Formative SupervisionWith a population of about 30 million, many Angolans do not have access to adequate healthcare. The limited access to quality healthcare is due to decreased funding due to the Angolan Government’s budget restrictions. The lack of funding affects the quality of public healthcare which people can receive at no cost. The public healthcare sector in Angola does not have enough healthcare providers with proper training and resources. The lack of resources in healthcare reflects in the low ratio of about one health center per 25,000 people and more than 50% of people are without access to healthcare services. In recent years, USAID’s Health for All project, using the Health Network Quality Improvement System (HNQIS), has implemented formative supervision in Angola. Implementing formative supervision in Angola has shown to improve the quality of healthcare by increasing the number of healthcare providers with proper training.

USAID’s Health for All Project

USAID’s Health for All program is a five-year project that began in 2017. It works with the Angolan Government to help improve the quality and access to healthcare in the country. The project’s focus is on addressing the issues of malaria and reproductive health since those are two of the main health concerns affecting the people of Angola. With the current funding being at $63 million, the program has been able to train 1,489 health professionals on how to diagnose and treat malaria and created reproductive health services in 42 health facilities.

The program’s use of formative supervision in Angola has helped in educating and providing healthcare workers with the necessary tools to effectively care for patients. The Health Network Quality Improvement System is the main tool that USAID uses to help improve the quality of healthcare because the system is used to evaluate the performance of individual healthcare providers. By tracking the performance of the healthcare providers in Angola, USAID can more easily determine which areas of the healthcare system need improvement. Under the Health for All program, USAID has been using formative supervision with healthcare providers who specifically tend to cases of malaria and reproductive health.

The Benefits of Formative Supervision

From October 2019 to March 2020, the Health for All project recorded improvements in the quality of healthcare through the use of formative supervision in 276 out of 360 Angolan health facilities with prenatal services. In addition to tracking the performance in maternal and reproductive health, the supervision has also helped in finding the areas in which the management of malaria has been lacking. There are now about 1,026 health providers that have been properly trained in managing malaria cases as a result of the project. This has in turn indirectly improved the quality of care regarding maternity since malaria causes 25% of maternal deaths in Angola.

Besides increasing the amount of funding that goes toward healthcare, the Health for All project has used such funding to be more interactive with healthcare facilities through the use of formative supervision in Angola. Formative supervision has shown to drastically improve the quality of care in the areas of malaria and reproductive health as supervision allows trained health officials to identify and fix integral issues pertaining to healthcare in Angola.

Zahlea Martin
Photo: Flickr

Health Barriers Faced by the Elderly in JamaicaIn line with the global aging population trend, Jamaica has seen a rapid increase in its elderly population. This increase is now calling for continued action to address the health barriers faced by the elderly in Jamaica.

An Aging Population

In 1995, Jamaica reported having 110,430 males and 130,020 females in the 60 years and older group. This represented 9.42% of the total population in the country. By 2001, Jamaica’s elderly population consisted of 122,844 males and 141,869 females. A decade later in 2011, the census reported that the number of individuals who were 60 years or older had risen to 145,204 males and 159,979 females. These numbers indicated a 15.2% increase in the total number of people who were 60 years or older from 2001 to 2011.

Additionally, by 2011, those in this age group accounted for a greater share of the dependency ratio, a ratio measuring the number of young (0-15 years) and old (60 years or older) people in a population compared with that of the working population.

The World Health Organization has stated that this older population is mostly affected by chronic non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, arthritis, hypertension and cancers. In 2018, Jamaica reported that 72% of elderly people had at least one chronic illness, with hypertension and diabetes being the most common. This contributes to the high percentage of people taking medication as well. Furthermore, persons over 60 years of age were much more likely to experience protracted illnesses in comparison to the rest of the population.

Healthcare Barriers

With recent progress in Jamaica’s life expectancy, the elderly are living longer. According to the World Health Organization, in 2018, the life expectancy for Jamaicans was 76.2 years. It is expected that these individuals will require more long-term care and rehabilitation services as they become increasingly vulnerable to diseases and lose physical or mental capacities.

However, there is limited access to local long-term care services in Jamaica and the number of caregivers has decreased throughout the country. Traditionally, younger Jamaicans would stay home and help care for older family members, but with the recent fall in family size resulting from a drastic drop in the fertility rate, the number of family members available to care for these individuals has significantly declined. The issue is worsened by the increasing number of young Jamaicans migrating abroad, typically to the United States, and leaving their older family members behind who frequently encounter difficulties in accessing rehabilitation services independently.

