Fighting the Anti-Vaccine Rhetoric with Science

In the interest of promoting more robust discourse around the importance of regular vaccinations for serious but preventable contagious conditions, MHA@GW is hosting a guest post series in honor of National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM). During the month of August,they’re featuring blogs from thought leaders and advocates who were asked to answer the question, “Why immunize in 2015?” You can read an excerpt of Violent Metaphors‘ Jennifer Raff here, and be sure to read on to explore more posts. MHA@GW is the online master of health administration from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University.

“It’s critical that we continue to talk about immunization, because vaccine opponents are relentless — see the comments on my piece here for many examples of the bad science and provocative rhetoric they employ.

Speaking up is the most important step, letting parents know that their decision to vaccinate is the safest and most common way people protect their children. The anti-vaccine minority is disproportionately loud, partly because vaccines are so safe, so effective and so ubiquitous that they become part of the background landscape of parenting. Fortunately, in reaction to harmful pseudoscientific scaremongering and events like the Disneyland outbreak, people are motivated to speak out in favor of vaccines.

It matters how we talk about vaccines, too. Here is where there is the most room for improvement in 2015. Writers want the discussion to be dramatic and too often try to paint “anti-vaxxers” as demonic or vile. Or they try to use the vaccine debate as a weapon in the larger culture wars. This leads to the media (and many well-meaning science writers) giving too much weight to vaccine opponents, creating the false perception that there is a “growing movement.” Another problem is that the default images associated with stories on vaccinations are often distressed children and menacing needles. These approaches can have the unfortunate effect of recruiting more people to the anti-vaccine community, as Dan Kahan has pointed out in his piece in Science Magazine and on his blog.

Continue reading “Fighting the Anti-Vaccine Rhetoric with Science”

Register: Free Online Course Examines Women, Child, and Adolescent Health #FLImprovingHealth

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is launching a free online course about women, child, and adolescent health. The course called Improving the Health of Women, Children and Adolescents: from Evidence to Action will last for six weeks starting on Monday, September 28, 2015. Registrations are now open.  While the course is primarily targeted to health professionals anyone can join.

Watch the course trailer:

Continue reading “Register: Free Online Course Examines Women, Child, and Adolescent Health #FLImprovingHealth”

Humanitarian Designs Innovative Diaper for Developing Countries

Michael Wahl didn’t purposely set out to create an innovative cloth diaper for babies who live in the developing world as well as a humanitarian organization, Dri Butts, that distributes diapers to families in need. Rather, he saw it as a necessity to prevent diseases caused by the spread of fecal matter.

Many children in low-and middle-income countries have an increased chance of not living to see their fifth birthday oftentimes because of diseases whose cause stems from fecal matter. In fact, diarrhea is the second leading cause of death for children under five. Other fecal-related diseases are cholera and typhoid.

Continue reading “Humanitarian Designs Innovative Diaper for Developing Countries”

48 Corporations Step Up to Curb Newborn Deaths

A new, first-of-its-kind report, The Ultimate Investment in the Future Profiles of Corporate Engagement in the Health and Development of Newborns [PDF] was recently released that catalogs 48 corporations and their financial commitments to saving the lives of more newborns globally. Currently there are 2.6 million stillbirths every year and 2.8 million newborns do not make it past four weeks. Most of these deaths occur … Continue reading 48 Corporations Step Up to Curb Newborn Deaths

A Place Where a Child Arrives Malnourished and Leaves Healthy

By Dr. Leslee Jaeger

I feel overwhelming gratitude for the many mothers in my life – the mother that raised me, the mother that raised my fabulous husband, the mother of my three children created thru egg donation  and the Korean and Chinese mothers that gave birth to my daughters and then made the difficult decision to place them for adoption. I have always imagined what their life would have been if, instead of completing reams of paperwork and writing checks for large sums of Mother and Daughtermoney, we had worked to provide for their original families so that they would have been able to be raised in their country of origin. That venture is much more difficult and involves a more long-term world view than a short-term individualistic approach. But that is exactly what the founders of Second Mile Haiti are trying to achieve. We were fortunate to spend a few hours touring their expanding facility on our last day in Haiti.

The founders of Second Mile Haiti are Jenn Schenk and Amy Syres, two young women who had a vision to create a sustainable option for families who were previously relinquishing their malnourished children to care centers, where the children were  either placed for international adoption or reunified back into their impoverished families after their malnutrition was corrected.  It didn’t seem right that the only available way to help these families was to take their kids from them. We really had to ask ourselves if there wasn’t some sort of alternative” says Amy, regarding the experiences that led the co-founders to start Second Mile Haiti.

Continue reading “A Place Where a Child Arrives Malnourished and Leaves Healthy”

Maternal and Newborn Health News from the 68th World Health Assembly

The 68th World Health Assembly features the launch of two important reports – The WHO report on Strategies Toward Ending Preventable Maternal Mortality [PDF] and the Every Newborn Action Plan Progress Report [PDF].

