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countries that have eliminated trachoma

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) affect more than 1.4 billion people in 149 countries. These diseases flourish in areas of the world where there is a lack of basic sanitation, which means that the global poor have the highest risk of contracting them. These diseases are preventable and treatable, but due to a lack of resources and aid, millions of people still suffer from these diseases that can cause them to be disfigured, disabled and may even result in death.

However, with the help of several different organizations and national campaigns, many countries have successfully eliminated some NTDs, including trachoma, which is the leading cause of blindness in the world. Trachoma is a bacterial eye infection that affects the eyes and eyelids, causing the eyelashes to turn inward toward the eye leaving patients blind.

Here are three countries that have eliminated trachoma.

3 Countries That Have Eliminated Trachoma

  • Ghana – In 2018, Ghana became the first country in West Africa to eliminate blinding trachoma. Three groups were instrumental in this effort: FHI 360 – a nonprofit human development organization; END in Africa Project (financed by USAID) and Ghana Health Service’s NTD program. Working together, the three organizations eliminated blinding trachoma over an eight-year period. From 2010 to 2018, the END in Africa Project supported the global distribution of more than 464 million NTD Program treatments for trachoma and other diseases. They also mapped disease distribution, treated at-risk populations and monitored treatment impact while also documenting successes along the road to eliminating this terrible disease. FHI 360 provided technical and financial assistance for trachoma post-treatment surveillance, which will help with further prevention of the disease. The program’s long surveillance and treatment of patients is a testament to its dedication and commitment to ending NTDs.
  • Laos – In 2017, Laos became the fifth endemic country in the world to eliminate blinding trachoma as a public health problem. Blinding trachoma was especially common among young children. The United States government had been supporting Laos since 2012 through several USAID projects, such as END in Asia and ENVISION. These projects assisted the Ministry of Health in collecting reliable data on the status of trachoma, which helped determine the correct approach to eradicate the disease. Laos was able to place ophthalmologists at national, provincial and district levels to detect and operate on cases of patients with the disease. The projects also trained primary health care workers to screen patients for trachoma, and they gave patients with less severe conditions the antibiotic eye treatments they needed. Nongovernmental organizations also helped train health volunteers in villages on ways to prevent trachoma. Education ministries invited volunteers to come to their schools and educate their students on facial cleanliness and showed how the infection spread from person to person. Laos achieved amazing success with its partners, working to not only diagnose and treat the disease but also to educate people on how to prevent trachoma.
  • Mexico – Mexico became the first country in the Americas and the third country in the world to officially eliminate trachoma in April 2017. In 2004, the Secretary of Health of the state of Chiapas formed a group of health professionals called Trachoma Brigades to implement SAFE, the strategy recommended by the World Health Organization to eliminate the disease. In their fight against this disease, Mexico provided surgery for people at imminent risk of blindness, administered antibiotics in affected communities to reduce infection in children as well as to stop transmission, promoted personal hygiene and improved environmental conditions. The SAFE strategy’s 4 interventions have been especially successful in the state of Chiapas. Trachoma was endemic in 246 communities in the state and affected over 146,000 citizens. Trachoma Brigades, alongside national, state and community efforts and international partners, eradicated this disease. Trachoma Brigades visited communities several times a year to conduct surveys, eye examinations, identify cases, administer antibiotics, educate children about proper hygiene and perform surgeries.

These three countries worked for years to eradicate this trachoma and improve their citizens’ quality of life. The combined efforts of multiple organizations and governments brought medication, surgeries and public education to these countries toward achieving this goal. In addition to Ghana, Laos and Mexico, countries such as Cambodia, Togo, The Marshall Islands, Oman and Morocco have also made progress against this disease.

It is a U.S. foreign policy objective to support the treatment, control and elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). The World Health Organization recognizes 17 NTDs which currently afflict 1.4 billion people around the globe. Urge Congress to support the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act to advance U.S. foreign policy interests and safeguard national security.

Email Congress to End NTDs

Jannette Aguirre
Photo: WHO


According to the World Health Organization, 5.8 million people die each year as a result of injuries. This is 32 percent more than the number of fatalities that result from malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDs combined.

The most common life-threatening issues include road traffic, homicide and suicide. The World Health Organization also states that “injuries are a leading killer of youth.” Unfortunately, less attention has been directed toward surgical services in the developing world. A study in the Lancet Global Health Journal analyzed the factors that have contributed to this unmet need.

