Posts Tagged ‘global health’

Tuesday Talks: Young People can innovate for health too!

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Our key stakeholders in the United States are young people and students at universities. More often than not, business leaders, non-profit directors, politicians, and other “experts” don’t think that young people have much to contribute in the way of new ideas of skills to improve or make a difference on global health issues. This video was chosen today because it is an excellent example of how young people are entering into development projects with an open mind, understanding of community control over projects, and the limitations of their work. These students from Harvard present an excellent idea adapted from a Western development project to improve the health and nutrition of people in Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya.

The video is very quiet, turn up the volume and listen closely.

The world isn’t flat, health disparities persist

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Health has long been a gift that we have attempted to give to the rest of the world. Disease eradication programs, vaccination outreach campaigns, and the Western biomedical system have all been spread to countries near and far. These gifts were often colonialist in design, given without community consent, and without regard to culture or custom. Contrary to Thomas Friedman‘s thoughts, the world is not flat. Rather we live in a world that is increasingly connected by technology, but still remains sharply separated by those who have and those who don’t.

When it comes to global health, we no longer have the luxury of saying, “those people over there have health issues.” There is no simple separation between “us” and “them.” Health problems aren’t over there any more than they are right here. In the US, lifestyle choices contribute to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and lung cancer. When we talk of disparities in access health in other parts of the world, we cannot forget the glaring health disparities in US inner cities and across communities of color.

The curtain has been lifted and hopefully we have looked in the mirror to see that we too have health issues in our country. While the ideas to make health better have long come from the West and developed countries, that paradigm is no longer applicable to global health today. Our world is still expansive, but we are more connected than ever before. With the internet at our finger tips and friends across the ocean only a skype call away, solutions in global health come from around the world. The past demonstrated that “developed” countries believed they were giving something valuable to those who didn’t have what they had. The result was a plethora of failed aid goals, missing life-saving medications, and decrepit health care systems.

Innovations for better health come from all around the world. It is no longer the “developed” giving ideas to the “developing.” The increasing use of mobile phones have inspired some exciting programs for health records management while SMS and texting have led to revolutions in access to health knowledge and care. However, it isn’t always technology ideas that are most effective. Developing countries have reminded us how important and critical health insurance can be, while at the same time demonstrating the severe need for more trained health care workers. Models that train community health workers, access micro-health insurance on your mobile phone, and social enterprises that provide ambulance emergency services have all been launched in “developing” countries. I can only hope that our health care system can take the time to look around the world for ways to improve.

For many years, complex issues in international development and global health have been tackled by simplified single-issue campaigns that have created short-term “band-aid” solutions. This can be attributed to the limited view most Americans have of the world. For many, issues of global health remain remote and abstract. We, young people, have grown up with the internet in our laps, basic knowledge of different cultures around the world in our classrooms, access to easier communications and travel, and more opportunities to study abroad and participate in global exchanges. These factors have made the world seem more connected, and have bestowed upon us the capability to serve as the key drivers of social change.

We must bridge the divide between rich and poor, privileged and oppressed, developed and developing. We, as privileged young people, can be the voice that changes the actions of our largest institutions to focus on programs that work, projects that benefit people in need, and efforts to build healthier communities.

Reposted from the Blog of Americans for Informed Democracy, where I am writing as a Global Health Issue Analyst.

Articulate Call for Papers (Fall 2010)

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

SCOUT BANANA, in conjunction with James Madison College and the MSU African Studies Center, invites you to submit a manuscript to

Volume III, Issue I of Articulate: Undergraduate Research Applied to Development in Africa.

Articulate is an undergraduate journal that publishes academic papers and writings on development in Africa and African issues. It is a forum for students to contribute to, as well as initiate, debates in international development, as undergraduates remain a vital, untapped force for new ideas and perspectives within the development dialogue.

Primary criteria for inclusion in the journal are quality of research, relevance, and originality. All manuscripts must have been written as an undergraduate student. For Scholarly Articulates, we ask for submissions of roughly 15-20 pages double-spaced with citations formatted according to the Chicago Manual of Style, and an abstract of 200 words. We also ask that the author’s name, major, college, and university appear on a separate cover sheet, with no reference to the author within the manuscript.

