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Vermont Public Radio interviews Global Health Media Project

On February 1, Jane Lindholm, host of the Vermont Edition, interviewed Deb Van Dyke on Vermont Public Radio.  They discussed the inspiration for the Global Health Media Project, the need for videos to provide health care information for people in poor countries, and current projects on cholera and newborn care.

Listen to the interview

February 2nd, 2012||0 Comments

Vermont newspapers feature The Story of Cholera

Vermont media outlets are picking up the compelling work that is being accomplished by our Vermont-based non-profit. The successful completion of our animated film on cholera is garnering attention for both the disease itself and the tools that the Global Health Media Project is working on to combat its spread.

January 18th, 2012||0 Comments

Cholera animation viewed in over 90 countries

The Story of Cholera, announced in our Business Wire press release three weeks ago, has been gaining traction among international viewers. The short animated film has now been watched in over 90 countries. Most viewers were from North America (40%), followed by Asia with 35%, and Europe with 20%.

January 10th, 2012||0 Comments

The Story of Cholera attracts interest from animators/artists

The Story of Cholera was recently featured on the website of Cartoon Brew, which provides the latest animation news and trends for artists, entertainment executives, and cartoon aficionados.

Our original idea for the film was that cholera transmission and prevention could be best understood by making the invisible cholera germs visible, and that animation was the vehicle to do that. We were impressed with Yoni Goodman’s extraordinary talent as an animator, and delighted when he agreed to collaborate with us to make this happen. Yoni designed the characters and over 80 different backgrounds to bring the story to life in a persuasive and memorable way.

Some of the comments on the Cartoon Brew site follow:

I remember an article about this subject, how to get villagers to change their hygiene to prevent disease. The most effective method was to visually represent the germs with an odd color, such as the yellow blobs in this video. The villagers were very grossed out when they could visualize the germs in this way, and they started washing their hands! Much more effective than just saying “wash your hands so you don’t get sick.”

This is really a wonderful piece of animation. It’s gross and that’s amusing, but it takes a lot of skill to create a compelling 4 minute piece that provides information clearly and concisely, with characters that are relatable.

The Story of Cholera has also been posted on Yoni’s Dailymation site and the comments show the appreciation for both the animation work and the effectiveness of the teaching points.

January 4th, 2012||1 Comment

Animation highlights teaching points for newborn care

One important feature of our newborn care videos is the use of illustrations and brief animations that highlight key teaching points. When we began the post-production process for our first set of videos, we were fortunate to have Lorelei Pepi join our team. Lorelei is an international award-winning independent animator who now teaches at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Rhode Island School of Design.

The following animation is an example from the video “Gastric Tube Placement and Feeding”:

December 7th, 2011||0 Comments

Saving Children’s Lives: An Effective Way to Manage Population Growth

AlertNet

Emma Batha; October 31, 2011

Saving children’s lives will slow population boom – aid group

LONDON (AlertNet) – Reducing infant mortality is crucial to tackling the global population crisis, according to a report by Save the Children published to coincide with the birth of the planet’s 7 billionth person.

The aid agency estimates more than 20,000 children will die on Oct. 31 – the day the 7 billionth baby is expected to be born. Most of these deaths will be from preventable diseases like diarrhoea and pneumonia.

But the charity says it is a myth that saving children’s lives will fuel population growth.

Evidence shows tackling high death rates leads to smaller families and the stabilisation of national populations, according to its report, The World at 7 Billion.

Stopping children dying from preventable causes is not just a moral imperative, but also the best way of stabilising global population growth, Save the Children’s director of policy and advocacy, Brendan Cox, said.

“In the poorest countries, where parents are often petrified that their children will die and leave them to fend for themselves, it’s understandable that they would choose to have larger families,” he added.

“We must help to give them another choice. As we bring child mortality down, parents will feel more confident that most of their children will survive and have smaller families as a result.”

Save the Children points to the example of Botswana where three decades ago women had an average of six children. The average is now three, following long-term investment in healthcare which has helped to nearly halve child mortality.

The United Nations has warned that the global population could rise to 15 billion by the end of the century.

Save the Children is urging world leaders to invest in healthcare, education and family planning in the world’s poorest countries in order to reduce family sizes and bring the population under control.

The report says 7.5 million children still die before reaching their fifth birthday every year, but it says progress has been made in tackling child mortality.

The 7 billionth baby is more likely to live to see their fifth birthday than ever before, Save the Children says.

In 1987, when the 5 billionth baby was born, 1 in 9 children never reached five. Today it is 1 in 16.

