Sustainable health through social enterprise

After five years of working towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) the global health community still has a long way to go to achieve health related goals by 2030. To improve health and well-being for all global health organizations need to reflect on the successes and challenges to date, as well as reflect on how to make programs more sustainable. One way to create and maintain sustainable health programs is through the social enterprise model.

Social enterprises are for-profit organizations that utilize business practices and the marketplace to advance social justice and development. To be defined as a social enterprise a program must address a social need, generate income mainly through commercial activities and primarily focus on the common good. Types of social enterprises include: one, opportunity employment – organizations that provide jobs to those with barriers to mainstream employment (i.e. Goodwill); two, transformative products or services – creating social or environmental impact through innovative products or services (i.e., World Bicycle Relief, Grameen Bank); and three, donate back – organizations that donate a portion of profits or goods to meet social needs (i.e. TOMS).

Global Health and Social Enterprise

There are several examples of successful global health social enterprises that can be leveraged to create new, or modify existing, programs. In some low-income countries the social enterprise model has been used to strengthen and empower the nurse and midwife workforce. In other examples, Unite for Sight, a non-profit organization working to deliver eye care to low-income countries, partners with clinics all over the world and engages with social entrepreneurs to increase patient access to vision care; and Dispensary of Hope, utilizes the donate back social enterprise model to provide free medications from pharmaceutical companies to health clinics all over the world.

Another successful social enterprise working to solve a global health problem is Days for Girls International. While on a trip to Kenya in 2008 founder Celeste Mergens discovered girls having their periods were sent to their rooms for days, sometimes going without food, and were forced to sit on cardboard until they stopped menstruating. Days for Girls set out to address this issue by designing a washable, long-lasting pad since many of the women and girls without access to menstruation products also lack access to sanitation and safe disposal of pads. 

To date Days for Girls has reached over 1 million women and girls in 125 countries with their Days for Girls Kits (DfG Kits). The Days for Girls Social Enterprise Program trains local women to produce and sell DfG Kits, as well as provide women with menstrual health education. According to the Days for Girls 2018 report, 81% of participants in the social enterprise program reported earning an income, and overall the program has created jobs and increased women’s confidence and ability to become business leaders in their communities.  

Untapped potential

 In the development world terms such as social enterprise and social entrepreneurship are often used, but not often defined. Social enterprises are businesses which maximize social good and financial return, while social entrepreneurship is about creating change agents by investing in the ideas of social entrepreneurs. While the latter is important it is equally, if not more important, for sustainable change in global health to invest in, create and support social enterprises that can provide in-country jobs and economic stability, as well as solve important health problems. 

As we head into 2020 and plan for achieving the SDGs in the next ten years, finding innovative ways to solve global health problems will be critical. Global health organizations need to capitalize on the success of current social enterprises, and partner with in-country social entrepreneurs in order to solve intertwined health and development issues. Creating sustainable change means moving beyond charity and finding ways for low-income countries to prosper; because in a global economy when low income countries thrive – everyone thrives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Global Health and Diabetic Retinopathy-“Protect your vision: Steps for someone with Diabetes”

“Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Hyperglycaemia, or raised blood sugar, is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes and over time leads to serious damage to many of the body’s systems, especially the nerves and blood vessels.” -WHO (2018)

The prevalence of Diabetes has increased in low and middle-income countries. Diabetes increases the risk of a range of eye diseases, but the main cause of blindness associated with diabetes is diabetic retinopathy.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), diabetic retinopathy causes blindness in almost 5 million people worldwide. As the leading cause of vision loss in working-age adults, diabetic eye disease thus represents a significant global socioeconomic and healthcare problem.

What is diabetic retinopathy and what causes it? 

Diabetic retinopathy is an eye condition caused by diabetes. It affects the small blood vessels and light sensitive tissues in the back of the eye (retina). This condition is primarily caused due to high blood sugar levels and if left untreated can lead to vision loss.

Am I at risk for vision problems? 

If you have any type of diabetes you can get diabetic retinopathy. This includes people with type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes, which is diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. Your risk gets higher the longer you have diabetes. More than 2 in 5 Americans with diabetes have some stage of diabetic retinopathy. The good news is that you can lower your risk by controlling your diabetes!

When should I get an eye exam?

The best diagnostic for diabetic retinopathy is a dilated eye exam.

  • If you have diabetes, get a dilated eye exam once a year
  • If you have diabetes and become pregnant, get a dilated eye exam as soon as possible and ask your doctor if you will need more eye exams during your pregnancy

What can I do to prevent diabetic retinopathy?