Potential topics include, but are not limited to:

  • The effectiveness of foreign aid, microfinance, and social enterprise in Africa
  • Intersections of gender, religion, ethnicity, and sexuality in African development
  • Consequences of globalization, especially financial and trade integration
  • Historical analyses and case studies of health care policies in Africa
  • Politics of water and medicine in Africa
  • The role of African youth in development programs and projects
  • Effects of conflict and migration on health care and development

Articulate is also seeking brief reflective essays on your experiences in Africa, as well as reviews on literature relevant to Africa, development, and health care.

Reflective essays are 2-3 single-spaced pages and can take a variety of creative forms. They should explore development work from the perspective of a young person (under 30) from the Global North entering the Global South. Was it how you thought it would be? What did you like and/or dislike about it? What do you wish you had known when you were just “studying,” as opposed to working, in Africa on health-related issues? Other themes may be considered with consultation from the Editor-in-Chief.

Literature reviews are 2-3 single-spaced pages and are meant to keep Articulate’s readers abreast of current works and on-going debates pertinent to development, Africa, and health care. Reviews must provide a careful, thoughtful analysis and critique of a work’s main themes, objectives, arguments, and conclusions. They should include at least three titled sub-sections: an introduction that includes a synopsis of the work; an analysis that considers what, if any, assumptions underlie the author’s thinking and, if evidence is cited, how well it supports the work’s main objective; and a conclusion that summates your analysis and states the overall merits and/or shortcomings of the work.

Manuscripts will be accepted until Wednesday, September 15, 2010, with publication intended during November 2010. For submissions or inquiries, please contact the Editor-in-Chief at

For more information, check out

Global Health is Everyone’s Responsibility and Human Right

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

(photo credit: WHO)

(photo credit: WHO)

From the UN Declaration to Amnesty International, between Paul Farmer and William Easterly it seems that everyone has a different understanding of what constitutes a basic human right and the cause of its absence. Michael Keizner has been building the discussion on health and human rights on’s Global Health blog while NYU Professor, William Easterly has recently entered the debate as a response to Amnesty International’s position on poverty related to human rights. This fueled a response from Amnesty International, which stated that Easterly was “pretty off base.” Easterly followed his Amnesty International response with an end to his “human rights trilogy” by asking Paul Farmer who should be held responsible for satisfying the right to health care?

The World Health Organization (WHO) states health as a human right as:

“the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being…”

It seems that Easterly’s human rights criteria is trapped in an old international law paradigm where there must be someone at fault or someone to blame. He also forgets that health is directly linked to food. You cannot have good health and not have food. Effective aid, not seen in today’s aid schemes, based in sustainable practices (not just buzzword reporting) that supports an individual’s right to develop themselves should look comprehensively towards the needs of a community of individuals. The ideas of human rights, foreign aid, and development should be less focused on international systems and more focused on building strong communities that meet their own human needs: health care, food, water, etc.

Within this debate of health and human rights, where does SCOUT BANANA fit. As an organization that makes and stands behind the statement that:

“global health is everyone’s responsibility and every individual’s human right”

Paul Farmer has the right idea, as Easterly quotes from his Tanner Lecture in 2005:

“only a social movement involving millions, most of us living far from these difficult settings, could allow us to change the course of history….troves of attention are required to reconfigure existing arrangements if we are to slow the steady movement of resources from poor to rich—transfers that have always been associated… with violence and epidemic disease… whether or not we can say “never again” with any conviction—will depend on our collective courage to examine and understand the roots of modern violence and the violation of a broad array of rights, including social and economic rights”

This is exactly similar to SCOUT BANANA’s understanding of health as a human right and a responsibility. It is a right where we do not attempt to place blame or hold the past accountable because those become frivolous exercises that produce no results. When we delve deeper into the root causes of issues, for example the driving forces of slavery, we must focus on a responsibility to not repeat the past and make ourselves accountable in the future.