Financial Barriers to Healthcare

Many older Jamaicans also face financial barriers in accessing much needed medical treatment and services. While Jamaica has established a wide and extensive network of public primary care centers and hospitals offering free or low-cost services, the cost of medications and other health care resources has risen as most of these products are imported and the nation’s currency has undergone severe devaluation.

These financial burdens are especially felt by the country’s older population who rely on pensions to cover their living and health expenses. The Old Age Pension provided to qualifying retired Jamaicans is usually insufficient to cover the additional health costs associated with old age as the pensions do not adjust to meet the yearly changes in the cost of living.

Lack of Access to Healthcare in Rural Areas

Additionally, older Jamaicans living in rural areas experience significantly higher barriers to health as there is a lack of overall access to medical care, health and treatment services and transportation. A study conducted in 2012 found that people living in rural areas tend to have more “uncontrolled and undiagnosed disease,” evidenced by the fact that 27.5% of those surveyed who were diagnosed with high blood pressure had not previously received a diagnosis from a doctor. Furthermore, among those who had received a prior diagnosis, 72.2% had signs of the disease as being poorly controlled.

Also, health barriers are intensified by the fact that only 30% of the elderly population living in rural areas are pension recipients as compared to 44.4% in the Kingston Metropolitan Area. The elderly in rural areas also report having greater issues with food availability and adequacy as 53% stated not having easy access to the food they need.

Researchers Eldemire-Shearer, K Mitchell-Fearon and DL Holder-Nevins stated in 2014 that these difficulties in accessing treatment and food emphasize the health challenges that older Jamaicans face as the current health system is primarily engaged in reducing chronic disease and maintaining functional ability. They say a different approach is needed to better meet the new demands of older Jamaicans who suffer from prolonged mental or physical conditions.

Addressing Barriers

In 2018, the Jamaican government revised the National Policy for Senior Citizens, created in 1997, to introduce new measures for supporting and improving the quality of life for the elderly. The plan outlines a multi-stakeholder approach designed to address social, economic and health barriers faced by this fast-growing population.

The document promotes universal access to quality health care for all senior citizens and acknowledges the varying medical needs within this age group. It also calls for a greater expansion of health insurance coverage since only 23% of elderly people are insured.

Furthermore, the plan outlines steps for improving income security for all senior citizens and tasks the government with providing food assistance when necessary. It also provides detailed initiatives for expanding access to health resources, including mental health services, home and respite care, physiotherapy and other rehabilitation services. All these health resources for the elderly are to be carried out under the supervision of the National Council for Senior Citizens, which monitors and evaluates the progress of senior citizen programs at both the national and regional levels.

While the existing health care system will require the full implementation of all these measures in the coming years to combat the health barriers faced by the elderly in Jamaica, this policy plan offers a comprehensive guide to start addressing some of these challenges.

– Emely Recinos
Photo: Flickr

Finding Hope for Women with FistulaFistula is a medical condition faced by women of every nationality, background and income level. However, these factors affect the rate at which women encounter fistula. Although income level is the largest determinant, nationality is also highly influential in countries where women have limited economic opportunities. However, recent developments are providing hope for women with fistula.

What is Fistula?

Fistula is an abnormal connection between the organs that often occurs when women have troubles with pregnancy and laborspecifically when labor is prolonged. When fistula occurs, especially in places where women have financial and geographic access to medical care, medical experts can normally address the problem with procedures such as C-sections. However, for women who lack access to these services, the issue worsens.

The labor period can last for days, which causes extreme pain and usually causes the baby to die in the process. During labor, the baby’s head presses against the mother’s pelvis and disrupts blood flow. This disruption creates holes, or fistulae, between the vagina and bladder or rectum. Permanent leakage of waste occurs in the mother if the condition goes untreated. Thus, women’s health and well-being directly impact access to emergency medical treatment.

Women with fistula usually live in underprivileged parts of Africa and Asia. To make matters worse, these countries largely lack access to sanitation services or goods like running water and incontinence pads. Fistula causes severe physical and psychological pain in affected women: in addition to uncontrollable leakage of urine and stool, women with fistula also face social issues. For example, this condition causes an unpleasant scent that repels family and friends. This condition can also cause a plethora of infections with the potential to impact others.

