Medical TourismTourism has been around for many years, in the past it was mainly used for research purposes for young scholars, but over time it has evolved to become its own individual industry. Medical tourism is an arising type of tourism whereby a tourist leaves their home country to receive medical attention in another. Countries visited through medical tourism are usually less developed countries, and the effects of medical tourism have been beneficial to both sides.

According to Orbis Research, in 2016 the global medical tourism market was worth $19.7 billion, and by 2021 it could reach $46.6 billion. In fact, for some developing countries, medical tourism is one of the biggest industries. India, for example is renowned for its success in the medical tourism space; in 2002 alone, the industry earned at least $2 billion in revenue for the country, and this number has gradually grown.

The effects of medical tourism have proven beneficial to less developed nations. According to a study on Thailand, “most developing country governments see medical tourism as an opportunity to generate more national income”.

Medical tourism has become a common method of seeking out cheaper medical treatment for individuals in developed countries. According to the study, “Medical Tourism: A Look at How Medical Outsourcing Can Reshape Health Care,” the examination of Howard Staab’s case in 2004 illustrates the benefits for medical tourists. In Staab’s case, the patient needed a mitral heart valve replacement surgery that had to be done within a year.

The original cost for the operation was $200,000. Staab could not negotiate with the hospital nor the insurance within the one-year policy, therefore Staab decided to travel to India for the surgery. There, the surgery came to cost $6,700 and Staab was able to save approximately $193,300. Since 2004, medical tourism has become even more cost-efficient.

Medical tourism has also become a platform for individuals from one LDC to out seek medical care from another LDC. It has become an interaction between parties, both of whom are from developing countries, for example, Afghan patients who commonly travel to India for medical treatment. The interaction between individuals from different LDCs allows for the connection of different cultures and paves a way for building an interconnected network among the LDCs.

A growing globalized network among LDCs could prove very useful in providing LDCs access to patrons working towards improving quality of life through medical care. The effects of medical tourism are to allow them to utilize resources surrounding them and depend less on foreign aid, and focus more on not only improving quality of life but also the economy of their countries.

Carla Salas

Photo: Flickr

Sub Saharan AfricaWith cancer claiming the lives of about 450,000 Africans per year, drug manufacturers, in a deal with the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), have decided to bring life-saving treatments to tens of thousands Africans in need of major healthcare improvements.

The agreement was made between two major pharmaceutical companies: Pfizer, located in the U.S. and Cipla, one of the giants in the Indian pharmaceutical world. Both will cut the prices of 16 cancer treatment drugs, including chemotherapies, for six countries in sub-Saharan Africa that are most affected by the disease.

The six countries receiving major discounts on cancer medicines are Ethiopia, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania. A press release by the ACS reveals these are the countries in major need of health improvement, as 44 percent of all cancer cases occurring in sub-Saharan Africa each year happen in these six targeted countries.

According to the Pharmaceutical Journal, there were an estimated 626,000 new cases of cancer in sub-Saharan Africa in 2012, leading to a total of 447,000 deaths by cancer. The World Health Organization predicts this figure could double by 2030 if nothing is done, with killings reaching almost one million sub-Saharan Africans. In comparison to the U.S., with 90 percent of women surviving five years with breast cancer, Uganda and Gambia have survival rates of 46 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

Some of the factors explaining the start of Africa’s cancer crisis are the lack of training for providers, shortages of medications and the insufficiency of diagnostic and therapeutic equipment. Another barrier to quality care for cancer patients in Africa is linked to biology. In fact, there are differences in tumor biology between African cancer patients and patients in developed countries. As an example, African patients often have bigger tumors than patients in other regions, which demands much more care as well as adequate infrastructure to research solutions for curing the disease.

Funding is also a major problem for sub-Saharan Africa, as global funding for cancer prevention and treatment in other low-income countries represents only two percent of global health spending. This is far lower than the health spending for diseases such as HIV, malaria and tuberculosis.