Maternal health remains one of the most elusive Millennium Development Goal to achieve. While maternal deaths worldwide have been nearly halved since 1990, there is still a long way to go to ensure that more women’s lives are saved during childbirth. Currently 800 women lose their lives during childbirth due to largely preventable reasons. According to the new report, Strategies Towards Ending Preventable Maternal Mortality, by 2030 the maternal mortality ratio should be no larger than 70 deaths/100,000 live births and no country should have a MMR of 140 deaths/100,000 live births.

How can this be achieved?

The new report calls for more wellness-focused healthcare as opposed to emergency-focused care for expectant mothers despite available resources. Most importantly, the post 2015 maternal health framework is rooted in human rights for women and girls. In order to save more women’s lives, there needs to be a cross-sectional system of integrated care. According to the report, more women, girls, and communities need to be empowered to recognize gender equality and empowerment. Mothers and newborns must have integrated care as opposed to caring for both independently.

Continue reading “Maternal and Newborn Health News from the 68th World Health Assembly”

Prize Provides $250K to Fund Programs That Save Children’s Lives

Across the world, over 17,000 children under age five continue to die every day, mostly from preventable causes and treatable diseases. This translates to approximately 12 children every minute and over 6.3 million total in 2013. More than half of these child deaths can be attributed to malnutrition (approximately 45% of all child deaths), pneumonia, diarrhea, measles and malaria. Nearly 3 million of the total … Continue reading Prize Provides $250K to Fund Programs That Save Children’s Lives

Newborn and Child Health Education Through Haitian Art

Inside the child malnutrition unit at Hôpital Albert Schweitzer, the largest regional hospital in Haiti’s Artibonite region, colorful murals have been painted over the beds. They were specifically designed to teach parents, especially mothers, how to keep their newborns and children healthy and well-fed.

In Haiti one in five children suffers from chronic malnutrition and 6.5 percent of Haitian children suffer from acute malnutrition. Chronic malnutrition is described as stunting or shortness. Acute malnutrition is wasting or thinness.

This mural in Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti shows mothers the importance of breastfeeding their newborns as well as the importance of taking their babies to the Centre de Santé (health center).

Health messaging art

Haiti has a 53 percent literacy rate making it imperative that health messaging at the hospital is conveyed through art as well as through color-coded words. For example, the hospital’s social services are all written in red so those who cannot read can easily find that department. Additionally, for those who can read all signs are written in French as well as in Creole as language politics in the region are quite heightened.

Mothers instead of fathers are more likely to tend to their children in the malnutrition unit like the mothers I saw when I visited. Some mothers were feeding their children and others were sitting with their children who were too weak to be awake.

Haitian women have a lower literacy rate than men in Haiti making messaging through art critical to driving home nutrition education in this unit.

Continue reading “Newborn and Child Health Education Through Haitian Art”

Infographic: 2015 Mothers’ Index Rankings

As in years past, the Nordic countries lead the world in being the best countries to be a mother and to raise children. Save the Children’s Mothers’ Index ranked countries based on maternal health, children’s well-being, educational status, and economic and political status.

Sub-Saharan African countries and Haiti rounded out the worst places to be a mother, with Somalia being the worst place on earth for mothers and children.

Read the entire report and see the full Mothers’ Index of 179 countries at savethechildren.org/mothers.

Continue reading “Infographic: 2015 Mothers’ Index Rankings”

Save the Children Sounds Alarm on Plight of the World’s Urban Poor

When you think about very low- and middle-income countries you might assume that the poor in deep rural pockets in these countries have the highest chance for maternal and infant mortality. That isn’t the case according to Save the Children’s latest State of the World’s Mothers report released today.

The report says that it is the urban poor in countries like Haiti, Somalia, Niger and Mali, for example, who are suffering the most and have less access to health care, nutrition services, sanitation and clean water. Even as child mortality has decreased by 49 percent since 1990, the numbers do not fully tell the entire story. While resources have successfully helped the rural populations, the urban poor continue to suffer from a lack of overall services that will allow them to live and thrive.

“Our new report reveals a devastating child survival divide between the haves and have-nots, telling a tale of two cities among urban communities around the world, including the United States,” said Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children in a statemtn. “For babies born in the big city, it’s survival of the richest.”

New data says there are 54 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas. 860 million people live in urban slums in big cities like Delhi, Nairobi, Rio, and Johannesburg where the disparity between the rich and poor is incredibly stark. In fact, poor children in urban areas are two times more likely to die than their richer peers. In some countries, poor children are up to five times more likely to die before the age of five than their peers in a much higher income bracket.

Slum area - Addis Ababa
Slum area – Addis Ababa

Urban slums continue to grow because poor migrants from rural areas seek jobs in cities. This causes squatter communities and slum-dwelling as well as a perpetual cycle of poverty. These migrants often believe that it is better to live in crowded slums in the city than in their rural home towns because they can at least find work. The tradeoff, however, comes in the form of poor living conditions.

