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submitted by
08/27/2014 at 10:49

Each year, on October 15, over two hundred million people gather together in countries around the world and celebrate Global Handwashing Day. This international day of advocacy and action shines a spotlight on the state of handwashing in each country or community where it is celebrated and helps to raise awareness about the benefits of handwashing.  Why such a big focus on handwashing? This simple action, when practiced regularly can significantly reduce the risk of illness and death from diarrheal disease and pneumonia. With 1.7 million children dying from these causes each year, we certainly think that is a reason to celebrate!

To help individuals and organizations plan Global Handwashing Day celebrations in their community, region, or country, the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing has developed a Planner’s Guide. This year, the Planner’s Guide was updated to reflect the changing nature of Global Handwashing Day celebrations and the corresponding needs of planners.

Based on consultations with partners and others who have utilized the guide, we have attempted to create an updated guide that is action-oriented and provides planners with resources and inspiration to help as they implement a successful Global Handwashing Day celebration, and to encourage handwashing promotion throughout the year.

Those who have used the Planner’s Guide in years past will be familiar with the overall structure of the document; indeed, some sections such as the Five Facts about Handwashing are still very much the same. The biggest changes are found in the hands-on portion of the Guide. Here planners will find a step-by-step guide to planning an event, which is supplemented by fact boxes, event ideas, and tips for success. The annexes feature ideas for celebrations depending on the audience, an event planning checklist, facts about handwashing, and more.

Whether you’ve celebrated Global Handwashing Day for years, or this is your first, we hope that the Planner’s Guide will have provide you with the tools and ideas necessary to make your event a success. Let us know how it goes by uploading pictures and stories to our interactive, online map. And don’t forget, always wash your hands with soap!

 

Photo credit: Shahbaz Fawbush, MD

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submitted by Kristy Kade
08/20/2014 at 16:53

You’ve probably heard the expression…give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish, and you will feed him for a lifetime. 

Now, if you apply this principle to health advocacy, you’ll get a pretty good sense of how some of my colleagues are helping local stakeholders promote better health policies and health outcomes at the local, regional, and national levels around the world.  And I think it’s pretty cool.  PATH is helping partners and allies learn how to create policy change in their own backyards – one step at a time.

This week, PATH launched a new online portal that outlines exciting work in this arena, built around an accessible ten-part framework informed by previous work – including work focused on combating diarrheal disease.  This new framework provides a deliberate method for advocacy success by building the skills and knowledge that foster the positive change advocates can replicate time and again for long-term success. 

As with any skill, learning how to do it takes practice.  To date, our facilitators and mentors have supported health advocates in over 50 countries, primarily within Africa and Asia, to influence policy changes that support specific health objectives. The progress in Cambodia and Vietnam are two good examples of this work in action. 

For years, outdated national policies in these two countries kept proven and readily available medicines – like zinc and oral rehydration solution (ORS) – from reaching caretakers and children who in turn needlessly suffered and died from diarrhea.

Starting in 2008, PATH helped convene in-country health advocates to join together to assemble needed evidence, identify key health decision makers, and convince the Ministries of Health in Cambodia and Vietnam to prioritize policy changes to improve access to medicines – including zinc and ORS – that could reduce the toll of diarrhea. 

Breakthrough changes were realized in both countries in 2011 when new diarrheal disease policies including the use of zinc and ORS were announced by the countries health ministries.  These new policies paved the way to make zinc and ORS readily available and allowed health care workers to learn how to administer them.   

Because change takes time, our local health stakeholders worked strategically to maintain momentum to update their countries’ diarrheal disease control policies. Their story is just one of many successes that have improved health outcomes. See how our tools can help you have greater health impact.   

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submitted by Wahida Ifat
08/13/2014 at 12:58

I grew up in an educated middle class Bangladeshi family in Dhaka, the capital of the country. I grew up with the idea that immunization is not important, that vaccines could have an adverse effect on vital organs of your body. Having a strong immune system without intervention was more desired. My siblings and I never could tell if we had received routine vaccines during our childhood or not. My elder siblings could confirm receiving the vaccine against tuberculosis from school, because it left marks on their body. I remember my father not being so happy about it.

