I will (once again!) be running jogging Monday mornings from 6-6:30am, starting outside the Richards Building on the BYU campus. I thought it might be a good idea to get some exercise and talk about global health. I’ll be there on 9/1, 9/8, 9/15, and 9/29. I hope you’ll join me (though I am very slow). If you are planning on being there, let us know in the comments below. Spread the word around!
Archive for August, 2008
Posted by chads on August 25, 2008
Posted by benjamincrookston on August 12, 2008
As I just finished a project on nutrition in Mexico my mind was taken back to a trip I took to Roma Texas, an establishment of no more than 30 people, earlier this year. Roma Texas is hardly a pueblo in central Mexico, a dry and arid area. I went with a small NGO to help build a bathroom for a local school–an interesting project that exposed me, more than anything, to the poor people in rural Mexico. It was my first trip to Mexico, and going into it I assumed that the most shocking part of the trip for me would be the abject poverty the people lived in. Upon returning home I was surprised to realize that it was the lack of an economy that most stuck out to me. I was shocked at how little opportunity the people there had, simply because there was no economy in which to showcase whatever education they gained.
In the project I just worked on discussing malnutrition in Mexico, one area of concern was that though the people are improving their education, they have nothing to do with it. This is a fascinating aspect to any program throughout the world; ensuring that the education people gain through any program will be utilized. Health organizations obviously have an opportunity that they hopefully regard as a responsibility to educate people on health in general as well as specific health topics. In doing so they spark an interest in the people in furthering their own education, but they need to be careful in ensuring the people have something to do with that education; my fear and understanding is that there are far too many places across the globe like Roma Texas, where survival from day to day is the way everybody lives. As health organizations plan what programs they can implement to improve the health of specific groups of people, education and its use in the economy is a crucial characteristic to take into consideration. I certainly believe that education is a priceless gift for anybody; I now can see why the ability to use that education is also of significant importance.
Posted by benjamincrookston on August 12, 2008
Becoming more involved in an international health class has made me realize the importance of knowing how to implement and manage programs aimed at improving health in developing countries. There seem to be a lot of organizations that have really great intentions, but lack in the program planning part of carrying out their motives.
A lot of programs fail because they ignore many aspects of the populations and forget that many problems are multi-dimensional and therefore require more in depth research. However, while remembering that a small percentage of programs actually are efficient and reach the end goal, it is important to not let this discourage you from helping others. I think most people in general are really good people and just want to do good, so don’t let the ones out there that aren’t that way ruin your aspirations. A lot could be accomplished in the world if everyone with their different knowledge expertise came together and developed a program for many health disparities in the world.
Posted by benjamincrookston on August 11, 2008
Due to the moral and many times religious beliefs of people and countries, teaching condom use as part of a prevention program has become less emphasized. A typical prevention motto is ABC- which stands for Abstaining from sex until you are older, Being faithful to your companion (and not having sex with many people), and Condom use. Many people focus on the A and B part, but are leaving out the C part. Sometimes due to religious and moral reasons, the condoms part of HIV prevention is left out, therefore affecting the people who probably most need them. PBS did a wonderful series on HIV/AIDS, called the “Age of Aids”. It can be located at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/aids/view/. In the story we learn about a wonderful passionate woman named Noerine Kaleeba, a founder of Africa’s first AIDS support organization. Her husband received a blood transfusion in 1983 with HIV infected blood. By January of 1986, he passed away. She gets frustrated when countries and policies leave out the C part, because she knows that condoms are what saved her life, not anything else. Unfortunately the spread of HIV/AIDS has become so big, we cannot forget the large amount of people who already have it. At the beginning of the HIV epidemic, leaving out condoms might have been a more viable option, but now it’s one of the most important preventions to stress. Many people argue that encouraging condom use encourages people to have sex as youth, or with sex workers, yet there are no specific studies that prove that. Plus, I believe another large moral issue that is being faced is the ability to choose. Of course programs should do all that they can to encourage and support the A and B part. We know that strengthened family ties, and stronger communities come from this, and strong HIV prevention. Yet, our programs don’t have the right to deny people the ability to choose. That would be dictatorship. People who already have HIV are already choosing to have unprotected sex. There is no way to force people to stop having sex outside of a monogamous lifelong relationship. We should encourage and teach people as much as we can, but they still have choice. And while they are still choosing to have sex outside of that relationship, they need to learn about protection. To me it is a similar principle as self-defense. If you take a group of women and teach them self-defense in case of an emergency, than some of those women will only use the skill when they absolutely need it, and some might choose to use it when they shouldn’t or don’t need to. Yet, I think that most of us would agree it would be important to teach the class anyways. HIV is a disease that is hitting husbands and wives, parents, and now children. We need to teach everyone about “self-defense” through ABC -especially with condoms. As Noerine said “…this debate of condom or no condom really makes me angry, because I know for a fact my husband had HIV; I don’t have HIV. If you ask me to put it on record what actually protected me from his infection, it was a condom.” Just because we have certain religious or moral beliefs about sexual relations outside of marriage or a monogamous partner, does not mean that we can deny possible health benefits (through the leaving out of teaching of condoms as a prevention) to those who are suffering with, possibly spreading, and at risk for HIV. After all, isn’t health a human right for all?