One Woman’s Story

Edis, a Ugandan woman suffering from fistula, provides a powerful example of the struggle to receive adequate urgent care. With a recently deceased husband, Edisa gave prolonged birth at home because she could not access a nearby hospital to go through labor. As a result, she contracted a fistula with all of its negative side-effects. Fortunately for Edisa, she was eventually able to receive a treatment procedure. Despite accessing care from a USAID-funded hospital, however, Elisa was forced to travel 11 hours away and incur significant transportation costs as a result. For financially struggling women like Elisa, these expenses can become highly burdensome.

Many other women also face hidden costs when seeking fistula repair surgeries, even if the surgery itself is free. These expenses can include loss of income, child care during recovery and food. USAID is using this information to improve conditions for these women by drafting actions like providing financial support for these hidden costs.

Hope for the Future of Fistula

While women with fistula are still suffering across the globe, especially in impoverished areas, this condition is now much less common than in the past. Additionally, many efforts are being initiated to provide funding and support to women in need of care.

– Fahad Saad
Photo: Flickr

Improving Patient Identification
Simprints Technology is a nonprofit startup from the University of Cambridge that builds biometric identification technology for people who lack legal identities in the developing world. The company’s motto is “every person counts” and its mission is to end global poverty. Specifically, Simprints Technology works on maternal health, immunizations and cash transfers. With support from Arm Holdings, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, USAID and other influential organizations — Simprints Technology is an established name in the Tech for Good industry. With this continued support, the nonprofit is improving patient identification and thus, overall access to healthcare in the developing world.

The Problem: Improving Patient Identification

Many developing countries lack proper patient identification systems as a result of limited infrastructure and technology. Where medical records do exist in developing countries, they are often paper-based and highly susceptible to damage or loss. Furthermore, typical identifiers such as name or date of birth are at times unusable since many patients live in dense areas where people share the same names and/or may not know exact dates of birth.

Without a holistic and integrated healthcare system to sync patient information across platforms, medical providers fail to deliver timely healthcare services for those most in need. As health workers struggle to reliably and sustainably identify and keep track of patients, billions of people are in danger of falling behind with their healthcare systems.

The Solution: Mobile-Based Biometrics

Implementing biometric identification will play a significant role in fighting poverty in developing countries. The World Bank’s ID4D initiative champions the transformational potential of digital identification systems. According to the World Bank’s survey, close to 40% of adult populations in low-income countries do not have proper identification.

This is where Simprints Technology comes into play. The company is attempting to close the identity gap in developing countries. It aims to do this by equipping developing countries with rugged, hand-held devices (such as mobile phones) to collect fingerprint scans. The scans are then translated into unique identification numbers for health records. As no two fingerprints are the same — fingerprint scanning provides a fast and reliable way to verify a person’s identity.

The 3 Step Approach

Simprints Technology shows its commitment to improving healthcare access by offering end-to-end services for medical front-liners in developing countries. The company uses a three-step approach, which includes ensuring a seamless project set up, implementing smart scanners and apps while providing back-end data analytics and support. Simprints Technology incorporates human-centered and privacy-first design in its operating systems — affirming the company’s stance as a social enterprise. So far, Simprints Technology has impacted more than 400,000 beneficiaries across a dozen countries in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa — providing citizens with essential healthcare, education and financing solutions through the use of biometrics.

Disrupting Global Poverty Solutions

By increasing access to essential services like healthcare, Simprints Technology offers a promising solution to the identity gap in developing countries. The company’s technology is purportedly at least 228% more accurate than leading competitors — indicating a clear disruption in solving 21st-century poverty.

Mariyah Lia
Photo: Unsplash

Child Labor in ArgentinaMore than 125 million children are currently forced into child labor, primarily to help financially support their families. Argentina is one of the many countries that informally uses child labor in its factories and industries. Unfortunately, these children are often overworked and underpaid. As the cruelty and injustice of child labor become increasingly exposed, strides are being made to eliminate the inhumane practice worldwide. Here are seven facts about child labor in Argentina.

7 Facts About Child Labor in Argentina

  1. Cruel conditions and high poverty levels force many young Argentinians into child labor. More than 19% of children ages five to fifteen enter the labor system to provide for their families. This figure is typically higher in urban areas, with up to 43% of children working to supplement their families.