Having access to high-quality and affordable cancer treatment facilities and medicine in sub-Saharan Africa has become a major goal for ACS and its partner organizations. On top of this agreement, they are preparing long term strategies that will improve the lack of care facing many African patients for years to come.

Sarah Soutoul

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in Comoros

Although 44.8 percent of Comorians were below the poverty line in 2004, a few organizations have fought causes of poverty in Comoros to reach satisfying results. In 2009, the Comoros Poverty Reduction Strategy (CPRS) was approved and implemented from 2010 to 2014. Its goals were to stabilize the economy, improve health and promote education. In light of these efforts, among others, the island nation’s GDP grew 3.17 percent between 2000 and 2014, with 1.22 percent of that growth occurring from 2010 to 2014.

After merely a year of the CPRS influences, Comoros saw progress in agricultural production. Luckily, CPRS was not alone in its efforts. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) provides four loans and two grants to Comoros to protect and increase agricultural production. Because of IFAD’s efforts in cultivation, 60,855 households benefit each year.

Due to an increased level of agricultural production, food prices increased. Thus, the Gross National Income responded with a one percent increase from 2010 to 2014. With the higher food production rates came a higher labor demand, establishing a need for more women in the labor force. By attacking one cause, like farming, CPRS was able to improve multiple aspects of the economy.

Another focus of the CPRS is Comorian health and safety. Combating disease is a major implementation of the CPRS, as it prevents death and strengthens Comoros’ economy. One of the strategies was to “ensure appropriate allocation of resources by levels of service and equality of access to health services.” This led to a decrease in infant and maternal mortality rates. Cases of malaria also decreased from 42 percent in 2006 to 36 percent in 2011 as a result of the malaria ACT and efforts to grant free bed nets. Comorian life expectancy steadily rose from age 60 in 2006 to 63 in 2014.

The CPRS envisions a basic education plan in place until 2020 to alleviate future causes of poverty in Comoros. The strategy emphasizes gaining high enrollment and completion rates, but battles with gender inequalities. The Gross Enrollment Ratio decreased favorably from 107 percent in 2008 to 103 percent in 2014 because of the increase in students completing basic schooling. The quality of education in Comoros has also been a focus of the CPRS by encouraging proper training for teachers, but also by holding teachers accountable for students’ performances.

The combined efforts to improve agriculture, health and education within Comoros has ignited a motivation for change. With continued efforts on behalf of the government and other organizations, soon the people of Comoros will have the opportunity to rise above the poverty line.

-Brianna White

Photo: Flickr

Help People in BarbadosBarbados, an independent British Commonwealth island nation, is the most flourishing country in the Caribbean area, with free education and accessible healthcare. However, there is still a need to help people in Barbados.

The country has made it a priority to provide efficient and accessible healthcare to include physical, mental, and social help. Because of this, such issues as infant and child mortality rates have decreased, and vaccines have greatly reduced preventable diseases. In addition, according to Commonwealth Health Online, there has been a decline in the AIDS fatality rate as well as an increase in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission.

Unfortunately, Barbados still struggles with the lack innovations in healthcare and patients’ growing expectations, as well as a failure to combat communicable and chronic non-communicable diseases, with HIV/AIDS as the exception. The government hopes to implement some changes, including supplying services in a more cost effective way, developing and integrating delivering services, and fulfilling unmet and vulnerable needs.

Concerning education, the Barbados government pays for schooling and provides compulsory primary school, from age five to eleven; compulsory secondary school, eleven to sixteen; and optional tertiary school, which is post-secondary education. But even with the seemingly sound educational system, some of the high standards have been declining over the past decade, due to negative attitudes from the students, poor academic performances, and the lack of technology to aid in the success of students.

To help people in Barbados regarding education, workshops have been developed to help teachers teach students better. The government has plans to help strengthen the technological infrastructure, to better teacher training, and to recognize teacher’s contributions to the nation-building actions.

