Global Health Ideas

Finding global health solutions through innovation and technology

Archive for August 2007

Blood, Sweat Could Power New Paper Battery

battery_glove200.jpgThis technology is still in development and so I have no idea what the cost is going to be. However, without considering costs, this may have potential for use in low resource settings:

“Morning Edition, August 27, 2007 · Blood and sweat could power a battery that looks just like a piece of paper, scientists say…the new paper battery can run on blood or sweat. That means it might ultimately be used to power medical devices like hearing aids or pacemakers.” NPR full story.


Written by Aman

August 31, 2007 at 9:08 am

Unplanned Obsolescence: The Grameen Phone

A bit of diversion here, but an important one from the latest issue of Fast Company. I do not yet have an opinion on the 10 year retrospective review below, however, the numbers from Fast Company (if accurate) are dramatic. Dave Richards at “Defeating Global Poverty” has a more detailed post that you should check out and the author of “You Can Here Me Now“, Nicholas Sullivan, has published a letter countering this article (excerpts at the end of this post).

Has Grameen’s Village Phone Program Gone Obsolete? Fast Company Magazine September 2007phonegrameen.jpg
“At first, they all came…And then, one by one, each talked on Laily Begum’s wondrous new possession, a cellular telephone. A caller might come to check on money that her husband was supposed to send from his job as a day laborer in Dubai…But that was in the beginning, a decade ago; these days, cell phones are so commonplace that most visitors come only for a haircut, a shave, groceries, or a place to sleep, all of which Begum offers now. The few wireless calls are no longer made from her home but from one of her nearby shops–usually the one with the barrels, drums, and cans of motor oil out front and lining its walls. In March, when I visited her home in Patira, a stretch of dusty intersections 90 minutes northeast of Dhaka, she told me, “Hardly anyone uses my phone anymore.”

“Begum’s success has become legendary, embraced by the media and the world of economic development as an example of how microcredit and technology can help those born in poverty escape it, largely through their own entrepreneurship. The Grameen organization continues to boast that its Village Phone Program “has been incredibly successful … establishing a clear path out of the poverty cycle”…But as it turns out, the legend is far out of date…In Bangladesh today, the only one making real money on GrameenPhone’s wireless service is … GrameenPhone.”

The Village Phone Program no longer sustains its entrepreneurs — yet Grameen continues to recruit operators…” Full story

Counterpoint by Nicholas Sullivan:

“Dear FC,

Re: “Unplanned Obsolescence” (September), I wonder if you don’t miss the forest for the trees. The big story is that Bangladesh has increased its phone penetration from 1 per 500 people in the mid-‘90s to 1 per 7 people today. The phone ladies, whose income and profits are surely declining as noted, and who represent at most 3% of GrameenPhone subscribers, are not the raison d’etre of GrameenPhone; distributing tens of millions of phones throughout the country is the company’s mission and has been from the start. Utilizing Grameen Bank’s network in 60,000+ villages was merely a way to deliver phones into remote rural areas where there was and still is no reliable electricity or roads. The fact that the foreign investors behind GrameenPhone (Telenor of Norway, Marubeni of Japan, and Gonofone of New York) endorsed this strategy while also perceiving its developmental impact in lifting people out of poverty is one of the most positive business stories in recent memory.

Read the full letter here

Written by Aman

August 30, 2007 at 6:34 pm

Photo Essay: The End of Polio

Ever since I saw the “Migrations: Humanity in Transition” exhibit I have been a huge fan of Sebastiao Salgado (UN bio). He has now taken his skills to the global health realm to document the largest public health initiative in history. Some of the pictures can be viewed online and for those in Atlanta, “his photographs documenting the eradication efforts can be viewed by the public in the Global Health Odyssey on the CDC campus at 1600 Clifton Road on August 27, 2007 through January 4, 2008.” Visit for a preview of the photos (one sample below).

“Early in 2001 in Somalia, Brazilian photojournalist Sebastio Salgado began to document the global effort to eradicate the crippling disease poliomyelitis. By the end of the year, he witnessed mass vaccination campaigns against polio in Somalia, Sudan, India, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Pakistan.” Full CDC press release.


Speaking of polio, Sociolingo has linked to some news on eradicating polio in the Niger-Nigeria region (link).

Written by Aman

August 30, 2007 at 12:30 am

Posted in Global Health

China and Global Health

Partly because of my recent visit to Beijing I am fascinated by what is happening in/with China. In addition, because China is now front and center stage and because they play such an important role in the lives of those living not only in the West (see living without “Made in China”, via Treehugger; Amazon book) but for those in various regions (see Africa and China) there are substantial implications to what happens in China on many important levels (global business & finance, global health, global environmental conditions). With the 2008 Olympics just around the corner, you will only hear more and more about these issues and hopefully the media blitz will have some positive impact on governance and policy issues going forward. With that I want to highlight what prominent bloggers have been recently talking about with respect to China and health/global health issues with a couple of articles mixed in:

  • What Do China’s Scandals Mean For Public Health? Epidemix blog
  • Mounting Poverty, Health Risks for China’s Sex Workers, Think Girl
  • China to ban tobacco advertising from 2011, Forbes
  • China health threat: much bigger than paint, Zenbowl over at Daily Kos
  • Top Ten Posts on China, Health Care and Globalization,

Bonus: The Atlantic, audio photo essay on “Made in China”, worth a quick look, link

Written by Aman

August 29, 2007 at 12:01 am

Scientific American on Food, Fat and Famine

sciamcover.gifAn account manager from Scientific American’s PR firm let me know about their latest issue on Obesity and Malnutrition (many thanks to Scott for the email) which you should check out. This special issue focuses on “Food, Fat and Famine” and has some of the world’s leading experts writing for the issue (Barry Popkin, world food prize laureate Per Pinstrup-Andersen, and others) along with a bonus article by Jeffery Sachs. I got a chance to quickly skim the introduction to the issue and this line struck me (paraphrased from memory): “For the first time in the world’s history the number of obese people has surpassed the undernourished” (roughly 1.3 billion vs 1 billion).