Continue reading “Save the Children Sounds Alarm on Plight of the World’s Urban Poor”

Photo Essay: Vaccines in Deschappelles, Haiti

Yesterday I was in Deschappelles, Haiti about three hours north of Port-au-Prince. Deschappelles is where the largest regional hospital, Hôpital Albert Schweitzer, is and has been for nearly 60 years. It serves a population of 350,000 and routinely takes in patients from outside of the region.

In addition to hospital services Hôpital Albert Schweitzer also arranges and manages 280 mobile health posts conducted by health agents every month throughout the mountainous region. I attended one of those health posts on Monday during World Immunization Week to see babies and expectant women receive their vaccinations.

Below are photos from the day. Babies received oral polio and the pentavalent vaccine. The pentavalent vaccine, which protects against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) which causes pneumonia and meningitis, was first introduced in Haiti in 2013. Expectant mothers received the tetanus vaccine.

About 25 mothers showed up yesterday for their monthly health post visit as well as four expectant mothers who accompanied their children.

Health Clinic - Deschappelles

SONY DSC

Health Clinic - Deschappelles

Continue reading “Photo Essay: Vaccines in Deschappelles, Haiti”

Help Children in Crisis With a Simple Social Share #Relay4Kids

relayforkids

As hard as it may sound, children are living in crisis as I write this post and it honestly breaks my heart. There are Syrian children who are living under harsh conditions in refugee camps who just want to go home to a world they once knew and there are also children who are running from severe violence in the Central African Republic and don’t know where to turn. Children in West Africa have lost both of their parents and even extended family members during the Ebola crisis and are completely lost and  there are also children in the Ukraine who hear and see massive shelling every day and witness unthinkable things that are extremely difficult for adults to handle.

Even last year Save the Children released a report about Motherhood in Crisis. If mothers are in crisis, so are their children. According to the report, “over 60 million women and children are in need of humanitarian assistance.”

Continue reading “Help Children in Crisis With a Simple Social Share #Relay4Kids”

11 Photos in Honor of World Water Day

This Sunday, March 22, is the United Nations’ World Water Day. 354 million people continue to not have access to clean, drinking water every day. This is a critical problem because dirty water causes a whole host of water-borne diseases that kill the smallest children, especially those under the age of five.

“Without access to clean water, the world’s poorest people will stay poor,” says the UN’s report on women and water. Women and children spend 140 million hours a day collecting water when those hours could be spent going to school, working, for leisure, or to take care of their families. Instead, women and girls in particular, walk for miles in some instances to get water for their entire family. In Africa and Asia, girls and children walk an average of 3.7 miles a day just to fetch water.

Read the full report at UNWater.org.

Below are photos taken in Ethiopia, the Philippines, Zambia, and Tanzania showing the challenges and some of the successes of gaining access to clean water.

Ethiopian Girl
An Ethiopian girl in Hawassa was going to get water in the middle of the afternoon instead of being in school. Women and children spend 140 million hours a day collecting water. (Water.org)
SONY DSC
This doma among the Maasai in northern Tanzania is surrounded by jerry cans.

Continue reading “11 Photos in Honor of World Water Day”

A Preventable Polio Story

By Banke Sorinwa, a Nigerian mother and worker in financial services in Lagos.

It was our first day back to boarding school after the summer break. Some students shared hugs and narrated tales of the long holiday, while others were teary eyed because we were once again stuck in the four walls of school. It was also the time we looked forward to meeting the new students.

My friend Tonya noticed a new girl saying goodbye to her mom. We both also noticed that she was in crutches. That’s when Tonya told me a story about herself as a child.

Tonya said how fortunate she was that her parents discovered early on that she had polio. She was lucky in that she fully recovered. The girl Tonya and I saw on the first day of school was in her first year at secondary school and was on crutches till the end of the academic year.

Continue reading “A Preventable Polio Story”

The Critical Stance on Raising Vaccine Awareness Abroad and at Home

By Lisi Martinez Lotz PhD, Program Director, Vaccine Ambassadors

Vaccine Ambassadors was created by parents and healthcare professionals in an effort to raise awareness about the importance of immunizations for all children, whether living in an area where vaccines are part of routine care or where this resource is far less common. By becoming Vaccine Ambassadors during their clinic visit, parents are able to give to the global community, while also engaging in a conversation with their pediatrician on the value of immunizations.

Our program speaks to the issue of under vaccination. In many areas of the world lack of access leads to low vaccination rates, while in others it is a direct consequence of misinformation. Vaccine Ambassadors offers parents a meaningful way to make an impact in the lives of children who otherwise would go without life-saving vaccines, while also highlighting the need for vaccines in our local communities.

Polio vaccination in POC 3 at UN House
Polio Vaccination Campaign in South Sudan Polio vaccination at the UN-House Protection of Civilians (PoC) 3 site in Juba, South Sudan. The Ministry of Health of the Republic of South Sudan is conducting the fourth and last round of its national immunization campaign for 2014, with the support of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) and working with local non-governmental organization Magna. The campaign is targeting children aged 0 – 5 years and aims to immunize 2.4 million children nationwide. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

Continue reading “The Critical Stance on Raising Vaccine Awareness Abroad and at Home”