  2. Gender plays a defining role in economic prosperity. In Argentina, there is a large socioeconomic gender gap between men and women in wages and school enrollment. For children under fifteen, a 22% wage gap exists between boys and girls. The problem worsens with age: men are 40% more likely to receive higher wages than women in comparable fields. As such, men more commonly drop out of school and work full-time to provide for their families.

  3. Actions are being taken to reduce child labor. While child labor remains prevalent, many projects and programs have helped lessen the practice in Argentina. Extensive time and work obligations limit many of these children from attending school and flourishing in their education. Proniño, a philanthropy program in Buenos Aires, aims to rectify this problem by funding scholarships for families dependent on their children for income. With more than 1,590 beneficiaries, Proniño has provided hope to numerous students with only a 1.9% dropout rate.

  4. Human trafficking is an improving, yet rampant concern. In Argentina, more than 10,000 victims were rescued from human trafficking. Yet, many are still suffering: there are currently at least 4,000 human trafficking victims every year, most of whom are women and children. Human trafficking often entails coercing children into illicit activities like drug dealing or sexual exploitation. Large international organizations such as UNICEF are taking major steps to eradicate these actions and increase opportunities for disadvantaged children in Argentina. For example, the Ministry of Education and UNICEF enacted a two-year program to provide scholarships for students to attend school in areas protected from human trafficking.  Similarly, UNICEF has allocated an annual budget of $123 million to establish social programs for countries including Argentina. This funding also strengthens educational opportunities for children vulnerable to dangerous household situations and child labor.

  5. Child labor takes many forms. Although common forms of child labor, such as sweatshops, are technically banned in Argentina, the practice persists in other, less obvious forms. For example, many children in the countryside are coerced into prostitution or work on tobacco fields. Despite the historic popularity of these actions, drastic measures are emerging to mitigate their occurrence. Particularly, the Argentinian government is taking stronger stances against child labor laws and corrupt business practices, such as exploiting children to work on plantations. In fact, the government signed a 2018-2020 plan to end human trafficking, child prostitution and exploitation. Also, for the first time, the government sent out a nationwide survey through Argentina’s National Institute of Statistics to better understand child labor laws. The government is currently researching more measures to eliminate child labor.

  6. Healthcare access and child labor are interconnected. Access to healthcare is a prolonged problem in Argentina that perpetuates children into forced labor. Many poor Argentinian families turn to child labor as one of the only ways to afford the medical attention they need. However, a law established in 2005 provides health services and medical supplies to underprivileged children, eliminating much of the financial pressure to engage in child labor for this purpose.

  7. International organizations are getting involved. The United Nations has established objectives to not only lower child labor, but also limit poverty in Argentina. By establishing the Millennial Development Goals, the United Nations hopes to free 760,000 children and families living in underdeveloped areas from child labor. This project focuses on three major hubs of child labor within the country: Buenos Aires, Mendoza and Santa Fe.

Although Argentina still uses child labor in many of its business practices, governments and international organizations are acting swiftly to reduce the amount of forced labor impressed upon young children. With these comprehensive plans in the making, there is promise for eradicating child labor in Argentina.

– Aishwarya Thiyagarajan
Photo: Flickr

healthcare centers in MadagascarSince the coup in 2009, Madagascar’s newly elected government has been working with outside organizations, such as Project HOPE, to improve healthcare centers in Madagascar. In 2020, the country partnered with the Ministry of Public Health and the United Nations Population Fund to provide free transportation for pregnant women during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Healthcare Centers in Madagascar

USAID reported that more than 60% of Madagascar’s population — 27.7 million people — lives more than five kilometers from a healthcare center. This distance takes about one hour to walk. According to the World Bank, the cost of treatment and transportation to healthcare centers can be a barrier for people in poverty to access healthcare. The World Bank reported that about 75% of Madagascar’s population lives below the international poverty line, on less than $1.90 per day. This directly impacts the ability of people to access and pay for treatment at healthcare centers. UN Women statistics show that 75.9% of employed women in Madagascar are below the international poverty line, compared to 73.7% of men.

Released in 2017, a Project HOPE study examined the effects of removing fees at health centers in Madagascar. According to the study, citizens located within five kilometers became more likely to seek treatment. They account for 15-35% of those who reported illness. Fee exemptions for certain medicines and treatments likewise increased the use of healthcare services for maternity consultations by 25%.

