Archive for September 2007
Here is a new site by MTV – think.mtv.com. They have various videos and links that of course feature artists and also non-artist involvement. MTV can clearly be a powerful motivator, their engagement is interesting and a testament to the hipness of being involved in social causes or at least giving that perception. Let’s hope this does well and gets a younger generation mobilized, screen shots and description below (along with a Jay Z video of him at the UN, click on the picture):
“NEW YORK (Reuters) – Viacom Inc’s MTV will launch a new Internet social network sponsored by foundations operated by the founders of Microsoft and AOL to encourage youth activism….It will let users create pages, as on other online social networks Facebook and MySpace, and upload photos and videos, some of which may be aired on MTV’s online or cable network.” Full story here: MTV to launch activism social network
The think.mtv.com web site:
This new resource, OpenEpi, has been showing up on a couple of listservs that I subscribe to. After looking around the site, it does seem to have a good deal of epi tools at the ready. Might be of interest to some of our readers. From the OpenEpi site…
OpenEpi provides statistics for counts and person-time rates in descriptive and analytic studies, stratified analysis with exact confidence limits, matched pair analysis, sample size and power calculations, random numbers, chi-square for dose-response trend, sensitivity, specificity and other evaluation statistics, R x C tables, and links to other useful sites.
Test results are provided for each module so that you can judge reliability, although it is always a good idea to check important results with software from more than one source. Links to hundreds of Internet calculators are provided…
The Kaiser Family Foundation is probably the best disseminator of information, this is their bread and butter. Thanks to them, you can watch the proceedings of the Clinton Foundation annual meeting (this week). The image below will take you to instructions for the free webcast and you can check out the Foundation’s web page for further information on scheduling. In addition the Financial Times has a page dedicated to covering the annual summit. For those in the public health community, that fact that FT is covering this is yet one more sign that the business community is starting to get involved in global health/development issues. See the FT website here.
Wired magazine has a fascinating piece from last month on the “ultimate medical diagnostic device” which is being developed in collaboration with the private sector. It is by Thomas Goetz who runs his own blog: Epidemix. Excerpts below:
“Our inability to diagnose and track infectious disease quickly and accurately remains a serious problem…The problem with cultures is that they take a long time — three weeks or more — to produce a definitive result. In those three weeks, antibiotics may be fortifying the bacteria’s resistance rather than curing the patient. In those three weeks, a TB patient goes back into the population and spreads disease. In those three weeks, the bacteria have enough time to escape our grasp. What’s needed, then, is a new way to diagnose the disease: one at least as fast as the sputum microscopy test, as accurate as the culture, and refined enough to differentiate between garden-variety bacteria and drug-resistant strains. What’s needed is nothing less than a new gold standard…Those tests might finally be at hand. There is a crop of diagnostic tools on the horizon… Dozens of companies are investing hundreds of millions of dollars to develop these new tools.”
“TruDiagnosis: It combines advances in microfluidics (miniaturized pumps and channels), microarrays (micron-sized sensors affixed to a chip), and engineering into what could be the ultimate medical gadget: a handheld device that, using a small sample of blood or spit, reveals in mere minutes every pathogen inside the body.”
As we have discussed before on this blog, philanthropy is becoming a major influence in the global health arena unlike at any other time in our history (see a previous post on the Gates Foundation here and the recent influx of over $250 Million for global health education here). Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York and multi-billionaire, may be aiming to ramp up his philanthropic efforts after he leaves office. Health related excerpts from the news release below:
“Estimates of Bloomberg’s wealth range from $5.5 billion to more than $13 billion, and his riches would multiply if he sold the financial information company he founded…Some of last year’s $165 million went toward starting a worldwide campaign he announced last year against smoking, a health concern he says is often overlooked in philanthropy. He has pledged $125 million over a few years for the cause…”
“Aides said he is set to announce a $9 million gift to the World Health Organization over the next two years to prevent traffic fatalities. They are a leading cause of death among young people in low- and middle-income countries and one more cause that does not get a lot of philanthropic attention…Some of his largest personal gifts have gone to The Johns Hopkins University. In 2006, he also gave $100 million for medical research and a new children’s hospital…” Full story.
CDC researchers have developed new tools using GPS technology and PDAs to help prevent the spread of malaria in Africa, according to a study published in the August issue of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, InformationWeek reports. Researchers used the devices to collect data on the use of insecticide-treated nets in homes in Niger and Togo.
The researchers used sampling software for Windows Mobile devices to compile complete lists of households in the area and employed GPS systems to locate homes and interview a random sample of people. Study co-author Jodi Vanden Eng in a statement said, “Before we developed this method using these devices, it usually took days, or even weeks to complete the same task” that the researchers now can accomplish in one day.
Full story summarized on KaiserNetwork.