Losing your vision to diabetic retinopathy is sometimes permanent, but can be prevented. Studies have shown that the best ways to prevent it are to:

  • Keep your blood sugar level close to normal (this also reduces getting kidney and nerve diseases)
  • Control any elevated blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Exercise regularly
  • Choose healthy foods
  • Follow your doctor’s instructions for taking any medications and ask questions about your health

Is there a treatment for diabetic retinopathy?

Yes. However, treatment for diabetic retinopathy is often delayed as symptoms are unnoticeable until the condition starts to progress, or when Diabetic Macular Edema (DME) occurs. DME is when blood vessels leak fluid into the back of the eye, causing swelling. In this case, eye exams would be needed more often, as it becomes more severe. People with more severe cases may need a dilated eye exam as often as every 2 to 4 months. It is important to know that early detection and treatment can reduce the risk of blindness on a global scale.

News Round Up

Politics & Policies

Norway has launched a milestone “Better Health, Better Life” strategy to combat deadly non-communicable (NCDs) diseases as part of its international development assistance. This makes Norway the first to develop a strategy for combating this large and growing global health threat, which currently receives only about 1% of international health assistance.

The new head of scandal-hit UNAIDS has vowed to transform the agency’s culture to safeguard staff not only from sexual harassment – which she called “the tip of the iceberg” – but any abuse of power by those at the top.

The Trump Administration will continue strengthening the global capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats, as demonstrated by the May 2019 release of the first U.S. Global Health Security Strategy.

Analysis from leading researchers shows there could be significant benefits from a presidentially-led initiative focused on combating pandemics. With the 2020 Presidential race under way, the researchers provide new evidence on the potential for a pro-active U.S. foreign policy effort to halt current pandemics, prevent new outbreaks from becoming pandemics, and address disease threats linked to climate change.  

For six years, Representative Ami Bera has been one of many leaders addressing global poverty issues in Congress. His position in the House Foreign Affairs Committee gives him the unique opportunity to give issues such as global health and women’s rights a voice in congressional hearings and on the House floor.

Programs, Grants & Awards

The 25th UN Climate Change Conference will be taking place in Madrid, Spain, and will convene from 2-13 December 2019. It will feature the 25th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 25) to the United Nations Framework Convention to Combat Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 51st meetings of the UNFCCC subsidiary bodies – the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI 51) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 51).

Three students in the Long School of Medicine won top awards at the 8th Annual UTMB Global Health Education Symposium Oct. 12 in Galveston.

Rare disease was considered an unattractive market segment as well but with the help of regulatory incentives and premium pricing it has been transformed; 31 out of the 59 new drugs approved by the US FDA in 2018 were for rare diseases. Venture capital has played an instrumental role in that transformation by funding unproven, high-risk technologies and demonstrating their clinical benefits in patients.

Research

The International Committee of the Red Cross reported a new outbreak of dengue fever in war-torn Yemen, with thousands of cases reported and several dozen deaths.

Neurological impairments might significantly contribute to reduced life expectancy in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs). There are no empirical studies of premature mortality in children with neurological impairments in Africa. This study estimated the risk of premature mortality in children with neurological impairments and identified risk factors and causes of death.

A new Global Health Security Index released today, the first comprehensive assessment and benchmarking of health security and related capabilities across 195 countries, suggests that not a single country in the world is fully prepared to handle an epidemic or pandemic.

In an analysis of research studies conducted in Africa on HIV, malaria, TB, salmonellosis, Ebola and Buruli ulcer, Mbaye and colleagues found that African authors are highly under-represented as first and last authors (authorship positions that often get the most visibility and credit).

Diseases & Disasters

Dementia poses a threat to global health on the same scale as HIV/AIDS, the Dutch government has said, warning that the number of people with the condition will not be far off the population of Germany by 2030.

A deadly virus called Nipah carried by bats has already caused human outbreaks across South and South East Asia and has “serious epidemic potential”, global health and infectious disease specialists said.

Technology 

Artificial intelligence (AI) has demonstrated great progress in the detection, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases. Deep learning, a subset of machine learning based on artificial neural networks, has enabled applications with performance levels approaching those of trained professionals in tasks including the interpretation of medical images and discovery of drug compounds

Lack of data, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, combined with the absence of international standards for data management, is hindering efforts in measuring progress toward meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) according to a viewpoint published in the international medical journal The Lancet.

Environmental Health

Climate change has a negative impact on women’s ability to make meaningful decisions in their lives, according to new research looking at climate change hotspots in Africa and Asia.

Equity & Disparities

On Navajo Nation, grocery stores are few and far between. Most people shop at gas stations and trading posts, where healthy foods are scarce. To widen access to fruits and vegetables—and improve overall health—Partners In Health (PIH) and its sister organization on Navajo Nation, Community Outreach and Patient Empowerment, launched an initiative to encourage shops to stock and sell produce and traditional Diné foods.

