Nepal Earthquake: PHASE Update and Emergency Appeal

tuftsglobemed:

Our thoughts are with our partner organization, PHASE Nepal, and the rest of the incredible and resilient people of Nepal.

We are working with SAPAC (South Asian Political Action Committee) and other on-campus organizations to organize a vigil this Thursday evening and other fundraising efforts. Check facebook.com/TuftsSAPAC and our Facebook page (facebook.com/GlobeMedTufts) for more updates on how you can get involved in relief efforts.

Originally posted on PHASE Worldwide: Empowering remote Himalayan communities to reduce poverty by improving health, education and livelihoods:

Dear friends,

Across the PHASE community we are saddened by the news from Nepal. Yesterday a powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake caused devastation in many areas of the country. It is the nation’s worst earthquake in 80 years and it has already claimed thousands of lives.  The aftershocks are continuing and there was a second earthquake this afternoon.
 
We have now heard from all PHASE staff and can report that none of them were killed or seriously injured. We are encouraging all PHASE staff to stay where they are until the aftershocks reduce.  Many of our staff are sleeping in the open due to building damage and fear of aftershocks, and many of their families have been affected by the earthquake.
The true scale of the destruction in remote areas will not be clear for weeks.

Two of our project areas; Gorkha (where PHASE have worked since 2009) and Sindhulpalchok (where…

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Spring Semester: What did we do again?

Finally! After a long winter (Boston’s snowiest yet), today really looks like spring. That means that the school year is almost over… and that another semester of GlobeMed at Tufts is coming to a close. Before we all get swept away with finals and thoughts of summer (and a GROW trip!), we wanted to reflect back on all the awesome events and fundraising with done since January.

We started off the semester with a LOT of snow days, but once we got on our feet, we got a lot done! In February, a bunch of Tufts GlobeMedders headed over to a Boston-area conference at MIT to meet with GlobeMed groups from other schools and discuss health as a human right. We also collaborated with other global health groups on campus this winter— we put together a Taste of Global Health dinner. The dining services at Tufts offered a meal with food from Nepal, Guatemala and India. Along with a delicious meal, all the groups had information tables set up in the dining hall so students could learn more about the great work each of these groups do. A few days later, we sponsored a workshop with a GreenPeace representative about effective activism. Finally, we sent a team to GlobeMed Headquarters in Evanston, IL for the Summit, a conference with representatives from all the chapters across the nation. In terms of educational opportunities, this semester was packed!

But there’s more! We’ve been lucky enough to have surpassed our fundraising goal or $10,000 and have raised $12,150 to date. After a very successful campaign on Global Giving in December, we were ready to continue working on campus this semester. We were lucky enough to receive a second Kaplan course that we then sold to the Tufts community. After that, we began to think about ways to reach out to the student body, and ended up hosting two major events, both of which were wildly successful. The first of these was Trivia Night, where we offered food, (global health related) trivia fun, and prizes. The second was Comedy Night. Five different Tufts’ comedy groups performed and we had a raffle, making it a fun night full of laughter.

All and all, this has been a great semester, and we’ve done a lot of good things. We’re looking forward to the GROW trip this summer and a great next semester. Meanwhile, enjoy spring!

The ACA and Teen Mental Health

aca blog

Mental health is a major issue in the United States, especially in high school teens. There are many stigmas associated with mental illnesses that, in some cases, lead to cases going untreated. One of the most common mental illnesses that teens face today is depression. Some symptoms of depression can often be misconceived as part of school stresses or being a teen. The “treatment” for depression can sometimes be antidepressants. Drugs never fix the problem, they just suppress the symptoms, thus in the long term, that needed care is being delayed and prolonged. For some teenagers, antidepressants often don’t get to the core of the problem or discuss the source of that depression. Sometimes talking to a professional does help. What if a family cannot afford the cost of “talking to someone”? Why the Affordable Care Act may be able to help…

In 2010, the ACA authorized $50 million towards the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. This money is funneled towards providing “co-location grants” to provide behavioral treatment options in communities. Furthermore, in expanding Medicaid, the ACA is providing more funds to help states’ abilities to create these community-based homes and programs for people who are suffering from long term chronic mental illnesses. Now that the average person can stay under their parents’ health insurance, teenagers can have a more prolonged system of care and help to deal with depression and other mental illnesses. Other legal improvements to the Medicaid is improving health facilities,federally qualified, to have behavioral health programs and care.Does that mean that the ACA fixes everything? Is everything suddenly better and Americans have wiped out depression entirely? No. There are still teenagers depressed and millions of people suffer from various mental illnesses in America. But, there is a faint light at the end of the tunnel.

