 160 million children worldwide, is connected to malnutrition. Malnutrition is one side of this multifaceted problem; poor sanitation, stressful home environments, exposure to industrial chemicals, lack of access to good education and income disparities are other possible factors.

It would not be an overstatement to say that all research points to an urgent need to address the problem of world poverty. Factors such as lack of education, poor hygiene, lack of pre-post-natal care, nutritional deficiency, exposure to chemicals and stressful childhood are some of the paralyzing issues faced by those in extreme poverty. The daunting effects of poverty on the brain development of children have already been proven by researchers and new research and studies are further fortifying what is already known. In essence, even as officials start to take action in providing adequate nutrition, research cannot be clearer in building the case for the urgent need to eliminate world poverty.

Jagriti Misra

Photo: Flickr

Autism in Developing Countries
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is “a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This disability has become increasingly common in children in the United States. CDC estimated that as of March 2013, about one in every 50 school children is diagnosed with autism.

However, outside of Western civilization, and into more under-developed countries, the number of people diagnosed with ASD is significantly lower.

Why is this? It is not necessarily because children in non-Western countries do not have ASD, but because the children are not being diagnosed with it. There are multiple reasons for this. Some of these include a lack of professional doctors, cultural skepticism and mere unawareness of the problem.

Lack of physicians is one of the main reasons why people are not being diagnosed with autism in developing countries. Harvard’s Global Health Review gives the example that “in South East Asia, there is one psychiatrist per 100,000 people, making mental health services or diagnoses extremely difficult to access.”

To combat this absence of doctors, the organization Autism Speaks funded a research study to help people in developing countries become aware of autism and teach them how to screen for this disorder within their community. The simple screening process involves a tool called Rapid Neurodevelopmental Assessment (RNDA). The screening device was tested in Dhaka, Bangladesh and showed tremendous potential. Autism Speaks points out that “while global infant mortality has decreased in recent decades, malnutrition and extreme poverty continues. This puts hundreds of millions of young children at risk for developmental disabilities.”

Another potential reason why autism in developing countries is so low is because of the culture’s views on developmental disabilities. Continuing with its example of South East Asia, the Global Health Review said, “In South Korea, the stigma of autism is so intense that many families of children with developmental delays will intentionally avoid diagnosis of ASD.”

Habits such as not looking someone in the eye or being brief in conversations could be signs of autism in children, but in some cultures it is seen as a cultural norm rather than a disability.

Whether parents are concerned they will be judged for having in autistic child or unwilling to admit that they do have one, ASD is not a matter that should be taken lightly. Although not a fatal disease, autism spectrum disorder is a serious condition that could affect even the simplest daily tasks.

With more resources and in-depth education, autism in developing countries can be addressed and families can become informed about how to treat ASD.

Sydney Missigman

Photo: Flickr

ClassroomThe Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality (CPI), a nonpartisan research center, is monitoring trends in poverty and inequality, developing policy and explaining the root causes of poverty. This education begins in the classroom and finishes in the field, such as rural villages in Africa. The Center supports research students and established scholars in the field. All research is published in CPI’s magazine Pathways, which will likely become the new fact-based journal on poverty, inequality, income, discrimination and more.

Since CPI’s beginning in 2006, the Center has received support from the US Department of Health and Human Services, Stanford University, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, Pew Charitable Trusts and others. This type of intellectual approach and curiosity might be the next step needed for a meaningful change in poverty reduction.

Ending Poverty with Technology is just one of many courses within the Center. Stanford students have the opportunity to pick an issue and use the semester to determine how they would better the situation. Sarukkai, a Stanford student majoring in symbolic systems stated, “In the land of opportunity it only makes sense that every human being has access to the same resources and pathways to success—an ideal we are far from achieving.”

As an undergraduate capstone project, one CPI team proposed a web platform and mobile app called “CareSwap.” This app is designed to help low-income families trade childcare within their respected network of friends and family. Although the course has ended, the “CareSwap” team plans to continue to develop and execute their website and app. The ending of a course does not mean the work ends.

The course is simply a place where the inspiration begins—the work ethic and dreams of the Center’s students cannot be diminished by the end of a semester. Poverty reduction begins in the classroom, but is carried out during the long hours of the student’s personal time.

“Our idea evolved so much in the last few months after our interviews and conversations with parents and childcare experts,” the students said. “We are excited to develop it further next year. This project has become far more than a class assignment for each of us.” An idea that began in the classroom later developed into an app and website, making thousands of children’s lives easier and safer.

Some of the proposed projects may even be adopted for further development by the Stanford Poverty & Technology Lab, an initiative dedicated to developing technology-based solutions to rising inequality in the United States. Currently, the lab is developing an app, under Bill Behrman, director of the Stanford Data Lab, for “mapping” poverty in California. The app has the potential to help government agencies and nonprofits better target certain demographics by delivering estimates of poverty, unemployment, income and other indicators for very small geographic areas of the state.

