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Gates Foundation
This year, as part of his annual pledge to eventually contribute 500 million shares of the Berkshire Hathaway Inc to the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation, Warren Buffett recently donated nearly $2.2 billion worth of class B stocks in support of improving global health and embarking on a new challenge to assist U.S. education.

In 2010, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett created the Giving Pledge, which rallied the world’s billionaires to donate at least half of their fortunes to charity. Since the pledge has been put into place, 154 affluent individuals have made the oath.

Gates acknowledges the possibility of failure in some projects, but remains optimistic, stating “we not only accept that [projects will fail] we expect it—because we think an essential role of philanthropy is to make bets on promising solutions that governments and businesses can’t afford to make.”

Bill and Melinda Gates are both optimistic about the future of the Foundation, which is aimed at alleviating extreme poverty and poor health in developing countries in addition to improving the failure of America’s education system.

According to a SEC document filed on Thursday, July 13, 2015, Buffett donated 14,968,423 shares of Class B Common Stock valued at $145.93 per share to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Buffett also donated 1,047,785 shares of Class B Common Stock to foundations owned by his three children: the Sherwood Foundation, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and the NoVo Foundation.

Warren Buffett believes philanthropy is associated with taking risks and remains steadfast and patient whenever Berkshire investments bear no fruit. “If you succeed in everything you’re doing in charity, you’re attempting things that are too easy,” Warren Buffett declared in 2011.

The philanthropist also donated $215 million worth of stocks to the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, which is named after his late wife. The main objective of the Susan Thompson Buffett foundation is to provide scholarships for eligible recipients within the Nebraska region on a competitive basis.

Buffett has vowed to give away 99 percent of his wealth in support of charitable causes and innovative solutions to end global poverty. After over 10 years of donating to the Gates foundation as well as other nonprofit organizations, Buffett’s fortune is now estimated at approximately $65.6 billion.

Buffett’s recent donation to the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation, when added to the other donations made over his lifetime, brings his total donations to more than $28.5 billion.

Shanique Wright

Photo: Finance Buzz

USAID
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is working to alleviate global poverty in the world and doing a shockingly good job so far. USAID believes it can wipe out extreme poverty (earning less than $1.90 a day) by the year 2030, and USAID has three presidential initiatives working to attain this admirable goal: Feed the Future, Global Climate Change and Global Health.

Feed the Future

Feed the Future is the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. Because nearly 800 million people go to bed hungry every night, Feed the Future works to diminish that number by spurring economic growth to increase incomes and reduce hunger, poverty and malnourishment.

USAID believes that Feed the Future will be a lasting initiative with long-term success since the program is deeply rooted in government and organizational partnerships. This adaptivity is key, especially since the population continues to increase.

Every country depends heavily on their environment to provide essential resources, such as food, water, shelter and energy. Unfortunately, these resources are under incredible strain due to the world’s tremendous increase in population; by 2050 there will be roughly an additional 2 billion people on earth.

Currently, 800 million individuals around the world suffer from chronic hunger, mainly due to poverty. With 2 billion additional people on earth by 2050, the number of chronically hungry individuals will only increase without initiatives such as Feed the Future.

Global Climate Change Initiative 

USAID’s Global Climate Change Initiative works to help impoverished countries manage and benefit from their natural resources. USAID can alleviate countries out of poverty for good by helping them manage their supporting land tenure policies and resource rights, fight deforestation and plant trees, protect biodiversity and adapt to the effects of climate change.

Global Health

USAID’s Global Health Initiative “seeks to advance world safe and secure from infectious diseases and to promote global health security as an international health priority.”

USAID works towards this goal by decreasing maternal mortality and infant death rates as well as lessening the number of HIV infections found in children. In the past 50 years, USAID has helped child mortality rates decline by 70 percent and maternal mortality rates by 40 to 65 percent. This amazing feat was achieved by providing mothers and children with supplements, vaccines and bed nets — actions that save about 6 million children per year.

A Truly Life-Saving Organization 

USAID saves more than 3 million lives annually through their immunization programs, three large initiatives and many smaller poverty-alleviating acts. USAID has educated over 850,000 people on HIV prevention and over 50 million couples worldwide use family planning because of USAID’s population program.

