A little girl in a pink dress sent me to Kenya.
She introduced herself to me through this photo, as she cupped her hands under a spigot for perhaps her first exposure to clean water. I lingered over the photo the first time I saw it because she reminded me of myself at four years wearing my favorite pink nightgown. I wanted to help her, because I knew that there is no reason why that little girl, waiting for clean water, couldn’t have been me.
Our objective was simple.
Charge $25 a ticket, draw a 500 person crowd of 20- and 30-somethings to a glamorous cocktail party in Seattle, focus the party on educating partygoers about global health and, more specifically, diarrheal disease, and use the net proceeds from ticket sales to contribute to diarrheal disease treatment.
As a young medical student at Madras University in the 1960s, I saw diarrhea constantly. With a limited supply of IV bottles and tubing, children died every day. I thought there must be a better way.
And there is. I have worked to develop, test, and deliver Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) for more than 40 years. ORS is radically simple. It is a mixture of electrolytes and glucose that costs less than five cents in developing countries.
[Blog post] The Most Important Question in Global Child Health Today: Why are 3 Million Children Dying from Two Diseases we know how to Prevent and Treat?
One of the biggest challenges in global health is matching resources to the areas where the most lives can be saved.
It is a very serious problem, because resources are always scarce, and when they are not targeted to those areas where the most good can be done, the opportunity cost is measured in lives lost. No single issue frustrates me more than this one, because it is a failure of information, easily corrected, that is causing millions of human lives, mostly children under 5, to be lost every year.
On a recent trip to Kenya’s Western Province, I witnessed how the Oral Rehydration Treatment (ORT) corner is becoming an important part of primary care services in that region.
While I was visiting one of the ORT corners in Kakamega, a shy young mother came in with her 4 month old baby. He had been having diarrhea for the past two days, and had stopped nursing. He was alternately fussy and listless. He had the classic signs of dehydration: sunken fontanel, skin torpor, he wasn’t tracking much, shed no tears when he cried.
This week, PATH is co-hosting a symposium – along with the Vietnamese Ministry of Health and Vietnam’s National Pediatric Hospital – on the importance of taking an integrated approach to defeating diarrheal disease.
The gathering will bring together health professionals from around the Mekong Delta region.
Diarrheal disease treatment and prevention are on the wish list all year around for families and communities in developing countries,
so a number of charities and philanthropies are making it possible for gift givers to donate directly or in the name of someone else, important life saving interventions. For example, $80 to UNICEF will buy 1,000 sachets of ORS.
In the village of Kamusinga, Kenya, parents learn about basic diarrheal disease prevention strategies from a community health volunteer.
Memories of my stay in the bustling border town of Busia, Kenya, fill me with optimism. Last October, I journeyed to Kenya to document PATH’s exciting work and to explore ways to inspire people in the field to be advocates for child health. I saw doctors being trained in new diarrhea treatment protocol, mothers educated on basic prevention, and an increasing number of fathers committed to participating in the health of their children. But what I think about most often is my introduction to a little girl who shares my name, just before she came into the world.
It’s been a year since defeatDD was born. Back then, I blogged about how diarrhea was often a joke at the party, but less often a serious contender for action in the world of global health. Over the past year, I’ve started to think maybe I was wrong, at least a little bit. Thanks to our cadre of generous bloggers, we’ve learned a lot here at defeatDD about the great work that is going on around the world in order to, well, cut the crap.
How can we make an impact on child health in far-away countries for those of us who are working from our desks in the US?
We think this is an incredibly important question, and so do our Facebook friends. In fact, when we recently interviewed Alfred Ochola, our DD program implementer in Western Kenya, one of you asked Alfred for his thoughts on the matter. Here’s what he had to say:
This question is fundamental to child survival and therefore needs more than a one-line answer or solution. The following points may help: