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Farming For Our Future November 29, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Global Health, Public Health.
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More households turn to growing their own food as unsustainable food production practices ravage large crop lands.

We’re on track to deplete the earth of it’s ability to produce food.

Global crop land increased by 12% but agricultural production by 150% over the last 50 years. We’ve managed to keep barely ahead of the curve for overall food production. But not sustainably. The projected world population growth will pass 9 billion by 2050, and that means an increase in food production by 70% and better methods of distribution to meet the food security demand.

Agriculture’s continued dependence on non-renewable fossil fuels for production/fertilizer/irrigation, machinery, processing, transportation, packaging and marketing has direct and unsustainable consequences for farmlands. A recent United Nations study indicates that “all continents are experiencing land degradation, with particularly high incidence along the west coast of the Americas, across the Mediterranean region of Southern Europe and North Africa, the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, and throughout Asia. The greatest threat is the loss of soil quality, followed by biodiversity loss and depletion of water resources.”

Farmed animals consume 70% of the grains produced on U.S. farms. Droughts have already caused food riots and war in recent years. Irrigation currently accounts for 70% of all water use and 19% of farm energy use in the U.S. Once groundwater sources are depleted, the amount of land available for cultivation will diminish substantially. Groundwater levels of the North China plains have declined to the point where rice production, which accounts for 90% of water usage there, are overexploited and now scarce.

Maintaining and improving ecosystems, including coastal habitats and oceans is also critical, as TIME reports

“The world has ignored the ominous constellation of factors that now make feeding humanity sustainably our most pressing task – even in times of economic and climatic crisis,” writes Professor Cribb. But Professor Cribb  isn’t the only scientist clamoring for politicians to take climate change seriously. In a recent study by the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, it warned of a potential mass extinction as the number of ocean dead zones – waters starved of oxygen – increase at an accelerating pace.  The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research also put out a study that shows the increasing likelihood of frightening changes to rainfall, water supplies, weather systems, sea levels and crop harvests by the end of the century.

Read more: http://newsfeed.time.com/2010/12/07/impending-crisis-earth-to-run-out-of-food-by-2050/#ixzz2DSOyogVl

Progress exists somewhat in alternative forms of energy– nuclear, coal, wind and solar–but none produce liquid fuels. Countries gather regularly to discuss these impending changes, but have yet to enact solutions on the largest crop lands.

Transitional Farms

Pickards Mountain Eco-Institute, a Chapel Hill, NC educational farm and sustainability living center, was established by Tim Toben, an eco-revolutionary who believes sustainability will require more personal responsibility and that farms will be plentiful in rural areas by 2050 as Americans minimize their grandiose lifestyles out of necessity. This transitional farming is self-sustaining and, he believes, is likely to become the new American Dream.

What kind of connection do you want to have with your food? Will you make any changes to help ensure our planet is able to produce enough food for us in the next decades? Would you live in a cob cottage or stop eating industrial meat in order to preserve the land?

Related Reading:

The Future of Farming: Eight Solutions For a Hungry World (www.popsci.com)

Investing In Ecosystem Services Can Boost Food Security, Raise Incomes (www.un.org)

The Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas (www.peakoil.net)

Regreening Africa (www.thenation.com)

Children of Our Fields (www.acroan.com)

Hidden Hunger in the Heartland (www.acroan.com)

Location, location, location! The High Cost of Living in a Food Desert (www.acroan.com)

Birth Rights: Gender Selection April 23, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Global Health, Public Health.
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PGD, fertility, human rights, infanticide, abortion

Who gets to live?

Gender selection for the purposes of eliminating genetic disease or family balancing remains controversial. Not just an option for abnormal genetic screening results, is it another step in population control, gendercide, and the war on women?

The world’s highest population countries remain China (1.35B) and India (1.2B). These and many other countries have traditionally placed greater preference on male offspring, and have instituted population control measures over the last several decades. The manner in which the policies are enforced is physically and socially horrific. As gender selection for birth abnormalities became more common in developed nations, many couples now seek it out to choose their baby’s gender if for no other reason than “family balancing.” Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) virtually guarantees successful gender selection of embryos. X-chromosone-linked diseases are identified in vitro and the undesired embryos removed, for indication of genetic disease. Or not.


