goats and soda, September 2014
This blog puts the ebola epidemic in context by comparing fatality rates of...
You’ve heard of shopping, of course. Clothes shopping, grocery shopping, even furniture shopping. But how many of you have ever thought about toilet shopping? Did you ever stop to wonder who picked out that light blue toilet in your neighbor’s house? Or that plain while toilet in your office building? How about the toilet in your very own home?
Until a few weekends ago, toilet shopping was not part of my repertoire. But now that my husband and I are renovating our house, I’m shopping for all sorts of interesting things – like toilets!
Luckily for us, there is a place for home renovators who need toilets – a bathroom emporium. Sinks! Toilets! Bath tubs! All there for you to test, try, and possibly make your own. While bathroom shopping at the emporium, we were able to test all sorts of toilets – high end, low end, modern, traditional.
While considering the color, shape, and model of our new toilet, I couldn’t help but think about PATH’s global health work. Part of our scope of work – like so many of our partners - includes a focus on reducing diarrhea and pneumonia morbidity and mortality, and a proven way to reduce these diseases is by improving access to sanitation and hygiene. But in the countries where we work and travel, how many people have access to improved sanitation, let alone a toilet emporium? How many toilet emporiums exist in Ethiopia? What about India? How many people can just point to a toilet and have it delivered to their home, confident that it will be connected to water and sewer and flushing in no time?
In how many countries could a woman unashamedly go toilet shopping with her husband? What I was able to do freely and without ridicule, many women would never dream. In many countries a husband or father makes decisions about family expenditures and whether or not a latrine is a valuable expense. Forget color and size, or choosing the modern model. In so many countries where we work, a standard latrine slab is the only choice. You either get one or you don’t.
I developed a new appreciation for the ease with which I can find a toilet or wash my hands – at home, at work, at a restaurant, or on a plane. Not every community needs a toilet emporium of their own, but every community does need access to clean, safe, hygienic sanitation facilities.
Next time you go to the bathroom, consider how comfortable you are. How high or low the toilet is. Whether it automatically flushes, or you have to face the grimy handle. And then consider the more than 2 billion people globally who don’t have this luxury. They’re unable to access any time of improve sanitation, let alone a self-flushing, shiny, new model. As we race towards 2015, the sanitation Millennium Development Goal looms far in the distance. What really matters are the millions of boys, girls, women, and men we need to reach with a toilet. A simple, clean, functioning toilet.
For more information:
-- PHOTOS: WaterAid in America sponsored a different kind of bathroom emporium to commemorate World Toilet Day.
-- You use the toilet every day; why not celebrate it every day? Download our Places We Go 2014 calendar.
-- PHOTOS: What if every time you flushed you could make a wish?Read more
Originally posted on the PATH blog.
Recently, Bill and Melinda Gates released their annual letter, which took on three persistent myths that block progress for the poor. In the same spirit, this week we’re debunking six myths that impede progress in global health. Today we tackle:
Mythbuster: Dr. Alfred Ochola, technical advisor for child survival and development for PATH’s Kenya Program.
As a doctor and as a father, I am saddened by this myth because it costs many innocent children their lives. Even though diarrhea is a leading killer of children here in Kenya, mothers believe that it is “just diarrhea”—that it is not a serious problem. In fact, it is because of this myth that parents often bring their children to the hospital with complications like dehydration only after it is too late.
The reason diarrhea is a killer of children less than five years old is because dehydration is dangerously rapid in young children—often developing within just a few hours. And to make it worse, mothers believe other dangerous myths, for example, that one should withhold fluids from a child with diarrhea. Nothing could be worse!
The good news is that diarrhea is preventable and treatable. Throughout rural Kenya, my colleagues and I have set up 365 oral rehydration therapy corners in clinics, where children receive a simple mixture of sugar, water, and salt called oral rehydration solution that quickly treats dehydration, along with zinc tablets. It is amazing to see their eyes become bright and cheerful after just a few hours, especially after their situations were so dire.
The hours children spend in oral rehydration therapy corners also provide an opportunity to teach mothers about the importance of breastfeeding, hygiene, and other ways to prevent dangerous diarrhea from recurring. We also use radio programs and community health workers as opportunities to share these important health messages with the community.
Political will is important to continue the fight, and I am thrilled that the Government of Kenya adopted a national policy for diarrheal disease prevention and treatment. We have the solutions. What we need is improved access and greater awareness to fight dangerous myths and practices. All children get diarrhea, but I hope for a day where no child will die from it.
For more information:
-- VIDEO: Follow Alfred through Western Kenya as he demonstrates how a cup, a corner, and a community are defeating diarrhea
-- PHOTOS: Restoring oral rehydration therapy corners in Western KenyaRead more
The State of the Union (otherwise known as the “SOTU” to political wonks like myself) is a big deal inside the Beltway, where people either flock to bars like it’s Super Bowl Sunday or hold watch parties with bingo cards filled with policy buzzwords.
During last year’s State of the Union, President Obama stated that the United States would join our allies to eradicate extreme poverty and save the world’s children from preventable deaths. So, I, along with many who watched last night, was all ears to hear what would be said about global health as a national priority this year.