There is no way that the entire European population and its descendants can be held accountable for the evils of the slave trade. While the same ideas of human rights did not exist in the time period of slavery, it is similarly difficult to place blame on systems (and populations) that drive the causes of poverty and lack of access to health care. Many people that I work with on development projects feel guilty that they are so privileged and wealthy compared to the communities that they work with that are so poor. SCOUT BANANA teaches its members to not feel guilty, but instead to feel responsible. Understanding personal privilege related to the oppression of certain populations within societal structures can assist in creating positive impacts. Human rights don’t necessarily have to be about placing blame, but rather developing an understanding of responsibility.

So Professor Easterly when you ask who is responsible for satisfying human rights: it is you, it is me, it is all those who dream of making a difference, and it is also those who lack the very human rights that we hold dear. Placing blame is not a concrete step forward, learning from history and recognizing where our privilege fits can be a first step towards effective actions. I too see Paul Farmer’s vision of a movement of millions, near and far, taking actions to shape a better future where human rights are everyone’s responsibility and every individual’s human right.

From the Article 25 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights:

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

The Week in African Health

Friday, May 22nd, 2009
Nyala, Kalma camp, South Darfur - March 2007 (MSF Photo Blog)

Nyala, Kalma camp, South Darfur - March 2007 (MSF Photo Blog)

The impact of conflict on the environment and then the subsequent, direct effect on human health cannot be overlooked. This internally displaced peoples (IDP) camp in Sudan shows the seriousness of that impact.

Your Old Cell Phone Can Make a Difference in Global Health

Everyone in the global health sector is writing about the incredible reach of SMS technologies working for health in developing countries, and rightly so. Hope Phones has partnered with FrontlineSMS to provide old cell phones to communities in need through SMSmedic partner organizations.
Your Old Phone Can Change the World

A service that I just recently came across is one that is not being as widely talked about. TeleMed is different from FrontlineSMS: Medic because it connects local health care workers directly to patients in need via SMS technology. SMS: Medic is focused on health infrastructure. TeleMed does not have a website up yet, but is definitely one to watch:

Paul Farmer and the US Government?

The other big talk within global health is whether Paul Farmer will take a job within the US government. Some have expressed great hope for potential reform others voice their plea with him to continue his incredible community based work outside the bureaucracies. My opinion is that Partners in Health has developed into a strong organization and does not depend on Paul Farmer to further their work. If he wants to take on the inefficiencies and inadequacies of the US government and global health, then all the more power to him.

Southern Africa: Global Financial Crisis Leads to HIV Budget Cuts

Broken promises abound as the economic crisis deepens and the right to health falters, but activists are coming together to ensure that funding for health and HIV are not cut. International donors are expected to slash budgets for health due to the economic crisis and health experts fear that this will lead to, “less food security and quality of nutrition, which will in turn put more stress on already weak health systems.” Paula Akugizibwe, regional treatment literacy and advocacy coordinator of Windhoek-based AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) in Namibia demanded, “We need to ensure that African lives do not become a silent casualty of the global financial downturn. Our lives are not cheap or expendable. We expect health to be prioritised over weapons, sports and lavish politics.” Tanzania was the first sub-Saharan country to announce a 25 percent cut of its annual HIV/AIDS budget.
Other budget cut impacts:
Guinea: Medicines Running Out

Zambian High Court to Hear Groundbreaking HIV Case

On Wednesday, the Livingstone High Court was supposed to hear a ground breaking case about whether mandatory testing for HIV and discrimination solely on the basis of HIV status is constitutional in Zambia. Unfortunately two days later news came that the trial was postponed until mid-July. Be sure to keep watching this story.
Trial postponed until 15 July

