Two Fighters Fighting against Cholera in Bangladesh
Sep06

Two Fighters Fighting against Cholera in Bangladesh

Mix a little salt, sugar and water – A simple solution to the deadly cholera infection. Today we are bringing together the pioneer of this ORT (Oral Rehydration Therapy); Dr Richard Cash, and practitioner; Dr Mark Pietroni. Cholera is caused by becoming infected with a bacterium called vibrio cholera. It’s a disease that affects the bowels but unlike other diarrhoeal diseases, cholera can kill a healthy adult within hours through severe dehydration and kidney failure.  The disease is mostly spread through contaminated water and food supplies.  Although the ramifications of being infected with cholera are severe, the treatment known as ORT is a simple mixture of salt, sugar and water.   Water is one of the four essential elements of life, covers 70.9% of the Earth’s surface, and is vital for all known forms of existence.  The capital city of Bangladesh is surrounded by the distributaries of the two major rivers, the Brahmaputra and the Meghna. The surrounding rivers are Buriganga to the south, Turag to the west, Tongi khal to the north, and Balu to the east.  This notwithstanding, there is very little clean water supplies in the city and the lack of sanitation makes millions of Bangladeshi’s vulnerable to cholera (particularly around monsoon season).  In 1967, Dr Cash along with his colleague Dr David Nalin was sent to Bangladesh (at the time known as East Pakistan) from the US to help fight the cholera disease, where for the first time these US Public Health Service employees faced the devastating disease.  At this time the treatment for cholera was known as intravenous therapy which was expensive as it attempted to replace the fluids lost through diarrhea and vomiting via therapy.  Together Dr Cash and Dr Nalin discovered ORT and a mixture of clean water, salt and sugar became the low-tech solution to a global health crisis.  Dr Cash then teamed with the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) to teach village women how much 500ml of water is, so they could accurately mix the ORT. The women brought their own pots, into which 500ml of water was poured. The villagers then marked the pots, so they could duplicate the 500ml amount accurately at any future time. Then, with a pinch of salt and a bit of sugar, the villagers became their own best resource!! In 1987, UNICEF (the United Nations Children’s Fund) released a report stating, “No other single medical breakthrough of the 20th century has had the potential to prevent so many deaths over such a short period of time and at so little cost”.  It is estimated that ORT has saved over 50 million lives since its development, not...

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Improved Bhutanese Mental Health by Dr. Dorji
Aug08

Improved Bhutanese Mental Health by Dr. Dorji

Today I would like to introduce you to Dr. Chencho Dorji who is responsible for “Promoting Mental Health Treatment in Traditional Bhutanese Society.”  He was one of three winners of Rethinking Mental Health: Improving Community Wellbeing competition in 2009. There were 340 solutions submitted from 42 countries. The winners of this competition must be transforming the field of mental health. Dr. Dorji done this by building bridges from traditional healers and community leaders in Bhutan to providers of modern psychiatry. Not only that, he also created student-run chapters of mental-health awareness groups on college campuses and training clinicians to treat depression and epilepsy in post-conflict Liberia. YL voilunteer Pitchada reports: When Bhutan launched a national mental health system in 1997, it introduced modern mental health practices into communities who until then had relied solely on traditional forms of treatment. In Bhutan, these two oftentimes competing methodologies were linked successfully by stressing advocacy, education, training, and treatment. I think that the modern health system in Bhutan now really has Dr. Dorji to thank for his hard work. Why is his idea of transforming the health system in Bhutan so special that it won an award? As acceptance of modern medicine, particularly psychiatric treatment is a huge challenge in a traditional society like Bhutan, where most people prefer traditional forms of treatment. However, traditional treatment is not effective in treating severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia. Therefore, this is just one of the many challenges that Dr. Dorji will face while establishing the system in Bhutan. In order to address the problem of acceptance, an innovative pilot project to introduce modern psychiatry to Bhutan was launched in 2002. As a first step, focus group discussions with community leaders, traditional healers, and health providers modeled on international best practices (including case identification according to ICD 10 diagnostic criteria) helped identify persons with mental illness in the community. This represented the first time that community leaders and traditional healers were involved in case identification. Local health workers followed up on these cases by providing a diagnosis and offering treatment under the supervision of trained psychiatrists. This pilot project was conducted in three distinct geographical regions in Bhutan. The experiences and knowledge gained during the pilot is presently being expanded to the remaining 17 districts in Bhutan. The successful collaboration between modern health workers and traditional healers will help expand mental health services to the rest of Bhutan in a cost effective way, achieving multiple objectives at the same time: 1. Introduce modern mental health practices in traditional Bhutanese society 2. Mobilize community support to identify and treat severely mentally ill persons 3. Provide...

