Archive for the ‘Innovation’ Category
Thermal scanners purchased after the SARS outbreak have been mobilized for border screening. Super-cool, but do they work to stop the spread of an epidemic?
The New York Times led with this image, but now the story link has been updated. Here’s the original text by Donald G. McNeil, Jr. on border controls:
Given extensive human-to-human transmission, the World Health Organization raised its global pandemic flu alert level on Monday, but it recommended that borders not be closed nor travel bans imposed, noting that that the virus had already spread and that infected travelers might now show any symptoms.
However, many countries are tightening border and immigration controls, and on Tuesday Britain advised against any nonessential travel to Mexico. Japan announced that it would no longer allow Mexican travelers to obtain visas upon arrival. The United States, France and Germany have also warned against nonessential travel to Mexico.
Here’s my understanding of how it works: the thermal scanner camera detects infrared radiation (IR). Basically any object emits IR which intensifies as it gets hotter. The camera has a sensor which detects IR and converts it into a temperature reading. In this system it does it visually.
However, when you first get flu, you don’t have a temperature, and the thermal scanner only measures skin temperature on your face, so an early fever (which raises your core temperature) is also not detectable.
So – does it work? Work done by Bitar et al as a followup to SARS control was published in February 2009: International travels and fever screening during epidemics: a literature review on the effectiveness and potential use of non-contact infrared thermometers In the early stages of a pandemic when less than 1% of people will be feverish, fever screening at the border is of limited use – from the paper “When we fixed fever prevalence at 1% in all studies to allow comparisons, the derived positive predictive value varied from 3.5% to 65.4% ” So thermal scanners aren’t very useful when very few people have fever.
However, check out this view from William Saletan in Slate: Heat Check – Swine Flu, Body Heat and Airport Scanner
On another note, I’m wondering why journalists don’t seem to have quick access to infectious disease specialists. In the New York Times, an environmental health epidemiologist is quoted in the debate, and here in the Cape Times, a sociologist who now specializes in the public understanding of biology. Where are the infectious disease experts? Maybe the CDC needs to draw up a list of media contacts among their top virologists and infectious disease specialists. Maybe part of science education should be a course in writing on science for the public, as well as how to write (and read!) papers.
I recently discovered the UCLA Art|Global Health Center, the mission of which is to “unleash the transformative power of the arts to advance global health“. The arts have the ability to capture issues and tell a story in a way that can make a profound impact on our (social) consciousness and is not something we talk about enough as a tool. One of the more famous examples of this is the AIDS quilt which was conceived of in 1985 by an AIDS activist in memory of Harvey Milk. That quilt has had over 14 million visitors and is the largest community arts project in the world.
The UCLA center has some ongoing projects and last year opened “Make Art | Stop AIDS” that featured traditional art as well as things like condom dresses. Make Art/Stop AIDS “is organized around a series of seven interconnected and at times overlapping concerns expressed in the form of open-ended questions, some of which include direct art historical references to the epidemic: What is AIDS?; Who lives, who dies?; Condoms: what’s the issue?; Is it safe to touch?; When is the last time you cried?; What good does a red ribbon do?; Are you angry enough to do something about AIDS?; and, finally, Art is not enough. Now it’s in your hands.”
Creative art projects have the ability to move the human mind unlike the constant barrage of issues, numbers and headlines that desensitize us over time. If you have seen or heard of any interesting arts based global health projects let us know.
Adriana Bertinin’s condom dresses
Addressing HIV/AIDS-Related Grief and Healing Through Art
History of the AIDS Memorial Quilt
Condom fashion show, China
The WHO has decided to focus this World Health Day on hospital infrastructure during times of emergency. The folks over at Global Health Progress have a good round of what some bloggers are saying and include health journalism folks as well as thoughts from the AvianFlu diary. I thought I would go off theme and briefly throw out some thoughts on the bigger picture and encourage you to use this day to think about what is the future of global health? In this context of thinking about the future in 10, 20 or 30 years, the world is in turmoil and we are questioning the fundamental nature of market driven economies, why not use this as an opportunity to do the same for global health in a forward looking way? Think about where we are and whether we are prioritizing the right things and moving in the right directions?
