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submitted by Rutuja Patil
01/22/2015 at 16:20

When I first came to work at Vadu, I was not sure if I could use my knowledge of biotechnology in this setting. Was it worth travelling 25 miles every day to reach my place of work, and what would I be able to achieve? After five years, I know I have taken the right decision. Work at the Vadu Rural Health Program (VRHP) touches every aspect of human life: birth, maternal and child health, nutrition, and much more.

One of VRHP’s first studies in 2005 on child health looked at the relation of hand-washing practices to acute respiratory infection and diarrhea. While the study sought to identify appropriate tools to study hand-washing practices, it also gave insights into hand-washing practices of care givers, indoor air pollution, sanitation, and their impact on children.

We learned that because people in Vadu use biomass fuel and coal for cooking and heating purposes, this leads to exceptionally high levels of indoor air pollution, which is a major risk factor for pneumonia. In reaction to these findings, VRHP began to research pulmonary disease and eventually collaborated with other institutions to test the adoption of improved cook-stoves in rural India after targeted behavior intervention.

One of such studies aims to determine how a targeted behavior engagement strategy affected adoption and adherence to the improved cook stove technology and whether its use improved household air quality and reduced human exposure to air pollution. Recently during a visit to Vadu, Dr. Kirk Smith, professor of Global Environmental Health, University of California, Berkeley lauded the efforts that Vadu is taking in the field of indoor air pollution and health.

Apart from research, VRHP’s presence in this rural area has had another spin off.  Individuals from Vadu and nearby villages have had an opportunity to assist in research studies. Nearly 50 percent of these are women. Most of them have gained confidence, independence, and they say that their personality has developed. Many of these field workers can now address a group on various health aspects. One that I especially recall was a home maker who earlier did not have any say in her household decisions. Today, she is a member of the village council and she not only makes decisions for the village, but for her household, too!

I understand today that it is not just health research that is beneficial to the community. The work that VRHP does has helped community in Vadu become more informed and knowledgeable on health aspects too. 


-- Rutuja Patil is a biotechnologist who works on ‘research to policy implications’at the Vadu Rural Health Program (VRHP), run by the King Edward MemorialHospital Research Centre in Pune, India.


Photo credit: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki

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submitted by Tara Newton
01/15/2015 at 12:45

Several health clinics in Indonesia implemented electronic systems to capture data, but one facility in particular far outperformed the rest in almost every indicator measured. However, this should not have been the case. This facility was more rural, served difficult to access populations, had limited resources and faced challenges related to infrastructure and geography.

Why was this facility so successful? The clinic manager was a true data champion and facility staff used data every day to identify trends and potential issues to act on. For example, health workers noted that there were several children who came to the clinic with diarrhea and that these children happened to come from one village.

Using this data, the clinic was able to get ahead of a potential disease outbreak, sending health workers out to provide proper hand washing lessons, rehydration treatments and interventions like vaccines before it had a chance to spread.

Leveraging data to identify these trends can have a profound effect on the clinic and surrounding population. Although global stakeholders and national governments acknowledge that there are strong challenges related to data quality, few can identify which problems matter most and where.

This is where PATH’s Better Immunization Data (BID) Initiative comes in. The BID Initiative seeks to empower countries to enhance immunization and overall health service delivery through improved data collection, quality, and use. To start, we’re partnering with demonstration countries Tanzania and Zambia to develop interventions addressing some of the most pressing routine immunization service delivery problems through interventions such as electronic immunization registries and adding barcodes to vaccine stock and child health cards.

DefeatDD is creating champions in the fight against diarrheal disease, driving awareness of solutions, such as the vaccine for rotavirus. This enables key stakeholders and government officials to make informed decisions about how to fight this terrible disease. With improved data products, practices and policies, the BID Initiative will help these countries reach every child.

If successful, a true tipping point will occur—one in which countries can access, analyze, and act upon accurate immunization data anytime, anywhere—resulting in improved immunization outcomes and healthier families and communities.

Learn more about the BID Initiative in the following video and visit

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submitted by Sushmita Malaviya
12/22/2014 at 09:08

With two college-going children – pardon – adults in the house – it is difficult to recall them reaching their fifth year milestone. I still recall, though, the amazement that often came from friends and family in the larger cities of India (who took their children to hip private doctors) when they heard of the immunization schedule. ‘Your children have been immunized at a primary health center. Did you check to see if the needles were sterilized?’

My husband and I brought up the children in the calm and serene city of Bhopal fully supported by my husband’s family.  Vaccinations and routine doctor’s visits were always a point of discussion, since we lived in a village. The Government health worker would stop by to inquire about the children, then vaccinate and update the "mother and child" card that the State Government issued to children once they are registered at a primary health center. For my son, Varun, this document was frantically sought for during his college admissions – to confirm that all his vaccinations were done!

Ipsita and Varun in their treehouse in Bhopal.