Impacts of Limited Transportation

In a report from June 2018, the World Bank wrote that many rural citizens of Madagascar are disconnected from main roads, which limits their access to healthcare centers. Madagascar has a low road density. This means the country’s complete network of roads is small compared to the country’s total land area. As a result, 25% of healthcare centers in Madagascar are located more than five kilometers from the road network.

According to the World Bank report, poor road conditions in rural areas also impact network connectivity. Transportation of medical supplies can be unreliable, specifically during rainy seasons, when roads can be flooded and hard to cross. This makes it difficult for health centers to consistently send supplies to those who cannot access the centers.

Lack of access to transportation can also contribute to keeping people in poverty. The World Bank and the Department for International Development wrote that isolation due to difficulty accessing roads and transportation can limit the ability of people in poverty to participate in local markets. This decreases their economic opportunity.

The Effects of COVID-19

With 908 confirmed cases and six total deaths from COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has classified Madagascar as warning level three for the pandemic. The country is in partial lockdown. On April 5, President Andry Nirina Rajoelina announced that only vehicles transporting goods were allowed to circulate in the three regions impacted by COVID-19 — Matsiatra, Ambonym Analamanga and Atsinanana. All other public transport was suspended. For some, without public transport, the nearest health center is two hours away.


The United Nations Population Fund reported that 44% of women in Madagascar give birth with the help of healthcare professionals. Madagascar’s maternal death rate is 353 for every 100,000 births. According to UNFPA, this rate is high compared to the global average of 216 maternal deaths for every 100,000 births.

The Ministry of Public Health and the UN Population Fund partnered to help pregnant women access healthcare centers in Madagascar. These organizations are providing free, 24-hour transportation for women living in the cities of Antananarivo and Toamasina during COVID-19. By the end of Madagascar’s partial lockdown, this free transportation is projected to help around 5,000 pregnant women.

Poverty impacts peoples’ ability to access healthcare centers in Madagascar due to restricted transportation and high fees. Statistics show this lack of accessibility impacts women slightly more than men. With even fewer transportation options during COVID-19, free transportation for pregnant women is making a positive impact on healthcare accessibility.

Melody Kazel 
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Poverty in Latin America
Within the past decade, 70 million people were able to escape poverty in Latin America due to economic growth and a lessened income gap. However, millions still remain in the cycle of poverty. Presented below is key data about poverty in Latin America.


10 Leading Facts on Poverty in Latin America


  1. One in five Latin Americans lives in chronic poverty conditions. Latin Americans account for 130 million of the nearly 500 million who live in chronic poverty worldwide.
  2. Poverty rates vary from country to country in the Latin American region. With estimated poverty rates floating around 10 percent, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile have the lowest chronic poverty rates. Meanwhile, Nicaragua with 37 percent and Guatemala with 50 percent have the highest chronic poverty rates in Latin America, which are well above the regional average of 21 percent.
  3. Poverty rates can also vary within a country. A single country can have both ends of the spectrum with the highest poverty rate that is eight times higher than the lowest. For example, Brazil has a chronic poverty rate of 5 percent in Santa Catarina, but 40 percent in Ceará.
  4. Poverty in Latin America encompasses both urban and rural areas. Most assume that rural areas have higher poverty rates than urban areas, like in Bolivia, where the amount of people living in rural poverty is 20 percentage points higher than those living in urban poverty. However, the number of the urban poor is higher than the number of rural poor in Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and the Dominican Republic.
  5. Poor Latin Americans lack access to basic health care services. Approximately 20 percent of the Latin American and Caribbean population lack access to health care due to their poverty conditions. The region also has high rates of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity and cancer.
  6. Those living in poverty in Latin America lack access to safe water and sanitation. The World Water Council reported that 77 million people lack access to safe water or live without a water source in their homes. Of the 77 million, 51 million live in rural areas and 26 million live in urban areas. An estimated 256 million rely on latrines and septic tanks as an alternative to basic sanitation.
  7. The lack of education in Latin America lowers prospects of rising out of poverty. One in 12 young people ages 15 to 24 have not completed primary school, and therefore lack the skills necessary to find decent jobs. The same age group represents 40 percent of the total number of unemployed in many Latin American countries. When they are employed, six out of 10 jobs are informal, lacking decent wages, contract agreements and social security rights.
  8. Limited economic opportunities keep the poor in poverty. The biggest factor that led to poverty reduction from 2004-2012 was labor income. The Huffington Post reported that in poor households every Latin American country had an average of 20 percent “fewer human resources to generate income” than non-poor households and those households who managed to escape poverty.
  9. Chronic poverty levels are falling. Between 2000 and 2014, the number of Latin Americans living on under $4 a day decreased from 45 percent to 25 percent. The Latin American population living on $2.5 per day fell from 28 percent to 14 percent.
  10. The falling poverty levels in Latin America can be attributed to improved public policy. Latin American governments created conditional cash transfers (CCT), which substituted subsidies for money transfers for the poor who invested in human capital beginning in the late 1990s. As a result, child attendance in schools has risen and families have more food and more diversity in diets.