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Dr. Minal Singh: A True Changemaker for Health Education in Rural India
Aug01

Dr. Minal Singh: A True Changemaker for Health Education in Rural India

Dr. Minal Singh is an extraordinary social entrepreneur working for the Drishtee Foundation a social enterprise focused exclusively on rural India. She has worked tirelessly to develop original solutions for some of the serious health issues facing the developing world. YL volunteer Jay introduces you to Dr. Minal. Coming up with ideas is easy. It’s the next step that is the difficult part. Taking the plunge and trying to make an idea a reality requires great courage. In trying to kick-start an idea, there is little doubt that working alone can sometimes be hard work and that collaboration can have massive benefits. One inspiring person who understands this is Dr. Minal Singh. She has successfully used online networks, such as Ashoka Changemakers  http://www.ashoka.org/changemakers to do some amazing work improving health education in rural communities in India. Dr Singh has a special interest in maternal health care, which refers to the caring for women during pregnancy, childbirth and the period after childbirth. Unfortunately many women in developing countries undergo life-threatening complications during pregnancy and childbirth due to a shortage of doctors, nurses and midwives. Dr Singh sees a lack of education a serious impediment, “I often feel sad to see under utilization of health care services in some regions as the people are not aware”. Recognizing these problems she decided to use the Ashoka Changemakers network to do something about it. Her idea was driven by a passion to improve health education in rural communities so that they would eventually become self-reliant. In working towards her goal she explained, “I would like to see a community who understands its basic health need. A community where we don’t have to go and educate people about their health need”. As she described in her submission, “the idea is to deliver the maternal health care in an innovative and holistic manner which is sustainable. The main aim is to reduce the incidence of maternal mortality by educating community about the causes of maternal mortality and to meet the demand created by facilitating access to maternal health care services. The uniqueness of the model lies in the fact that the flagholders of project are the Drishtee trained women health entrepreneurs”  “The basic objective of this project is to create a team of health-care entrepreneurs, who will be skilled to mobilize the community on maternal health care and continue to provide these services on a long-term basis”. For this fantastic idea, Dr. Singh was officially awarded an Ashoka Changemaker winner in the “Healthy Mothers, Strong World: The Next Generation of Ideas for Maternal Health” competition. The success was an impressive achievement considering that there were 208 entries for...

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Saving lives no matter what, as a Practise, is what United Hatzalah promotes
May09

Saving lives no matter what, as a Practise, is what United Hatzalah promotes

Let me present you some cool facts:  The primary role of  1500 volunteers – trained and certified as EMTs, Paramedics and MD’s – is to provide immediate lifesaving medical care within 2 -4 minutes of the onset of any emergency incident and prior to arrival of an ambulance.  Volunteers span every socioeconomic category & every sector of Israeli society: kibbutzniks and city dwellers, religious and secular, Jews and Arabs. They carry their advanced emergency and communication equipment 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Volunteers respond to over 120,000 calls annually, and treat over 180,000 people throughout Israel each year – all at no cost to the recipient. All patients are treated without regard to religion or ethnicity.    You must be wondering what is this organization that comprises of such great, noble-hearted volunteers? Its United Hatzalah.    United Hatzalah is the largest, independent, non-profit, fully volunteer first responder organization in Israel and does not charge for its services.  their ambucycle unit has become legendary in providing lifesaving emergency medical care to people in need in Israel.  The use of ambucycles for first response has proven to be a critical link in the emergency chain of survival, allowing rescue personnel immediate access to the scene or home of a patient.  Each ambucycle responds to roughly 480 calls a year. Each ambucycle is on the road responding to emergencies for at least three years and therefore will respond to around 1,440 calls.    After watching this video clip I couldn’t help talking to Daniel Katzenstein, Marketing Collateral Coordinator, Volunteer Medic #649.      How does working for ‘Friend of United Hatzalah’ help you building your personal vision of a better world?   I don’t have visions of changing the world. I know that when an emergency call comes in, it means that someone needs help NOW and that I am the person who can help.  It is a very powerful sense of clarity of purpose. When I am shopping at the supermarket or going for a walk I might know why I am involved in that mundane task but it is not a fulfilling sense of purpose. When I respond to an emergency call, nothing is more important at that very moment. If I am sleeping, praying, working, studying, spending time with my family whatever… those activities are not as critical at this very moment in time. A baby not breathing, a person in a car accident, someone having a heart attack – these are things that require immediate and focused response.    Please tell us, what do you do while responding to an emergency.  I try to...

