A reflection on Ebola fears in the U.S.


If one were to flip through news channels or read the newspaper, it is very likely that an article or an opinion piece on the Ebola crisis will appear. A recent Time article written by Josh Sanbum points out that the probability of acquiring Ebola in the U.S. is almost zero. Despite this, parents are pulling children out of middle school in Mississippi, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist is banned from speaking at Syracuse University after working in Liberia, and an office building has closed in Ohio over fears of an exposed employee. Why is Ebola so acutely feared in a country where only three confirmed Ebola-related deaths have occurred, compared to the 4,400 in Africa? According to University of Oregon psychology professor Paul Slovic, it is all related to risk perception. As the media continues with its front-page headlines about a possible epidemic sweeping the nation, we forget about probability and statistics. There is no question that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is dangerous and deadly, and requires a coordinated global approach and international efforts. But in the U.S., the flu will kill tens of thousands of people this year and heart disease remains the foremost cause of death. Technology and media allows stigmatization to occur at a rapid pace, and in the midst of counterproductive and unnecessary reactions it is important to educate oneself about the crisis and be grounded by facts.

Michelle Shah is a senior majoring in Cognitive and Brain Sciences.  She is a member of the Communications team.

A Dialog WIth Data: Pediatric ER Visits to Nyaya Health

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Earlier this month, Nyaya Health published a data brief that ranked the most frequent diagnosis in the Pediatric ER. For the third month in a row, Fall/Injury/Other Trauma was listed as the number one diagnosis for patients under 5 in the ER.

These statistics highlight the dire orthopedic need that exists in Achham. The people of Achham regularly navigate dangerous roads, mountainous terrain, and tall trees in the search for fire wood, all of which leaves them vulnerable to falls and broken bones. During Dr. Paul Farmers visit to Bayalpata he recounted a local doctor referring to Achham as the “the ortho capital of the world without the orthopedists.”

Bayalpata Hospital is equipped with an X-Ray machine, which is vital in accurately diagnosing fractures. Most clinics and hospitals in developing countries are not as lucky. According to Nyaya Health’s report published in Globalization and Health, nearly 70% of the X-Rays in developing country settings do not work.

In fact, securing X-Ray services for the people of Achham was a very difficult process of Nyaya Health. Nyaya faced challenges in acquiring the X-Ray machine every step of the way, from procurement and transportation, to maintenance and power supply. The challenges were overcome and for over two years the patients at Bayalpata are able to access radiology services that are essential in their treatment.

If you would like to read more about the X-Ray program , you can take a look at Nyaya Health’s Wiki page on the subject.

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A Dialog with Data

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From January 2012 to June 2012, 54% of the patients seen in Bayalplata Hospital came from village development communities (VDCs) within the Community Health Program’s “catchment area.” The graph below depicts the frequency of ER cases based on VDC. Note that the VDCs in red are ones that are not part of the current catchment area.

Data can tell a story. It can tell you about people’s lives, about your own life. It can tell you about a country, or a community or a business. It can tell you a great deal about how to best serve a population, and about the factors that impact a person’s health. At Globemed at Tufts, we believe that data has the power to make a difference, you just need to step back and take a look.

This post is the first part in a series called “Dialogue with Data” on what the data that Nyaya Health collects is telling us. The series is written by the Globemed at Tufts data team which has the privilege to review some of the data that Nyaya collects in order to find any patterns or trends that might exist. Each week another post will be published that will attempt to tell a story about Nyaya and their patients.

We’ve learned something from looking at this data, we hope you will too.

Data + People = Change

The above video describes the Medic Mobile initiative being implemented in Bayalpata Hospital. Medic Mobile in Nepal is intended to serve as a model for other countries. Through the input and retrieval of data via mobile phones, Medic Mobile can help provide information about essential public health services among community health workers, and improve these services through the availability of this data. Watch the video to learn more about this powerful movement.

Caring for Children

Recently, in an effort to increase visibility and attain more data necessary to continuously improve their standards of care, the Nyaya Health members at Bayalpata Hospital began collecting data specifically focusing on the admittance and treatment of young patients. The hope is that the collection of these facts and figures will allow the organization to progress in its treatment of this especially susceptible population.

While certain challenges arose throughout the process of data entry—a difficult task to accomplish efficiently without computers—the physicians and health assistants pressed on. When keeping paper records was found to be unsuitable, the health assistants at the hospital were given the opportunity to practice using laptops, as they would for data entry in the future, which, fortunately, made the whole process much smoother and more effectual.

These efforts show a cognizance of and sensitivity to the reality of health care procedures not found in many health organizations. The consistent implementation upon evidence-based programs is laudable and will surely contribute to Nyaya Health’s continued success in its ultimate goal: furthering the cause of equity in global health care.

This specific direction for the gathering of data is only the beginning. As Nyaya Health’s director of data and evaluation, Jackie Pierson, wrote in a blog post on her organization’s website, “Future programs and services will be revised based upon the data we gather in this initial phase.”