Posts

Charlize-Theron-South-Africa-AIDS
On July 29, Academy Award-winning actress Charlize Theron urged the youth of South Africa to educate themselves about HIV/AIDS in order to stay healthy. The speech took place after her meeting with President Jacob Zuma, where they discussed South Africa’s response to HIV/AIDS and her role as a UNAIDS messenger of peace. UNAIDS is the joint United Nations program on HIV/AIDS.

The South African-born actress told reporters at the Union Building in Pretoria, “We are all here to support you. You are the future of this country and I am asking you to seize the opportunity to lead healthy and empowered lives.”

“It’s always very special for me to be able to come home and even more when I have a chance to lend my support to the youth of this country,” said Theron, speaking to the youth wearing a red AIDS ribbon.

Known for her glamorous red carpet photos, perfume advertisements, and movie roles, Theron said South Africa has come a long way in its response to the HIV epidemic, but too many girls and young women are still falling through the cracks and should not be forgotten. The social stigma associated with the virus in some areas of South Africa still needs to be addressed. Women should be empowered enough to protect themselves whether or not they chose to be sexually active, Theron said.

Theron went on to say she regarded a safe school environment, with teachers and counselors who were equipped to help, as key effort in the response to HIV/AIDS. In 2009 Theron was named the UN Messenger of Peace, tasked with promoting efforts to end violence against women. The Africa Outreach Project is one of her projects which, according to the UN, provides funding for a mobile health and computer clinic that visits high school and rural communities affected by HIV/AIDS.

Zuma proudly welcomed Theron back home. “We had a very good discussion, which we believe is going to give us a big push,” he stated to reporters. He applauded South Africa’s success in increasing life expectancy, praising Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi. He said in his hometown of Nkandla, people could now talk about HIV/AIDS without fear.

After the briefing, photographers swarmed for one last photo of the glamorous movie star.

– Scarlet Shelton

Sources: All Africa
Photo: Firstpost

Global Links is a medical relief organization that is committed to promoting both environmental steward shipment and better healthcare in poor communities. Each year, hospitals in the United States wind up with hundreds of tons of “medical surplus” supplies. Usually, these still very useful materials are simply thrown into landfills. Global Links takes the surplus from the U.S. healthcare industry and delivers it to under-served communities that lack the supplies and equipment necessary for proper medical care.

Global Links’ model of recycling and reusing medical equipment connects two social issues: excess waste and lack of resources in developing areas. In linking the two, Global Links is able to convert an environmental burden into a beneficial tool.

The Global Links model breaks down into 5 simple steps:

1.     Global Links Staff assess nine program countries and meet with health authorities, medical staff, and Pan American health organization officials. The organization does this in order to evaluate and ensure medical donations would be useful to that location.

2.     Global Links trucks visit hospitals that have been saving surplus medical supplies and equipment for the organization.

3.     At a sorting facility, the donated material is sorted and shelved. Volunteers organize supplies and check for expiration dates. Materials are also cleaned and re-vamped if necessary.

4.     Volunteers pack supplies into boxes and staff members load them onto a 40-foot shipping container.

5.     The shipping containers are sent to communities that need the supplies.

Since its founding in 1989, the organization has shipped over 410 tractor-trailer sized loads of medical material to developing countries. These containers have contained over 6 million pounds of equipment and material that otherwise would have been dumped into landfills. The value of the materials exceeds $173 million.

– Grace Zhao

Sources: Global Links, Charity Navigator
Photo: Global Links

Rural_traveling_doctors_BRAC|
For decades now BRAC, a Bangladeshi anti-poverty organization formerly known as the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, has been providing a different approach to healthcare services.  While most health care around the world is provided by doctors and nurses in a hospital setting, BRAC has been using a door-to-door method of healthcare.  BRAC hires women to deliver primary health care or locally by visiting people at their homes without a doctor or nurse.   Not only does this create healthier communities, it also elevates these women to a higher status in society and broadens the perceptions of the role of women in these rural communities.

These women join BRAC as frontline community health promoters.  After they receive training from BRAC, they travel from house to house in order to promote many health practices that we hold as staples in the Western world.  Among these are the adoption of contraceptives, identifying pregnancy, proper health while with child, and education about children’s health.  While there, the women also treat basic illnesses among family members.  Further training from BRAC allows these women to raise awareness about other diseases like hypertension and diabetes while giving them access to equipment such as blood pressure gauges and primary medicines.

