These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
This African Smart Card Helps Catch Disease Outbreaks
“Facebook has noticed something that other companies would do well to heed: The biggest opportunity right now isn't in smartphones, where users are bombarded by the fruits of an ever-more-competitive market for apps and mobile services. Rather, the big play for some companies, especially any that wish to expand into emerging markets, is on the "dumbphones" — aka non-smartphones or, in industry parlance, feature phones — that most people in rich countries have now left behind.
The Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 (GBD 2010), a systematic effort to assess the global distribution and causes of major diseases, injuries, and health risk factors, was launched last week in London.
And a special issue of The Lancet has published its results (http://www.thelancet.com/themed/global-burden-of-disease).
What are some of the main findings for Africa that can be drawn from the GBD 2010?
- Since 1990, the largest gains in life expectancy worldwide occurred in sub-Saharan African countries, especially in Angola, Ethiopia, Niger and Rwanda, where life expectancy increased by 12-15 years for men and women. Overall, male life expectancy increased from 48.8 in 1990 to 53.2 years in 2010 in central sub-Saharan Africa, 50.9 to 59.4 years in eastern sub-Saharan Africa, and 53.0 to 57.9 years in western sub-Saharan Africa.
What inspires change? What has impact on policy? What really motivates us to do social good?
Here’s one story from my past that I’ll never forget.
In 1987, Dr. Paul Farmer and I and a few others helped start a group called Partners in Health to provide access to quality health care to the poor. In the beginning, the majority of our work was centered in Haiti. Seven years later, in 1994, we set up a program in Carabayllo, a settlement on the outskirts of Lima, Peru.
We began our program in Peru because a good friend of ours -- Father Jack Roussin – said we must. He said the area needed a much stronger primary health system, and so we helped build a cadre of community health workers. Our organization there, Socios en Salud, worked to improve the health care of people in the community, employed 20 local young people, built a pharmacy, and then conducted a health assessment for the town.
Then Father Jack became ill. He started losing weight. I urged him to return to his home in Boston. When he finally did, tests revealed that his lungs were full of tuberculosis (TB). And it wasn’t any TB. It was multi drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB). His disease was resistant to the four major drugs used to treat TB. Soon after, Father Jack died.
We went back to Carabayllo and investigated. Why did he have drug-resistant TB? We found an alarming number of cases of MDR-TB. We did two things: First, we immediately started looking for supplies of the drugs that could treat TB cases we discovered. We gave those to patients, and to our great relief we were able to cure most of them. Second, we started to push for a global program to treat poor people everywhere suffering from drug-resistant TB.