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November 21st, 2011||0 Comments

Health Worker Training Needs Underscored by Save the Children

The Drum Opinion – Australian Broadcasting Corporation

November 3, 2011

Protecting the world’s children from preventable deaths

By Suzanne Dvorak, Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children

If they were alive today, Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin would have celebrated the Australian Government’s announcement at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth to commit $50 million of the $535 million funding gap needed to eradicate polio.

Responsible for developing vaccines against the incurable disease that crippled thousands of people – especially young children – during the first half of the 20th century, Salk and Sabin’s vaccines have helped to eliminate polio in most parts of the world.

This has been a tremendous achievement. To date, more than two billion children have been immunised against polio and over five million have been saved from life-long paralysis, disability or death. What was once one of the most dreaded childhood diseases of the 20th century has nearly become a thing of the past.

But despite significant progress, polio remains endemic in four countries – Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan – with individual cases occurring in a handful of other developing countries. As recently as August of this year, the confirmed polio diagnosis of a young child in Kenya caused widespread concern and resulted in supplementary immunisations the following month of over one million children in an effort to ward off an epidemic. Another four million children are expected to be immunised within the next month.

Fears of a large-scale outbreak of the debilitating disease are well founded. In 2004 and 2005, an outbreak of polio in Sub-Saharan Africa eventually spread as far as Indonesia and paralysed 1,400 children for life.

The importance of vaccines to eliminate diseases such as polio is self-evident. Whether it’s vaccines against polio or the two biggest killers of children under five – pneumonia and diarrhoea – or the new malaria vaccine announced last week by the New England Journal of Medicine, vaccines are critical to saving children’s lives. Donor countries, including Australia, have recognised this by pledging $US4.3 billion to ensure that vaccines for children will not be in short supply.

But vaccines don’t inject themselves.

In order to protect babies and children from the diseases, illnesses and conditions that claimed more than 7.6 million lives last year, we need more than just vaccines. We need health workers.

Health workers, properly trained, supported, equipped and paid, can prevent most child deaths. They play a central and critical role in improving access and quality health care for a population. Health workers are the backbone of healthcare – essential for diagnosing illnesses, dispensing treatment, assisting at births and providing immunisations to children.

In short, there is no health care without health workers.

There have been notable commitments made by a number of Commonwealth countries including Australia which has committed to train and support tens of thousands of health workers in countries like Papua New Guinea, Ethiopia and Afghanistan.

Yet over one billion people in the world lack access to quality health services including 40 million children under the age of five.

The World Health Organization recommends a minimum of 2.3 doctors, nurses and midwives for every 1,000 people. According to this measure, 61 developing countries currently have a critical shortage of health workers.

One of these countries is Nigeria where Catherine Oluwatoyin Ojo, a midwife and nurse specialising in paediatrics works in the Northern city of Zaria. With one in seven children under five dying each year, Nigeria accounts for almost 11 per cent of all child deaths globally. As Catherine describes, “I see women in my community and their babies dying every day from things that can be easily prevented. Especially in remote areas, there is no basic care for mothers and their children.”

According to Catherine, health workers integrated into the health care system can mean the difference between life and death for the poorest and most vulnerable women and children.

“We don’t just treat women and children when they come to us but we empower them to be able to watch for and know the danger signs if their children fall sick. We encourage members of the community to use health facilities. Almost 90 per cent of women in my region give birth at home. If something goes wrong, there is very little we can do. By choosing to give birth in a health facility, we can support them and their baby before, during and after birth and ensure that they know the importance of family planning and good health practices like exclusive breastfeeding, immunisation and nutrition. Most importantly, we can promote male involvement in supporting these women and children.”

Globally, 3.5 million more health workers – including 2.5 million doctors, nurses, midwives and one million community health workers – need to be recruited, trained and deployed in the poorest countries by 2015 in order to achieve the health-related Millennium Development Goals, including a two-thirds reduction in child mortality.

Save the Children has contributed to the global call for health workers by supporting the training of 400,000 health workers in developing countries, including critical support to community health workers to deliver basic health services inside and outside of health centres.

While the commitment of the Australian Government and other Commonwealth governments to eradicate polio is enthusiastically welcome, we must remind them that a similar commitment to fund, train and retain health workers is urgently needed. Without sufficient numbers of health workers, quality health care services will remain beyond the reach of millions of women and children in Commonwealth nations.

Such an inequality among equal nations should no longer be accepted in 2011.

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November 8th, 2011||0 Comments

Cholera Epidemic Strikes West and Central Africa

UNICEF News Note

Dakar/Geneva; October 11, 2011

UNICEF fights “one of the worst ever” cholera outbreaks in West and Central Africa

UNICEF is calling for a redoubling of efforts to combat cholera outbreaks that are claiming lives and affecting large numbers of people across West and Central Africa.

