Global Health Ideas

Finding global health solutions through innovation and technology

Archive for October 2007

World Toilet Summit 2007

World Toilet Summit 2007 LogoAs BBC reports, the World Toilet Summit 2007, which was scheduled to be inaugurated by former Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, is being convened in New Delhi from 31-Oct until 3-Nov.  The summit has been organized by NGO Sulabh International Social Service Organisation and is supported by various Indian ministries along with UN Habitat New Delhi.  Fourty countries are reported to be participating in this meeting which in recent years took place in Russia, Northern Ireland, and China .  For reference, UNICEF provides a mid-term assessment regarding the Millennium Development Goal drinking water and sanitation target.

Written by Jaspal

October 31, 2007 at 7:59 am

Charlie Rose on Global Health

Charlie Rose often conducts fantastic interviews, he hosts four experts in an hour long interview that you can watch for free:


Written by Aman

October 30, 2007 at 6:44 pm

The 88 Worst Fast Food Items

The “a Calorie Counter” site came up with this catchy and interesting analysis of the worst fast food joints as determined by the worst trans fat offenders (hat tip to Big Picture). As the post states – “The absolute worst ingredient your food could possibly contain is trans fat. Maybe you’ve heard of it? ” The top offenders, ranked by the numbers of times they appeared in the top 88, were:

  • Jack in the Box: 24 times
  • Burger King: 16 times
  • White Castle: 16 times
  • A&W: 10 times
  • Dairy Queen: 8 times

For the exact listing of specific meals and fast food chains check out “a Calorie Counter” here.

Currently, everyone knows that the US is the leading fast food market in the world as you can see in the below graphic from WorldMapper (via Creative Class). The scary thing about this picture is that it is apparently sourced from a McDonald’s campaign absurdly and insultingly called “One World – One Taste“, which begs the question of whether some fast food chains are engaging in a type of food genocide. The fact that the US is the largest market, only means that so called emerging markets represent a largely untapped source of growth for various chains. The growth will be explosive, India alone is witnessing 40% growth in this area (via Siliconeer, search for “fast food” on this page).


We did a previous post on obesity in developing countries that you can see for more sources along with the WHO page on this issue… For additional fast food facts you can check out the Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, here are some select ones:

  • Two-thirds of all cardiovascular deaths occur in developing countries.
  • Approximately 20,000 new food and beverage products are introduced into the market each year.
  • In some parts of Africa, overweight children outnumber malnourished children three to one.
  • Of America’s 15 top-rated hospitals, 6 have fast food franchises in the lobby.

Written by Aman

October 29, 2007 at 7:03 am

Leveraging University Research to Advance Global Health

The latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association has a commentary by “members of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) outlining policy changes universities must adopt in order to advance global health.”Check it out…

Written by Aman

October 28, 2007 at 3:12 pm

Poor air quality after California fires safer than indoor air from biomass-burning in low-income countries

A Berkeley school of public health prof recently posted to the SPH listserv a great NASA link to high altitude photos of the southern California fires. You can click through several days worth of pics and see what conditions were like prior to the fires as well as tell when the winds kicked up as they carried dust plumes in areas unaffected by fire (for instance Oct 22nd).

The point the prof made was that as bad as the air is there, the particulate matter density of 200-300 micrograms per cubic meter (10x greater than average figures for US cities) is still less than the levels typically seen in biomass-burning homes in the developing world.

More efficient, hotter burning charcoal stoves are one immediate solution to indoor particulate matter (i.e. soot) in low-income homes. In Uganda for instance, Kampala residents use a huge amount of charcoal (my own estimate…) every day. The city’s air, not to mention the air in individual homes, has a great deal of suspended soot – you can easily smell it across the city during the peak cooking hours. Venture Strategies for Health and Development in Berkeley, together with an innovative Kampala for-profit stove manufacturer, are marketing the hotter burning stoves through targeted subsidies financed in part with carbon credits.

Perhaps one silver lining to the devastation in southern California will be greater awareness of the importance of high air quality.

Written by Ben

October 25, 2007 at 8:14 am

The Singe Best Global Health Intervention

Which single intervention would do the most to improve health of those living on less than $1 a day?

The public library open access journal Medicine asked this question to leading experts across a wide variety of domains. There certainly is no consensus answer:

“PLoS Medicine is participating in a global theme issue on poverty and human development on October 22, 2007 ( Over 200 scientific and medical journals are taking part. For our theme issue, we asked a wide variety of commentators worldwide—including clinicians, medical researchers, health reporters, policy makers, health activists, and development experts—to name the single intervention that they think would improve the health of those living in poverty. We also asked four individuals living in poor, rural agricultural communities in the Santillana district, province of Huanta, Ayacucho, Peru to give us their response to the question, “What do you think would do the most to improve your health and the health of your family?”

Check out some of the answers here

Written by Aman

October 24, 2007 at 8:37 pm

Forbes on Fixing Healthcare in Africa

Its great to see a generally conservative business magazine discussing positive, successful global health efforts in Africa. Forbes has 3 very recent pieces that are worth skimming. Again, this is yet another indication of increasing convergence of the social and business sectors that we had previously profiled (trends in global health coverage by the business press).

The Rwanda Cure: Success Stories
Forbes Oct 29.2007, link

Western do-gooders are pouring billions of dollars into ontrolling malaria, AIDS and other killers ravaging the world’s poorest continent. Now comes the hard part…Some of what sub-Saharan Africa needs is new technology, like a malaria vaccine. But what’s needed most, particularly in Africa, is better logistics.