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Ruchama & PHR-Israel: Physicians Protecting human rights
Apr15

Ruchama & PHR-Israel: Physicians Protecting human rights

Physicians for Human Rights PHR combine alleviation of human rights abuses on-site, conducting investigations into human right violations, advocacy and recommendations for policy changes. Their commitment has just earned them the Right Livelihood Award, which often recognises visionary changemakers decades before the mainstream or Nobel comittee takes notice. It is worth learning more about their work, so crucial for people under pressure, while also providing a “protective shield” for the activists. PHR operate in more than 40 countries, one of them being – Israel.   by Jay Bookin, Youth-Leader Asia Unless you have your head buried (deep) in the sand, it’s hard to be unaware of the human rights abuses going on around the world. Switch on the news, glance at a newspaper, listen to a current event broadcast… it’s unfortunately reality. As part of the youth I feel just frustrated about the fact that these things are going on, and I can imagine you’re even more aggravated. So, now what to do? Well incase you don’t know, since the end of World War II governments around the world have been negotiating and adopting a body of international and regional standards for human rights. . These rights set out the minimum obligations of governments in relation to individuals and communities and includes specific economic, social and cultural rights such as the right to health, as well as civil and political rights; the right to freedom of assembly. Here is a great video that explains the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: It is a fascinating, inspiring and optimistic framework, and one that has the potential to actually make a difference! All of this is monitored by the United  Nations. You can download more info here: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/PUBLICATIONSRESOURCES/Pages/HumanRightsBasics.aspx Even though we have this worldwide agreement on human rights, sad but true that people are still being mistreated. We can “talk the talk” but can we “walk the walk”? The success of the human rights framework depends on the bringing human rights violations to light so that justice can be provided to the victims of abuse. With this in mind, it is organisations like Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) that assists in fulfilling this ideal. Founded in 1986 by a small group of doctors, PHR is centered on the belief that the unique scientific expertise and authority of health professionals can expose the human rights breaches and help develop solutions that will both end such violations and empower those involved: http://physiciansforhumanrights.org/about/ Since it’s inceptions, PHR has conducted pioneering research and field investigations in more than 40 countries. PHR works to prove the health consequences of human rights violations. It also uses its research for advocacy focused on demanding accountability...

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Ahmed Shale: Recognition Well Deserved in health care
Mar11

Ahmed Shale: Recognition Well Deserved in health care

I always find it inspirational to hear of the incredible work being done by individuals all around the globe. However, there is sometimes that quiet voice that can’t help but question the motives behind affirmative action? I find myself asking, why do people need recognition for the good that they do? Isn’t doing something good a reward in itself? How can you do good things without wanting recognition? Is it wrong to want recognition for our efforts? Recently, Shale Ahmed, Executive Director of Bandhu Social Welfare Society (http://www.bandhu-bd.org/) was awarded the prestigious International Ashoka Fellowship. He received the award for the outstanding contribution in the area of improving sexual and reproductive health of MSM (male having sex with male – http://www.amfar.org/world/msm/article.aspx?id=9271), trans-genders (usually known as Hijra population and their rights in Bangladesh. Since 1981, the Ashoka has been identifying social entrepreneurs from around the global who are committed to innovative solutions to social problems. You can watch Ashoka Founder Bill Drayton discuss the history of Ashoka here, http://www.ashoka.org/entrepreneurforsociety. Over 2,500 leading social entrepreneurs have been elected as Ashoka Fellows, providing them with living stipends, professional support, and access to a global network of peers. The aim is to inspire others to adopt and spread their innovations – demonstrating to all citizens that they too have the potential to be powerful change makers. The Ashoka Fellows is recognising the selfless acts of others that sometimes go unnoticed. In a country where men with homosexual preferences or feminized behavior and dress are considered citizens by neither the public nor the state, Shale and his organization, the Bandhu Social Welfare Society, are providing medical care, advocacy and job training that these individuals can find nowhere else in Bangladesh Established by Shale in 1996, the Society has worked with thousands of MSM and transgender individuals over the past 12 years. Men and transgender individuals are given access to healthcare and peer counselling to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS among other illnesses. The Society also links individuals to lawyers and advocates while also offering opportunities for them to lobby as part of a community of peers to the government and the larger society. By being awarded as an Ashoka Fellow, Shale’s work reminds us that whenever you help someone, you help yourself in the process. Anthony Robbins once said, “Only those who have learned the power of sincere selfless contribution experience life’s deepest joy: true fulfilment”. In my experience it seems that those that are most successful in what they do, love what they do. The incredible work that Shale is doing is undoubtedly a reflection of his passion and love for his work. Like...

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