This article was written by Emily Toubali and Claire Coveney from HKI and was originally published in the March/April 2013 article of USAID’s Frontlines (scroll to second article).
After flipping tens of thousands of eyelids and spending countless hours peering into a microscope, a critical step toward the control and elimination of five neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in Cameroon has been reached.
This blog was prepared by HKI Field Intern and Guest Blogger, Justin Graves. Justin spent six months working with HKI’s Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) team in Guinea and is currently an MPH Candidate at Columbia University.
When searching for a practicum site, I was keen to pursue fieldwork as I lacked experience in this area of public health. The projects at HKI Guinea presented a chance to gain skills working in the field by applying concepts and theories.
After 4 months of paperwork during the peak of Guinea’s rainy season, the first fieldwork activity presented itself and with it an opportunity to work with the infectious disease team on lymphatic filariasis (LF) research. To put the disease in perspective, the World Health Organization (WHO) considers LF to be a leading cause of long-term and permanent disability, and tackling the disease is critical to promote health in Asia and Africa. The LF situation in Guinea presents a major burden across the country. Recent mapping studies have established that approximately 4.5 million people are at risk for this debilitating disease. That is almost half of Guinea’s total population, which is estimated somewhere between 10 and 11 million people.
Did you know that by 2030 over 550 million people in the world will suffer from diabetes? According to the International Diabetes Federation approximately 366 million people already have diabetes and 80% them live in low and middle income countries. The age of onset for Type 2 diabetes continues to fall worldwide, and is increasingly found in people as young as their late teens and early twenties.
What do these shocking statistics have to do with eye health? One of the lesser known side effects of diabetes is called diabetic retinopathy and results in a sometimes irreversible loss of vision among diabetics. Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is asymptomatic in its early stages, so regular screening is to identify and treat DR is crucial.
With funding from the World Diabetes Foundation and Standard Chartered Bank, HKI successfully developed two pilot programs in Bangladesh and Indonesia, areas where DR is often untreated due to a lack of well-trained ophthalmologists. The key components of HKI’s program include training diabetes clinicians to recognize the disease and encourage their patients to obtain annual eye examinations; raising awareness among diabetics about the significant risk of vision loss; and increasing patient access to DR screenings and care by developing affordable and efficient treatment systems. Working with our local partners, HKI has succeeded in making DR screening a basic component of the screening regimen for all diabetes patients served by these facilities. This process includes photographing the retina, sending the images to ophthalmologists outside of the region over the internet, determining the presence and severity of disease and offering appropriate treatment to the patients. HKI hopes to scale-up these efforts to train more doctors and reach more diabetics to prevent the spread of diabetic retinopathy.
The eighth graders at MS 80 in the Bronx line up, single file, in front of an eye chart on the stage of their crowded auditorium. Some of them read the letters on the chart aloud with clarity and certainty. Others have trouble reading even the top few lines. Some students are already wearing glasses, while others have spent months and even years squinting to read letters on signs or on the chalkboard in class.
This blog originally appeared on the Huffington Post as part of GivingTuesday initiative.
After flying from New York City to Dakar to Banjul to Freetown, riding a bus to a dock and a boat across a bay to a 4X4 truck that travels up and down roads that transition from broken pavement to muddy earth, I stand at the front of a classroom – one that is empty of children. Today, 30 adults sit in row after row of benches, some bending forward with heads propped on elbows as if they have been waiting a long time. And they have.
Today is World Sight Day which is celebrated every year on the second Thursday in October to raise awareness about avoidable blindness and visual impairment.
I’ve worn glasses since I was a young student, so I’m pretty familiar with visual impairment. In fact, I couldn’t really function at all without my glasses (or contacts) -– I couldn’t drive, work on the computer, cook, manage my way through my apartment, etc.
By Douglas Steinberg, HKI’s Deputy Regional Director for West Africa.
I have visited several of Helen Keller International (HKI) programs to control Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), and blogged about them here. Among the main NTDs that HKI works to control is trachoma, one of the leading causes of blindness in the world.
By Shawn Baker, HKI’s Vice President and Regional Director for Africa.
Two weeks ago, I arrived in Abidjan from Dakar in early evening. Passport control, retrieving luggage and getting out of the airport took only minutes. Hassle-free. In the past there would have been aggravations at each stage. This set the tone for most of my visit – after 10 years of political crisis and a contested election that resulted in weeks of warfare – Abidjan is back!
An interview with HKI's Senior Ophthalmologist and Eye Health Advisor.
You sometimes hear the phrase, “One plus one equals three,” and I have been struck by the power of that notion in my work with Helen Keller International through the partnerships we create with local organizations. I recently sat down with Dr. David S. Friedman, HKI’s Senior Ophthalmologist and Eye Health Advisor, to talk about his experiences in public health and his perspective on building partnerships to achieve success. Dr. Friedman most recently was awarded the prestigious Alcon Research Institute award for his contributions to ophthalmic research.
An inside look into HKI's trachoma control activities in Niger and Mali.
Post by Emily Toubali, HKI’s Program Manager of Neglected Tropical Disease Control. Photos by Emily Toubali and Aryc Mosher.
Amina Nouhou lived for over 20 years with the searing pain of trichiasis, the final stage of the blinding disease of trachoma. Each time she blinked, the eyelashes of her left eye scraped her cornea. I cannot even begin to imagine the extreme discomfort she silently endured each day. She woke up, cleaned her house, and cooked meals for her family, in constant suffering from this excruciating condition.