1. Instant Karma — U2
2. #9 Dream — R.E.M.
3. Mother — Christina Aguilera
4. Give Peace A Chance — Aerosmith with Sierra Leone Refuge All-Stars
5. Cold Turkey — Lenny Kravitz
6. Whatever Gets You Through the Night — Los Lonely Boys
7. I’m Losing You — Corinne Bailey Rae
8. Gimme Some Truth — Jakob Dylan Feat. Dhani Harrison
9. Oh, My Love — Jackson Browne
10. Imagine — Avril Lavigne
The latest issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review is out. There are a few interesting pieces I have linked below on both the non-profit and for profit world. The first story on the HealthStore Foundation has been well covered by NextBillion, I am actually dissapointed that SSIR did not select another model to profile as HealthStore is by now very well known. There are a few other interesting pieces as well (see link above to see what articles are free):
Micro-franchise Against Malaria
How for-profit clinics are healing and enriching the rural poor in Kenya.
Creating High-Impact Nonprofits
Conventional wisdom says that scaling social innovation starts with strengthening internal management capabilities. This study of 12 high-impact nonprofits, however, shows that real social change happens when organizations go outside their own walls and find creative ways to enlist the help of others.
Private Equity, Public Good
Many businesses serving lower income communities languish because they cannot raise enough money to fund their growth. To meet their needs, a new breed of private equity investment—development investment capital—has emerged. Not only does development investment capital fund growth and social benefits in lower-income communities, it also gives investors a competitive return on their investments. Although this style of investing is still in its infancy, it is already showing promise.
This is reposted in full from the Lancet blog post of Aug 24th, “‘Quackometer’ probes websites for pseudoscience“.
Andy Lewis of Oxford, UK wanted to see if it was possible to identify alternative medicine websites simply by analysing their language, and so began his study of “quackometrics”.
The result is his website http://www.quackometer.net where his “Quackometer” will analyse a website you’re curious about and rank it on a scale of 0 to 10 “Canards”, which Lewis maintains is the “internationally accepted SI unit for quackery.”
Practitioners of alternative medicine, Lewis says, tend to pepper their pitches with the same pseudoscientific language, terms like: “energy”, “vibrations”, “holistic”, and “quantum”.
So, “for a bit of fun” while he was between jobs, Lewis, who now works for a computer software company in Venice, “coded up an algorithm” that analyses the language used on a website, comparing the terms used with terms in six dictionaries, including one that identifies legitimate scientific terminology.
The programme then scores the site based on the ratio of pseudoscientific to scientific terms.
“Some terms, like aromatherapy, are dead obvious”, Lewis says, but others, like “quantum” are also used in legitimate scientific documents, making it harder to rate some sites.
The hardest sites to score, Lewis says, are newspaper stories on alternative medicine, which, although they might be skeptical, use many of the terms favoured by proponents of alternative medicine.
Lewis estimates the Quackometer currently gets it right only about 80% of the time.
So how does the Quackometer do?
Well, first I ran the website for the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the US National Institutes of Health.
Score? “0” Canards
Although the site is laced with alternative medicine terms, the Quackometer gave the NCCAM’s site a “0″ score.
Why? It also detected the site’s skepticism:
“This web site has more quackery than my village pond.” the Quackometer says. “It is full of scientific jargon that is out of place and probably doesn’t know the meaning of any of the terms. However, the black duck can spot a fellow sceptic! The site is highly sceptical in language and is debunking.”
Next I ran The Lancet. Score: “0”
New England Journal of Medicine. Score: “0”
BMJ. Score: “2”
What, 2 Canards for the BMJ?
Asked about it, Lewis said the BMJ’s “2” score may have been due to an article on acupuncture they were running at the time.
And indeed, a retest today finds the BMJ back in the mainstream with a score of “0”.
To visit the Quackometer and run your own tests go to: www.quackometer.net
Britain has decided to use very graphic pictures on cigarette packs, I am guessing this will work much better than written warnings. The below wording is part of press release which I find partly amusing because they say “words failed to stamp out smoking”. I find it hard to believe they thought words would actually deter smoking. If they did, all I can say is that is very very scary. Perhaps other countries and regions will follow suit, but that is not likely. Up to 160 million smokers in Asia could be dead by 2050 and 1 billion smoking related deaths by the end of the century, so this is a massive problem (see the following – here, here and here).
“This image is one of the graphic pictures to be place on packs of cigarettes to discourage smokers. Words failed to stamp out smoking, so Britain will require graphic pictures of diseased organs on cigarette packs next year, the government announced. The images include a diseased lung, a chest cut open for heart surgery, and a large tumor on a man’s neck. The new warnings will be required on cigarette packs in the second half of 2008, the department said.” Full story.