This sort of medical service without a doctor or nurse is made possible by the fact that much disease in poverty stricken and developing areas is the result of simple ailments that do not need extensive medical training to diagnose and treat successfully.  One of the most significant examples of this is diarrhea.  According to the World Health Organization’s website, “diarrheal disease is the second leading cause of death in children under five years old…Globally, there are nearly 1.7 billion cases of diarrheal disease every year.” These women can help stave off the malnutrition which results from diarrhea with simple oral rehydration solutions.

BRAC has evolved from a small relief organization in 1972 into the largest development organization in the world by enacting these types of strategies that utilize poor communities’ own human and material resources to create environments and situations that enable the poor to take control of their own development.  This community health program is a prime example of the best type of development strategy.  It does not consist merely of throwing resources at a community, but empowers members of that community to take an active role in development.  This strategy holds even more impact because of its use of women as employees, as the empowerment of women is the key to overcoming global poverty, due to women’s large investment in their own communities.

Martin Drake
Source: Huffington PostWorld Health Organization, Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee
Photo: Global Voices

Cape-Town-city-africa_metropolitan_city_urbanization_UN_Millenium_development_goals_opt

In light of the U.N.’s Millenium Development Goals ending in two years and its own goal to end global poverty by 2030, the World Bank has published its annual report on the issue: the Global Monitoring Report 2013. In it, urbanization is strongly linked to alleviation of poverty. Jos Verbeek, the leading economist on the report, cites the following reasons.

  1.  “[Cities],” he says, “are centers of economic activity, growth and job creation; consequently, poverty is significantly lower in urban centers than in rural areas.”
  2. Due to their superior infrastructure, he says urban areas are also better at service delivery. For example, access to sanitation [such as toilets] is about 80 percent in urban areas and about 50 percent in rural ones. In Africa, about 40 percent of the population in urban areas have access to a toilet, while only half that amount have access in rural areas. Verbeek also states that due to their size, it is easier for urban areas to extend services such as health care, education, and clean water.

Verbeek does warn, however, that unchecked development can lead to slums. He implies that the institutions within a developing region are just as important as the cities themselves. For instance, urban planning is vital to increase the efficiency of buying and selling land. He says, “If there is uncertainty [over land ownership], then public providers will not come in and extend water pipes into the slums – because no one knows for sure if the slums will still be there a year from now. Government might [decide to] empty them out, which in certain countries has happened in the past.”

– Samantha Mauney

Source: Voice of America
Photo: Goway

aid
The old model of aid consisted of rich countries bringing funds and ideas to poor countries and implementing plans to “save” the country.  Recent criticism has brought to light the idea that collaboration is key to effective aid. In the arena of healthcare, this is even more important as oftentimes, developing countries are given funds for healthcare uses, but told exactly what they have to do with it beforehand.

Ethiopia led the way in 2002 with their ambitious plan to provide primary healthcare to 85 million rural citizens. These citizens did not live within accessible distance of a doctor or hospital.  The Ministry of Health gave themselves 5 years to accomplish their goal.  Without resources or facilities to train the 30,000 community health workers necessary, Ethiopia embarked. Health workers were trained and sent out and since the program’s implementation, decreases in the number of women dying in childbirth and in the number of children dying before age 5 have been reported.  The relatively successful plan began with simple, community-level improvements.

Ethiopia is far from the regular standard as, typically, governments receiving outside aid do not start their own programs.  A representative from Rwanda’s Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning remarked that rarely do they get a say in where the money goes at all. Rwanda has requested money for low-income health insurance and was denied. Using tax money instead, Rwanda funded the pilot program and today over 90% of Rwandans have health insurance.

Developing countries are not being ungrateful for aid, but are slowly starting to speak up and question the potential of effectiveness for the money and programs involved in it.  The World Health Organization (WHO) is helping change the way aid is delivered by using coordination and collaboration. Donors are asked to contribute to health plans managed and implemented by the government rather than go in and start their own. The initiative is called the International Health Partnership. The goal is to allow developing countries a say in how and where the money is used, preventing rich countries from bullying or denigrating their plans and ideals.

As the economy continues to struggle and aid dollars are decreasing, collaboration and coordination are very important to continue to meet needs like adequate healthcare worldwide. Allowing developing nations to innovate and have a seat at the table will enable aid to be used more effectively and efficiently.