The ACA does not magically gets rid of depression or cures other mental health issues.  However, it does create programs about mental illnesses to educate against stereotypes and encourage teenagers to seek medical help that they need. Mental health is part of overall health, and the ACA is advocating to shed some lights on it.

Written by Stephane Alexandre

Sources:

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1108649

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression-and-high-school-students/index.shtml

http://www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/effects/

http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/tep/1/2/105/

Crash Course on the UN Development Goals

As an organization deeply invested in the promotion of global health, Globemed at Tufts often discusses the United Nations and their involvement in global equity. Every time we do, I find myself realizing that I have only a hazy understanding of what exactly the UN does, so this time I looked into it a little. The United Nations can be broken down (as it is on the website) by its five broad purposes: Peace and Security; Development; Human Rights; Humanitarian Affairs; and International Law. Development is the area we most often discuss in Globemed — the mission is to maintain peace by promoting economic prosperity and well being as well as by protecting the planet. Within the UN, several bodies collaborate on the Development segment, including the General Assembly Second Committee (Economic and Financial), the General Assembly Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural), Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the ECOSOC Commissions and Expert Bodies.

Up until this year, the focus of UN development has been their Millennium Development Goals, which, in 2000, political leaders across the globe committed to support. The eight goals were: eradicate extreme hunger and poverty; achieve universal education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and global partnership for development.

Frankly I’ve always found these kinds of goals both too ambitious and too vague to be brought to fruition. Being as cynical as I am, I always thought of the goals as nice ideas with little substance or force behind them. The bold phrases like “eradicate” and “ensure” and “universal” seemed to be asking too much. Since the UN is not an authoritative governmental body, I wasn’t sure how they would achieve such ambitious goals in the face of greedy and corrupt governments around the world, many of whom who cared little about their peoples’ suffering. However, upon further research, I’ve realized that some progress has been made towards achieving the goals.

Some of the MDGs are split up into more specific targets. For example, the first goal is broken down as follows: Target 1.A: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 a day; 1.B: achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people; and 1.C: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.

Stipulations like “halving” rather than complete eradication do seem more manageable, and, according to the UN statistics, extreme poverty was in fact halved before 2015. However, about one in five people in developing regions still lives on less than $1.25 a day. Another salient issue found in the data is the disparities between different regions of the world – while some have made steady gains, others, like southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, have not met any targets.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the progress of the MDGs, this 2014 report summarizes the successes and shortcomings of each of them.

http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/2014%20MDG%20report/MDG%202014%20English%20web.pdf

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As the target for completion – September of this year – drew closer, the UN set out to keep moving forward, regardless of the success or failure of the MDGs. In 2012, several countries met up in Rio de Janiero (Rio 20+) to discuss the post-2015 plan of action. There, they laid the groundwork for the Sustainable Development Goals, (SDG), a new framework for UN development, which will be managed by an intergovernmental body of the UN called The High Level Political Forum.

These new goals are designed to be “action-oriented, concise, and easy to communicate, limited in number, aspirational, global in nature, and universally applicable to all countries, while taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national policies and priorities.” The MDGs are not to be scrapped entirely, but the new SDGs will attempt to focus more on the gains that need to be met in poverty, taking into special account its uneven distribution. To facilitate implementation of the goals, the UN is working with governments at all levels from local to national, as well as a variety of other stakeholder organizations, hailing from all sectors of society, including NGOs, businesses, and a variety of interest groups representing the voices of certain demographics such as women, children, indigenous people, and farmers.

The specific goals and targets are still in the making, but will be announced in late March of this year. Information on the means of implementation for post-2015 development should be available in late April. Whether this new set of goals will have more success than its predecessor is yet to be determined. Nevertheless, I’ll take it as a sign of hope that people all over are still fighting to keep all humans, as well as the planet, in good health.

To stay informed on the progress of the Sustainable Development Goals and all of the UNs post-2015 development agenda, visit the Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform here.

https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/

http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/policy/untaskteam_undf/faq_untt_report_sep2012.pdf

Leah Cubanski is a sophomore possibly majoring in Political Science.  She is a member of the Communications team.

baby_carriage_line_art

Framing the Health Disparities Problem

This past week, I had the opportunity to attend the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities Grantees Conference. Over 1,000 people attended, all representing different parts of academia and the non-profit world, all coming together to collaborate and present research regarding health disparities. The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities is a branch of the National Institutes of Health. It’s mission is “to lead scientific research to improve minority health and eliminate health disparities.”

What are health disparities, exactly? The Healthy People 2020 initiative defines it in the following terms: “If a health outcome is seen in a greater or lesser extent between populations, there is disparity. Race or ethnicity, sex, sexual identity, age, disability, socioeconomic status, and geographic location all contribute to an individual’s ability to achieve good health.” Health disparities can be seen, for example if we look at something like infant mortality.