Key factors include:

  • Lack of leadership in the global surgery community
  • Disagreement on how to address the problem
  • Lack of effective efforts to take advantage of political actions
  • Minimal data on effects of surgical diseases

Despite these difficulties, there are networks committed to advancing the priority of global surgery. One promising solution is to link these efforts with other global health goals.

Basic surgical care could avert 1.5 million deaths per year. A few surgical diseases include blindness, fractures and appendicitis. While we may place less of an emphasis on these health issues, in comparison to HIV/AIDS for example, they still place significant burdens on the quality and productivity of life in developing communities.

It is important for the above factors to be addressed with existing organizations that have the structure and ability to bring attention to this goal. With adequate healthcare, communities in developing countries are more likely to develop in a sustainable and equitable manner.

Iliana Lang

Sources: World Health Organization, The Lancet
Photo: Unsplash

medical_device

Oculostaple is a tool that is designed to restore vision in people with drooping eyelids, or ptosis. Ptosis can have any number of causes, from Myasthenia gravis (an autoimmune, neuromuscular disorder) to a stroke, a tumor, or simply old age.

It was designed by undergraduate students at Georgia Tech, Drew Padilla, Jacki Borinski, and Mohamad Ali Najia. Najia is now the CEO of the Oculostaple company.

The device works by simultaneously cutting away excess muscle and sealing up the cut that it creates. Before, correcting the issue was the result of a surgery that took about 45 minutes in an operating room. With Oculostaple, drooping eyelids can be resolved with local anesthesia in a doctor’s office, in a procedure that lasts about five minutes. It will also decrease the cost of each individual surgery by about $5,000.

Due to its impressive features, the Oculostaple recently received second place in the National Institute of Health Design by Biomedical Undergraduate Teams (DEBUT) Challenge. The award, given to undergraduate students, was based on the impact the new invention would have on clinical care, the significance of the problem being addressed, the ingenuity of the design, and the creation of a prototype.

It’s not widely available just yet – the Oculostaple team is working with the Global Center for Medical Innovation (GCMI) to create it into a marketable medical device that will eventually be completely disposable.

GCMI is a nonprofit organization that brings together players in the medical device community to help “enhance their product development, shorten time to market, and potentially achieve significant cost savings” in the process of bringing the devices to market. Oculostaple also won first place last year at Georgia Tech’s fall Capstone Design Expo, and second place at its Inventure Prize competition.

While 200,000 Americans undergo surgery to correct drooping eyelids each year, the possibilities for this new device extend far beyond helping Americans be able to see better (and drive safer). Ophthalmologists throughout the medical community are excited for the device, which will make this surgery easy to perform. As the Oculostaple website states, it “also has broad applicability in laparoscopic, gastrointestinal, and biopsy procedures.”

Imagine the possibilities in treating diseases in poorer countries with the creation of technology like this. Gastrointestinal problems are common in third world countries, as people don’t always have access to clean water. Oculostaple could mean safer, faster, cheaper, and more effective treatment for a wide range of problems.

This surgical clamp removes the problem that sometimes occurs in eyelid surgery: the doctors accidentally cut their own sutures as they are trying to cut off excess muscle. Now, both parts of the procedure can be done simultaneously.

In an interview with Charlie Bennett, Najia described the process of how the device came to be, from the beginning, running tests on microwaved pieces of chicken skin, to redesigning the concept again and again, to being halfway out of the stadium with his teammates when their first place at their school’s Capstone competition was announced. Through it all, he said, “I think it’s been a very worthwhile endeavor.”

The development of a revolutionary device is an excellent example of how people throughout the medical community are working everyday to make a healthier world. Whether they are seasoned medical professionals or undergraduate students, they can make a difference, and they are.

Emily Dieckman

Sources: Devices, NIH, Georgia Institute of Technology, News Medical, North Avenue Lounge, Oculostaple
Photo: Flickr

19th_century_medicine
Over 10 million people die yearly from infectious diseases due to poverty. What is often forgotten is deaths in the developing world need not always be attributed to an easily communicable disease.

The focus on infectious diseases and their prevention has shifted the global healthcare dialogue into complete abandonment of equally important diseases that cause premature death. What of cancer in the third world? Does it not exist there also? We often forget that this disease attacks anyone–rich and poor. Over 7.6 million cancer related deaths occur annually worldwide and 36 percent of these deaths are in the developing world.