Held-over beliefs from Confucianism enabled continuation of the practice of female infanticide and abandonment in China long before the 1978 “family planning” law was enacted, allowing one child per couple. (Occasionally now in rural areas, if the first-born was female, two children may be granted.) This has created a nation of five decades of “missing girls” and an extremely lopsided sex ratio. Population estimates show 111 million Chinese men currently unable to find a wife, secondarily spurring an increase in human trafficking of Chinese girls. It is calculated that 21 million children are born each year and the female portion is missing due to institutionalized killing or neglect. Baby girls are drowned, poisoned, starved, or carted to orphanages where 90% of them will perish as will any record of them having ever existed. Pregnancy in China must be approved and if a subsequent pregnancy is discovered, the mother, now criminal, is captured for a forced abortion procedure usually in late-term, also causing a spike in maternal mortality.

One investigation into an orphanage, or “dying room,” found,

…a lame girl sitting on a bench…her leg swollen with gangrene. Then crying was heard from a nearby cot. Underneath the blanket was a tied bundle of cloth, a girl was found. Upon unswaddling her, the last layer being a plastic bag, she laid in urine and feces. The next cot was the same, and the next and the next. Many children had lesions where the string wrapping them had cut into their bodies. All the non-handicapped children in the orphanage were girls. A response from the Chinese government reads, ‘The so-called dying rooms do not exist in China at all. Our investigations confirm that those reports are vicious fabrications made out of ulterior motives.’ As a result of the documentary The Dying Rooms (1996), American families have adopted over 35,000 Chinese girls, more than any other nation.


Described as the “heartland of sex-selective abortion,” India’s Hindu practitioners readily agree that many unwanted female children are “done away with.” Most Indian women are not able to be independent agents of their own destinies, but victims of a long-standing social ideology which prefers sons. Families must provide for the daughter while she is growing up, knowing once she marries, a large dowry will be required and she will become of service to the husband’s family. Formally outlawed, the dowry practice is still pervasive.

The combination of dowry and wedding expenses usually add up to more than a million rupees [US $35,000]. In India, the average civil servant earns about 100,000 rupees [US $3,500] a year. Given these figures combined with the low status of women, it seems not so illogical that the poorer Indian families would want only male children.” Murders of women whose families are deemed to have paid insufficient dowry have become increasingly common. –Female Infanticide and Feoticide.

India is expected to surpass China in population by 2030 as a result of it’s “less successful” family planning policy. Nevertheless, 50 million girls and women are missing from India’s population as a result of systematic gender discrimination, according to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).


The west, being more advanced, tends to use our ethnocentric values to judge other cultures, and often realign them with ours. In no case would we view infanticide is acceptable family planning. Yet, we tout the ability to Choose The Sex of Your Unborn Baby Now! at a high cost and for reasons much more frivolous than poor quality of life of millions of girls and women around the globe. Steven Pinker’s article, “Why They Kill Their Newborns,” notes that we are much more tolerant of killing newborns than older children as seen in the lenient two-year sentencing of Amy Grossberg who threw her infant into a dumpster against the outcry and harsher life sentence of Susan Smith for killing her 14-month and 3 year-old children.

Even American-born baby girls are “sacrificed by the tens of thousands,” according to Steven Mosher of Population Research Institute. A Columbia University study found a disparity between the number of males and females born in certain Asian and sub-Asian populations within the US.

Do you call it abortion, neonaticide, or infanticide? Some people call it the gravest, largest holocaust on earth. Do you see gender selection for non-genetic reasons as morally wrong? For whom? I’d like to know.

Related articles:

A Little More Shuga, Please March 22, 2012

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HIV/AIDS Kenya Shuga Family Planning

HIV prevalence by African country

One of the most effective public health education tools to combat HIV/AIDS in Kenya is back. Last month, the popular TV program Shuga began airing it’s second season.

Three episodes were funded for the first season through MTV’s Staying Alive Foundation and other funding partners, but demand has landed six new episodes this season. PATH joined with other sponsors PEPFAR and UNICEF to bring this meaningful tool to Nairobi. And since it’s rights-cleared, it will air on all five major broadcast companies throughout Kenya.

In addition to teaching safe sex and HIV transmission methods, this season of Shuga: Love, Sex and Money addresses alcohol use, transactional sex, rape and homosexuality. This was an important part of their sexual behavior communication plan, as it is still illegal to be gay in Africa.