Innovative and creative thinking are both necessary to tackle any complex topic, particularly poverty. In the classroom, both attributes are present, as well as the ability to look at the situation from various perspectives. The communal feel and global mindset of Stanford is felt in every classroom of the Center on Poverty and Inequality. “It’s not about a professor teaching and the students learning,” one student said. “We’re all just part of the same team trying to build products that work to reduce poverty.”

Reducing poverty encompasses so many different aspects of society. However, like anything truly successful it should begin in the classroom. Poverty reduction can better the quality and longevity for millions of people worldwide, as academics and students studying to better the world—it only makes sense to tackle poverty from inside the classroom through innovation and creative thinking.

Danielle Preskitt
Photo: Flickr

Albert_Einstein_refugee
As the author of the theory of special and general relativity, his name stands synonymous with the word “genius.” Changing fundamental ideas about the physical relationship between space, time, and gravitation, Albert Einstein radicalized how humans think about the building blocks of the physical world we live in. His theory of relativity was confirmed in 1919 from further research into solar eclipses. His popularization by the press gained him a quick rise to fame and in 1921, Einstein would receive the Nobel Prize for his related work.

Being himself a German Jew, Einstein cultivated an outspoken political personality and was well known for his pacifist ideals. His work, paired with his political persona triggered negative attention from extreme right-wing groups.

Anti-Semites were determined to publicize his discoveries as “un-German”. The rise of the Nazi party made it more and more difficult for Einstein to work in Germany, so in 1932 when offered a position at Princeton University, he accepted, retaining dual U.S. and Swiss citizenship.

While his theories were still widely taught, he was ultimately accused of treason in 1933 by the Nazi Third Reich; winning the party a partial victory when Einstein’s name could no longer be mentioned in academic circles. Although Einstein was not in Germany at the time, Nazi fanatics still had his property seized and his books were among those burned on the famous May 10, 1933, as a symbol of purging an “un-German” spirit.

He fled to the United States on October 17th of that year, using his fame and financial resources to work vigorously with his wife to obtain U.S. visas for other German Jew refugees. Einstein had haunting mixed feelings about his life in Princeton:

 

“I am privileged by fate to live here in Princeton…In this small university town the chaotic voices of human strife barely penetrate. I am almost ashamed to be living in such peace while all the rest struggle and suffer.”

 

Among many notable others, the legacy of Albert Einstein’s refugee status resulted in the founding of the German Academic Refugee Initiative Fund (DAFI), an organization whose primary objective is to promote self-reliance of refugees through providing professional qualifications for future employment. In addition, DAFI contributes to the development of critical human resources that may be needed in the potential restoration of refugees’ home countries. DAFI also offers a scholarship project; an effective instrument used to attain and maintain self-reliance of refugees when used in the right context. The funds given from the scholarship must be used to aid in the academic studies of eligible refugee recipients.

Thus, Albert Einstein left us not only with mind-blowing new theories in physics, but a key organization telling us that education paves the road out of socioeconomic poverty.

– Kali Faulwetter

Sources: Azer, UNHCR, Jewish Virtual Library, PPU, OFADEC
Photo: Native Pakistan

 

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Toy Inspires Low-Cost Lab Aid to Detect Malaria
Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. In 2015 alone, there were 212 million cases of malaria and 429 thousand deaths. Suffice it to say that malaria is a global health problem.

Even worse is that Sub-Saharan Africa continues to carry a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. In 2015, the region was home to 90 percent of malaria cases and 92 percent of malaria deaths.

The good thing is that malaria is preventable and curable, given the proper tools to do so. A device called a centrifuge that spins a blood sample very quickly and separates different cells can detect malaria. Centrifuges, though, are expensive, bulky and require electricity – which makes it inefficient in regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa.

A low-cost lab aid to detect malaria is in dire demand, which is exactly what Manu Prakash, a professor of bioengineering at Stanford University, realized on a trip to Uganda. On his trip, Prakash says he found centrifuges used as doorstops because there was no electricity.

Back in California, Prakash experimented with spinning toys in his search for a model for a low-cost lab aid to detect malaria. Though toys are not the conventional approach to developing a lab aid, Prakesh argues that toys hide profound physical phenomena we take for granted.

After experimenting with several spinning toys, including a yo-yo, they stumbled upon the children’s toy known as the whirligig or buzzer. The toy is made of a disk that spins when the strings that go through it are pulled.

This new low-cost lab aid to detect malaria dubbed the paperfuse, can separate pure plasma from whole blood in less than 1.5 minutes, and isolate malaria parasites in 15 minutes. The paperfuse has an ultra low cost of fewer than 20 cents, weighs only two grams and is, therefore, field-portable. The paper fuse could be the tool that helps detect and end malaria in low-income countries in the near future.

Mayan Derhy

Photo: Flickr