RotaFlash, December 2013
In late November, Zambia expanded a pilot project that originated in Lusaka district...
In this country, diarrhea tends to be shrugged off as a mild nuisance, but in parts of the developing world, it can be a death sentence. Health workers like Salif in Mali know this all too well.
He recently treated a young boy, Sekou, who had refused to nurse or drink. On top of that, the one-year-old was also suffering from diarrhea and vomiting. Unsurprisingly, this perfect storm of conditions led to Sekou developing dehydration and severe malnutrition. By the time his parents reached Salif, Sekou’s life was in danger. His eyes were sunken and he was very thin.
Luckily, Salif knew from his training with Save the Children to take baby Sekou to the health center immediately—a critical decision that likely saved the boy’s life. While Sekou is not back to his playful self yet, he is home again, where Salif visits often to help him achieve a full recovery. He counsels Sekou’s mother on breastfeeding and other nutrition practices that can make all the difference.
Salif is one of the many frontline health workers in the developing world who are working to treat childhood diseases like diarrhea in their own communities—even when doctors and hospitals are not within easy reach.
At Save the Children, we’re trying to raise awareness about the critical need for more frontline health workers like Salif through campaigns like Every Beat Matters and the REAL Awards. Without them, millions of people would be cut off from the health care system entirely, and our incredible progress in slashing child deaths over the last two decades would be curtailed.
Babies like Sekou will thank you.Read more
Reposted from path.org.
In Cambodia, an innovative idea to treat pneumonia and diarrhea at the same time—profiled in this post—was so successful that the Ministry of Health plans to join with us and UNICEF to extend the project throughout the country. But the project’s future wasn’t fully assured until just last month, when PATH contributors generously gave us support to help carry the work toward scale-up. Thank you!
Weaving between homes in the village of Duan Tom, trying to avoid slipping in the mud, Yeksim Chea talks animatedly about the heavy rains: how they’ve made it tough for villagers to get to the health center, how families are drinking contaminated water. The flooding means more disease, especially diarrhea and pneumonia, a duo responsible for 40 percent of the deaths of young children in Cambodia.
Yeksim is vice-chief of this village in central Cambodia. She’s also a village health volunteer and part of a PATH project that’s taking a unique two-in-one approach to curbing diarrhea and pneumonia.
To reach kids in Duan Tom, we began in Phnom Penh, working with the government of Cambodia to draft a national policy that addresses diarrheal disease and pneumonia. The new policy incorporates up-to-date prevention practices, training for health workers, and easier access to lifesaving treatments.
With a draft in hand, we needed to show that what looked good on paper works in the village. We chose one province to train health workers—from hospital staff all the way down to village volunteers—to prevent and treat diarrhea and pneumonia.
Yeksim was eager for the training and committed to bringing what she learned back to Duan Tom. “During the four years that I’ve been vice-chief of my village, pneumonia and diarrhea among children have been the biggest health issues,” she says. “Many parents don’t know how to prevent the child from getting sick, and they certainly don’t know the symptoms of when a child has a cold versus when the child has pneumonia. If parents knew the signs of these illnesses and when to bring their children to the health center, many children would not have to die.”
Yeksim herself wasn’t aware of all the symptoms of pneumonia until she took the training. When she was shown a picture of a child with a swollen chest, she realized her five-year-old neighbor had severe pneumonia. As soon as she returned to Duan Tom, Yeksim convinced the boy’s mother to take the child to the health center for treatment.
While parents can’t control the rain, when armed with information they can prevent severe illness—and that’s what Yeksim offers them. At classes for mothers and other caregivers, she passes along what she’s learned about good nutrition and hygiene. She also reminds them, “Good health means families spend less money on medicines that don’t work and helps reduce poverty.”
Cambodia’s new national policy equips health centers with oral rehydration solution (ORS) and zinc to treat diarrhea. In a bold step, it also puts these lifesaving tools in the hands of the village health volunteers who see parents and kids on a daily basis. Zinc can reduce the severity and duration of diarrhea, but in most countries, it’s regulated as a drug and can only be distributed by licensed health professionals and pharmacists. Now parents in Cambodia can get it directly from volunteers like Yeksim, saving precious time.
“The introduction of zinc has stopped most of the cases of diarrhea,” Yeksim says. “I’m very happy when I see the kids are healthy.”
The integrated approach works: fewer children are arriving at local hospitals with severe dehydration or pneumonia. Now Cambodia’s Ministry of Health is partnering with PATH and UNICEF to take it nationwide, with plans to reach more than 1.6 million children by 2014. Nature may be unpredictable, but we’re determined to keep diarrhea and pneumonia from threatening young lives.
Photo credit: PATH/Heng Chivoan.Read more
In a recent survey completed by PATH on perceptions of ORS and zinc in India and Kenya, caregivers in both countries demonstrated some encouraging similarities in knowledge and behavior:
· More than 90% of caregivers recognize the need to rehydrate a child suffering from diarrhea.