In 2010, the middle-class population exceeded the low-income population for the first time in the region. However, with one-fifth of the population still in poverty, there is much work to be done.

Ashley Leon

Photo: Flickr

Global poverty is nothing new, but some of its causes might be commonly overlooked or forgotten. Though there are many reasons for the manifestation of poverty, there are five largely important causes that need more attention from those who can make a difference.

1. Inadequate education is a highly agreed upon cause of poverty, both in first world nations as well as poverty stricken developing countries. Commonly, education quality differs between urban and rural areas, as well as between wealthy neighborhoods and poorer parts of cities. According to Project Partner of China, rural children are more likely to attend deteriorating school facilities and face insufficient materials. Meanwhile, urban children typically have outstanding educational experiences that allow them to prosper throughout their lives. Without a proper education, the cycle of poverty often continues. Children born into poverty have a difficult time receiving an education that will support them throughout life and pull them out of poverty.

2. Healthcare access varies around the world, but in a majority of poverty stricken countries little to no healthcare is provided, especially to those in extreme poverty. Inverse care, where those better off have more access to healthcare but fewer needs for it, benefits the wealthy and worsens conditions for the poor. Global Issues reported that “2.2 million children died each year because they are not immunized” due to lack of healthcare.

3. Disease goes hand in hand with healthcare, or lack thereof, and that makes it all the more obvious why healthcare is critical. Diseases quickly spread through areas that lack proper health education and offer little healthcare. As these diseases spread, it becomes more difficult for families to take care of themselves, much less thrive. According to Global Issues, “40 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, [resulting in] 3 million deaths in 2004,” leaving 15 million children orphaned. Though HIV/AIDS causes an extremely high number of fatalities, there are 350-500 million cases of malaria each year, with 1 million of those ending fatally. Notably, 90 percent of deaths from malaria are found in Africa alone. While prevention is desirable, a cure is needed to truly make a lasting difference.

4. Dependency is possibly the most overlooked issue on this list. Dependency is often associated with laziness or the concept that those dependent cannot support themselves, but it goes much deeper than that. First-world countries have created a system that keeps poverty riddled countries from being able to provide for themselves. That, however, does not mean the system was intended to push third-world countries further into poverty. Rather, the truck loads of secondhand items that are continuously shipped into third-world countries have crippled their industries, and thus made them dependent on aid. By investing in these countries to help them rebuild an economy that can flourish, more developed countries will no longer be handing them momentary help, but making a lasting impact on their livelihood.

5. Ignorance and apathy, though two different notions, result in similar outcomes. Lacking the knowledge to care or to make a difference is a sad reality among many people in the world. Apathy, on the other hand, is not wanting to gain the knowledge to improve the lives of others. It is often easiest to live a life of ignorance, so many do. Occasionally donating to your local food drive or clothing shelter are great ways to start improving the lives of others, but going the distance to educate yourself and learning how to permanently aid those less fortunate will make a lasting difference. All of the manifestations of poverty cannot simply be numbered to five, but these causes play a large role in the sad reality. Gaining education over what needs to be done to help the human race is the perfect place to start and improve the conditions of those in need.

– Katherine Wyant

Sources: Community Empowerment Collective, Project Partner of China Global Issues
Photo: Steve McCurry

While medication treats an ailment, it is the rapid diagnosis of the ailment that is critical to saving many lives. With the rising rate of antibiotic-resistant infections, the need to diagnose quickly and correctly to facilitate accurate choice of medication has grown exponentially. The rapid diagnosis issue is compounded in resource-poor settings that are mired with lack of easy access to affordable healthcare and infrastructure.

Consider the example of tuberculosis (TB), a deadly infectious disease that can take up to six months or more to treat completely. In 2013, there were more than nine million new cases of TB. Most of these occurred in Africa and Asia. The standard-of-care diagnostic, a sputum smear, is slow and can take multiple health visits, which many people can ill afford. Additionally, the sensitivity of the test is variable and is worse when the patient is HIV positive, which almost 13 percent of TB patients are.