While the health and education systems are taking strides to improve, there are still major issues in the country, such as the lack of space and inefficient land use. According to the 2010 National Environment Summary, there is the possible threat of land degradation and droughts. There is also inadequate waste management in Barbados

In addition, there is the insufficient reliability of freshwater. There are between 96-98 percent of homes connected to the public water supply, while the rest just have slight access. The ground water supply is deemed fair, providing disinfected water. But, the development of sewage treatment plants is necessary to finally dispose from homes via septic tanks.

To help people in Barbados dealing with land, drought, and water issues, the charities listed below are active on the island. Donations or volunteer work can directly assist those citizens who are most in need on Barbados.

Verdun House
Future Centre Trust
Caribbean Permaculture Research Institute
Variety the Children’s Charity

Chavez Spicer

Photo: Flickr

Health Care in CubaDue to the dwindling trade restrictions between Cuba and the United States during the Obama administration, people around the world are getting a look into a country that has been closed off from much of the world for many years. While the country is known for its slow wealth creation and high levels of state control, healthcare in Cuba has made massive strides since the country’s revolution in 1959.

Cuba’s healthcare is recognized as being among the world’s most efficient and high quality systems. Former United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated that the country’s healthcare system should be used as a model for many developing countries.

Since the 1959 revolution, when Fidel Castro gained power in Cuba, the socialist ideology emphasized that access to healthcare is a fundamental human right. With this belief inscribed in Cuba’s constitution, the country focuses on preventative approaches to medicine. From providing annual, mandatory checkups to the most complex surgeries, healthcare in Cuba remains free of charge.

With this high level of accessibility, the country has made many health improvements since the beginning of the Castro regime. These include:

  • A 98 percent full immunization record by the age of 2 that protect children from 13 illnesses.
  • Low infant mortality rates. Cuba’s rate is extremely close to that of the United States’ with less than 5 deaths per 1000 births. This statistic makes Cuba the best performer in the developing world.
  • High life expectancies, with men living an average of 77 years and women living an average of 81. These expectancies are almost identical to those in the United States.
  • Record doctor to patient ratios that surpass many developed nations. Every doctor cares for around 150 patients.
  • A well-educated public regarding individual health. Family doctors, who make mandatory visits annually, discuss issues such as smoking, eating and exercising with patients while also providing tailored recommendations to remain healthy.
  • World leading medical schools. Former U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated that Cuba’s medical education system is the world’s most advanced. In 2014, over 11,000 students from over 120 nations pursued a career in medicine at the Cuban Institution.
  • A significant focus on research and development. The focus on innovation has been attributed to the U.S. embargo that prohibited trade in medicines for Cuba. This made investing in medical sciences a necessity to provide quality health care.

By the mid-1980s, Cuba developed the world’s first Meningitis B vaccine. In 2012, Cuban doctors developed Cimavax, the first therapeutic cancer vaccine. Additionally, The World Health Organization (WHO) recognized the country as being the first to eliminate HIV transmission between mothers and their children in 2015. These outcomes are found to be a direct result of the huge investments made in Cuba’s biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.

Healthcare in Cuba has benefited more than just the citizens of its country. Every year, Cuba sends around 50,000 health professionals abroad, providing care to developing countries. In only one decade, Cuba’s contribution to Mission Miracle, a program supporting people with sight impairments, has restored around 3.5 million individuals’ vision. Many of these contributions are made in Latin America, where 165 Cuban institutions maintain 49 ophthalmological centers and 82 surgical units in 14 countries.

However, Cuba’s support reaches beyond its own continent and into Africa. The Cuban chemical and biopharmaceutical research institute LABIOFAM launched a vaccination campaign against malaria in 2014 in more than 15 West African nations. Additionally, during the recent Sierra Leone Ebola crisis, over 100 Cuban doctors and nurses were of assistance.

Castro was an advocate for providing international health support, as he believed by assisting developing countries, Cuba was preventing the expansion of epidemics that could spread to its own nation if not handled correctly. In addition to the philanthropy aspect, Cuban doctors and nurses working in over 77 countries generate $8 billion a year, which makes international health services the country’s largest export.