What makes the show so popular?

It’s steamy hot, which, for all intents and purposes, is unchartered programming territory for the 16-24 year old Kenyan target group. It’s sexy, fun, and relatable.

What makes the show so successful?

It’s changing behaviors and saving lives. Read here about reaching young adults who had little to no access to TV or internet in 2009. Between 60% and 80% of all viewers were more receptive to this teaching tool for behavior change. About the new season, from The Saturday Post Zambia,

The documentary addresses social and economic factors that contribute to the high HIV prevalence and new infection rates, particularly among young people, in Sub-Saharan Africa and the world. The film resonates with young people. The main [goal] is to increase knowledge and start a debate about HIV among young people so that they don’t get infected. It aims to encourage behaviour change to prevent new infections.

The secondary phase is to remind people that HIV is not a death sentence. People can live positively with HIV. The campaign is an explosive drama shot and produced in Kenya that challenges young people to ignite a movement to change their sexual behaviour and turn their norms to stop the spread of the killer disease specifically in Kenya, Trinidad, Ukraine and Zambia.

Take a look at the Season 2 trailer:

Shuga: Love, Sex, Money Still To Come… from mtv staying alive on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Sesame Square, Kami and Shuga Battle HIV

MTV Shuga

MTV Staying Alive Foundation

PATH: A Catalyst for Global Health

Location, location, location! The high cost of living in a food desert. February 9, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Global Health.
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Food desert, Health, Obesity, Diabetes, Heart Disease, Grocery, Produce

Food Desert

How far do you live from a large supermarket? What if you only purchased foods you were able to carry either by walking or using public transportation? What if there was a McDonald’s one block over? How is your health affected?

These are questions posed around the communities of food deserts, areas in industrialized nations which are not close enough to any nutritional food retailer. In urban areas this is usually measured at one mile away, in rural areas, about ten miles. Existing stores in these areas carry high-priced, unhealthy options. In many cases, these are the only options.

Health Hazards

The high-fat and sugar content of the foods sold at convenience stores or small “grocers” (term used as loosely as possible) is causing an increase in disease in lower socio-economic communities where large supermarket retailers will not build for lack of profit. Consumers in these low SES minority neighborhoods show an increase in meat and processed foods, and much lower intake of fruits and vegetables, but are spending 37% more on food in general. This contributes to spikes in obesity, diabetes, sugar addiction, malnutrition, and heart disease.

As of 2011, the USDA underestimates about 2.4 million Americans living in food deserts. Factors not included in this measure are access to transportation, barriers for the elderly, food price, crime rate, and ethnic disparities, leaving the actual number of people at risk of food insecurity to be much higher. One study (Policy Link and The Food Trust, 2010) showed that in New Mexico, the same cart of groceries costs $85 for rural residents, and $55 for urban residents, a common disparity in relative costs. About a quarter of the people who qualify for welfare and food stamp programs live in food deserts. In fact, according to Mari Gallagher, founder of National Center for Pubic Research, USDA food stamp retailers provide more barriers to nutritious foods than fast food retailers.

Health, nutrition, diabetes, produce, obesity

Food Desert Locator

Food Oases

Several states are seeing community-level interventions which pair public and private finances to significantly undercut costs and losses to supermarket chains. Co-ops are useful in promoting local growers, and farmers’ markets, although costly, also increase access to food. Community currency has been shown to boost profits in both of these endeavors. Even community gardens strengthen community and social support while providing access to nutritious foods. About 20 grants exist to help individuals and communities afford healthy food projects.

Please click the link below to watch what Karriem Beyah has done for an urban food desert in Chicago’s South Side:

Urban Deserts: Fresh-Food-Free Zones TIME.com

What can your community do?

Related Posts:

Hidden Hunger In The Heartland

HIV: Reaching Global Goals? December 1, 2011

Posted by ToYourHealth in Global Health, Public Health.
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World AIDS Day, HIV goalsThirty years of an infectious pandemic, drug research, public health education, and counseling have brought us to the point where we boldly announce the goal of an HIV-free generation in the next three years. This may seem attainable as HIV is a preventable disease. Personal behavior changes will determine the rate of infection. Assuming we will curb behaviors of all people who engage in IV drug use and unprotected sex, especially at a time when economies are struggling, is delusional.

