Archive for the ‘Health and Healthcare Issues’ category

How U.S. and Jamaican Doctors are Saving Jamaica’s Youngest Heart Patients

May 1, 2009

Until the middle of the 20th Century, heart attacks seldom occurred in Jamaica. But in recent years, the rate of heart disease has risen to the point where it is now the number one cause of death on an annual basis in the Caribbean country. Unfortunately, this includes children as well. In fact, the number of children with congenital heart problems in Jamaica is increasing rather than decreasing.

In response to this alarming issue, the Jamaican Children’s Heart Fund was established in connection with the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital (JDCH) in Hollywood, Florida. The fund sponsors a team of JDCH volunteer cardiac surgical doctors and nurses who provide free open heart surgery to children in Jamaica whose families cannot afford the expensive procedure. During their missions, the teams work with Jamaican doctors and medical staff to care for their young patients.

The fund is a 501C3 non-profit charity and has been active in Jamaica for 13 years.

In addition to providing free heart surgeries, the fund’s medical staff serves as strong advocates for children’s health care in the country. But perhaps more importantly, the staff is working side-by-side with Jamaican doctors, sharing ideas and learning from each other professionally while working to ease a serious, growing condition in Jamaica.

Note: As it gears up for its 2009 fund raising efforts, the Jamaican Children’s Heart Fund welcomes for the first time since its existence, recognition from a Jamaican government official as Jamaica’s ambassador to the United States, His Excellency, the Honorable Anthony Johnson, will act as the honorary guest speaker at the fund’s Mother’s Day weekend benefit event to be held in the Orlando, Florida area.


The “Swine Flu,” the Economy and Developing Nations

April 29, 2009

Piggy bank, originally uploaded by mag3737

Discussion is bubbling over the spread of the latest human epidemic also known as “the swine flu.” Among the babble is the disease’s impact on the developing world – both physically and economically. Below are some links addressing the issue:

The Potential Economic Impact of Pandemic Flu on Poor Countries: More Serious than a Sneezing Pork Chop – One of the first things this post questions is the appropriateness of the term “swine flu.”

The impact of this pandemic flu outbreak has little to do with pigs. And a lot to do with people.

Every time there is a global flu epidemic, we seem to want to blame it on something. In 1918 we called it the Spanish flu, though Spaniards had nothing to do with it. For the last few years we blamed it on birds, calling it the “avian flu” as if it were the birds’ fault. Now we’re blaming it on pigs, by calling it the “swine flu”. In an effort to appease the public, several countries have banned the import of pork!

None of this makes any sense. When was the last time you saw a sneezing pork chop?

The genetic code of a specific influenza virus may have snippets of a whole menagerie of viruses, but once it starts to spread among humans, it is a human flu epidemic. Let’s just call it the pandemic flu and get on with it.

It then goes on to calculate the pandemic flu’s affect on poor countries economically when added to the current financial crisis and closes by offering some suggestions on how to deal with it from here (in terms of assisting those said countries.)

Swine flu fear catching fast in weak world economy – On a similar note as the Global Development Views post, this article takes a look at the bigger picture in terms of how the flu has impacted an already weak global economy, as well as the potential damage it can do if not contained soon. Included is a warning to developing nations:

A report by the World Bank, updated last year, estimated that a severe pandemic — like the Spanish flu outbreak in 1918 that killed between 40 million and 100 million people — would cause a nearly 5 percent drop in global economic activity, costing the world about $3.1 trillion.

“Even a mild pandemic has significant consequences for global economic output,” a pair of Australian researchers wrote in a 2006 report cited by the World Bank.

In a global recession, a pandemic could present a greater threat. On Friday, the World Bank warned developing nations that slashing public health budgets could put their citizens’ health at risk.

And finally, a piece that sums up what has already been mentioned before in terms of the flu’s impact:

Swine flu will hit poor countries hardest – A piece that expresses concern that anti-virals, once made available, won’t be easily affordable or accessible to those in poor nations.

Peace Corps Volunteers Address Rural Home Preventative Health Issues in Guatemala

April 8, 2009

Guatemala is the victim of many things: poverty, disease and 36 years of guerrilla warfare which, according to the CIA World Factbook, left more than 100,000 people dead until the signing of the 1996 peace accord which officially ended the violence.

Despite the benefits Guatemala’s agricultural sector has reaped due to the signing of the CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement), as well as the assistance citizens receive as the “top remittance recipient in Central America” due to its large expat community in the U.S., the nation continues to struggle. The CIA projects that 2009 will be especially difficult for Guatemala as the global economic slowdown will discourage foreign investment and export demands from abroad.

But all this is just the broader picture.

A closer look at society reveals that one of the biggest concerns for Guatemalans relates to rural home preventative health measures. The degree of illness is high in the country, especially for food and waterborne disease like bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever, as well as vectorborne disease like dengue fever and malaria and water contact disease like leptospirosis.

No doubt these health concerns contribute to the country’s high infant mortality rate which the CIA has broken down accordingly:

total: 27.84 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 30.2 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 25.35 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)

Compare that to the United States:

total: 6.26 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 6.94 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 5.55 deaths/1,000 live births (more…)

Traveling the World to Help Children in Need

April 6, 2009

Cleft Lip Before (Chongqing), originally uploaded by interplast.

Cleft lip and palate is a birth defect caused when the tissues of the mouth or lips fail to form properly during fetal development. While doctors don’t know what causes this defect, they suspect it “may be a combination of genetic (inherited) and environmental factors (such as certain drugs, illnesses, and the use of alcohol or tobacco while a woman is pregnant).”