USAID plays a critical role in our nation’s effort to stabilize countries and build responsive local governance. Most importantly, USAID strives to not only alleviate extreme global poverty, but also keep individuals from having to make impossible choices between food, medicine, housing or education daily. Incredibly, this organization does all in its power to make sure people are able to afford their basic human needs.

Bella Chaffey

Photo: Flickr

 

Dengue Fever
Dengue fever is a rapidly spreading viral disease in the developing world. Thankfully, though, a new method of analyzing cell phone call records to health clinics is proving successful at predicting the next outbreak locations of the disease.

This disease is mosquito-borne and results in flu-like symptoms that can persist until fatality occurs, especially in children or others who do not have access to swift and proper medical care.

Dengue fever infects 390 million people worldwide every year, and many more are at risk. The illness is found mostly in tropical and sub-tropical climates and acts a leading cause of serious illness and death among children in Asian and Latin American countries.

In the United States, information on the spread of diseases is gathered by looking at road usage and other travel patterns. However, this kind of information proves often unavailable and unreliable in developing countries. Furthermore, dengue fever is the fastest-spreading mosquito-borne disease in the world, and many places are exposed to this disease for the first time and unprepared to effectively deal with such a health crisis.

According to a study published in Science Advances journal, researchers found that by studying cell phone call records in the Punjab region of Pakistan, they were able to pinpoint where dengue fever cases occurred and predict where they might occur next.

This new method looks at the patterns of calls to a local health hotline in conjunction with weather information. This combination provides real-time data of when and where the disease is likely to spread geographically.

The phone records are collected on a large-scale and anonymous basis to protect the personal privacy of the callers.

Dengue fever is often seen in areas of rapid urbanization, which commonly occurs in developing countries. This method of monitoring the disease is particularly useful in these developing countries because it is a low-cost method. Call pattern statistics provide an effective low-cost alternative in many nations that lack the resources to closely monitor the spread of disease.

Additionally, there is no specific globally-recognized treatment for dengue fever. Early detection has proven critical in helping those afflicted with the disease. Receiving medical care early on reduced mortality for this disease from more than 20 percent to less than one percent. Since call analysis can predict where outbreaks may occur in the future, it is an effective way to stop a disease that is particularly difficult to treat.

While the examination of call patterns does not currently account for international travel, which does play a role in the transmission of dengue fever, this transport avenue could certainly be in the future for statistical call analysis. Even the current iterations of this method provide important real-time data that can help reduce the spread of a dangerous disease, especially in developing countries.

Nathaniel Siegel

Photo: Flickr

Immunization training
Last November, the Gates Foundation hosted the Teach to Reach: Innovative Methods for Immunization Training summit in Seattle. Some of the Nigerian summit attendees have since returned to their home country to share what they have learned about immunization training.

The Teach to Reach website describes the event as “a resource for immunization professionals to share and explore recent advances in education psychology and instructional design, and to discuss how best to use new strategies and tools to improve immunization training.”

Doctor Bassey, the current Head of Routine Immunization and Essential Services at the National Primary Health Care Development Agency in Nigeria leads a group “working to revitalize the national immunization training task team.” Two of his major partners are Doctors Abiola and Abisola from Clinton Health Access Initiative.

The team has faced many challenges in an attempt to increase immunization training in the country. One of the major issues is ensuring access to every health facility in the country of 180,000 people. The doctors are also pushing for each immunization center to use the same training manuals.

Abiola and Abisola have done major work in the state of Lagos to provide more hands-on rather than theoretical training– for instance using life-size dolls to practice delivering immunizations. They report that Lagos State Government officials have been very supportive of their efforts.

Increased immunization training also works to advance adult learning and strengthen the skilled labor market within Nigeria.

Bassey, Abiola and Abisola are not the first to focus on immunizations in Nigeria. Nigeria has worked to increase immunizations and improve training within the country for decades. Nigeria’s Expanded Programme on Immunization began in 1979, and 20 years later, the fight against polio has resulted in a renewed focus on vaccinations. Thus, the resulting creation became the National Programme on Immunization.

Despite the countless initial obstacles, the future of immunization training in Nigeria looks bright and displays the success of the Teach to Reach Summit message.