The patient, a four-year-old girl, came to the Cambodian clinic with a painful mass in her abdomen. Kristin Schroeder, MD, MPH, then a resident at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was part of the medical team that diagnosed her: Wilm’s tumor, a type of kidney tumor that is curable in more than 90 percent of the cases in the United States.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) program to review antiretroviral drugs for use in low-resource settings via the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) now supports treatment of more than 14 million patients with HIV. However, an in-depth evaluation of the program has not been undertaken.

Doctors Without Borders is calling on Johnson & Johnson to halve the price of a lifesaving tuberculosis drug, called bedaquline, to make it more accessible to patients around the world. Currently, a six-month supply of the drug for a single person costs $400 in countries around the world that participate in the Global Drug Facility, a United Nations-linked organization that is the world’s largest provider of tuberculosis medication.

Women, Maternal, Neonatal & Children’s Health

Child health is improving dramatically around the world. Cases of measles and tetanus have reduced by 80 percent. The Center for Disease Control has aided more than 80 countries in eliminating rubella by increasing access to vaccines. The death rate of children under five has plummeted. India is one of the countries making great strides in the health of their children.

Cervical cancer and breast cancer are the biggest causes of cancer deaths among women in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Yet it is only in recent years that prevention and control of these diseases have become a matter of public health. In 2011, the WHO said that non-communicable diseases were “an impending disaster” for some countries, pushing millions of people into poverty.

Once-a-month contraceptive pill could have ‘tremendous impact on global health’. Trialled in pigs, the pill sits in the stomach and dissolves slowly, releasing the hormones required to prevent pregnancy.

More pregnant women and children protected from malaria, but accelerated efforts and funding needed to reinvigorate global response, WHO report show.

Part 4: Perspectives on Global Health from Pharmacists Around the World

As healthcare continues to morph and adapt based on the requirements of kind, compassionate, evidence-based care, pharmacists are playing a vital role in ensuring patient needs are met in countless regions across the world. In this four-part IH Blog series, the pharmacy role accompanied by profession-related challenges and pharmacist-led global health initiatives will be explored within a profession that is often underappreciated. The following perspectives, shared by practicing pharmacy professionals from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), India, Cambodia, and the United States of America (USA) aim at highlighting various aspects of healthcare that should be properly addressed by governmental bodies, NGOs, and all stakeholders by both sustainable political will and empowering solutions. 

This fourth and final segment explores targeted populations in each of the aforementioned countries, the health ailments that burden these groups, and each pharmacist’s proposed pathway to overcome these concerns within these nation states. 

In every corner of this vastly diverse planet, healthcare access and delivery affects countless aspects of humanity’s well-being. These aspects can range from the capability of obtaining the correct medications for treating dermatitis or receiving prophylaxis isoniazid therapy to accessing cancer screening with a pap smear and purchasing levemir at an affordable price. In addition to these direct implications on one’s life, healthcare possesses indirect factors such as social relationships influenced by health, hours lost working due to health commitments, and the emotional burden due to certain ailments. The global health community recognizes that health disparities exist throughout various regions of the world which affect these aforementioned facets. However, the inequalities that exist within explicit populations in these regions are often overlooked or overshadowed by more broad global initiatives.

In this final post for the IH Connect blog series, four practicing pharmacists reveal major concerns in their areas of inhabitation for specific populations: older adults, pediatrics, pregnant mothers, women’s health, and men’s health. These healthcare leaders then offer initiatives and solutions to address these complications to improve the lives of each member of their cherished communities. 

Dr. Moeung Sotheara, Ph.D. 
Clinical Research Assistant & Part Time Lecturer – University of Health Sciences
Phnom Penh, Cambodia 

Cambodia has achieved some remarkable health outcomes in recent decades such as improving newborn and child health, ensuring provision of HIV/AIDS treatment to over 80 percent of the infected population, and expanding vaccination coverage. However, there are a number of population-specific concerns that need to be addressed in order to further improve the overall healthcare and wellbeing of the people.

Older Adults

One of the top concerns regarding older adults in Cambodia is the lack of care centers for older adults and state pension provision. Consequently, the older adults in Cambodia are physically and financially dependent on their children to get access to health services from going to see a doctor to buying medicines. This results in older adults not willing to seek immediate medical care when they have health problems as they feel hesitant to ask for their children to help. Moreover, as they cannot go to the pharmacy on their own, they often miss out on crucial information regarding appropriate drug use. The solution is to provide all Cambodian workers with a social pension scheme and to build care centers for older adults, where they can easily gain access to healthcare.

Pediatrics

The top concern regarding pediatrics is the common and widespread use of fluid infusion. This dangerous practice has become a tradition in Cambodia. When a person is sick, most physicians prescribe intravenous (IV) drips either intentionally or on the patient’s demand even if he/she shows no sign of dehydration or fluid loss and often without careful monitoring. And children are no exception! To solve this problem, there should be campaigns to raise the public’s awareness about the danger of incorrectly used IV drips and to reinforce the doctors’ medical ethics.