While the country’s GDP per capita is ranked 137th in the world, healthcare in Cuba has demonstrated that a poor country can create dramatic developments in its population’s quality of life for the long term. Castro’s form of leadership, while questioned in many other areas, has improved the living standards for Cuba’s poorest with regard to medical needs.

The WHO stresses that Cuba provides a prime example of a developing nation with limited resources that can provide an efficient health care system to all of its population. However, for such an outcome, the political institutions of the country must make human beings the center of their policies and not their own wallets.

Tess Hinteregger
Photo: Flickr

AFREhealthThe African Forum for Research and Education in Health (AFREhealth) is a landmark organization, the first that will actually have Africans tackling major health challenges in Africa, rather than Western countries.

During the sixth MEPI/NEPI Annual Symposium, African health leaders announced the creation of AFREhealth, an interdisciplinary health professional initiative working to improve healthcare in Africa through improved education, research and capacity building.

In the past, international donors have largely funded and directed efforts to improve health conditions in Africa. However, AFREhealth seeks to reduce such reliance on international funding and set their own, more useful local agendas. Therefore, Africans will lead the initiative in collaboration with partner organizations.

Key health solutions that AFREhealth will strive to achieve include encouraging African governments to prioritize healthcare in individual countries, working to keep local health professionals in Africa and securing more funding to support focused, local African health research.

One of the forum’s goals, preventing the loss of skilled health professionals to foreign markets, came to light during the HIV/AIDS crisis. A severe shortage of skilled health workers significantly limited governments’ efforts to respond to the crisis. Recent reports reveal a 60 percent increase in the number of doctors and nurses moving out of Africa to work in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries.

A study done in South Africa highlighted the severity of the issue and reflects the scenario throughout the rest of the continent. The survey revealed that although the number people leaving may be decreasing slowly, the level of intention to leave remains very high.

Additionally, a severe disparity between the number of skilled health professionals in the private versus public and urban versus rural areas exists. Consequently, South Africa struggles to produce sufficient numbers of workers in HIV scale-up programs and to adequately staff rural facilities.

The South African study revealed a number of reasons for the emigration of so many health professionals. Many workers expressed dissatisfaction with South Africa’s economic and political standing, concerns about corruption and fear for personal safety and the safety of their families.

AFREhealth seeks to reduce all of these problems in order to improve African health at a more rural level. The organization has a lot of work ahead, but African experts believe through their greater understanding of their own individual countries, success is much more likely.

Lauren McBride
Photo: Flickr

Southern Sudan Healthcare OrganizationJacob Atem and Lual Deng Awan, two Sudanese refugees now living in the U.S., have established a nonprofit healthcare organization to give impoverished people in South Sudan access to proper medical treatment. The Southern Sudan Healthcare Organization (SSHCO) opened its first clinic in Maar, Sudan in 2008 and it now aims to build more clinics.

Maar, Sudan is an especially significant location for Atem and Awan because it is the town where they once lived before the Second Sudanese Civil War struck in 1983. During this war, 20,000 Sudanese children – including Atem and Awan – were left on their own after their family members were killed or kidnapped in the conflict. They were known as “The Lost Boys of Sudan.” These children attempted to make a treacherous 1,000-mile journey on foot to reach Ethiopia as refugees. Thousands of boys died on the journey, and Ethiopia did not prove to be a good choice for resettlement. In 1991, war in Ethiopia forced the boys to escape to the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. At this refugee camp, the U.S. State Department selected some of the boys for resettlement in the United States. Both Atem and Awan were brought to Michigan and taken in by foster families. In the United States, they went on to attend high school and pursue higher education.

The clinic in Maar provides up-to-date basic healthcare services to patients, while the organization as a whole provides funding to South Sudanese individuals who want to pursue a career in the medical field. The clinic has proved to be invaluable for the inhabitants of Maar, since the village is in a very isolated location. Before the arrival of the SSHCO, the closest clinics to the villagers were about a three day journey away. The Maar Clinic sees up to 3,000 patients monthly. Out of the patients the clinic sees, 80 percent have malaria and 50 percent are under five years old. Around 10 women come in every month to give birth, and 60 percent of the children it sees have some kind of diarrheal disease.