Approximately 10 (only TEN!) years ago there was no Google, Kiva, Gates Foundation or knowledge about the cost differences between generic and brand name drugs (see this great talk on the Future of Global Health by Jim Yong Kim and his discussion of how they reduced the price of treating MDR TB patients by 80-90% in 1999) amongst major care organizations (absolutely stunning). Mobile phone penetration was less than 1% in developing countries and social entrepreneurship wasn’t hot, the vast majority of us probably hadn’t even heard of that term.
Where we were ten years ago is arguably a profoundly different world from where we are today and per the video below “we are living in exponential times“. To give you further inspiration to think differently today definitely watch the below (via 2173):
The acceleration of technology for social change and global health is going to increase, in this decade alone the convergence of movements in philanthropy, entrepreneurship and technology all enabled by the internet and mobile phone revolution have allowed people to collaborate, innovate and communicate on an entirely different level. I don’t know what the future of global health is – but I wonder how open source collaborations will contribute to solutions and whether twittering for global health will be around in five years and for whom and what purpose? Or will we just be doing more of the same. I wonder if we will be doing entire marketing and health education campaigns via mobile phones and how this will evolve. Will there be convergence of people and ideas working on global and domestic health? Will the flow of innovation and products from “South” to “North” become the next hot topic? I wonder if we will have a TED just for Global Health?
We might face a global crisis in 2030 but we will also be better equipped to face that crisis.Today is a day we should be thinking about what all the possibilities are and how we can get there in the fastest way possible. The last idea I will throw out as food for thought is to think about what have been the top 10 biggest developments in global health in the last decade and how will these shape the future?
Update: Voting opened Monday and will close Friday 3pm Pacific time. We are expecting a high turnout. Your support will be critical. To cast a ballot voters need to select three projects.
NetSquared has a new social challenge “N2Y4“. Voting opens Monday and Melissa and I submitted a proposal called “ClaimsMobile” to the new competition. “ClaimsMobile” is a mobile phone and web database application for management of patients’ medical and financial information in a Uganda output-based healthcare project. We have been working with partners at the Mbarara University, the NGO Marie Stopes International Uganda, and small private clinics in the region. Check it out. Voting starts April 6th (Monday) 11 AM California time and runs for five days. If you like our idea, vote for it… and be sure to look through the range of amazing proposals – everything from education to international justice to community programs. The word cloud says it all.
There seem to be a lot of “social challenges” these days. In the past nine months, I’ve been asked to vote for a Peace Corps projects photo idea at NameYourDreamAssignment, a girls’ tuition fund in Burkina Faso, a geotourism project in Ecuador, a women in sport challenge, as well as support a handful of ideas among the 7875 proposals submitted to the popular Ideas for Change in America campaign; all hosted on platforms like Ashoka ChangeMakers, GlobalGiving, NetSquared, and Change.org.
These challenges, like California ballot initiatives, work best if voters take the time to learn the issues. Spend some time to select projects from an area you know or have a great deal of interest – the NetSquare’s word cloud is a useful first step to sort ideas. If that fails, Stoltz at Web2…Oh Really recommends picking the project with the least votes… and I’ll close by suggesting “ClaimsMobile” for your short list.
It’s been more than two years since we reported on Seattle as the new Geneva, that is, as the new epicenter of global health activity. An article in this morning Journal-Sentinel (Water-engineering firms see potential, challenge in developing countries) – which includes an exclusive interview with the Acumen Fund’s chief executive Jacqueline Novogratz – suggests that Milwaukee is angling to do the same for water technology:
It’s an issue that almost certainly will preoccupy business leaders in metro Milwaukee in their strategy to brand the region as an international hub of water technology. The metro area is home to scores of water-engineering companies. Gov. Jim Doyle and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee this month announced plans to invest millions of dollars for UWM to become a center of freshwater research.
An 2008 article from the same newspaper (Area’s tide could turn on water technology) provides more evidence:
[F]our of the world’s 11 largest water-technology companies have a significant presence in southeastern Wisconsin, according to an analysis of data from a new Goldman Sachs report.