Greece’s troubled economy has seen new infections rise by 52% in 2011, and that rate is expected to increase to 60% by the end of the year. (The US rate of increase is about 7%.) The rate of injected drug use is increasing because people can no longer afford other methods, and there have been heavy cuts to prevention in the form of free needles. The World Health Organization recommends 200 per year per user and Greece is handing out only three. Mobile testing units which frequently hit areas of high prostitution and drug use have ceased, in lieu of free-standing facilities in “posh neighborhoods,” out of reach of those who need them most. Drug therapy is becoming more unattainable, and according to Reuters and the National School of Public Health,

Antiretroviral drugs cost Greece at least 1,000 euros per patient a month. For the state to pay for all those people would cost just over 130 million euros a year. According to Christianna Rizopoulos, who collects data at the Hellenic Center’s HIV office, there is talk among health professionals that the government plans to cut its contribution for drugs to 600 euros per treatment per month, so patients would have to foot almost half the bill.

And this at a time when unemployment is up, hovering around 20%.

Outlooks for the US economy project at least a decade, maybe two, for recovery. Currently, there are over 250,000 Americans unknowingly carrying the virus. Fear of stigma prevents many from being tested, even though access to care is fairly good. Hillary Clinton’s hope of zero new infections by combining prevention techniques may work on paper, but realistically it’s a pipe dream until economies stabilize.

The government is not going to stop new infections. YOU are. David Scondras, CEO and Founder of Search For A Cure/HIV Treatment Advocacy, explains how you can protect yourself:

For confidential testing, find a site near you by entering your zip code. Pass it on.

Peace. It’s Your Business. November 23, 2011

Posted by ToYourHealth in Global Health.
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Humanity for economic prosperity.

Usually, a study of peace is really a focus on conflict. Since 2007, however, a Global Peace Index ranks 153 countries measuring 23 indicators including income, social sustainability, spending, warring, climate change, amount spent on weapons, safety, respect for human rights, education and distribution of resources. The top-rated countries in this index provide an opportunity to study the structure of peaceful nations, and the tools we need to determine the peacefulness and economic environment we can create for our own future.

A nation’s inequalities define its functionality and have a direct impact on its economy. As the Institute for Economics and Peace claims, violence—both internal and external—creates costs for business and government and reduces productivity. This seems obvious, but it translates into billions of dollars. Had the U.S., which ranked 82nd on the GPI, similar levels of peacefulness to Canada, ranking 8th, the U.S. economy would have benefitted by $361 billion per year, and would have stimulated about 2.7 million additional jobs, reducing our unemployment rate by about 20%. In turn, arts and business would also flourish.

The strength of a society’s peace factor determines the likelihood that the society can withstand serious crises. Social sustainability structures are outlined in this short video:

Interestingly, the two social sustainability structures that carry the most weight are Acceptance of the Rights of Others, and Good Relations with Neighbors. The U.S. could begin it’s climb up the index ladder by focusing on these two notions.

For the first time, the United States was ranked according to state and based upon the absence of violence.

US Peace Index, global peace index

Image by ChartsBin.com

We, each of us, can shape our own future both individually and collectively. Ignoring the data for structure of peace would be irresponsible and detrimental to our economic future. We are now at the precipice. How unwise it would be to let another year pass in the same direction we’ve been heading. Our federal government is losing stability and has become an unreliable factor. We, as people and institutions, must start going about the business of peace and hope the government will join us, as it is a necessary indicator on the index. We must rely on ourselves to accomplish peace. Don’t think as an individual you can make much of a difference? Let this woman be your inspiration.