Posted by benjamincrookston on August 11, 2008
Governments, like any steward, are certainly most effective and responsible when they are accountable to their constituencies. Unfortunately for the millions suffering throughout the world, no one is held accountable for failures in global health, but many are willing to take credit for success. I don’t mean to cast stones at the sinners; I simply believe it is important to recognize the inherent flaws in the international system in order to avoid them.
Bilateral and multilateral donors spent over $11 billion in 2005 on health and population projects. A large portion of that comes from American taxpayers. Therein lies the problem. Donors often respond to the wishes and needs of taxpayers, instead of to the wishes and needs of the sick. Can we count on donors to always act in a humanitarian way? The answer becomes clear when we apply the same question to a Congressman or bureaucrat.
The truth is, donors often act in their own self-interest. Aid is too often used as a foreign policy tool instead of a health tool. At present, aid does not provide a voice to the voiceless; when a USAID funded clinic in Kenya is not appropriately staffed or equipped, USAID is not held accountable to Kenyans. USAID is accountable to the American people, and if the taxpayers are indifferent then so too will be USAID.
Though aid is only a fraction of our government’s budget, it must become a more important policy issue. An increase in the quantity of money will not be nearly as valuable as an increase in the quantity of it. Donors must become more transparent, Information on aid projects must become easily accessible to taxpayers, and most importantly, taxpayers need to care! Election time is wonderful for showing what Americans want from their government. Unfortunately, most of those desires are entirely based on material self-interest. Donors will not become more responsive to the health needs of the world, until we the people are ourselves responsive.
Posted by benjamincrookston on August 10, 2008
Many of the world’s developing countries are male dominated. Education and employment opportunities are scarce for women in these countries. They are often treated as second class citizens. However, the countries that are at highest risk of major diseases are also the countries that have the lowest literacy rates of females.
I wonder how much global health would improve if governments and NGO’s focused mainly on empowering women in developing countries. It’s true that women have the primary responsibility of caring for their families, and many NGO’s focus on women’s groups to improve health and education of women. However, in cultures where women are not treated equal to men, the learning of mothers can easily be overcome by the authority of the men. For example, there are programs in South Africa that teach mothers the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months yet the country has a low rate. This is because men exert the authority they have and dictate the feeding practices of their children. If women could be empowered they would be able to receive better education on how to raise their families, have better opportunities, and be able to put into practice things that they are taught will improve the overall well-being of their families.
Posted by benjamincrookston on August 6, 2008
Dengue fever is a viral disease spread by the Aedes mosquito that causes fever, rashes, and almost unbearable bodily aches and pains. I have also heard the illness referred to as the “bone-crushing” disease because of the severe joint pain that it causes. I lived in Paraguay in 2007 when more than 100,000 people were affected with dengue. I saw victims lie helplessly in bed for days, unable to do anything but wait for the symptoms to pass. What I found most disturbing was that majority of the people were helpless and did not have any means to protect themselves from catching the fever. While a cure for dengue will probably remain unavailable for many years to come, Paraguay and local NGOs need to enhance the prevention efforts for the people.
I think the best way to prevent people from getting dengue in Paraguay is by having a government-sponsored program to provide repellent to all those who need it. The repellent could be distributed in the local clinics and pharmacies. While mosquito nets are an effective way to help stop mosquito bites and avoid diseases such as malaria, I am not convinced that they would be as successful with avoiding dengue. A specific mosquito that comes out only when sun is setting spreads the dengue fever. This is not a common time for people to be under a mosquito net in Paraguay. For this reason, I think that it would be a better idea to use a repellent such as DEET in order to prevent mosquito bites. Repellent should be applied to skin and clothes should be treated with the repellent to maximize its effectiveness. Focusing efforts in providing repellent rather than nets would be more beneficial for the people of Paraguay. This would prevent outbreaks such as the one that occurred in 2007.