– Amanda Kloeppel

Source: The Atlantic

Child_Marriage_Promise_Poverty_Borgen_Project_Whitney_Michelle_Whitney_Wyszynski

The average teenager worries about hanging out with friends, getting good grades, and fitting in with a group of people—not marrying a stranger and creating a home.

However, child marriage is a reality in the world’s 51 least-developed countries.  Half of all girls living in these countries are married before the age of 18, according to the United Nations. Parents arrange the marriage, and the groom can be more than twice the bride’s age.  Girls are ripped from their communities and forced into social isolation. These abrupt marriages sever a girl from her support network—a group of people necessary for helping the girl face the physical and emotional challenges of marriage.

Many cultures view girls as economic burdens, subservient individuals, or family mistakes. Marrying girls off as soon as possible alleviates the household expenses and restores the family’s reputation.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) established that the minimum age of marriage is 18 years old. This is considered the upper limit of childhood, and the individual is fit to decide whether to be married.  Many countries continue to practice child marriage despite proven physical and psychological effects.

World Vision reported that child marriages are increasing due to the increase in global poverty crises. 14 million girls under the age of 18 are married each year.  Child marriages are most prevalent in rural, poor areas and are associated with areas of low education and healthcare.  Polygamy is common, and these marriages are bargaining chips between two parties.

South Asia (46%) and Central Africa (41%) are the top areas for child marriages.  These regions do not monitor the age of spouses carefully.  Girls who live in countries with humanitarian crises are most likely to be subjected to child marriages. Fear of rape, unwanted pre-marital pregnancies, family shame, and hunger are the main motivators for child marriage. Poverty, weak legislation, gender discrimination, and lack of alternative opportunities reinforce these motivations.

Anti-poverty organizations, such as CARE, are working in various countries to combat child marriage.  According to CARE, “As levels of education and economic opportunities increase, so does the average age of marriage.”  CARE mobilizes community organizers, parents, and tribal and religious leaders to lobby against the child marriage law in Ethiopia. Leaders are constructing savings and loans groups to empower families financially. Though child marriage still exists, this will eliminate one major cause of child marriage. Community forums now focus on the elimination of bride price, bride abduction, and child marriage.

Whitney M. Wyszynski

Source: NBC News

Students and faculty at the University of Bristol are actively making many necessary pharmaceuticals more available to people living in the developing world. The university created its’ own “equitable access policy” act in order to help create affordable medicine and drugs that will be more accessible to patients suffering curable diseases throughout the world.

Any drugs that are produced using the University of Bristol are entered into this program and the result is a giant difference in prices, making them more realistically available to many people who would otherwise not be able to afford their medicines. Hopefully, other universities will create similar policies and contribute to making needed medicine more accessible. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that limited access to medicine is responsible for about 18 million deaths every year. The ability to get needed medicine at a lower price could save lives while also allowing people in the developing world to hold on to more of their disposable income, letting that money move in and out of local economies. While some programs have already been established to provide HIV/AIDS related medication at lower prices, people suffering from other diseases have not yet been able to receive such aid.

Affordable medicine and treatment are important anywhere, but they are especially important in the developing world. More reasonably priced medicine may be able help many people who have to choose between buying their medicine or food for their family. It may be just a small step now, but if such programs spread to other universities, they could make a great impact in helping the world’s poor.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: Medsin
Photo: Photo Dictionary

rwanda-health-care

Just in the last ten years in Rwanda, deaths from HIV, TB, and malaria have dropped by 80 percent, annual child deaths has fallen by 63 percent, maternal mortality has dropped by 60 percent, and life expectancy has doubled. All at an average annual healthcare cost of $55 per person.

Normally, after horrific national traumas, like Rwanda’s genocide of almost a million people in 1994, countries fall into a cycle of poverty and economic stagnation. Poor health and disease cripples workers and then the national economy, leaving the country ineffective to break out of depression.

A recent article in BMJ, led by Dr. Paul Farmer, Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, examined data from the World Health Organization (WHO) and attempted to identify why Rwanda was able to make such dramatic progress, when so many other nations have failed before them.

They identified 5 critical factors In Rwanda’s healthcare success:

1. The government formed a centralized plan for economic development, with one of the pillars being health care; knowing that, without improving health, poverty would persist. There was heavy research and reliance on facts and data to formulate their health metrics.

