Category Archives: healthcare

The Neglected Egyptian Protest

About two years ago around this time, crowds of protest movements were enveloping the Middle East and North Africa. Protestors were coming together to work towards better representation of people that had the capacity to serve the larger population, rather than the upper elite. In Egypt, particularly about two years ago around this time, the former President of Egypt of 30 years, Hosni Mubarak, was forced to step down.

The Middle East region includes about 20 countries, with almost 400 million people living within its span. Of this population, about 65 million people live on less than $2 US dollars a day. Egypt has the largest number of people living in poverty in the Middle East, with 18 percent out of 80.4 million living on less than US$2 per day. Loose labor laws, a lack of strong physical infrastructure and a weakened sense of social justice amounted to an overwhelming amount of unsatisfied civilians that took to Tahrir Square in 2011 and have since been fighting for their just representation by government officials.

Economic burdens and restraints, like those that have affected a large portion of Egypt’s population, not only lead to inequality of employment, resources and infrastructure, but they can also eventually lead to the regression of physical health. When you have such a large population living in under-privileged circumstances, people walk a very thin line of safety when it comes to health services. It may not have stood out as a single issue that raised headlines during the protests, but the lack of policy that suppressed the spread of diseases is also a result of government neglect.

Continue reading

The End is in Sight: Progress towards Trachoma Control and Elimination


Trachoma is one of the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness, affecting populations prone to poverty and with limited access to clean water and sanitation. While the disease is primarily transmitted through contact with the infected person’s eye discharge, it can also be carried through flies. As a bacterial infection, trachoma causes scarring on the inside of an eyelid and repeated exposure can eventually lead to trichiasis, when the eyelids turn inwards. The impacts of trichiasis over time – eyelashes scraping against the cornea each time the eye blinks – leads to blindness.

This devastating disease is most commonly found in poor communities, often in Africa and Asia. However, in a recent publication discussing the need for elimination and control of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), including trachoma, Sabin president Dr. Peter  Hotez and his co-authors stressed the high rates of disease burden in the Oceania region (Australia and the Pacific Islands).

In an interview with Girish Sawlani of ABC Radio Australia, Dr. Hotez discussed the unexpectedly high rate of NTDs within populous and poor regions in Oceania, such as Papua New Guinea and the Aboriginal populations in Australia. He compared his concern for the “hidden burden of disease” to the exposure of NTDs in places like Sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia. Trachoma currently impacts approximately 41 million people across 57 different countries that don’t have access to proper resources or knowledge that would assist in reducing exposure to the disease.

In spite of the highly endemic situation, strides have been made to control or even eliminate trachoma across various platforms. The World Health Organization (WHO) has been using a comprehensive public health strategy, better known as SAFE, to treat trachoma patients through a combination of surgery (S), antibiotics (A), facial cleanliness (F) and environmental educational efforts (E). In Australia, professor of indigenous eye health at Melbourne University, Hugh Taylor, has further encouraged research and action against trachoma. Taylor estimates that trachoma and related blindness can be “virtually eliminated in five years” with access to appropriate funds in Australia.

The cooperation between organizations working to control trachoma in the Oceanic region and government aid figures will play a critical role in not only improving health concerns, but also addressing issues regarding the economy and social action. AusAID is currently working with organizations, such as the Fred Hollows Foundation, to strengthen partnerships and stimulate research and action in order to bring an end to the spread of trachoma in the region.

Pilot Case Study: Do Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) Improve access to pharmaceuticals in Uganda?

Check out this interesting recent pilot study from the Initiative for Public-Private Partnerships for Health, a research initiative out of the Global Forum for Health Research, whose goal is to improve public-private collaborations for health.

The UK Department for International Development (DFID) funded the Initiative on Public-Private Partnerships for Health (IPPPH)1 to conduct a pilot study in Uganda to assess the health and health systems impact of public-private partnerships (PPPs) for improving access to pharmaceuticals in relation to leprosy, lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, sleeping sickness, and HIV/AIDS. The specific remit was to examine issues of ownership, integration, coordination, implementation and impact, with a particular focus on the unique strengths and problems of these access PPPs as distinct from other comparable programs where drugs are competitively procured. Fieldwork visits were made to five districts in Uganda –Hoima, Kampala, Katakwi, Masaka and Soroti – selected on the basis of active implementation of the PPP programs […]

Read the full pilot study here.

Give me a sample, wash your hands, and take this pill.

By: Valerie Fitton-Kane

When you go to the doctor for a check-up, do you go just to get your blood pressure checked?  Probably not.  More than likely, your doctor checks your blood pressure, listens to your heart, takes a blood sample, and asks you lots of questions about your physical and mental symptoms.  You talk to him or her about that funny rash you had last week, and you ask for a refill on your birth control or allergy medication.  This is integrated healthcare.  Our doctors never just test for or treat one disease when they see you.  They test you for anything and everything … and they cover off contraception and other preventative care while they’re at it.

Meanwhile, our public health experts and government officials are providing all sorts of services that, while we don’t often think of them in terms of health, they do help to keep us healthy.  For example, they ensure clean, uncontaminated water comes out of your kitchen faucet every morning.  And they’re helping to drill it into your head that you need to wash your hands when you finish in the bathroom … and darn it, you better wash them correctly.

In developing countries, there aren’t always doctors and nurses, public health experts, or strong governments to provide all of these services.  Quite often, there are non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that specialize in delivering a few key services such as the treatment of eye diseases or the building of wells to provide clean water.  Some organizations, such as CARE or Save the Children, have expanded to provide a range of different services, but quite often it takes many government and non-government groups with various specialties to deliver all the services that you and I are used to.  And even then, service delivery is often pretty uneven because most of the organizations that deliver these services have to ask for donations from people like us in order to pay for the work they do.

Continue reading