“The hardest truth for people to come to terms with is that the practical solutions are already out there, but they are not being applied…Donors always want to do something new. The simple things aren’t so glamorous.” Full story 

In Pictures: Seven Ways To Fix Health Care In Africa
Follow this link 

HealthStore to expand to Rwanda, link
How do you get basic care to the remotest villages in Africa? One clever idea is to borrow tactics from retail chains like McDonald’s and Subway–operate an easy-to-replicate, owner-operated franchise system focusing on health care.With a budget of under $1 million a year, HealthStore Foundation subsidizes nurses in rural areas to run 65 for-profit retail clinics in Kenya that provide basic treatments for malaria, respiratory infections and worms.

Nurses pay about $300 to buy a clinic, and sell medicines for a modest profit at a retail price of $1. The 65 clinics run under the name CFW Shops and treated 400,000 patients last year. Many are run by retired nurses lured back to work by the prospect of owning their own business.
Full story here.

Written by Aman

October 16, 2007 at 8:49 am

Using Virtual Online Worlds to Research Epidemics

This is a fascinating idea that was sent to me by Cat Laine over at AIDG. I know I am always raving about their blog, but really if you haven’t managed to check it out – go over there right now. Onto the story which may or may not have benefits for modeling real world epidemics: “A fantasy plague that accidentally ran amok in the Internet’s most popular game world, populated by nine million flesh-and-blood players, may help scientists predict the impact of genuine epidemics…”

This story is not only a case of researchers being very innovative but also yet another example of how the business world is getting invovled and make a contribution to solving global health problems. The company that makes World of Warcraft is Vivendi a, giant global media company, that has entered into dicussions to possibly provide scientific data for research.

Online gamers rehearse real-world epidemics
“Virtual playgrounds such as World of Warcraft, launched in 2004, could soon become testing grounds for the all-too-real battle against bird flu, malaria or some as yet unknown killer virus….As technology and biology become more heavily integrated in daily life, this small step towards the interaction of virtual viruses and humans could become highly significant.

The unlikely path to a collaboration between hard science and hard-core gaming began in late 2005, when Blizzard programmers introduced a highly contagious disease — dubbed “Corrupted Blood” — into a newly created zone of the game’s Byzantine environment.

World of Warcraft is a “multiplayer online role-playing game” in which players — numbering in the tens, or hundreds of thousands — use computer-controlled avatars to fight battles, form alliances, and dialogue simultaneously on the Internet. At first the “patch”, as new elements such as the disease are called, worked as expected: experienced players shrugged it off like a bad cold, and weaker ones were left with disabled avatars.

But then things spun out of control. As in reality, some of those carrying the virus slipped back into the virtual world’s densely populated cities, rapidly infecting their defenseless inhabitants. The disease also spread — much like real influenza or the plague — via domesticated animals abandoned by players for fear of infecting their avatars, leaving the sickened pets to roam freely. Programmers tried to set up quarantines, but they were ignored. Finally, they resorted to an option not available in the real world: they shut down the servers and rebooted the system.

This was the first time that a virtual virus has infected a virtual human being in a manner resembling an actual epidemiological event…To date, epidemiologists have relied heavily on mathematical simulations to forecast the spread of contagious diseases across large populations.” But crunching numbers has limitations, says Fefferman. “There is no way to model how people will behave” in a pubic crisis, she said.

“How many will run away from a quarantine? Will they become more or less cooperative if they are scared? We simply don’t know.” Which is where the virtual netherworlds come into the picture. They can help scientists to “feed appropriate parameters into existing epidemiological models,” she said.

Other video game uses for public health:
1) The Wii (check out this review of the Wii for health, Nintendo’s Wii finds use in physical therapy)

2) Public health games

Written by Aman

October 12, 2007 at 5:21 pm

Lancet Global Health Blog Part II

The Lancet now has two sites/blogs dedicated to global health. For those outside the public health/medical realm, The Lancet is one of the top journals in these fields. Their blog on the main site has not really been updated on a regular basis, so for that reason alone, another site is a welcome change. This site, focused on students, already has some youthful energy. The Lancet Student has been up for the past couple of months and they are going forward full force and really trying to create a campaign of change. They are working hard to develop a community and the site seems to have a lot of potential that I am excited about because they seem to be setting up an ecosystem to draw more attention to global health issues by energizing a passionate student base. The entry of such a major player, voice and authority using web-based interaction (primarily blogging in this case) in the global health field is long overdue. Ever since I started this blog I have felt that even a simple and dedicated site by a major organization could go light years further than an individual could alone (such as the THD blog). Keep an eye on them as the evolve:

“The is a beta site for medical students from around the world and in keeping with The Lancet, it has a strong focus on global health.”

Read more in their “About Us” section.

Written by Aman

October 9, 2007 at 5:26 am

Posted in Global Health

Life Saving Design: Coke Can Syringe Disposal

I lifted this from our good friend Jose over at Little Devices that Could. It was part of the INDEX: Design to Improve Life competition (see People’s Choice Award 2007). Business Week has a full profile of this invention that you should see for clear pictures and a description of the safe locking mechanism. Also the comments section bring up some good questions about using a soda can for disposal. Check out the BW story: Life-Saving Design.

The Problem:
According to the WHO, some 16 billion injections are administered globally. In 2005, contaminated needles led to 260,000 HIV infections, 1.3 million early deaths, and 23 million cases of hepatitis. WHO researchers estimate that as many as 50% of injections in developing countries might be unsafe.

One Solution:
Antivirus, the simple design she came up with as a result of her childhood ordeal, just scooped the People’s Choice prize at the prestigious Index: Awards, touted by organizers as the world’s largest design prize…Antivirus is a lightweight plastic cap that fastens to any metal soft drink or beer can, which medics can use to remove and sequester dangerous syringes…The straightforward concept transforms a ubiquitous piece of trash into a potentially life-saving device. See more at Business Week.


Written by Aman

October 1, 2007 at 7:35 pm