Wall Street has tracked automakers, railroads and retailers almost since there were stocks and bonds. But water remains a novelty. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. didn’t begin to research water treatment as a stand-alone industrial sector until late 2005.
While several large MNCs have shown an active interest in clean water in developing countries (e.g., Procter and Gamble, Vestergaard Frandsen, Dow) open questions remain as to what role large MNCs will play in providing access to safe water for the one billion people who don’t have it.
(Thanks to Dr. Jessica Granderson for sending the link)
Cross-posted from Design Research for Global Health.
Giving talks is not one of my strong suits, but it seems to be a part of the job requirement. Earlier this month, I had the opportunity (even though I’m no good, I do consider it an opportunity), to give a couple talks, one to the Interdisciplinary MPH Program at Berkeley and one to a group of undergraduate design students, also at Berkeley. Despite the difference in focus, age, and experience of the two groups, the topic was roughly the same: How do we effectively use design thinking as an approach in public health?
The first session was so-so, and I suspect that the few people who were excited about it were probably excited in spite of the talk. It started well, but about halfway through, something began to feel very wrong and that feeling didn’t go away until some time later that evening. Afterwards, I received direct feedback from the instructor and from the students in the form of an evaluation. I recommend this if it is ever presented as an option. Like any “accident”, this one was a “confluence of factors”: lack of clarity and specificity, allowing the discussion to get sidetracked, poor posture, and a tone that conveyed a lack of excitement for the topic.
It’s one thing to get feedback like this, another to act on it.
The second session went much better, gauging by the student feedback, the comments from the instructor, and my own observations. This in spite of a larger group (60 vs. 20) that would be harder to motivate (undergraduates with midterms vs. professionals working on applied problems in public health). I chalk it all up to preparation and planning. Certainly there are people that are capable of doing a great job without preparation – I just don’t think I’m one of those people.
Most of that preparation by the way was not on slides. I did use slides, but only had five for an hour session and that still proved to be too many. Most of the time that I spent on slides, I spent developing a single custom visual to convey precisely the information that was relevant to the students during this session (see image). The rest of the preparation was spent understanding the audience needs by speaking to those running the class; developing a detailed plan for the hour, focusing on how to make the session a highly interactive learning experience; designing quality handouts to support the interactive exercise; and doing my necessary homework. For this last one, I spent 20 minutes on the phone with a surgeon friend, since the session was built around a case study discussing surgical complications and design.
Three resources I found really useful:
- Why Bad Presentations Happen to Good Causes, Andy Goodman, 2006. This commissioned report was developed to help NGOs with their presentations, but I think there is value here for anyone whose work involves presentations. It is evidence-based and provides practical guidance on session design, delivery, slides (PowerPoint), and logistics. Most importantly, it is available as a free download. I was fortunate enough to pick up a used copy of the print edition for US$9 at my local bookstore, which was worth the investment for me because of the design of the physical book. It’s out-of-print now and it looks like the online used copies are quite expensive – at least 3x what I paid – so I recommend the PDF.
- Envisioning Information, Edward Tufte, 1990. I read this when I was writing my dissertation. Folks in design all know about Tufte, but I still recommend a periodic refresher. This is the sort of book that will stay on my shelf. Also potentially useful is The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. For those working in global health, don’t forget how important the display of information can be: (a) Bill Gates and the NYTimes, (b) Hans Rosling at TED.
- Software for creating quality graphics. The drawing tools built into typical office applications, though they have improved in recent years, are still limited in their capability and flexibility, especially if you’re looking at #2 above. In the past 10 days, three people in my socio-professional network have solicited advice on such standalone tools, OmniGraffle (for Mac) and Visio (Windows): a graphic designer in New York, an energy research scientist in California, and a healthcare researcher in DC. Both are great options. I use OmniGraffle these days, though I used to use Visio a few years back. If cost is an issue, there are open-source alternatives available, though I’m not at all familiar with them (e.g., the Pencil plug-in for Firefox).