Global Peace Index 2011

  1. Iceland
  2. New Zealand
  3. Japan
  4. Denmark
  5. Czech Republic
  6. Austria
  7. Finland
  8. Canada
  9. Norway
  10. Slovenia
  11. Ireland
  12. Qatar
  13. Sweden
  14. Belgium
  15. Germany
  16. Switzerland
  17. Portugal
  18. Australia
  19. Malaysia
  20. Hungary
  21. Uruguay
  22. Poland
  23. Slovakia
  24. Singapore
  25. Netherlands
  26. United Kingdom
  27. Taiwan
  28. Spain
  29. Kuwait
  30. Vietnam
  31. Costa Rica
  32. Laos
  33. United Arab Emirates
  34. Bhutan
  35. Botswana
  36. France
  37. Croatia
  38. Chile
  39. Malawi
  40. Romania
  41. Oman
  42. Ghana
  43. Lithuania
  44. Tunisia
  45. Italy
  46. Latvia
  47. Estonia
  48. Mozambique
  49. Panama
  50. South Korea
  51. Burkina Faso
  52. Zambia
  53. Bulgaria
  54. Namibia
  55. Argentina
  56. Tanzania
  57. Mongolia
  58. Morocco
  59. Moldova
  60. Bosnia and Hercegovina
  61. Sierra Leone
  62. The Gambia
  63. Albania
  64. Jordan
  65. Greece
  66. Paraguay
  67. Cuba
  68. Indonesia
  69. Ukraine
  70. Swaziland
  71. Cyprus
  72. Nicaragua
  73. Egypt
  74. Brazil
  75. Equatorial Guinea
  76. Bolivia
  77. Senegal
  78. Macedonia
  79. Trinidad and Tobago
  80. China
  81. Gabon
  82. United States of America
  83. Bangladesh
  84. Serbia
  85. Peru
  86. Cameroon
  87. Angola
  88. Guyana
  89. Montenegro
  90. Ecuador
  91. Dominican Republic
  92. Guinea
  93. Kazakhstan
  94. Papua New Guinea
  95. Nepal
  96. Liberia
  97. Uganda
  98. Congo
  99. Rwanda
  100. Mali
  101. Saudi Arabia
  102. El Salvador
  103. Tajikistan
  104. Eritrea
  105. Madagascar
  106. Jamaica
  107. Thailand
  108. Turkmenistan
  109. Armenia
  110. Uzbekistan
  111. Kenya
  112. Belarus
  113. Haiti
  114. Kyrgyz Republic
  115. Cambodia
  116. Syria
  117. Honduras
  118. (blank)
  119. Iran
  120. Niger
  121. Mexico
  122. Azerbaijan
  123. Bahrain
  124. Venezuela
  125. Guatemala
  126. Sri Lanka
  127. Turkey
  128. Cote d’Ivoire
  129. Algeria
  130. Maruitania
  131. Ethiopia
  132. Burundi
  133. Myanmar
  134. Georgia
  135. India
  136. Philippines
  137. Lebanon
  138. Yemen
  139. Colombia
  140. Zimbabwe
  141. Chad
  142. Nigeria
  143. Libya
  144. Central African Republic
  145. Israel
  146. Pakistan
  147. Russia
  148. Democratic Republic of Congo
  149. North Korea
  150. Afghanistan
  151. Sudan
  152. Iraq
  153. Somalia

Ocean Acidification June 7, 2011

Posted by ToYourHealth in Global Health.
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carbonic acid, ocean acidification, indigenous people

Plankton stirred from ocean depths by two powerful currents off Patagonia

We’ve heard media coverage about ocean health and the delicate balance which relates it to human health. But the last big public push to make any difference was about 30 years ago, involving the cutting apart of plastic rings around soda pop or beer cans to prevent the deaths of cute sea animals and birds who were getting caught in them. These animals were fairly easy to photograph, pulled at our heartstrings, and it was simple enough to perform this one act to “save our oceans.” We certainly didn’t win the fight, as broken down plastics continue to be the number one pollutant of our seas, but now a larger battle looms with dire consequences.

Here’s the skinny on ocean acidification:
The increase of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere means more of it is being absorbed by the ocean. This is called carbonic acid and it is reducing the pH of the ocean, making it more acidic.

Ocean pH

Present day ocean pH

How much more acidic?
Before the burning of coal and oil, the acid levels were relatively stable over a period of 20 million years. Since the industrial revolution, however, a 30% increase has already occurred–a fairly swift change. By the year 2100, it is estimated to double or triple again.

What effects does this have?
The base layer of the food chain includes the marine lifeforms which grow shells and skeletons of calcium carbonate. Not just crustaceans and mollusks, but microscopic zooplankton which are the dietary staple of larger creatures. The increased acid dissolves their shells, or prevents it from growing altogether, resulting in their death. Death, too, works itself up the food chain. The pace of acidification does not allow these species time enough to evolve to their changing environments. Before long, we have a major disruption in marine ecosystems, and eventual collapse.