Carrie Robinson

Photo: Flickr

Protect against zika

Top scientists around the globe are working and using new technologies to find out whether new trends in vaccinations could help protect against Zika. With the most recent and most popular public health crisis at the forefront of international attention –the Zika virus outbreak– the world is bringing new information, methodology, literature and scientific measures at a pace that keeps followers baffled. Now, scientists hope to set a world record for the speed at which they can develop a Zika vaccine, and new technologies are helping them along the way.

These novel prevention and intervention procedures could change the way that the public health field addresses epidemics, namely viruses.

Leading the pack with the first grant, biotech company Inovio received approval from the Food and Drug Administration to conduct an experimental Zika vaccine trial on humans. They have already been able to prevent the virus from taking hold in monkeys, and Harvard Medical School reports developing two successful Zika vaccines that have shown promise in mice.

Although many companies and institutions are gunning to be the first, funding can be problematic. President Obama said that a Zika vaccine could be produced relatively quickly should Congress provide a budget for it. Democrats struck down a bill allotting 1.1 billion dollars to research for the vaccine because of tacked-on, unrelated political moves. The president attributed the denial of the bill to typical politics.

Despite this setback, new technology still allows for research to be conducted by private institutions. A relatively recent bit of tech called DNA vaccination now allows current Zika researchers to develop effective vaccines. This form of the shot only contains a fraction of the viral DNA, as opposed to an entire viral unit, allowing the production of these treatments to be more cost effective and less dangerous.

In the past, one pitfall for researchers was the potency of the vaccine. This type of shot has to enter a cell in order to take hold (unusual in the world of vaccines), so it became necessary to invent new delivery technologies. Now, an electric shock may replace the classic puncture-style injection– a development claimed by Inovio.

So, can new trends in vaccinations help protect against Zika? Researchers hope to have a successful answer and vaccine in mass production by 2018.

Connor Borden

Photo: Pixabay

Diagnostic tools for HIV
It can take anywhere from weeks to months to diagnose an infant infected with HIV. Amazingly, two new diagnostic tools for HIV have shortened that to an hour.

Many diagnostic tools for HIV are serological, meaning they test for HIV antibodies in blood or other bodily fluids. In infants, though, maternal HIV antibodies are passed to the baby passively during pregnancy and continue to do so as the mother breastfeeds.

When infected babies produce antibodies of their own, the test has difficulty differentiating between the mother’s and the baby’s antibodies. It also takes some time for HIV antibodies to develop with which the serological assay can react. The test won’t be positive until there are antibodies to react with, which means the baby also has to wait longer to be diagnosed with HIV.

In 2007, the World Health Organization noted that there was a higher risk of death among HIV-infected children under two years old. It recommended that national programs establish the capacity to provided early virological training.

Virological tests look for evidence of the virus in the blood rather than the virus’s antibodies. Usually these tests require laboratories with substantial amounts of equipment and infrastructure, but now due to two recent developments, these tests need substantially less time and supplies.

Alere q HIV-1/2 Detect and Xpert HIV-1 Qual Assay take as little as an hour to deliver a diagnosis. In 2015, WHO estimates that more than 1.2 million infants were born HIV positive globally, but just over half had access to an infant diagnostic test. WHO also reports that only half of the children infected with HIV receive the care they need.

Both tests use a disposable cartridge preloaded with the necessary materials to identify HIV in a blood sample. The WHO Pre-Qualification Programme, which works to assure quality for international procurement agencies distributed in low-income countries, prequalified both tests. This is meant to provide U.N. agencies and countries with quality assurance and give these agencies and countries confidence to buy and use the products.

The Xpert test uses the same technology as TB diagnoses, making it cost effective and usable for multiple types of diagnoses. It requires very little training to use it, and can test whole blood or dried blood spots. The test has a 90-minute run time, but it can also run multiple tests at a time. Its one drawback is that it requires a continuous power supply to work.

Alere runs on an eight-hour battery, making it more sustainable for work in remote rural areas. Like Xpert, it is a point-of-care diagnostic tool for HIV, so laboratories in urban areas are no longer necessary. Alere, however, only has a 52-minute run time.

Pre-qualification was an 18-month process. Groups involved included WHO, South Africa’s National Health Laboratory Service and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mercedes Perez Gonzalez, a technical officer in the Department of Essential Medicines and Health Products that coordinated the performance evaluations, reported in a press release that the team conducting the performance evaluations also needed 150 HIV positive “infant specimens.”

