This blog post was written by Anitra Sprauten. Anitra graduated from Bowdoin College in 2012 with a degree in Government & Legal Studies and French. Originally from New York, she is finishing up the academic year as an English teaching assistant at the University of Western Brittany in France. She hopes to return working with INGOs to improve standards of public education and public health in less economically developed countries.
Overlooking Kroo Bay in Freetown
Overlooking the city from a steep hill in Tengbeh Town, the Helen Keller International (HKI) office in Freetown, Sierra Leone is frequented by visitors from many sectors. HKI does a wonderful job of coordinating its efforts with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and other non-governmental organizations, so while the office itself is not very large, its reach spans the entire country.
For many, Sierra Leone is a country of extreme hardship. Maternal and child mortality rates are very high and the general population lives with very little income. However, residents of Freetown have a profound entrepreneurial spirit, and those who do not have steady employment work as petty traders. The city experienced a rapid boom of urbanization, and as the population continues to grow, Freetown continues to catch up.
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.
Amy Diallo is from the small village of Pout, which lies about 30 miles east of Dakar, Senegal’s ocean-side capital. The commercial farms in this region produce watermelon, coconut, grapefruit and mango – a colorful bounty that is out of reach for the average family in Senegal, where more than half the population lives in poverty. Instead, families commit scarce resources to staples like rice that fill empty bellies but lack essential micronutrients that protect the immune system and help children grow.
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.
Nicole and Faith are in twelfth grade at Westmount Collegiate Institute in Toronto, Canada. They are both 17 years old and enrolled in a World Issues course this year. The course taught them about political, environmental, economical, and social issues present in the world today. As a final assignment, they were tasked to make a difference and spread awareness about an important cause. They chose Helen Keller International’s Vitamin A Supplementation program. Inspired by their dedication, I wanted to hear Nicole and Faith’s story about their journey to becoming advocates for HKI. So, I reached out with a few questions.
How NTD programs can work with WASH programs for common goal of improved public health
This post was written by Chad MacArthur, Helen Keller International’s Director of Neglected Tropical Disease Control and originally appeared as the first of many NTD Spotlights on the brand new ENVISION website.
There is no question that mass drug administration (MDA) has had an enormous impact on disease burden but it needs to be recognized that these diseases are public health problems and our response to them needs to be through public health interventions that are beyond just preventive chemotherapy (PC). These diseases must be dealt with within a broader socio-economic development context. One of the key elements that will sustain the gains made by MDA for trachoma, soil transmitted helminths and schistosomiasis is the increased access to safe water, improved sanitation and the promotion of hygiene; commonly referred to as WASH. Integrating WASH with PC and promoting the behaviors that accompany WASH allows for a comprehensive control strategy such as trachoma has promoted for a number of years through the SAFE strategy.
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.
What’s the protocol for visiting a former head of state? In Cape Verde, our delegation walked up to his door, knocked, and President Monteiro himself greeted us. This typifies the graciousness and modesty that he has shown in all of our interactions.