According to

Kids with a cleft lip or palate tend to be more susceptible to middle ear fluid collections, hearing loss, and speech defects. Dental problems — such as missing, extra, malformed, or displaced teeth, and cavities — also are common in kids born with cleft palate.

For unknown reasons, the condition is most often seen in children of Asian, Latino, or Native American descent.

Luckily, this is a curable disease, and thanks to medical exchanges involving teams of volunteer physicians who travel the world donating their skills to children in need of treatment, kids from around the globe are receiving the care they need.

One such medical exchange group is detailing their work on the Love Without Boundaries Blog where they are now in China preparing to carryout numerous surgeries for the patients at Fudan University.

You can read about their first day in country here.

H/T to SharonGilor (Twitter ID: expatguide) of the Expats Moving and Relocation Guide.

Peace Corps Philippines Volunteers Tout Women’s Rights

March 25, 2009

Ever since I lived in Jinhae, Korea and would stay up late at night listening to my neighbor beat the crap out of his girlfriend (and be told by Korean friends and co-workers not to call the cops or interfere because it could make the woman’s life even worse – a kind of sick reasoning that was fully backed up with common scenarios as to just how worse her life would be if I budded in), women’s rights has been a personal crusade of mine. (And a big part of the current thesis I am writing for my M.A. in East Asian Studies).

Even though March (Women’s History Month) is almost over and despite the fact that International Women’s Day (March 8th) has come and gone, that doesn’t mean that the issue should be put to rest. If anything, such a time should only serve as a reminder to us that the topic needs constant addressing.

For a very inspiring post about what is being done to deal with the issue in the Philippines, read this post from the blog Amanda in the Philippines. Amanda is a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines and just recently conducted a women’s rights workshop with fellow Peace Corps volunteers in the country.

The whole experience was really eye opening. On Sunday we met with the women’s group that we were working with to facilitate the workshop. They are called Buklod ng babae (Women bonding together) and are based in the downtown area of the city that we were in. For two days we were to meet with around 25 women and girls (I say girls because some of these girls were “18” and I refuse to call them women) who work in GRO bars or on the street. I have mentioned GRO bars before, but to clarify, GRO stands for Guest Relations Officer here, it is the term that they use, for lack of a better word, for prostitutes. There are GRO’s that work on the street, but mostly there are bars where there are varying levels of entertainment involving the girls there for sale.

The workshop did not criticize the women’s line of work as clearly it was seen as the only available means of supporting themselves and their families. Instead, the seminar dealt with issues of rape, self-respect, HIV/AIDS and served as a source of information about women’s rights.

To get a better idea of what kind of environment the women they were interacting with worked in, Amanda and her colleagues visited some of the bars the women and girls entertained in.

We started in the city where there are ordinances which affect GRO Bars. The first bar we went to, Mangos, had (as expected) a bunch of old nasty white men scamming on the young-looking girls that were working. There were about 10 or 11 girls, many of which were in short shorts and bikini tops. There was a small stage at the front where at least one was dancing at all times. It was not like the dancing that you see in the movies, the girls were swaying slowly and looked uncomfortable, they stared only at their reflections in the mirrors and did not look around at the onlookers as though they were pretending to be somewhere else. We stayed for a little while and spoke with a girl who is a member of Buklod and also a GRO at the bar. She looked like she was about 4 or 5 months pregnant, but we did not bring that up. The next bar was the bar that was owned by the woman that came to the workshop. Here there were a few more old nasty white guys, but there was no stage or dancing, the girls had on little black dresses and tags. They were tags like they wear at my LGU with the girl’s picture, age, etc on it. The owner says that they wear them to show that they have been certified by the government as ok for GRO work.

We have added Amanda’s blog to our sidebar for those wishing to continue following her Peace Corps experience and her updates, and have also put her blog in our “Editor’s Pick” category.

The Story Behind the Bicol Clinic Foundation Inc. in the Philippines

March 18, 2009

Philippines, originally uploaded by jakub wittchen.

When it comes to health care in the Philippines, the country’s system operates on a “cash first” basis, meaning there are few health care options for the poor, who make up a significant proportion of the population. Family members must buy their own medical supplies and the death rate, especially from curable diseases, is alarmingly high.

Recognizing the need to cater to a struggling part of Filipino society, an American physician trained in the Philippines started a free clinic in the Bicol area devoted to caring for the region’s sick and dying.

His story can be found here.

How Tanzanian Midwives Pushed Their Government to Do More

March 16, 2009

I always find it inspiring to hear stories about how people in developing nations take the initiative to help themselves — and succeed.

Recently five Tanzanian midwives paired up with a doctor to make a short film highlighting “the dire conditions of maternal health care in the country,” inspiring the government to double the number of midwives throughout Tanzania.

The 10-minute film, made by midwives trained in participatory film-making, looks at “the appalling conditions in which women have to give birth” in Tanzania and incited government action on maternal health care after it was screened before the Minister of Health.

This is especially vital considering the country’s statistics in terms of pregnancy-related deaths and health problems:

In Tanzania, approximately 8,000 women die every year due to complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, and 57 percent of women give birth at home, estimates the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). “While the country had achieved a 30 percent reduction in child mortality and a 20 percent decrease in newborn deaths in the past five years, infant mortality remained high at nearly 10 deaths per 1,000 live births,” writes the humanitarian news agency IRIN. “Close to one-quarter of all births are unplanned and 40 percent of women remain in dire need of reproductive health services.”

Here is the video that instigated action: (more…)