Almost thirty years after, when my nephews were born, I saw a big change in my father’s attitude. I observed a growing awareness among young and elder mums in my family and neighborhood, too, irrespective of socioeconomic background. I observed my sister-in-law taking my nephews to receive polio vaccines on National Immunization Day (NID). In one instance, my cousin’s wife took my six-month old nephew to the nearest NID camp since his mother was at work. Most surprisingly, my father didn’t oppose it; he was more at ease, which was certainly a big change of attitude. 

A final result of this massive change in attitude came when the World Health Organization declared Bangladesh as polio-free, along with ten other countries in WHO’s South East Asia region, on 3 May 2014.

A study published in the journal of Health Policy and Planning (1997) assessed the impact of the first two National Immunization Days in terms of immunization coverage and change in knowledge among women living Dhaka city. NIDs educated women, both slum and non-slum dwellers, about the prevention of polio through vaccination.

The drive to eradicate polio from Bangladesh required participation from the civil society, media, development partners, and the Government of Bangladesh. One of the key players of this joint effort is the International Centre for Diarrheal Disease, Bangladesh (icddr,b), an international organization based in Dhaka and known globally for its excellence in public health research. In 2013, icddr,b joined forces with scientists and health experts from 80 countries around the world to ratify a comprehensive new strategy to secure a lasting polio-free world by 2018.

icddr,b was established as a cholera research laboratory in 1960. icddr,b’s journey in the world of cholera and enteric diseases is commanding, as it gave the world the simplest solution to treat diarrheal disease: Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS). Till today, the discovery has saved an estimated 50 million lives worldwide, the majority of whom are children under five.

icddr,b’s fight against cholera and diarrhea continued and yielded another groundbreaking discovery that zinc, when taken with ORS, further reduces fatality rates from diarrhea. It also reduces duration, severity, and the likelihood of hospitalization during diarrheal episodes. As with ORS, Bangladesh was the first country to implement a national scale-up programme for ORS-zinc combination therapy.

Achievements as such these have earned icddr,b national and international recognition. While icddr,b is based in Dhaka, it addresses many urban and rural health challenges that affect not only Bangladesh but many other low-income countries in the world. Over time, icddr,b has expanded its initial research on diarrheal and enteric diseases to include other developing priorities to address health challenges worldwide—with a focus on children. The fight against polio in the region, for example, has been significantly boosted through the commitment of iccdr,b’s  highly qualified and diverse group of researchers and scientists.

In addition to its research expertise, Bangladesh deploys one of the largest cohort of female health care volunteers in the world. icddr,b is one of the leading organizations who started recruiting female volunteers, starting in the 1970s. These volunteers are trusted members of the community who have been providing primary care and services regarding immunization, family planning, and maternal and child care. Many of the volunteers have been working for more than two decades. These volunteers are providing immunization support  through icddr,b’s hospital and sub-centres located in Matlab.

Through important research at icddr,b, the education of communities by health care volunteers, and the commitment of many partners including national government, attitudes about immunization among skeptics like my father have made a lifesaving turnaround in my country.

 

Photo credit: M.Dorgabekova

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submitted by Erin Sosne
08/04/2014 at 10:52

UPDATES:

-- USAID announces renewed commitments to child health. Read the press release.
-- The White House publishes a fact sheet: U.S.-African Cooperation on Global Health.

 

The first week in August, African Leaders – including about 50 heads of state, CEOs of multinational corporations and others – will meet in Washington, DC for the first (potentially annual) US-Africa Leaders Summit. The general focus of the summit is about fostering stronger ties between the US and African Nations, with an emphasis on the next generation.

Many topics will be addressed – trade, security, environment – and I will be watching closely to see how the Administration addresses global health , and specifically how the US government intends to use this platform to address shared goals of ending preventable maternal and child death in a generation.

There is no more important investment in the future health and stability of African than saving the lives of mothers and children.

In June of 2012, the United States Government, in partnership with leaders from around the world, committed to ending preventable maternal and child death in a generation. President Obama has since echoed this message through two consecutive State of the Union Addresses – the primary platform where the US President shares his policy priorities. On June 25th of this year, USAID released a new report, Acting on the Call, which outlines what progress is needed to save 15 million children and nearly 600,000 women by 2020. At the same time, USAID made several announcements on realigning resources and developing new partnerships toward reaching this goal.

