Global Health Ideas

Finding global health solutions through innovation and technology

Archive for August 2008

Off the Grid for One Month

Starting tomorrow I am going to go “off the grid” until mid to late September, no (or at least very little) computer use, email or blogging. Tomorrow we will all be getting together. With Jaspal back from Mongolia this week, Ben back from Uganda this month, Mahad back from Jordan and South Africa it is going to be great to link up with them this weekend near Niagara Falls. After a few weeks I’ll be back at it.

In the meantime I will leave you with a few links and a few other blogs to check out:

1. Safe sex ring tone sings ‘Condom, condom!’, link
2. From Indian IT Tycoon, Health Care for the Poor, link
3. Want to raise $2500 in 90 minutes? link

There are many blogs to read, here are a three that are new to me over the last few months:

UN Dispatch
PSI Behavior Change Blog
– Vanessa’s public health musings

And my longstanding favorites are of course AIDG and NextBillion.


Written by Aman

August 27, 2008 at 10:11 pm

Posted in Global Health

Mobile Phones & Global Health III: Ultrasound, Imaging & ECG to Go!

1. Microsoft is funding research in Argentina and India into low-cost electrocardiogram (ECG) machines. The devices, which can cost less than $100, use cell phones to transmit data to a computer, where it can be analyzed and then conveyed to a doctor.

2. Using Rubinsky’s gear, a doctor could use a cell-phone screen to view a cross section of tissue. In this image, a doctor uses a cell phone to magnify a patient’s breast tissue and examine it for a tumor.
SOURCE: Business Week

This is our third post on mobile phones and international/global health (post 1, post 2). This post is largely imcomplete, but I wanted to get it up. The above pics and quotes below are based on a feature in Business Week:

“It’s not easy to lug an ultrasound machine into a remote village’s health clinic—much less keep it running. But a cell phone? No problem…”

“According to the World Health Organization, about half of the imaging equipment sent to developing countries goes unused because local technicians aren’t trained to operate it or lack the necessary spare parts. So researchers are stepping up efforts to employ wireless technologies to deliver crucial medical services, particularly in underserved areas…Scientists from the University of California, Berkeley, have just developed a prototype technology that uses cell phones to deliver imaging information to doctors.”

“The University of California professor says that by reducing a complex electromagnetic imaging machine to a portable electromagnetic scanner that can work in tandem with a regular cell phone and a computer, he has essentially replicated a $10,000 piece of equipment for just hundreds of dollars.”

Another source – Imaging technology could be useful in poor countries:
Some types of medical imaging could become cheaper and more accessible to millions of people in the developing world if an innovative concept developed by an engineer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem fulfils its promise. The device uses cellular phone technology to transmit magnetic resonance images, computed tomograms, and ultrasound scans (PLoS One 2008;3:e2075; doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002075)

One other recent article in this area, from PC World –
Mobile Phones and the Digital Divide: Whether you’re building an application for the 3G iPhone in the United States or trying to figure out how to deliver health information via SMS (Short Message Service) to a rural community in Botswana, the mobile space is diverse and exciting in equal measure.

Also be sure to check out:
– Why people seek out health information, link

Written by Aman

August 27, 2008 at 9:58 pm

Virtual Spaces: The ‘being’ of better global health management and leadership

More from our leadership and management folks over at MSH. By Sylvia Vriesendorp:

Leading and managing is not just about doing things differently by intentionally using the practices that we have identified for managing and leading. There is also a ‘being’ element involved. One of the things we have discovered as we implement our programs that shifts are taking place in the way people are and in their perspective on their work. We have called these “leader shifts.’

We have observed five shifts:
1. A shift from a focus on the lone heroic leader who will save us and solve our problems to the power of collaborative action that is fueled by commitment and a personal stake in success.

2. A shift from pessimism, despair and cynicism to a sense of hope, possibility and optimism.

3. A shift from blaming others to identifying challenges and taking personal responsibility to tackle them, one at a time.

4. A shift from intense busy-ness and multiple streams of activities by different groups and people that do not add up to significant positive change to coherent action by multiple parties that is driven by a shared purpose.

5. A shift from a focus on self and one’s own comfort and well-being to generosity and a concern for the greater good.

These shifts are not permanent, once made. Each time we find ourselves in a corner or a bad place, we tend to shift back to the left side: waiting for someone to save us, pessimism, blaming others or other things for our situation, incoherent action, if any and a focus on our own needs. It takes awareness and focus to shift back to the right column.