This year has seen more than 85,000 reported cases of cholera, resulting in 2,466 deaths. The size and scale of the outbreaks mean the region is facing one of the biggest epidemics in its history. In addition Case Fatality Rates (CFR) are unacceptably high, ranging from 2.3 per cent to 4.7 per cent and can reach much higher levels at district level in many countries (ranging from 1 per cent to 22 per cent in Cameroon for example). Children are more vulnerable to cholera, as they dehydrate faster, and malnourished children are especially at risk.

The most significant increases in 2011 are in Chad, Cameroon and in western Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In addition there are still challenges with getting access, ensuring staff presence in medical facilities and establishing surveillance systems to monitor cases and numbers in parts of North-East DRC.

There are three major cross-border cholera epidemic outbreaks in West and Central Africa: the Lake Chad Basin (Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria and Niger), the West Congo Basin (DRC, Congo and the Central African Republic) and Lake Tanganyika (DRC and Burundi). Smaller cholera epidemics in Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, and Togo are under control.

UNICEF is providing treatment kits, conducting community awareness campaigns on hygiene and assisting with epidemiological surveys to ensure better targeting of control efforts. It is clear in this emergency that authorities can play a key role to save lives. Information exchange between cross-border districts on caseloads and population movements, as well as cross-border inspections for disinfection and chlorination are proven ways to contain the disease and save lives.

UNICEF calls upon governments to coordinate the preparation and response not only within their borders, but to ensure close collaboration with neighbouring countries. Cross-border coordination has to be encouraged at all levels, from the district to the national level.

A cross-border epidemiological study covering the Lake Chad Basin (Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria and Niger) was initiated by UNICEF in 2010, and is now in its second phase. The study provides critical evidence for informing cholera prevention and response interventions, which have to be coordinated across borders. Cross-border coordination between teams in Kinshasa and Brazzaville has also been initiated for the more recent cholera outbreak in the West Congo Basin.

Cholera is known as a disease that affects the poor because of the lack of access to clean water and improved sanitation. The best preventive measure against cholera is access to improved water supply, basic sanitation and hygiene.

Note to Editors

Access rates to water and sanitation in West and Central Africa are among the lowest in the world. Out of 24 countries in the region, not a single one is on track to meet the MDG target for sanitation. This is the underlying cause for cholera outbreaks in West and Central Africa. Although measures for cholera response can help contain the spread of the disease and reduce the number of fatalities, it would be much more effective if the underlying cause of this ‘poor man’s disease’ is tackled.

About UNICEF

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: http://www.unicef.org/

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October 27th, 2011||0 Comments

More Education and Training Needed to Save Newborns

The Guardian

Sarah Boseley; August 31, 2011

Newborn deaths put millennium development goal under threat

As more older children survive, slower progress in cutting death rates among babies in the first weeks of life is putting the goal of reducing child deaths by two-thirds in jeopardy

Children under the age of five are increasingly likely to survive in poor countries, as efforts to reach millennium development goal 4 (reducing child deaths by two-thirds) pay off. But newborns are still at high risk – and a new study shows that the slower progress in cutting death rates among babies in the first weeks of life is putting the goal in jeopardy.

More than 8 million children die before they reach the age of five, but as more older children survive an increasing proportion of those deaths – now 41% – are among neonates (babies less than four weeks old).

Tiny babies are very vulnerable. They die because they are small and frail after premature delivery (29%), from asphyxia during birth, or from severe infections such as blood poisoning and pneumonia. Many would survive if they were delivered by a trained midwife, but these are in short supply.

“The global health worker crisis is the biggest factor in the deaths of mothers and children, and particularly the 3.3 million newborns dying needlessly each year. Training more midwives and more community health workers will allow many more lives to be saved,” says Dr Joy Lawn of Save the Children’s Saving Newborn Lives programme, a co-author of the report that SCF has produced with the World Health Organisation and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

The report, published on the open access website PLoS Medicine, is the most comprehensive estimate yet of the death toll among newborns worldwide over a 20 year period, from 1990 to 2009. The researchers find that newborn mortality dropped by 28% – but that was much slower than the drop in maternal mortality (34%) and the deaths of older children under five (37%).

“Newborn survival is being left behind despite well-documented, cost-effective solutions to prevent these deaths,” says Dr Flavia Bustreo, WHO assistant director general for family, women’s and children’s health. “With four years to achieve the millennium development goals, more attention and action for newborns is critical.”

“We know that solutions as simple as keeping newborns warm, clean and properly breastfed can keep them alive, but many countries are in desperate need of more and better-trained frontline health workers to teach these basic lifesaving practices.”