The shift to sedentary lifestyles (use of mopeds vs bikes) and drive to “Westernization” (fast food, sweetners, mass produced food, urbanization) is dramatically altering the landscape and will lead to a substantial rise in chronic diseases. As Barry Popkin says in his excellent article, The World is Fat, these changes have “paved the way for a public health catastrophe”. A couple of facts from Popkin’s article about the radical change that has taken place in Mexico in just 20 yeras:

-1989: Less than 10% of Mexicans were considered overweight
-2006: Over 66% of Mexican men and women are overweight or obese
-1990: Diabetes was almost non-existent in Mexico, not so today

The above rapid change maybe compounded in developing regions where evolution may have altered genetic makeup such that people in those regions have a greater ability to store fat due to the need to conserve in times of famine. Add in the lack of access to drugs, obesity leads to greater rates of diabetes and hypertension and in China for example, only 1/3 of hypertension patients receive medications. This issue is fascinating and I highly recommend perusing it. For a blog that posts on obesity in general as well as other issues, I would recommend the Med Journal Watch. Unfortunately the online links below only have free abstracts and not full articles, but you will get a decent sense of the article content:

The Global Paradox of Obesity and Malnutrition
A Question of Sustenance, abstract
Globalization ushered in a world in which more than a billion are overfed. Yet 800 million or so still suffer from hunger’s persistent scourge

The World Is Fat, abstract
How can the poorest countries fight obesity?

Still Hungry, abstract
One eighth of the world does not have enough to eat

Sowing a Gene Revolution, abstract
A new green revolution based on genetically modified crops could help reduce poverty and hunger, but only if formidable institutional challenges are met

Is Your Food Contaminated?, abstract
New approaches to protect the food supply

Sustainable Developments: Breaking the Poverty Trap by Jeffrey D. Sachs, abstract
Targeted investments can trump a region’s geographic disadvantages

Written by Aman

August 28, 2007 at 1:05 am

Bill Clinton on Giving

clinton.jpgThe new Bill Clinton book, Giving, features global health hero Paul Farmer and many others. He will be interviewed by Oprah on Sept. 4, 2007, the day his book on philanthropy and civic action is released. He will also be interviewed by Larry King and David Letterman (full press release here). Hat tip: Gift Hub.

From Amazon:
“Here, from Bill Clinton, is a call to action. Giving is an inspiring look at how each of us can change the world. First, it reveals the extraordinary and innovative efforts now being made by companies and organizations—and by individuals—to solve problems and save lives both “down the street and around the world.” Then it urges us to seek out what each of us, “regardless of income, available time, age, and skills,” can do to help, to give people a chance to live out their dreams.”

Written by Aman

August 28, 2007 at 1:04 am

Posted in Global Health

Global Health Diplomacy: Rx for Peace

An interesting commentary piece in yesterday’s Washington Post, excerpts below:

Health diplomacy: Rx for peace
Susan J. Blumenthal/ Elise Schlissel
The Washington Times
August 26, 2007

“A survey of Americans’ political and social values reveals that belief in the effectiveness of military power as a foreign policy tool has dropped to the lowest point in the last 20 years…This diminished confidence in military intervention as a cornerstone of international relations raises an obvious question: What other tools are available to advance U.S. interests in the world? Health diplomacy is an important and underutilized instrument in our nation’s foreign-policy toolbox.”

“More than 63 percent of the people infected with HIV live in Africa; 79 percent of the chronic disease burden is in the developing world. Whether “over there” is Africa, Southeast Asia or Latin America, inhabitants of the United States for far too long have seen little reason to worry. But Americans — and the world — have much to gain from increasing our focus on global health.”

“Health diplomacy is a means of self-preservation in an increasingly interconnected global community. SARS, H5N1 avian influenza, AIDS, TB — the list goes on and on — are only a jet plane away from America’s shores. Globalization facilitates the rapid response to health problems between rich and poor nations by quick mobilization of health professionals, medicines and supplies, and deployment of information technology for surveillance of diseases and sharing health information and best practices worldwide…”

“The United States spent $571.6 billion on defense last year alone, but spends only 0.14 percent of its gross national product on global health and development, the least of any major industrialized nation…”

“For example, the tsunami relief efforts in Indonesia: A poll found after the visit of two former U.S. presidents coupled with a commitment to invest significant funds toward rebuilding communities, support for the United States rose from 36 percent to 60 percent virtually overnight in the world’s largest Muslim country, while support for Osama bin Laden dropped from 58 percent to 28 percent.” Full commentary here.

Written by Aman

August 27, 2007 at 11:10 pm