Sixty per cent of the world’s population lives along coastlines, with 30 million depending directly upon the sea for sustenance.

Interested charitable organizations such as Oceana report that controlling carbon dioxide emissions by humans and lobbying for policy change is the only way to manage this ocean problem. While it is a well-intentioned process and substantiated by scientific research, what would be the state of the oceans if we waited to see evidence of policy changes?

If we regard the earth as a reliable but delicate source which sustains us, our processes may alter slightly, but perhaps enough. From Worldwatch Institute, Guardians of the Land: Indigenous Peoples and the Earth:

…Around the world, where there are still indigenous peoples, you’ll usually find healthy ecosystems. And where there are healthy ecosystems, you’ll usually see indigenous communities…That’s true from the coastal swamps of South America to the sands of the Sahara, from the ice floes of the Arctic to the coral reefs of the South Pacific.

In fact, native cultures remain the day-to-day stewards of an area of the earth larger than all the world’s national parks and nature reserves put together.

Indigenous homelands also shelter a disproportionate share of the earth’s biological diversity…Native peoples maintain a body of knowledge about nature that continues to astonish Western-trained experts.

Now that we’ve run ourselves aground due to greed, we must take extra measures to give back. Will we choose to learn about the practice of sustainable living from native cultures? The health of our oceans could be our best indicator.

Imagine Cup: Students’ Innovation Tackles Global Issues May 31, 2011

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The world’s best and brightest meet in Microsoft’s annual Imagine Cup competition using technology to solve the world’s toughest problems. High school and collegiate students formed teams and put their creativity and best innovations forward in a global contest to tackle what matters. Finalists have been chosen for the main competition to be held in New York, July 8-13. Here are a few of this blogger’s favorite ideas:

ElderGuardian (Singapore) Rehabilitation Support System uses Kinect ™ for XBox 360 to aid in stroke rehabilitation for recovery with exercises specifically designed for stroke patients.

MomECare from team Hex Pistols (UAE) has devised a mobile application to assist medical staff in providing quality prenatal care by guiding mothers through the steps of a self-performed check-up if they are unable to get to clinic or hospital, often due to health or distance limitations.

Team LifeLens (US) provides an innovate point-of-care tool to diagnose malaria by using an augmented smart phone application. This addresses the high child mortality rates through lack of detection and treatment of malarial diseases via a microscopic lens attached to the phone camera, isolating cells and determining the existence of infected cells and grouping by geographic location.

Terra (Thailand) allows disaster victims to pinpoint their location and broadcast it through social networks with one-click to alert rescue workers, family and friends as to their exact location.

Team Nawy Harkay (Peru) enable users to operate Windows 7 with minimal effort, using their eyes instead of their hands.

Link Your Passion (Korea) has developed a device to help people locate clean water in an effort to reduce child mortality.

The worldwide finalists of the Imagine Cup 2011 include 124 student teams from 73 countries. They are winners of regional, national or online Cup competitions representing over 350,000 students from 183 countries. There are nine categories in which they can compete.

Between July 5-12, view these amazing innovations online and vote for your favorite in the worldwide People’s Choice Award. Inspiration and creativity push technology to make a difference. Have you got any winning ideas?

Optimistic About Ending Malaria April 25, 2011

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It’s overwhelming, at best troubling, the countless catastrophic ailments plaguing less developed countries. Will an avenue of health ever be glimpsed by these populations just so they can achieve a sustained ability to lead normal, productive lives? How much more assistance can the rest of the world provide while simultaneously dealing with their own issues? The outlook need not be bleak.

Malaria is one of the top three world-wide killers affecting 300 million people, according to the CDC, and two years ago killed over 1 million, mostly children. Every 45 seconds an African child dies from this mosquito-borne disease. In this six-minute video, Bill Gates explains the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to eradicate the disease from the planet. It’s an inspiring, optimistic view of the probability of global eradication with a sustained effort.