USAID is making great strides, but with existing resources and commitments, we will not reach our targets. Action is needed by the President to truly accelerate the rate of progress – putting the weight of multiple agencies behind this goal and catalyzing financial resources to truly realize the full potential of American partnerships with African Nations in maternal and child health.

August 6th is a pivotal day. During this time, President Obama will stand on the stage with other heads of State and carve out his legacy for partnership with African nations. Will he use this platform to drive forward a White House driven agenda on maternal and child health? Will this be a key moment for turning the President’s words into transformative action? Only time can tell.

I encourage my fellow advocates out there to be watching on social media and preparing to respond to any concrete actions laid forth.

Official Moments to Watch:

·         August 4th: [Signature Side Event] Investing in Health: Investing in Africa's Future

o   Chaired by USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah and HHS Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell, this official event will celebrate the global health successes Africa has already achieved and the progress still needed.

o   Look for announcements made by Administrator Shah and participating heads of state.

 

·         August 6th: [Official Heads of State Meeting]– Investing in Africa’s Future

·         The opening session will discuss inclusive, sustainable development, economic growth, and trade and investment.

·         Look for announcements by President Obama and other heads of state

 

Hashtags to follow:

#AfricaSummit
#USAfrica

 

Photo credit: David Jacobs/PATH.

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submitted by Deborah Kidd
08/01/2014 at 09:36

Step-step, pause… step-step… plop (down on her bum)! And just like that, my little one is walking.  Completely unaware of the monumental shift she’s created in our lives, my daughter happily crawls toward the kitchen to play with Tupperware lids. I wipe away tears.

She’s taken her first steps out into the world, a strong and healthy girl. I’ll take a little credit for getting her there, starting with one of the earliest “firsts” we shared. Minutes after her birth, before her first bath, before her first diaper change, I gave my daughter her first meal. I happily joined a global community of mothers that early morning.

Not only perfect for providing nourishment, breastfeeding is one of the most basic and universal steps mothers can take to protect their young ones. Vitamins, nutrients, and antibodies develop tiny immune systems, keeping threats like diarrhea and pneumonia at bay, promoting quicker recovery when infections do strike, and improving infants’ response to vaccines.

Despite the proven benefits, too many children worldwide never realize the promise of their mothers’ milk. More than one in ten of all child deaths are due to suboptimal breastfeeding. Without the vital nutrients provided by breastmilk, children are caught in a vicious cycle of malnutrition and illness, often including repeated bouts of diarrhea. If their lives are spared, malnourished children often suffer shortfalls in physical and cognitive growth.

What will make the difference? Efforts to educate mothers and health workers and to provide breastfeeding support are crucial for keeping infants healthy. Breastfeeding may be simple – but it is not always easy. I am fortunate that my daughter and I worked out early kinks fairly quickly. But had we not, support groups and clinical counselors were a phone call away. Latching problems, over- or underproduction, mastitis, clogged ducts, negative perceptions in public or even among family members… any number of things can undermine a mother’s attempts to breastfeed her baby, or even cause her to call it quits. Just one conversation with an informed counselor or community advocate about the benefits of breastfeeding and simple strategies to overcome impediments could truly save a mother’s confidence and a child’s life.  

If 90% of mothers exclusively breastfed their infants during the first six months, and continued complementary breastfeeding through the baby’s first two years, more than 200,000 child deaths could be avoided each year. Breastfeeding’s dramatic potential is one of the reasons it’s almost always included in child health strategies, from the Millennium Development Goals to village outreach. But even with targeted promotion at the most global and local levels, fewer than half of infants worldwide are exclusively breastfed through the first six months of life, according to UNICEF. The benefits of breastfeeding are irrefutable. But mothers need our support: their children’s lives depend on it.

When you spot a mother nourishing her infant with the most fundamental of foods, celebrate her! When a friend or relative confides in you her troubles and uncertainties, help her find support. Raise your voice to a global pitch, sharing important messages about breastfeeding with online communities to influence policymakers and encourage the inclusion of breastfeeding goals in the Sustainable Development Goals now under consideration.

We all can take steps to create a monumental shift.

 

-- Deborah Kidd is a Senior Communications Officer for the Vaccine Development Program at PATH.

 

Photo credits: PATH/Evelyn Hockstein; PATH/Lesley Reed.

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