Infant mortality rates in the US by race

Infant mortality rates in the US by race

Since 1980, the US infant mortality rate has dropped from 12.6 deaths/1,000 live births to 6.17. This is okay (though it should be noted that we rank as having the 55th lowest rate for the wealthiest country on the planet). This rate takes on a new life when we break it down by race. For Non-Hispanic Whites, the infant mortality rate is 5.5 deaths/1,000 live births. For Non-Hispanic Blacks, the rate is 12.8 deaths/1,000 live births. We can see disparities again when we look at childhood obesity rates. At the conference I learned that for the first time, the national child obesity rate seems to be plateauing; yet for white, upper class children, this rate is actually declining, and for Hispanic and Black children, this rate continues to climb rapidly.

It is probably not surprising that health disparities are closely linked to what is termed, “the social determinants of health,” which can include everything from one’s education level to how close one lives to a landfill. It is important to remember that long histories of power inequality have led to many of these social determinants, and therefore, the increased health status of some groups over others.

In the United States, health disparities are certainly a reality. What struck me most at the conference, though, was a question posed at one of the panel discussions. The facilitator asked, “How can we combat health disparities, when the work requires that we give more to those at the bottom, while giving less to those at the top?” Though it caught me a bit off guard, this idea makes sense. Have-nots need more resources and support so that they can “catch up” so to speak, to the Haves. Though similar, this is not exactly Robin Hood logic. The rich wont necessarily be loosing out so that the poor can gain. The way the question was framed insinuated this, and it made me realize that this is exactly how some people think of health equity work. Potential supporters can be turned off to a cause when it seems like they will be deprived of something. We have seen this argument come up again and again with the Affordable Care Act. Saying things like “they’re going to make us ration health care if everyone is covered” or “we will have to wait longer to get appointments” fosters this exact type of thinking. The problem is that we’re framing it all wrong.

We need to highlight that it is important to give those at the bottom more support than we give those at the top, not even because they deserve it, but because they need it and the people at the top do not. A salient example is one from Chile, where everybody is covered for health insurance. Their public insurance option is tailored towards equity as opposed to equality—those who need more support get more support and those who need less support, well, they wont be missing out on any free services, because simply put, they don’t need them. New mothers in the lowest income bracket receive, among other things, free baby carriages. If the health sector were to view patients as equal, they’d give these to the wealthiest mothers, too. The majority of mothers in higher income brackets would probably not take the low-cost baby carriage, if they can and want to buy one of their choosing. Equity, on the other hand, still means that all mothers can and will have baby carriages, but that we should be intentional with how resources are delivered, targeting those most in need.

So, how can we in GlobeMed at Tufts use this idea of framing to combat health disparities with our partner organization, PHASE Nepal? Right now, we are fundraising through our individual giving campaign. So far we have raised almost $4500 for, our project right now, which is hitting an important determinant of health: that of childhood education. PHASE Nepal will take the funds we raise this year and hire a teacher trainer, who will work with currently employed teachers in elementary schools in the communities that PHASE serves. This trainer will help teachers utilize methods to foster creative thinking and problem solving among students of Nepal. He/she will also support child clubs, which operate as extracurricular forums for the children to play, learn, do local development projects such as planting gardens, and talk about child rights. Additionally, we envision the formation of a health curriculum to be taught as supplementary material in the Child Clubs, so that these children can begin to learn about the importance of having a healthy body and mind.

When we think about how to bolster our fundraising efforts, we need to be able to discuss how the situation in Nepal came to exist, and about the power structures that perpetuate such inequalities. When we talk about this stuff, we have to know how to frame it in a way that will help us build support for our chapter, PHASE, and the global health movement at large.

To learn more about PHASE’s work, please visit http://phasenepal.org/

To donate to our project, please visit https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/child-health-education-program-in-nepal/

Rachel Weinstock is a senior majoring in Anthropology and Community Health. She is a member of the policy team.

Right-To-Try

In 2013, a blockbuster movie came out, detailing the true story of how one man tested positive for HIV, was given thirty days to live, and proceeded to defy everyone’s expectations. The main character began exploring alternative options for treating HIV, which brought him to Mexico. There, he discovered medicine that was not approved in the United States, and was soon treating hundreds of people in his hometown. Dallas Buyers Club is pop culture’s interpretation of a very real debate in the world of health and healthcare today. When is too soon to try experimental drugs? If someone’s life could be saved, is it morally justifiable to withhold unapproved medications?