The study authors urge more focus on newborn survival. “National governments, international organisations, non-governmental organisations, and other international health bodies must increase investment in care at birth and the first few weeks of life within existing health programmes, adding targeted interventions especially at the time of birth. The majority of neonatal deaths could be prevented with existing interventions, including some that can be delivered at community level with potential to reduce neonatal deaths by one-third, such as improved hygiene at birth, breastfeeding, and simple approaches to keeping babies warm,” they write.

“Maternal health programmes and child health programmes are beginning to place greater emphasis on newborn survival, but major missed opportunities remain even in existing programmes – for example, midwives who are not trained and equipped for simple newborn care and neonatal resuscitation. Many of the 79 million babies who died in the neonatal period since 1990 were born with little or no access to health
services and in settings with little health information to drive health system improvement.

“If MDG 4 is to be achieved, and this needless loss of life prevented, it is essential that national governments, international agencies and civil society increase attention to systematically preventing and tracking neonatal deaths.”

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September 13th, 2011||0 Comments

Ongoing Need for Cholera Education in Haiti

Press Release from the Center for Economic and Policy Research
Date:  August 18, 2011
Contact:  Dan Beeton, 202-239-1460
Web address:  http://www.cepr.net/index.php/press-center/

Thousands of Lives Could Be Saved, and Haiti’s Cholera Epidemic Managed, With Greater Treatment and Prevention Efforts, CEPR Paper Finds

Recent Cholera Spike Was “Entirely Predictable,” Yet Treatment Efforts Fell Off

Washington, D.C.  A new paper from the Center for Economic and Policy Research argues that cholera treatment and prevention efforts in Haiti have fallen woefully behind, leading to thousands of preventable deaths, even though the dramatic rise in new cases this spring and summer was entirely predictable. The paper, “Not Doing Enough: Unnecessary Sickness and Death from Cholera in Haiti”, by researchers Jake Johnston and Keane Bhatt, argues that it is not too late to bring the 10-month old cholera epidemic under control and save thousands of lives by ramping up treatment and prevention efforts.

“Haiti’s cholera epidemic has been much worse than it could have been, and thousands more people have died, due to an inadequate response from the international community, going back to when the outbreak began,” CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said. “It’s time to reverse course and get serious about controlling and eventually eliminating cholera from Haiti.”

“In July 2011, one person was infected with cholera almost every minute, and at least 375 died over the course of the month due to an easily preventable and curable illness,” the paper notes. A March 2011 article in the medical journal The Lancet predicted that cholera infections would spike with the onset of the rainy season following a drop-off during the drier months of late 2010 and early 2011. Yet overall cholera efforts were scaled back just as infections were increasing: only 48 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) were addressing cholera in July, down from 128 in January.

As predicted, new cholera infections increased with the onset of the rainy season this year, reaching an average of 1800 new infections per day in June — almost twice as many as in May and three times as many as in March and April, the paper notes.

The paper also notes that NGO’s and international agencies have targeted urban centers over rural areas, despite the anticipated spread of the disease to all corners of Haiti, and significantly higher case fatality rates in some rural areas. The department of Sud Est, for example, currently has the highest fatality rate, at 5.4%, but no Cholera Treatment Centers.

The authors recommend several ways in which the cholera epidemic could be brought under control — and thousands of lives saved — including expanding the reach of inpatient facilities in the hardest-hit areas, scaling up antibiotic and supplement treatment efforts, prevention and care through education campaigns, and a vaccination strategy. International donors also have fallen far behind on their pledges for cholera assistance.

The paper outlines a number of other factors that contributed to the severity of the epidemic, one of the most important being the relative scarcity of potable water in Haiti. The authors describe various ways in which public water systems have been under-funded and implementation delayed by the international community, while some donors have pushed instead for “cost recovery” water systems in camps for internally displaced persons (IDP’s) and elsewhere. These would require residents to pay for potable water, and likely lead to an increase in cholera infections as potable water would be put out of reach of IDP’s and other low-income Haitians.

“Safe, clean drinking water for all Haitians should be a top priority for international donors,” Weisbrot said. “And if it had not been so neglected years ago, when loans for this purpose were blocked by the United States, the severity of this outbreak might have been drastically reduced.”

The paper’s lead author, Jake Johnston, added: “The money is there: the U.S. Congress appropriated $1.14 billion for Haiti a year ago, and most of that money has not been spent; and a lot of the $1.4 billion that Americans gave to private charities after the earthquake — including the biggest organizations such as the American Red Cross — also remains unspent. And there are also hundreds of millions of dollars of
international aid that were pledged by governments but not yet delivered. These funds can be used to expand treatment and prevention of cholera in Haiti, and to build the necessary water infrastructure.”

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September 1st, 2011||0 Comments
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