· Lethargy and lack of appetite are much more concerning symptoms to caregivers than the diarrhea itself.
· The goals for seeking treatment, in order of importance, as articulated by the caregivers, are: prevent the child’s illness from getting worse, restore the child’s energy, and stop the diarrhea.
Health interventions only help to the extent to which they are understood and used, and this evidence should make global health communicators proud that these messages are taking root in rural communities and becoming incorporated into new caregiving practices.
That said, the research also indicated that there are still some unanswered questions and opportunities for better communication. Though there seems to be a basic understanding that ORS rehydrates children, caregivers also understand that it doesn’t stop the diarrhea – and often, they feel that’s not good enough. Antibiotics and other medicines are often perceived as the best treatment and that it will always stop the diarrhea, which is only true in some cases.
In other cases, our messages have exacerbated misunderstandings. The image of water over a fire on ORS sachets is meant to suggest that caregivers should boil their water, but is sometimes interpreted to mean that the ORS needs to be cooked and served hot.
And still at other times, our messages are irrelevant. For communicators and advocates, we consider the fact that zinc can prevent future diarrhea episodes a huge selling point. But this doesn’t ring true for caregivers, whose priorities are tightly focused on the life-or-death situation at hand, without the luxury of wondering whether the product may be useful in the future.
We should celebrate the encouraging trends that point to successful communication efforts, but let’s not forget the necessity of innovating new approaches when messages fall short. Community health workers will continue to play an essential role in framing the messages appropriately.
What are some of your ideas? Weigh in using the comment field below.
Photo credit: PATH/Tony Karumba.Read more
I still remember when the project was put in front of me: "Non-profit needs website support for their Drupal website." Great! We're a Drupal shop, so that's right up our alley. My next question: What's the non-profit's issue? "Diarrhea. Poop." At first I thought it was a joke our Director of Business was playing on me.
Getting involved with non-profits is a passion for my partner and me. When at all possible we want to work on projects that are trying to make a difference. I did some research on DefeatDD and I was really happy with what I found.
They'd just wrapped up their annual "Poo Haiku" contest, a contest via social media in which people from all over the world create haikus based on diarrheal disease and prevention. No one talks about poop, right? Especially not professionals from across the globe on their public Facebook and Twitter accounts! Well, they were. This non-profit had taken something disgusting and even a little taboo and made it light-hearted and easy to come on board. I knew then I had to become involved with these uniquely creative individuals.
Throughout the year I learned a lot about diarrheal disease through large amounts of content creation and the web apps we custom programmed. I remember, in particular, an instance of reading through every page of the website to add the proper content tags to create a new related articles system. Something started to take shape: diarrheal disease really is a problem. A problem that shouldn't be as serious as it is. It seemed like if we could just get the word out to communities that they shouldn't drink muddy water, for example, that countless lives could be saved. It was simple, and DefeatDD was doing it by raising awareness about simple ways to keep children healthy.
If I took away anything from the experience, it was that big problems could be solved with simple solutions. You may think you can't make a difference. You're just one person, right? Well, the DefeatDD arm of PATH is just a few people and they are getting it done.
-- Aaron Ortega is a Partner at Umbrella Media, a creative and development agency in Austin, Texas.
Photo credit: PATH/Amy Gottlieb.Read more
2012. What a year for child health: the US government renews its promise for child health, the MDG for safe drinking water is met ahead of schedule, and several countries (the Philippines, Yemen, Malawi , Ghana, and Tanzania) introduce vaccines against rotavirus, the most lethal form of severe diarrhea.
It was great year in blogs, too. We wanted to know what got you jazzed in 2012. Here are the top 5 posts of the year, as decided by you, our readers.
5. An Awareness Issue: Erin Williams, Program Assistant at PATH, will never forget the differences between Ghana and her home state of Washington, especially with regard to sanitation.
4. Cambodia: From Policy to Practice: A national policy on pneumonia and diarrheal disease reinvigorates local programs and streamlines a coordinated approach to save lives from the leading killers of children.
3. Adventures in Diarrhea (I know, I know): Last March, our own Janie Hayes left PATH to embark on a new adventure, but not before recounting her journey from seeing diarrhea as an icky word to “a reason to get out of bed in the morning (and not just to run to the toilet).”
2. Maximizing the Use and Impact of Rotavirus Vaccines: More than 450,000 children die from rotavirus each year. The good news: a special supplement of the journal Vaccine projects that rotavirus vaccines will save 2.4 million lives by 2030.
1. India’s Breakthrough on Polio Required Tackling Diarrhea: India kicked off 2012 with the announcement that the country had been polio free for a year. Did you know that controlling diarrheal disease was crucial to this success story?
Reflecting on last year’s progress is just the motivation we need to kick diarrhea’s butt in 2013. Thanks for a great year, and thanks for joining the movement!Read more