So a critical question in enabling and developing leadership is what tools might be available to do so. One are we have explored is support in a virtual space, as such we can reframe the question to this – Can we develop leadership in virtual space?
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Aman

August 25, 2008 at 4:16 am

Food for Thought: Death and Recovery after the China Earthquake

I am fascinated by “alternate” modes of thinking, being and doing. This op-ed in the NY Times about interviews they conducted with people after the massive earthquake in China this summer is a perfect example of this. It is a short read, I encourage you to check it out.

Where’s the Trauma and the Grief? NY Times August 2008
“Three months ago, an earthquake struck China’s Sichuan Province, killing nearly 70,000 people…To my eyes, this part of the region looks forlorn. Houses and stores have been reduced to empty shells. Piles of rubble line the streets…”

“I asked if people in the village have suffered any psychological aftershocks from the trauma. Another villager, Tan Fubian, piped up and said that they just try not to think about it. These were weird, unnerving interviews, and I don’t pretend to understand what’s going on in the minds of people who have suffered such blows and remained so optimistic. All I can imagine is that the history of this province has given these people a stripped-down, pragmatic mentality: Move on or go crazy. Don’t dwell. Look to the positive. Fix what needs fixing. Work together.”

“I don’t know if it’s emotionally sustainable or even healthy, but it raises at least one interesting question. When you compare these people to the emotional Sturm und Drang over lesser things on reality TV, you do wonder if we Americans are a nation of whiners.”

Written by Aman

August 24, 2008 at 3:13 pm

Posted in Global Health

2000 Nominations needed: Life-Changing Tech for the World’s Poor

By Sept 1 Please vote for AIDG (Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group) to help them get $500K, only 9 days left! I have great respect for the folks over there and what they are doing. Click on the image below for more information. Here is the AIDG blog and here is a short description of their project is below. Your vote can help push them to the next round:

“Half the world lives on less than $2 a day, but there are few products made for them other than by charity NGOs and universities. Look around yourself. Much of what you will see was made and marketed by a major corporation. I want to bring together experts in development engineering to help corporations create products that will alleviate poverty for people in developing countries. The right products can bring clean water, save weeks of labor, and help the poor lift themselves out of poverty.”

Written by Aman

August 23, 2008 at 11:28 am

Beijing Olympic Cause Marketing & Global Health Ads

We previously mentioned the malaria ad sponsored by ExxonMobil during the Olympics. I have seen this several times now during coverage and said in the original post:

“with regard to ExxonMobil’s commercial on Malaria during prime time, when over 1 Billion people were watching, this might have been the largest audience ever for a global health ad.”

I realized after I said this that I probably made a major miscalculation. The NBC channel broadcast I have been watching is only produced for an American audience. The top estimates I have seen for viewership at a given time hit 66 million people. So while Exxon may have had their ad broadcast across countries and major national networks, it is likely that somewhere between tens and hundreds of millions of people saw their commercial – which is still an impressive number. Thanks to Responsible China I found the youtube version of this ad, which is below. In addition I have also seen GE’s portable re-designed low cost EKG machine advertised several times as well. Despite what you may think about these companies it is better than nothing to see MNC’s promoting social causes. We blogged about the EKG machine previously and the commercial is the first one below, followed by the malaria ad. For another check, definitely check out ResponsibleChina.

Written by Aman

August 23, 2008 at 7:23 am

Safety Net – ProMED mail, SARS and H5N1

ProMED – mail is a global electronic reporting system for emerging infections. It was created over a decade ago when personal email was new and the list-serv was the latest word.  The virtues of  ProMED is that it is fast, low-tech, egalitarian, bottom-up, open and transparent.  It is modern disease surveillance that delivers facts to those who need to know.  It began, according to current editor, Larry Madoff, MD, as an idea “Wouldn’t it be great if people who had access to the Internet in far-flung places, and were seeing something unusual, could send an email to this list?  We wouldn’t have to wait for a public health laboratory to notify the Under Minister of ..Health, who would notify the Minister, who would notify the World Health Organization.  We would all know at once.”  Email messages to the list are selected into a few posts each day, which are moderated and commented on by a panel of experts and then sent around the world.

Don’t underestimate simplicity – ProMED alerted the world to the SARS epidemic.

Safety Net – by Madeline Drexler
On February 9, 2003, Catherine Strommen, an elementary school teacher in California, took one last look at her favorite chat room,, before going to bed.  One of the posts came from China, from “Ben” who described an illness that began like a cold, but killed people in days.  Several people he knew had died, and hospital doors were locked.