Now multiple-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) infections, where most of the available antibiotics are no longer effective, are a huge concern. MDR-TB develops because of the incorrect use of antibiotics. The more rapidly TB is diagnosed and the more often correct treatment is prescribed, the less the incidence of MDR-TB and the less the chance of it spreading. As the ceiling of new antibiotic development is being pushed, drug-resistant infections urgently need to be controlled.

Rapid and accurate diagnosis is a necessity not just for TB but for everything ranging from malaria to diabetes. Both academics and the industry are hard at work to develop techniques that can provide results in a matter of hours. Some, especially those related to telemedicine like new iPhone blood glucose testing, can do this from the convenience of one’s home. However, the real conundrum has been how to make this cheap to manufacture, affordable to buy for resource-poor populations who need it and easy to use when there is no infrastructure in place.

Diagnostics For All is a nonprofit organization that aims to produce technology particularly for the 60 percent of the developing world that lack easy access to healthcare. Its projects range from a simple, easy-to-use liver function test to monitor the efficacy of HIV anti-retroviral therapy, to detecting micronutrient levels in children so that appropriate nutritional supplements can be provided. Its systems are based on a patterned paper technology developed at Harvard University. Since the paper takes up the test sample easily and micro channels made on the paper allow the sample to flow into tiny wells of chemical indicators, there is no need for any external power. The indicator changes color based on a component in the sample, allowing an easy read out. The patterned paper can be manufactured cheaply on large scale. Diagnostics For All supports its work with philanthropic grants and partnerships with the for-profit sector.

Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) is another international nonprofit organization that builds partnerships with enterprises and assists in developing novel diagnostic techniques through expertise and capacity building. It supports the discovery and scale-up of diagnostic tools bridging the gap between development and delivery, and ensures that these technologies are made available to high-burden countries at preferential pricing. It has developed several techniques among which are an HIV viral load detection system co-developed with California based, Cepheid and malaria and sleeping sickness diagnosis methods with Massachusetts based, Alere.

There are several other organizations out there, including those making strides in telemedicine, that are working to make diagnosis faster, cheaper and more accurate. As science makes progresses towards developing these new techniques, markets, nonprofit and for-profit business models, and governments all have to play their part in keeping up with strides being made and ensuring that these new methods are realized in practice.

– Mithila Rajagopal

Sources: Alere, NCBI, Sanofi, San Francisco Business Times, WHO 1, WHO 2
Photo: Fashion For A Cause

Australia is considered to have one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Universal healthcare is provided to their citizens in the form of the government run ‘medicare’ program as well as a vast private healthcare system. In addition to covering its own residents, Australia sold over 26 million dollars in medical care to tourists from all over the world.

Behind the seemingly successful exterior, there is a deep disparity in how Aborigines are treated in the healthcare system.

Many suffer from diseases that are preventable and not seen anywhere else in the developed world. The average life expectancy of an Aborigine is over a decade less than a non-indigenous Australian. Aborigine children are ten times more likely to commit suicide and the prevalence of other diseases such as depression, gastroenteritis and kidney disease are much higher than in non-indigenous people.

It is not surprising that without access to healthcare for preventable diseases, many indigenous people live in poverty. Homes are made from carcinogenic asbestos and many do not have access to clean water or proper sanitation. Many also suffer from debilitating diseases that make work impossible to get to or employment difficult to obtain.

This level of poverty and lack of access to healthcare in a wealthy country has been described as shocking.

This glaring failure in the Australian healthcare system can be in part attributed to the amount of spending spent on citizens. Hospital spending on indigenous citizens in 2010 was AUS $3,630 as compared to AUS $1860 for non-indigenous people. This means many indigenous citizens were relying on hospital visits when they were sick, due to the lack of access to preventative care.

Much of this disparity in healthcare is attributed to the lack of representation of indigenous people in the decision-making process.

There also needs to be improvements made to the public health initiatives aimed at promoting cultural awareness.

University of West Australia professor Pat Dudgeon said, “For there to be an improvement in indigenous health, there has to be a cultural aspect present in health programmes. Studies from around the world have shown when you engage indigenous people in cultural reclamation and self-identification, there is far more retention.”

– Colleen Eckvahl

Sources: Al Jazeera, NCBI
Photo: You Should Know