This year’s message about global health hit close to home for the work we do at PATH: innovation, research, and developing new tools to fight global bugs. I’m sure you can imagine my delight (I said I’m a wonk!) when President Obama mentioned “federally-funded research” and recognized that “there are entire industries based on vaccines that stay ahead of drug-resistant bacteria.” While this statement was modest compared to last year, the President’s recognition of these important US contributions to global health is significant. Without lifesaving research, we would be unable to reevaluate existing technologies, and search for new and innovative ways to deliver lifesaving solutions to people around the world.
In an age where policy issues are in constant competition for attention from our leaders, the global community should acknowledge that the US President made note of global research in a largely domestic speech. As I listened last night, I was encouraged by this recognition. I hope that the global health community saw this as a win as well, and believe that we should celebrate the fact that our messages are resonating with policymakers and galvanize us to do more to influence policymakers to make strong investments in global health, and particularly in innovation.
Photo credit: SXCRead more
Last year, I had somewhere in the ballpark of fifteen colds (and that’s a conservative estimate). Just to plan ahead, I’m penciling into my 2014 calendar several colds over the next few months. You see, my son is in daycare. Need I say more?
When my son was in his first few months of life, I blogged about how breastfeeding likely helped him stave off a severe stomach bug going around in our family. Since then, he has hit the one year mark and his many months in the germ-infested environs of daycare (and my single-handed support of the facial tissue industry) have underscored for me the importance of yet another facet of disease prevention—herd immunity.
Herd immunity is when a significant portion of a population is vaccinated against a disease, which helps indirectly protect others around them that are not immune by disrupting the chain of infection. Studies have shown that vaccinating children in particular can be beneficial for building herd immunity because they are often main transmitters of disease. Even major child killers like pneumococcus and rotavirus (the leading causes of pneumonia and severe diarrhea, respectively) are two examples for which this is true.
My son’s daycare center is a good microcosmic example of how easily and efficiently disease spreads in settings where frequent person to person contact occurs. Sniffles and coughs pass between children and adults like wildfire there. But, despite the number of runny noses (or my own runny nose for that matter), I often find myself relieved that the illnesses that seem to circulate on a regular basis at the daycare are, by and large, mild.
Most of the children are lucky to be done with or well into their vaccination series for many serious childhood diseases (e.g., pneumococcus, rotavirus, measles, diphtheria, pertussis, polio, etc.) The children in the class that may not be up to date on their shots are lucky too because the vaccinated kids form a sort of protective bubble that reduces everyone’s chance of exposure. Although mild illnesses like colds still get passed around, vaccines and herd immunity are hard at work shielding our children (and us) from many serious pathogens.
Since I live in the United States where vaccines are readily accessible, I can only begin to imagine how scary parenthood would be if my son and his peers did not have access to vaccines. But, for millions of parents around the world, especially in low-resource countries, they don’t have to imagine. In these settings, too many children grow up in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions with little or no access to vaccines and health care—a perfect staging ground for diseases to take hold and spread. And as a result, too many die. Pneumonia and diarrhea alone kill nearly two million children combined each year, and the major causes of both are vaccine preventable.
Having experienced firsthand the efficiency with which disease travels among the children and adults at my son’s daycare, I have gained an even more fervent appreciation for vaccines and their multifaceted ability to protect directly and indirectly against serious childhood diseases. The sniffles that my son and I have passed back and forth to each other, though annoying, seem like blessings when juxtaposed with the fearful possibilities if we did not live in a well-vaccinated community. Herd immunity is just one of many compelling reasons why vaccination is so critical to public health in high- and low-income countries alike. As my young son gets older and starts begging me not to make him get shots at the doctor’s office, I’m going to be strong and hold my ground because this is one area where I don’t want him to get separated from the herd.
Photo credit: PATH.Read more
USAID released a comprehensive Nutrition Strategy on their website for public comment on December 20, 2013. The design of a USAID nutrition strategy recognizes the essential role that nutrition plays in individuals’ and countries’ development and is a benchmark toward the development of a broader U.S. government nutrition strategy. USAID’s efforts to improve nutrition are critical to success of the U.S. government’s ability to advance global development, particularly in the areas of ending preventable child deaths, improving health, driving greater progress against hunger and food insecurity and promoting resilient communities.
I am particularly excited and encouraged to see the recognition of the multi-sectoral nature of nutrition in this strategy. Specifically, the inclusion of WASH as an illustrative action for IR 1.3 Increased availability and access to high quality nutrition-sensitive services and commodities (pg. 14-16) demonstrates this important pathway through which investments in the WASH sector contribute to the goal of improving nutrition outcomes.
The three high-level goals to be addressed through the USAID nutrition strategy—child stunting, wasting, and women’s anemia—are critical to reducing preventable child deaths and increasing child survival. Thereis clear and resounding evidence that WASH is one of the most effective ways to reduce child mortality, bolster resilience to disease and ensure healthy development. USAID plans to prioritize actions in this sector as well as both nutrition-specific and -sensitive interventions.
USAID is also committed to making the design of this strategy as inclusive as possible and held a public consultation yesterday with over 100 participants from the nutrition community. The receptivity and enthusiasm of USAID’s senior officials during this consultation process was promising and demonstrated how important it is to work together as one to combat malnutrition globally. To take a quote from the draft strategy, “the chance to come together as a dynamic and diverse global nutrition community [and work] towards a vision bigger than what any one organization or sector can achieve alone.”
The future of nutrition lies in the growing recognition that we must harmonize our efforts to have a truly great impact. This strategy offers a great opportunity to continue moving forward in that direction.
Photo credit: Heng Chivoan