Cancer comes in a variety of forms and is often treatable with surgical procedures, but over two billion people in the developing world don’t have access to any form of surgery. Physical injuries and maternal death are almost never regarded in global healthcare programs. For example, in 2012 over 60,000 injury related deaths occurred solely in Africa. Globally, over 529,000 women die yearly during labor. The deficit of surgeons in developing nations means that there cannot be any emergency c-sections to save a mother’s life.

These issues are not given attention due to the false perception that modern surgery is expensive and too technologically advanced for nations that are economically unstable.  Surgery should be available to all who need it and without it there will never be progress in the field of population health. Just as surgery has gradually developed since the 19th century to the quick life-saving procedures of today, global healthcare must also evolve and incorporate this solution to stop deaths by the thousands.

Maybelline Martez

Sources: Huffington Post, UNICEF, WHO
Photo: University of Houston

The charity division of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) works to provide sustainable solutions to global poverty. In doing so, the Utah-based religious organization has invested a significant amount of time and money in global programs to alleviate conditions for communities facing food, water, and medical supply shortages. For one father, LDS donations represent the difference between a child’s health and cancer.

John Rey Alegro is a two-year old child in the Patag District, Catbalogan City, Samar. Until recently, John Rey suffered from a congenital anomaly in his eyes. The anomaly, or retinoblastoma, plagued the young child since birth. Because he and his family live in a rural community in the Philippines, the condition had gone untreated.

Just recently, John Rey received an operation on the tumor in his eyes that, if successful, will free the child from all future complications. Though his sight will not return, LDS Charities made it possible for the family to sigh a breath of relief in knowing that their child has a strong chance of leading a somewhat normal life, albeit in visual darkness. Had the operation been performed at birth, John Rey would likely still have his sight.

The heartwarming story of John Rey is only one example of the highly valued work being done by LDS Charities in places like Samar. Rural communities often lack sufficient facilities to perform these complicated surgeries, which leave patients to deal with debilitating conditions on their own. This specific surgery, part of the LDS mission to provide sustainable solutions to poverty, was also a hands-on lecture given to local surgeons by the LDS medical representative.

The idea behind the hands-on lecture program is to not only provide much-needed medical care to the poor, but also educate medical staff in poor and rural communities. At least theoretically, local doctors are now able to address complications of this particular kind. Eventually, the program will reach a point at which local medical staff are capable of operating on their own and meeting the basic needs of the community.

– Herman Watson

Sources: Manila Channel LDS Charities Mormon Newsroom
Photo: LDS

Surgery in a Bubble Could Save Lives
Horrific injuries caused by tank shelling, aerial bombardment and shrapnel are taking the lives of hundreds of Syrians every day. As cities are destroyed, hospitals and the valuable, lifesaving equipment they house are dwindling. In December 2012, Paul Jawor, a civil engineer working with Engineers Without Borders in Spain, presented a simple, safe, sanitary option for surgery on the battlefield of Syria. If plastic altitude chambers, or “plastic bubbles”, are utilized on the field and in bombed cities, surgeons could save multiple lives by simply having a safe place to operate.

Plastic altitude chambers are used to help athletes train by introducing specially formulated oxygen into the chamber. By using the same concept, the bubbles are filled with specifically filtered air to give doctors and surgeons the sterile environments that are essential for performing surgery. The bubbles are just big enough for a gurney, lights and a few doctors. Two bubbles can be connected to create a chamber to scrub in and a chamber to operate in to ensure optimal sanitation.

However, with its great benefits, surgery in a bubble has its drawbacks. As the walls of the bubble are fragile, the risk of destruction in a war zone is high. The bubble is also an easy target and at times cannot be camouflaged well. These simple drawbacks have prevented the use of the bubble in areas and war zones in the past. Engineers Without Borders must ensure that the bubble will work before they use it in Syria.

The alternative use of the plastic altitude chamber is not the only innovation that has as much use for saving lives as setbacks. Another innovation, the Rigid Inflatable Boat Ambulance, would be used in areas such as Cambodia and The Democratic Republic of Congo where river access is easier than road access. The ambulance would be used to transport injured people to hospitals. Due to the high speeds that the RIB travels at, the nature of the contents of the boat must be considered and whether or not carrying something like an oxygen tank is worth the risk. If the tank were to fall off the boat and land near a fire it would result in an explosion.

As technology continues to move forward, Engineers Without Borders will continue to create safe, life-saving equipment. “You often have to adapt new equipment to fit a new situation,” says Jawor in hopes that the bubble and the RIB Ambulance will soon ensure safe medical alternatives in any war-torn country.

– Kira Maixner
Source: The Engineer
Photo:  Redr UK