From 2007 – having moved away from hard core news production to being part of communications teams that support public health – I sometimes chuckle at my naivete, but am greatly relieved that both the children are doing well. Why? Because in large parts of north India, routine immunization is still not a right for every child. Take for instance Madhya Pradesh. My adopted home state’s record on fully immunized children still hovers around 40 percent. In the state that I supported for the polio eradication program (Uttar Pradesh) – the same – 40 percent.

Walking through high-risk polio endemic regions of Western Uttar Pradesh between 2007 and 2009, I learnt the most difficult lesson as a mother. When mothers were asked why didn’t they limit their families, “I have the number of children I have, because I do not know how many will survive!” Where each day is a struggle and immunization schedules are amongst the last priority on a family’s agenda – I marveled at the Government’s foot soldiers – month after month reminding families to vaccinate their children against polio. Sometimes abused, sometimes taunted, oftentimes ignored - the Government system was trying to reach children – just as they had reached my own, Varun and Ipsita.

It’s not an irony that I moved from working on polio to diarrheal diseases. It was evident in the last mile polio eradication endeavor that safe clean drinking water, sanitation, and nutrition were essential interventions to check that debilitating disease. Today, the challenges in India still remain: safe and clean drinking water, sanitation and nutrition can save 1.35 million children from diarrhea and pneumonia.

That I work with a sharp team of communication experts is a bonus on several fronts–breaking down scientific jargon, precision, accuracy, timeliness, and yes non-stop humor. If you are reading my piece you would have realized that by now!  

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submitted by Hope Randall
12/17/2014 at 11:06

This is one of my favorite photos: the joy and playfulness of these children is a great reminder of why we do what we do! Photo credit: PATH.


In our last post, Deb talked about the exciting yet intimidating early days of the DefeatDD initiative that in many ways mirror the emotions of new, first-time parents. Since we’ve started our DefeatDD 5th birthday series, I’ve been reflective about the big hopes and dreams we had at our inception, and feeling amazed and grateful by how much we’ve accomplished with your help.

Because it’s too hard to resist such an obvious hook, I am presenting five wishes from five years ago that have come to fruition in some surprising and unexpected ways.


Wish #1: “Decision makers have a basic awareness about the solutions against diarrheal disease so they know where to invest resources.”

We started at square one in a lot of ways. My first task on the DefeatDD team (before we even had a name!) was to assist the late-stage production and launch event for our report, “Diarrheal Disease: Solutions to Defeat a Global Killer.” We produced the report because we sensed the global health community lacked a quick and compelling reference guide on the prevention and treatment solutions for diarrhea as a technical and advocacy resource.

Today, we primarily use the DefeatDD website and social media deliver this information, but it’s been illuminating to track global progress through the need to repeatedly update that first report. Fewer children are dying from diarrhea today than ever before. We went from saying that rotavirus vaccines “will soon be available” in high disease burden countries, to saying that, with assistance from groups like Gavi, children in 70+ countries are vaccinated against rotavirus, the most lethal form of diarrhea. Not only are decision makers more aware of the solutions against diarrhea; they see the benefit of investing in them, too.


Wish #2: “Integration of prevention and treatment solutions to address diarrheal disease is written into global policy guidance and implemented in field programs.”

It was such a perfect wish fulfillment that it may as well have been gift-wrapped: The Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhoea, the first-ever global plan to simultaneously tackle two leading killer diseases of children, was published by UNICEF and WHO in 2013. Talk about a huge check mark for our team objectives. But this accomplishment is just the beginning, and we look forward to helping country champions advocate for the rollout of the new global strategy in their local contexts. For more on why integrating pneumonia and diarrhea efforts makes sense, check out Lauren’s blog post.


Wish #3: “So-called ‘unsexy’ issues like diarrhea and sanitation get time in the spotlight.”

The UN officially designated November 19th as World Toilet Day in July 2013. Even more recently, the UN dedicated a campaign to ending open defecation. And Matt Damon, one of our favorite celebrities, used the viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to draw attention to the water and sanitation crisis in a pretty epic way. We’ve said from the beginning: If we can’t talk about diarrhea, we can’t defeat it. We’re lucky to have these key influencers in our corner.


Wish #4: “When people think of diarrhea advocacy, they think of DefeatDD.”

“What is DefeatDD doing for World Toilet Day?” It’s not unusual for messages like these to start showing up in my inbox as early as August. And in recent years they’ve become more specific: “Are you doing the Poo Haiku Contest again this year? How about the toilet calendar?” In advance of the many global health observances that fall in November (like World Pneumonia Day and, yes, World Toilet Day), it’s become a tradition for DefeatDD to sponsor a campaign in October, and to know that it has become something our audience looks forward to is wonderful and gratifying. When it comes to conversations about diarrheal disease, we set out to be inescapable, in the best possible way! And you, supporters of our cheeky campaigns, have enabled us to help move the needle in the child health conversations we care about most. (Suggestions for a 2015 campaign? You know where to find us!)


Wish #5: “We want caregivers everywhere to feel supported and empowered.”