Now that Alere and Xpert have prequalified, they’re being used and studied in countries with high levels of HIV to know their maximum utilization. New diagnostic tools for HIV like Alere and Xpert are changing the world for the better, one scan at a time.

Anastazia Vanisko

Photo: Pixabay

Mount SinaiOn June 8, 2016, The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai released news of its Department of Health System Design and Global Health. The program is the first in the nation to utilize the strengths of U.S. health care systems and integrate them into global health systems.

Leading this evolutionary integration and development project is Dr. Prabjot Singh, MD, PhD. Director of The Arnhold Institute for Global Health at Mount Sinai, Dr. Singh plans on having both departments work together in transforming and improving global healthcare.

Dr. Singh wishes to address typical but significant issues and borders surrounding global healthcare, namely quality healthcare at affordable costs and prevention as well as sustainable treatment. In order to achieve these goals, Dr. Singh stressed the need to break down the borders between U.S. health systems and the rest of the world.

According to Dr. Singh, “Our new Department, in conjunction with The Arnhold Institute for Global Health, will focus on training practitioners, designing new methods and developing solutions that collapse this barrier. The groundswell of interest from across the Mount Sinai Health System and Icahn School of Medicine signals a promising future.”

The Mount Sinai Hospital already has built a stellar reputation in the world of medicine and healthcare. According to U.S. News & World Report, Mount Sinai is ranked amongst some of the top hospitals nationwide. The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is also lauded as one revolutionaries in clinical and basic science research.

Essentially, Mount Sinai’s Department of Health System Design and Global Health will focus on transcending the borders and hurdles global healthcare faces. The Department will create better healthcare systems based on cost-effective business strategies and advanced technology.

Running these healthcare models will be a diverse faculty with expert-level backgrounds from economic and policy analysis, operations research, data science and interaction design. The well-rounded staff complete with the collaboration of Mount Sinai’s multiple departments is expected to reform and break the challenges surrounding global healthcare practices and accessibility.

Jenna Salisbury

Photo: Wikidot

Global Health Policy ForumGlobal health issues were the focus of the June 14 global health policy forum hosted by Health Affairs in Washington, D.C. The recorded event, titled “Global Health: Patient Safety, Cancer Care, Universal Health Coverage and Innovation,” attracted more than 150 experts in the health and healthcare fields and covered various topics concerning universal healthcare and patient safety.

Health Affairs is an esteemed academic journal which publishes health policy research and theory. Its mission is to address global health issues such as access to and quality of healthcare. The U.S. as well as international legislators and health leaders often cite Health Affairs in official legislation, and its publications and events are critical to global healthcare decision making.

Present at the forum, the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) is a global healthcare initiative of the Qatar Foundation. WISH’s presence at the forum was significant given that its mission to improve global health might influence legislators in Washington, D.C. As CEO of WISH Egbert Schillings said, “The ultimate purpose of WISH is to influence decision makers using the best possible evidence available.”

WISH was created in 2012 when Sheikha Moza bint Nasser of Qatar addressed global delegates at the Global Health Policy Summit in London and urged them to work together to prevent and to treat diseases. WISH facilitates global healthcare innovation, and the initiative collaborates globally with groups like Health Affairs in order to help achieve this goal.

Health Affairs and WISH’s global vision and willingness to cooperate make events like this month’s global health forum possible and effective. As Professor Lord Darzi of Denham, Executive Chair of WISH, said, “Our partnership with Health Affairs is evidence of the global impact of WISH research.”

Health Affairs and WISH’s research have the power to positively change global health issues as they work together to share accurate health research with decision makers worldwide. Their partnership is effectively enabling world leaders to solve global health issues through cooperation, collaboration and a dedication to sharing valuable information with decision makers.

Addie Pazzynski

Photo: Health Affairs

Social Entrepreneurship
Oftentimes, business and altruism seem to be at odds. Social entrepreneurship aims to dismantle that notion. This effort takes a number of shapes, but specifically, entrepreneurial initiatives addressing global health are on the rise. These types of businesses intend to implement solutions to health care problems faced by marginalized groups in ways that bureaucratic governments and health organizations cannot.