Currently, the SSHCO is working with the Sudanese government to build additional clinics and improve vaccination rates in Sudan. Although Atem and Awan undoubtedly suffered a lot in their early life, they persevered, and have now made it their life purpose to bring hope and health to the people in their home country.

Anna Gargiulo

Photo: Google

Improving Eyesight in Developing CountriesPoor vision and blindness are problems that many people in developed countries take for granted. Most people know that they will be able to get contacts, glasses, laser eye surgery, or any number of other solutions to their vision problems. However, there are 246 million people around the world who are living with a visual impairment, and 39 million people are totally blind. This data may seem trivial compared to the more than 650 million people living in extreme poverty, but these issues are closely linked. Many living in extreme poverty or with a low income suffer from some form of visual impairment. Poor eyesight makes it very difficult for people to escape the cycle of poverty, so improving eyesight in developing countries would help address many other poverty-related issues, including education and equal rights for women.

At first, it seems like vision is unrelated to the issue of poverty. Though vision is rarely discussed compared to other issues such as malnutrition, violence and healthcare, eyesight is an overlooked problem in many areas of poverty. Nine out of ten blind people live in developing countries, and most of them are in poverty.

When ignored and untreated, poor eyesight can cause or worsen conditions of poverty, and the conditions of poverty can also cause poor eyesight or blindness. Without access to proper healthcare and treatment, many people living in poverty contract eye diseases that could have been easily treated, but instead they are blinded. This makes their already difficult situation even more desperate, because they are unable to better educate themselves or get a job to support themselves. Poor eyesight and blindness compound the issues of poverty, so addressing and improving eyesight in developing countries is an important part of addressing the cycle of poverty.

Most of the 246 million people with a visual impairment just need corrective lenses to fix their vision. There are a variety of programs that can recycle old eyeglasses to give to those who need it. These programs keep thousands of glasses out of landfills and give them to someone who can use them.

Blindness may seem like a much more difficult problem to address, but about 80 percent of the world’s blindness is treatable or preventable. Over half of the world’s blindness is caused by cataracts, and a simple 15-minute operation would cure these people. These solutions seem relatively straightforward, yet poor eyesight is often an unknown factor when many people address poverty.

The solution is simple: provide proper eye care and corrective lenses to address these problems. However, implementing this is more difficult. In many areas where people have poor eyesight, there are dozens of other difficulties as well. For example, Africa has only ten percent of the world’s population, yet it has 19 percent of the world’s blindness. The rate of poor eyesight in Africa is the result of a variety of causes, but the main factor is poor healthcare.

Many diseases such as HIV/AIDS and others that cause or worsen poor eyesight go untreated due to the sparse and insufficient healthcare systems. The number of eye care personnel is in many areas even lower than the number of healthcare providers. For example, in South Africa, there is only about one optometrist for 17,600 people. With disproportionate numbers like this, it’s no mystery why eye care is practically nonexistent in many areas.

Tackling the vision problems in developing countries is an enormous task. Most organizations begin by treating trachoma, refractive errors, cataracts, and childhood ocular conditions. By treating these four causes of blindness and poor vision, millions of lives can be turned around. People are given the power of sight, and with it, they are better able to get an education or a job.

However, preventing the larger causes of poverty is the key to preventing blindness. Improving eyesight in developing countries helps end poverty, but it is a two-way relationship. Since so many preventable and treatable eyesight problems are caused by poverty, ending poverty will also prevent many of the eyesight problems that deepen the existing conditions of poverty. Promoting health and education leads to better eyesight, and better eyesight in turn leads to better overall health, better economic standing, and more independence. Instead of a downward cycle in poverty, improving eyesight can lead to an upward spiral where conditions get better and better for those whose vision is treated.