HIV Prevention and Behavior Change

Mara Gordon writes on’s Global Health Blog about a direct campaign in Tanzania discussing behavior change. “This campaign is partially paid for by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, U.S. government money to fight HIV that’s notoriously had lots of conservative strings attached. Had I seen this ad a year ago, I probably would have dismissed it as unrealistic abstinence-only propaganda. But behavior change works. Behavior change – in combination with access to condoms, comprehensive sexual education, open discussion about HIV and sexually transmitted infections in general, all that good liberal stuff.”
Changing Human Behaviors: Sexual and Social
During a course on Africa’s environmental history I wrote about the need for changing human behavior in both the sexual and social arena to make a real impact in HIV prevalence. The major social change is the response from Western institutions and organizations in how they talk about HIV/AIDS and Africa while seeking to change sexual behavior.
Lesotho: Cultural Beliefs Threaten Prevention of Mother-Child HIV Transmission
Health workers note an encouraging response to the PMTCT program. The number of facilities providing PMTCT has risen from nine in 2004 to 166 by the end of 2008. The number of women who received PMTCT and subsequent antiretroviral (ARV) treatment increased from 421 in 2004 to about 5,000 by end of last year, according to 2009 National AIDS Council statistics. “The primary health care coordinator at St. James Mantsonyane Mission Hospital, Khanyane Mabitso, says stigma and cultural beliefs make it difficult for medical personnel to follow up on HIV-positive mothers and their babies.”

Progress on health-related MDGs mixed

Many advances have been made in health. Some argue that these advances have been dwarfed by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the economic crisis, or the failures of African governments. The WHO report shows that the only statistic with concrete results was the number of children dying before the age of five. Is this a solid example of the failure of big plans and blanket goals for development?

Sierra Leone: ACC Recommends Reform At Health Ministry

The Anti-Corruption Committee report provides a number of recommendations for reform all focused on improving the health care delivery services in Sierra Leone and eliminating the risk of corrupt practices in the health services across the country.
More on health service scale-up:
Chad: Paving the Way for Better Obstetric Care
Government meetings with UNICEF to help scale-up of health services for better obstetric care across the country.

Ten Things You Can Do to Fight World Hunger

The Nation provides an interesting set of things you can do in your everyday life to fight world hunger. They properly focus on how food, a basic human need, has been commodified in our global capitalist structure. “Our planet produces enough food to feed its more than 960 million undernourished people. The basic cause of global hunger is not underproduction; it is a production and distribution system that treats food as a commodity rather than a human right.” When in February I wrote that agricultural experts had said the food crisis of the last year was over evidence from this past week point to the contrary.
Tanzania: Food Shortage Unnecessary
“Tanzania has since independence sang the song of ‘Agriculture is the backbone of the economy’, but little has gone into strategizing and implementing viable actions towards surplus food production.”
Kenya: UN Agency Makes First Local Food Purchase from Small Scale Farmers
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has for the first time bought food from small-scale farmers in Kenya under a new initiative aimed at boosting agriculture by connecting farmers to markets.
Zimbabwe: Another Year Without Much Food
Rwanda: Nearly Half the Country’s Children Are Malnourished
Kenya: Over Three Million Face Food Shortages

Africa: High Level Engagement with Continent Has Started

Speaking at a gala reception in Washington marking the beginning of “Africa Week,” Carson said: “Most of the Obama administration’s Africa team is in place, and we are gearing up. We will continue to build on and strengthen the strong bipartisan consensus in Congress and among the people of America that has motivated U.S. policy towards Africa. Over the next four years, we will be focusing our efforts on strengthening democracy, promoting sustainable development, resolving or mitigating conflict, and dealing with transnational issues such as climate change and agriculture,” he pledged. While Obama has built a great team, the White House has yet to announce any Africa Policy, greater control and influence for the Bureau of African Affairs, or take any serious (or effective) action for the continent.
Tanzania: Obama, Kikwete Meet in Oval Office on Africa’s Conflicts

World Bank Resumes Zimbabwe Aid

Zimbabwe owes the World Bank and the African Development Bank more than $1bn, how much potential does renewed aid really hold for the country. If the debt is not forgiven there will be no way the country will be able to rebuild necessary infrastructures for health, water, etc. There are countless case studies to show this historical fact. It must also be noted that Western sanctions were a huge detriment to a country in need, maybe this marks a turnaround?

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