Everywhere starts here. Since DefeatDD’s inception, we’ve gained several new little lives (like Nate, Cody, and Hazel!) from whom to draw inspiration on the days we need aboost. Even after years of working on this issue, I felt a new sense of urgency about the work that I do when my niece, Lily, was born. My heart broke thinking about how she could have struggled had she been born in a context of poor nutrition or lack of access to basic care. I couldn’t imagine my sister having to bear that burden; I can’t imagine any mother having to lose a child from a preventable cause. “The Extraordinary Healing Power of Mom” remains one of our most popular videos, and I think it’s because this strikes a common chord. As more of us on the DefeatDD team become mothers and aunts, we feel even stronger sense of solidarity with and commitment to caregivers around the world.



On behalf of children around the world who are happy and healthy due to simple interventions, thanks for helping make our wishes come true. Here’s to five more years and many more wishes to come! 


Other posts in the DefeatDD fifth birthday series:

-- Back to the birth of our movement: Five reasons the birth of the DefeatDD movement made us all feel like first-time parents. Deb would know: she just became one! 

-- How DefeatDD broke my poo taboo: "Are those toilets on your office wall? DefeatDD newcomer Elayna had explaining to do to friends and family.

-- From pneumonia to poo-monia: Lauren remembers when her job turned to shit... the fight against it, that is. Pneumonia and diarrhea advocacy may not be such an unlikely alliance after all.

-- Take this job -- and LOVE it: Why DefeatDD's director says she has the greatest job in the world. 

-- What it means to be five: Allison's son, Nate, also turns five years old this year, and he taught his mom some important things about this big milestone. 

-- DefeatDD is five years old: And we wouldn't be here without you!  

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submitted by Deborah Kidd
12/15/2014 at 15:35

The author’s own newborn. “Umm… now what do we do?”

Someone in my family is brand new. As this blog posts, I’m freshly arrived in Atlanta to lend an extra set of hands to my sister, her husband, and their newborn daughter.

As I prepared to impart experienced advice (while humbly admitting I will never really have this parenting thing figured out), I got to thinking about the whirlwind first weeks of DefeatDD, our baby in many ways. At times it felt like ushering our online movement into the virtual world paralleled those overwhelming early days of parenthood. And much of the advice carries over quite appropriately:

1.       You have no idea how much you don’t know.

Preparation, while important, was just one step on our early path. Just as children grow and end up teaching their parents as much about the world as we try to teach them, we’ve found that online advocacy still teaches us something new each day. Case in point: Sometimes an irreverent online campaign trumps a press release in getting the attention of a high-profile journalist. 

Further we found that, to help navigate this learning curve…


2.       Community is key.
Even in the ever-evolving world of online advocacy, chances are someone has already run into the challenges you’ll face. Much with new parents, who can’t imagine that anyone has ever been so tired, that a laundry pile has ever been so tall, or yes, that a tiny human can poop so very much. But countless others have been there before, and they can be your rock. That’s why…


3.       When others offer help, TAKE IT!

Tapping into existing networks, joining tweet chats, calling for users’ advice on how better to structure our website – all of these invaluable gifts have helped DefeatDD amplify our messages while giving us the opportunity to reciprocate and build stronger relationships. This reciprocation is your secret weapon in the first weeks of parenthood, too: When a neighbor asks if she can bring by a casserole or help scale that mountain of laundry, sure she wants to help. But she really wants to see that sweet new baby. Chances are, you’ll end up with fresh, folded burp cloths and she’ll float away on snuggly newborn vibes thinking you are the one who did her a favor! 

Community is key in raising a collective voice to defeat diarrheal disease.
By helping each other, we help advance our shared cause.


4.       There’s no turning back.

Just as the birth of a human sets you up to parent in some way/shape/form for the rest of your own life, so does the birth of a movement. The progress achieved thus far takes vigilance: Diarrheal diseases can’t be eradicated, but their devastating toll can one day be eliminated. We must continue our conversations, keep raising our voices, advance research, and share evidence of success in order to stimulate and sustain a lasting impact. Which means that…


5.       There will always be more to do.

My list as a mother never achieves all its checkmarks. There are always more carpets to vacuum, more veggies to steam. And as an advocate, there will always be a new audience who needs to hear your message. The key to containing our task-list is prioritization. And through our work with DefeatDD, we have prioritized you!



Thank you for all of your support throughout DefeatDD’s lifetime. Here’s to 5, 10… countless years more!


Other posts in DefeatDD's fifth birthday series:

-- How DefeatDD broke my poo taboo: "Are those toilets on your office wall? DefeatDD newcomer Elayna had explaining to do to friends and family.

-- From pneumonia to poo-monia: Lauren remembers when her job turned to shit... the fight against it, that is. Pneumonia and diarrhea advocacy may not be such an unlikely alliance after all.

-- Take this job -- and LOVE it: Why DefeatDD's director says she has the greatest job in the world. 

-- What it means to be five: Allison's son, Nate, also turns five yeras old this year, and he taught his mom some important things about this big milestone. 

-- DefeatDD is five years old: And we wouldn't be here without you! 

Read more