This year, five states– Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, and Arizona– have passed so-called “right-to-try” laws that expand access to experimental medications for patients in dire conditions. These laws have legally accomplished what Ron Woodroof attempted to establish in Dallas Buyers Club, and like in that story, lives could be improved or saved– but still, does that make it right?

Critics of these laws point out the very legitimate reasons why these drugs aren’t yet on the market: there could be undiscovered risks that would cause even more harm than any good the drug would do. The FDA exists for a reason, and allowing the right-to-try compromises the safety of the patient.

However, many terminally ill patients don’t have the time to wait for a request to the FDA to be processed, and the right-to-try is their opportunity to have a chance to live, or even just live a little better for a little longer. What do you think? Do we have a right-to-try?

For more information, check out this article.

Kellie Chin is a freshman and has yet to declare her major. She is a member of the Communications team.

Recap of the first Global Day of Action

Last week, the Tufts GlobeMed chapter and other Boston community organizations gathered at the Boston Commons to rally for the right to health, as declared by Article 25 in the United Nation’s Declaration of Human Rights. The UN is currently meeting to discuss post-2015 Millenium Development Goals and other aspects of development that should be prioritized in the coming years. The aim of the Global Day of Action was to make health a top priority on the agenda, and it was incredible to see the efforts of communities around the world fighting to make this happen.

Here is a video of how the first Global Day of Action for the Right to Health came together all around the world: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=309650355887192&set=vb.152728261579403&type=2&theater

Also check out a recap of what each community was rallying for on Storify: https://storify.com/Article25/global-day-of-action

To see more pictures and videos of different efforts from around the globe, like Article 25 on Facebook!

Samantha Nutt: Global Health Icon

In high school, I first heard about Dr. Samantha Nutt when she came to speak to my school about global health in war torn regions, the talk she gave was one of the most inspiring and eloquent speeches I have ever heard and since then I have been inspired by her career and her work around the world. I thought I would share a bit of what she has done to the GlobeMed community!

Dr. Nutt is the founder and president of War Child Canada, a charity that works in regions that have been torn apart by conflict. She focuses on helping women and children in these regions, providing health care, education and vocational training in order to get their lives back on track. She has worked in regions such as Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Uganda, and The Democratic Republic of the Congo to name a few. In addition to her work with War Child she is a physician at the Women’s College Hospital in Toronto and is a Professor at the University of Toronto. In 2011, she was appointed the Order of Canada – the most prestigious honor bestowed by the Canadian Federal government for “for her contributions to improving the plight of young people in the world’s worst conflict zones, notably as a founder of War Child Canada.” How she ever has time to sleep, I am not sure!

Her recent book “Damned Nations: Greed, Guns, Armies and Aid”- a national bestseller – is a comprehensive look back on her career and her experience in the foreign aid industry. An excellent read that I highly recommend everyone check out as it mixes her personal narrative and experiences with facts about foreign aid, and its failures and successes.

She is someone who has inspired me and taught me a lot about foreign aid, and the challenges of effective distribution of health throughout war-torn regions. I find that her methods and philosophies about global health are very similar to GlobeMed’s! Everyone should check out her book, or even go on youtube and check out a couple speeches she has made to learn a bit more about her and War Child Canada!

Here are some I have found really interesting:

Future of Aid – Dr. Samantha Nutt Keynote

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALCScV_CoA0 (starting at 5 minutes)

CBC News Our World: Africa’s Killing Field

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCbdfMWZL54

Adrienne Caldwell is a sophomore majoring in Biology and Psychology.  She is a member of the Communications team.  

Article 25 Speakers

On Sunday, Tufts GlobeMed chapter will be travelling down to the Boston Common to be a part of the Rally For the Right To health, a very exciting event that many of our members have been tirelessly working on for the past several months! At the rally there will be several exciting and prestigious speakers including Professor Brook Baker and Don Berwick. Some highlights of their decorated careers are as follows:

Brook Baker is a professor at Northeastern University teaching courses in Global HIV/AIDS Policy seminar, and disability discrimination law. The focus of his work is on movements that advocate for universal access to treatment, prevention and care for people living with HIV and AIDS. In addition, he is a senior analyst Health GAP (Global Access Project).

Don Berwick has had an extensive and meaningful career in public health including being the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, President and Chief Executive officer for Institute for Healthcare improvement and worked directly on both the Massachusetts health care reform and the Affordable Care act. He has worked tirelessly to bring equality to the American health care system and improve access to health care for all.

So on Sunday, cancel whatever you may have planned, grab a friend, and head down to the Boston Common for a day of advocacy, action and incredible speakers! (Plus, I hear the weather is supposed to be beautiful!)

Adrienne Caldwell is a sophomore majoring in Biology and Psychology.  She is a member of the Communications team.