Alarmed, Strommen emailed an old neighbor and friend, Stephen Cunnion, MD, a retired Navy physician and epidemiologist who now lived in Maryland.  A practical, no-nonsense man, Cunnion started searching the web.  With no success, he tried a new tack – sending an email to ProMED-mail.  After quoting Strommen’s missive, he asked: “Does anyone know anything about this problem?”

The tiny ProMED staff conducted its own web search.  It, too, came up empty handed.  On February 10, it sent out to tens of thousands of subscribers a posting headed: “PNEUMONIA – CHINA (GUANGDONG): Request for Information.”

Thus did the world first learn of SARS, the new and deadly infection that had begun in November 2002, and would kill 774 people and infect 8,000 in 27 countries.  The next day the World Health Organization issued a belated bulletin on the raging epidemic…

Read more of Madeline Drexler’s article here.

Now we’re in the age of H5N1, and as of Monday, ProMED-mail has decided to report suspect human cases of H5N1 from Indonesia.

Here are a few excerpts from the many responses from readers:

I write in support of reporting H5N1 cases, even if unconfirmed by
the relevant authorities. The best example of [the benefit of] such a
policy is that of SARS [severe acute respiratory syndrome], which was picked up by ProMED-mail before official acknowledgement, and which many believe played a significant role in the subsequent efforts leading to its containment. Further, as a matter of consistency, ProMED-mail does not wait for official word before reporting on any of many other outbreaks elsewhere in the world.
– —
Henry Huang
Dept. of Molecular Microbiology
Washington U. School of Medicine
St Louis, MO, USA

If ProMED-mail continues this policy of not reporting suspect cases
of infectious disease when a country is in flagrant violation of the
IHR (and basic common sense public health), then ProMED will be of
little use. Such a policy merely encourages other miscreants to do the same.

– —
Len Peruski, PhD
Associate Professor (Adjunct)
Microbiology and Immunology
Indiana University School of Medicine, Northwest Center

The last thing we need is to play ostrich and delaying tactics games
with HPAI [highly pathogenic avian influenza] outbreaks in any part
of the world. Experts should be trusted with enough pre-confirmatory judgment to alert cases of suspected HPAI, rather than play a waiting game that could cost the world millions of lives if we fail to prepare and take precautionary actions. Waiting games could be costly. A report indicating a new strain of HPAI in Nigeria is worrying enough, but not galvanizing steps to stop or slow down the spread of the virus anywhere in the world is like sitting on an atomic bomb waiting for the right trigger.

– —
Babatunde Bello
Lagos, Nigeria

I was so disappointed in your recent decision on suspect bird flu
cases in Indonesia. We are not getting any valuable information from Indonesia and very, very little from [elsewhere]. ProMED-mail has always been an excellent source of news on disease outbreaks, and you have always marked them as suspect until confirmation, so why do you want to treat something as deadly as the H5N1 virus any differently?
I ask you to reconsider your decision. It is the RIGHT thing to do.

– —
Carol Owens

In my opinion you are definitely NOT creating alarm and despondency.  Suspected cases are, as a rule, looked up and followed by experienced ProMED ‘watchers’ who can weigh the information and be alert if necessary. Being alert is quite different from being alarmed. The disclaimer of ProMED-mail is clear enough about the intent to be as truthful as possible, and holding the reader responsible and implicitly capable of taking the risk resulting from reading the posts.

I am in favor of ProMED-mail posting on all known and suspected cases of human H5N1 or other types of human ‘bird’ flu.

– —
Dr. T. Veenema
The Netherlands

And now, the official decision from ProMED moderators:

ProMED’s motive in seeking to screen out unsubstantiated reports of suspected human cases of H5N1 avian influenza from Indonesia was simply to avoid creating alarm and despondency.

ProMED-mail has now decided to report all suspected human cases of H5N1 from Indonesia because the usual flow of information – first suspect and then confirmation — is disrupted there because of their public health policy.

In countries where the standard flow is working properly, it is counterproductive to report suspects because many of them will not be confirmed as positive, thereby causing undue alarm. Over time, this could have the effect of “crying wolf” (repeated false alarms leading to a true alarm being ignored).

ProMED – mail is an effort of the International Society of Infectious Diseases

Written by farzaneh

August 20, 2008 at 4:08 am

Posted in Global Health