Rachael Lind

Photo: Flickr

The strategic goals of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) include eliminating hunger, food security and malnutrition. The FAO also cares for agriculture, helps increase resilience to a crisis and aids those suffering from rural poverty. One of their most recent success stories is mobile veterinary clinics, which does incorporate these objectives.

In 2016, Haiti experienced Hurricane Matthew. This violent storm resulted in the country’s largest humanitarian emergency since an earthquake that happened in 2010. The Category 4 hurricane caused extensive flooding, mudslides, damage to infrastructure and severe water shortages. A 2016 report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs determined that the hurricane affected 2.1 million people, with 1.4 million people in need of aid and 806,000 people left food insecure.

Food insecurity can be directly linked to one of the most devastating effects of the storm. This effect is the incident of thousands of livestock being killed. Many of Haiti’s inhabitants rely on livestock – mainly cows – for not only food but also a large source of income. Even more troubling was the amount of livestock that did survive but suffered sickness and injury that could not be treated.

Veterinary assistance in Haiti is very costly and heavily out of reach. The FAO saw an opportunity and took the stage as the first United Nations agency to set up mobile veterinary clinics. The FAO operates these clinics by traveling to storm-affected areas and providing adequate treatment to livestock that have suffered the effects of the storm. Education is also incorporated into the equation and is of high importance. The FAO trains local veterinary assistants on proper care and technique for caring for the affected animals. Kits are also provided to Haiti’s citizens so that treatment can continue when the mobile vets have left the region. Antibiotics, deworming medication, multivitamins and other equipment have all been provided to assist Haiti, while helping the FAO reach their strategic goals.

The accomplishments of the FAO’s mobile veterinary clinics include a rise in milk production, the development of six mobile clinics and, most importantly, the hope that these clinics have given those in the Haitian community. So far, mobile vet clinics have helped an estimated 12,000 people rebuild their lives by treating their much relied-on livestock after a severe storm. If the FAO continues this project and develops even more mobile veterinary clinics, it is probable that more Haitians will be able to restart their lives in a better place after natural disasters in the future.

Emilee Wessel

Photo: Flickr

When thinking of the extremely poor, one’s mind may not immediately go to the inherent struggles that come with menstruation. This is not just cramping, bloating and irritability, but the associated sanitation issues that may arise without access to proper hygiene, not to mention the stigmatic buzz around womanhood and her period.

Real Relief, a small organization committed to supplying common life sustaining supplies, is devoted to making a difference and has developed a tool for menstruation hygiene for the extremely poor: SafePad, a period game changer in the sanitation industry. While sanitary napkins are nothing new to the women’s hygiene repertoire, SafePad exemplifies what certain basic life necessities encompass and how something so simple can impact the lives of millions of women and their younger counterparts.

The extremely poor cross many cultures as well as economic strains over a variety of different ages, races and religions. There are several different ways in which women have traditionally dealt with their menses. In some cases, these methods may be simply impractical. Rags may be used to deal with menses, but they often take time and privacy to wash and dry. Where menstruation cups may be available, some cultures may not accept this means or view it as reasonable.

Inadequate access to proper sanitation such as soap and clean water can also cause yeast infections, other serious illness or in extreme cases, infertility. When all else fails, women may choose to “free bleed,” which may not seem particularly harmful unless in the context of young girls attending schools in which they may take five or more days of leave, eventually leading to a poorer performance in their classes or even drop out.

Real Relief’s mission led to the production and distribution of SafePad through NGOs, religious communities and relief aid organizations of SafePad. SafePad has been specifically designed to combat bacteria by utilizing silica, nitrogen and carbon treatment agents, provide comfort, discretion and practical solutions to women where access to hygienic means of caring for the menses is difficult or impossible.

SafePad is also reusable and recyclable for women that do not experience reliable waste management in their communities and can withstand up to 100 washes, which translates to four years of use.

Menstruation is a part of most every woman’s life but if not taken care of properly, has the potential to have serious, life-long side effects. Menstrual health, education and supplies, however, can lead to so much more relief. Period.

Casey Hess

Photo: Flickr