2. Aid allocation was controlled and monitored; the government insisted that all aid agencies meet transparency and accountability standards consistent with the national development plan.

3. A treatment plan addressing all the associated issues around AIDS was implemented:  tuberculosis, malnutrition, need for in-home care, community health workers, “psychosocial” support, primary and pre-natal care.

4. Financial incentive was given to coordinate care; a performance-based financing system was set up to pay hospitals, clinics and community health workers to follow-up on patients and improve primary care.

5. Universal health insurance for all citizens, with particular attention to providing for the most vulnerable populations. The average, annual out-of-pocket health spending was cut in half, and households experiencing health care bills that force them into poverty were significantly reduced. (Half the funding came from international donors and half from annual premiums of less than $2 per person.)

Access to healthcare for ALL citizens is a prerequisite for controlling diseases, and thus allowing for economic growth to lift people, and nations, out of poverty. The medical advances in Rwanda have pushed their economic growth, the GDP per person has tripled, and millions have been lifted from poverty over the last decade. Rwanda offers a replicable model for the delivery of high quality healthcare and effective oversight, and even with limited resources.

– Mary Purcell

Source: The Atlantic

Indian Healthcare
Private healthcare has grown in prominence in India, constituting 93% of all hospitals and 85% of doctors today. The government clinics are sparse, leaving Indians no choice but to seek private healthcare. With no real government regulations, many private practices are taking advantage of the poor, uneducated or illiterate patients, and especially women. By providing expensive treatments that are not necessary, many are left in atrocious debts and physical pain.

Oxfam personnel in India have obtained substantial evidence on these abuses committed against Indian women at these private clinics and hospitals. Doctors have coerced thousands of women to get unnecessary hysterectomies when they come in for treatment for stomachaches or abdominal problems. Akhil Bhartiya Grhak Panchayat, a local NGO in Dausa, has found that almost 70% of the women who have gone to the clinics, which the NGO obtained information from, have had hysterectomies performed on them. The investigation also revealed that many of these women were less than 29 years old.

Besides hysterectomies, many women were also tricked into having caesarean surgeries instead of natural delivery. A caesarean operation can cost about four times as much as a normal delivery.  In addition to the cost of the operation, the doctors would then charge for consultation and hospital beds. These unwarranted procedures leave the women deeply in debt, and sometimes in a worse physical shape and unable to work.

These unnecessary treatments for financial gains are unethical and violate human rights. Oxfam urges the Indian government to regulate the private healthcare sector and work towards developing an affordable healthcare system for everyone in India. Oxfam is working to end this exploitation of women in need of health services.

– Pimrapee Thungkasemvathana

Source: Guardian

Photo: Time

rwanda-hospital

1994 marked the end of genocide in Rwanda and the beginning of an effort to rebuild a country that was dismantled by genocide. Now, almost two decades later, Rwanda has become a story of evident progress.

In the last two decades, Rwanda has seen tremendous social and economic improvement. The percentage of the population living below the poverty line has sharply decreased from 78 percent in 1994 to 45 percent in 2013. The gross domestic product of Rwanda has more than tripled. Average life expectancy has doubled from 28 years to 56 years of age. Maternal mortality has decreased by 60 percent. The chance of a child under 5 dying has decreased by 70 percent. 99 percent of primary-school-age children are in school.

How has this happened?

According to a research study conducted by Partners in Health that was recently published in British Medical Journal, improved health care has been the Rwandan answer.

Cameron Nutt, a member of the Partners in Health research team, stated, “The Rwandan government has attacked the deadliest diseases in the most vulnerable parts of the population”. It has subsidized the prices of many medicines and made it possible for nearly 98 percent of the population to have health insurance and access to preventative care, such as mosquito nets and vaccines. Rwandan leaders have taken a proactive approach to ensure the advancement of its health care system. The country has successfully utilized Western aid to train Rwandans in medical fields and improve the way in which major diseases, such as AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, are treated.

For Rwanda, health care has meant vast amounts of change and improvement. Health care has equated for less people living below the poverty line, more people living longer, and more people being able to work and contribute to their country. Health care has resulted in successful development.

– Angela Hooks

Sources: NY Times, The Dartmouth

Photo Source: PHR