No short-term eradication prognosis, but a high chance in the long-term. While scientists continue to work to produce a vaccine for the ever-mutating organism that causes Malaria, there are simple ways you can help. Widespread use of bed nets is a simple, cheap, effective prevention tool used by 70% of the population with astounding results. One DDT-treated net costs $5 and lasts for 5 years. Alone, bed net use has decreased prevalence of the disease by 50%-80% in tropical and sub-tropical nations.

The United Nations program Nothing But Nets asks for donations before West Africa’s rainy season begins in May.

Malaria No More has donated 2.6 million nets in the last five years and is hopeful for complete bed net coverage within he next four years.

The Gates Foundation continues major funding for a malaria vaccine at Seattle BioMed.

Click here for a breakdown of Malaria disease basics and statistics in an article by fellow health writer Puja Chandra, published via blog.persify.

On this fourth annual World Malaria Day, lives are depending on our help. Donate if you can, spread the word if you will.

Malawi: Hardest Hit by HIV April 12, 2011

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Malawi HIV/AIDS prevention campaign

In the sub-Saharan inland country of Malawi, one million of its population of 14 million are infected with HIV/AIDS, the primary cause of life expectancy being only 43 years.

Additionally, over two million orphaned children lost both parents to AIDS and have become a burden to the country for basic needs and education. Orphanages feed whoever shows up, often 2,500 children each day at each site.

Being the fourth poorest country in the world, this agricultural subsistence population suffers from the deadly loop of poverty-disease-poverty. The constant struggle is for Malawians to stay healthy enough to go to school or work the fields, but most people are too sick to work or must care for sick family members.

Malawi, Africa

Between 1985 and 1993, HIV prevalence increased in women over the age of 15 from 2% to 30%. President Banda ruled for 30 years and refused to acknowledge the disease or help prevent it through education. In 1994, President Muluzi took office and put HIV at the top of his agenda including a more liberal climate making discussions about disease prevention more likely without the fear of persecution. By 2002, 70% of hospital deaths were due to HIV/AIDS or related opportunistic infection.

The prevalence rate hovers at 11%(rural) -17% (urban), whereas the global average is 1%. However, a world-wide response to Malawi’s condition has resulted in financial assistance, increasing the availability of testing, counseling, and antiretroviral drugs with an emphasis on reducing mother-to-child transmission.

Madonna founded RaisingMalawi.org in 2006 to aid the vast number of orphans with obtaining food and nutrients to avert severe malnutrition, skills training and education, and medication. Here is how one orphanage is coping:

One Love, a campaign established through the Pakachere Institute of Health and Development Communication, addresses in 10 African nations the harmful aspects of multiple sexual partners. The National Strategic Framework (NSF) has implemented several prevention and care programs, a National AIDS Policy was established, and today it is illegal to knowingly transmit the virus.

An increase in prevention education, funding, training, (healthy) human resources, transportation to and from medical facilities are still required in Malawi to decrease disease prevalence.

Sesame Square, Kami & Shuga Battle HIV February 16, 2011

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Sesame Square educates young Nigerians about HIV.

Combatting cultural beliefs, and to some extent customs, has been a major hurdle for public health workers educating African villagers about the prevention and spread of HIV.

Entertainment is proving to be one avenue for change, and not among adults. Kami, the newest Muppet from Sesame Square (the Nigerian version of Sesame Street), represents one of the 1.2 million AIDS-orphaned, HIV-positive African children. She’s a five-year-old who contracted the disease as an infant from a blood transfusion.  The show was created specifically for the two- to four-year-old Nigerian audience, taking into account many of the widely held Muslim cultural norms.  In addition to its regular educational programming, the show addresses not how HIV is contracted, but ways it affects Kami daily, and related medical care.

MTV’s Shuga, from the Staying Alive Foundation, targets this issue among 16-24 year olds. The three-part dramatic series follows a group of students in Nairobi and is definitely not squeamish about addressing disease transmission. Funding efforts continue to produce a second series.

In order to reach teens with no TV or Internet access, information about the events and facilities airing the show was texted, social-networked, and short clips were included which could be viewed on cell phones. At these venues mobile HIV-testing was available. Cell phone use in sub-Saharan Africa is quickly growing, with 350 million in use as of 2008.

The younger audience seems more receptive to the behavior change necessary to reduce the spread of HIV. Sixty percent of youth watched the shows and most retained an understanding of the message. One reason the shows are popular is because they use local producers, writers and actors. Now this is healthy.

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