To backtrack, a social entrepreneur is someone who seeks to establish sustainable social change on a large-scale. They intend to promote social values while keeping fiscal responsibility in mind.

A key characteristic is innovation. A social entrepreneur should be able to adapt new or improved methods to fit the targeted populations in order to help the world. A social business is one that does not sacrifice responsibility for profit, but rather shoots for responsibility while turning a profit.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the rise in social entrepreneurship is an unmistakable trend in full force. At least 27 universities worldwide are currently offering courses or programs in that particular field of study. There are at least 25 annual competitions for social entrepreneurship, which reflects the rising popularity of this sect of the business world.

Unlike other businesses, social ventures do not rely on patented technologies or methods, but rather search to inject something new, namely perspective, into an already existing system. With healthcare, this means companies can circumvent the norm and introduce a unique lens through which healthcare is delivered.

Outside of the private sector, social entrepreneurship is changing the way the public sphere operates as well. Governments and NGO’s are learning from these ventures. From organizations in Bangladesh and Thailand to the U.K.’s own Oxfam, NGO’s are adopting entrepreneurial methods to maximize the effectiveness of their operations.

Governments are beginning to endorse social entrepreneurship as a valuable ally to local economies and social change.

Connor Borden

Photo: The Startup Couch

How to prevent ebola
The History

To understand how to prevent ebola, one must first consider its history. The Ebola virus was discovered in West Africa and has been around for more than 35 years. According to an article written by Sydney Lupkin, an ABC News reporter, “The virus first arrived in the United States via U.S. missionaries flown here for treatment [during the] summer [of 2014].”

A Liberian tourist, by the name of Thomas Eric Duncan, also played a role in importing the virus when he took a flight from Liberia to Texas (he later died in Dallas). When news of the virus first reached the U.S. an uproar of fear and panic swept across the nation.

On Jan. 14, 2016, BBC News reported that since the first confirmed case on Mar. 23, 2014, 11,315 people have died from the disease. The reported deaths came from six countries which include Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, the U.S. and Mali. Overall, “The total number of reported cases is about 28,637.”

Since the peak of the outbreak, the number of diagnosed cases has been reduced substantially, but this does not mean a future outbreak is not possible. Only by understanding the facts and symptoms of the Ebola virus can one truly know how to prevent Ebola.

The Ebola virus — which was first transmitted to humans through animals — belongs to a viral family known as Filoviridae. This places Ebola in a category of viruses that can cause profuse bleeding both internally and externally. These symptoms are often contracted simultaneously with high fevers.

Ebola differs from other viruses because it cannot be contracted through the air or by a simple touch of the skin. According to a medically reviewed article written by Rachel Nall, a registered nurse, an individual “must have direct contact with the bodily fluids of someone who [already] has it.” The virus may be transmitted through bodily fluids such as blood, saliva, feces, breast milk, semen, urine and vomit.

The Symptoms

The website for The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that most individuals will start experiencing Ebola symptoms within eight to ten days after their initial exposure.

That being said, symptoms can arise as early as two days, or take as long as three weeks. Often times the first symptom is extreme fatigue, followed by diarrhea, fever, headache, muscle pain, stomach pain, unexplained bleeding or bruising and vomiting. The virus can be transmitted via the eyes, nose, mouth, broken skin or sexual contact.

Prevention

Before any symptoms arise, it is important to stay cognizant of how to prevent ebola. Individuals can prevent the virus by practicing good hygiene habits such as washing one’s hands with soap and water.

Be sure to wear durable and protective clothing when wildlife is present. Never come in direct contact with the body of someone who died from Ebola. Abstain from utilizing any items a person with Ebola has handled. Lastly, avoid coming in contact with blood or other bodily fluids.

Anyone who has come in contact with Ebola, given care to someone diagnosed with Ebola or touched an infected animal should seek immediate medical attention. The sooner the virus can be diagnosed, the better chance medical professionals have to fight it.

As of April 2015, The World Health Organization has reported it is testing two possible vaccines. But until medical experts create a reliable vaccine, it is paramount to always stay alert.

Although the saying is cliché, if we don’t learn from our past we are doomed to repeat it. By spreading the knowledge of how to prevent Ebola, we can ensure that human health and safety are top priorities.

Terry J. Halloran

Photo: Flickr