Pregnancy

One of the top concerns regarding pregnant women is the use of traditional medicine. Traditional medicine is commonly described at two time points: one month before birth to ease child delivery and postpartum to increase breast milk production and prevent Tos (madness, depression). The most common form of traditional medicine used is herbal medicine which often consists of a mixture of different parts of multiple plants. The toxicity of these plant combinations has poorly been studied. To resolve the problem, a number of well-designed studies should be carried out to investigate the potential toxicity of herbal medicine during pregnancy and post-partum period.

Women’s health

The top concern regarding women’s health in Cambodia is the overuse of skin whitening and skin bleaching products. In a culture where lighter skin is often idealized, whitening is a common practice in Cambodia, especially for women despite the reported danger of those products. Whitening cream or lotion can be dangerous, and many counterfeit products are now on the market, making the practice even more dubious. The problem is of more concern as more and more creams are locally produced without the right standards, by mixing whitening cream with other vitamins and dangerous chemicals. Moreover, they are increasingly available online, or via social media where they are not sufficiently regulated. The immediate solution to this problem is to re-enforce the law regarding online cosmetic products advertisement. Furthermore, all production sites of sub-standard creams or lotions must be closed down. Additionally, any products must be screened for dangerous chemicals before they can be advertised and sold on the market. The public’s education of the danger of sub-standardly-produced skin whitening and skin-bleaching products is also of prime importance. The collective idealization of white skin should be changed and people should be educated to perceive beauty beyond the skin color.

Men’s health

Health impacts related to alcohol overconsumption has become a top concern regarding men’s health in Cambodia. A report by the Asia Foundation in 2015 showed that Cambodian men are drinking 9.7 litres of pure alcohol a year – 3.5 litres above the global average of annual alcohol consumption per capita. Furthermore, the study also found that Cambodian men tend to drink six times as much as their female counterparts. Social, economic and cultural factors together with the influential role of advertising are the predominant drivers of increased alcohol consumption among the Cambodian population, particularly men. Alcohol abuse has resulted in more than 60 major types of diseases including cardiovascular disease, cirrhosis of the liver, cancer and sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS. Restrictions on alcohol product advertisements, price control strategies and education of the public on the harmful effects of alcohol abuse are among the measures that can be taken to tackle the problem.

Dr. Maneesha Erraboina, PharmD.
International Business Manager – Helics Group Scientific Networks 
Hyderabad, India 

Older Adults

Most older adults use multiple drugs simultaneously for different conditions or for one condition. Polypharmacy causes poor adherence which leads to adverse drug events (ADRs) or medication errors (MEs). To avoid these ADR’s and ME’s, healthcare providers should educate patients about the medication in order to maintain good adherence and try to increase the knowledge of the health condition by performing patient counselling.

Pediatrics

Cost analysis is a ubiquitous problem for all types of diseases in each category of patient populations. In one of my research work entitled “Pharmacoeconomic Analysis and Treatment Pattern in Sepsis Patients: A Cross-sectional Prospective and Retrospective Study”, this publication infers about the cost analysis in sepsis patients particularly in the pediatric population. The major barrier is to overcome situations where health leaders are focused on cost rather than looking at the whole picture in order to provide equitable care. This can be accomplished by having input from these specific populations and reflecting on the role a healthcare provider should have in treatment. 

Pregnancy

For pregnant mothers, perinatal conditions that occur before, during and after the pregnancy can lead to perinatal mortality. In India, the most common conditions resulting in death are haemorrhage, trauma, and severely underweight babies. To avoid perinatal mortality, continuous assessment of pregnant women on medication and diet is needed by encompassing more prenatal and antenatal care health facility visits.

Women’s Health

Breast cancer is one of the top concerns in women’s health throughout the world, and this includes in India. In India, the etiological factors are difficult to identify for this type of cancer; however it mostly occurs in older women. It may occur due to older age and genetics. To decrease the risk of breast cancer, one should focus on non-pharmacological therapy that includes dietary and social changes.

Men’s Health

Commonly, pancreatitis occurs mostly in men with social history of alcohol consumption in India. In a study examining the main causes of pancreatitis, it was found that approximately 1/3rd of all pancreatitis cases was caused by alcohol. Counseling on decreases in alcohol consumption should be undertaken by all healthcare professionals in order to prevent this ailment.

Nazgul Bashir, B. Pharm
Registered Pharmacist – Super Care Pharmacy
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

As a pharmacist, we encounter a number of various types of populations seeking our care, both gender-specific and age-specific. Dubai, being a cosmopolitan city, sees many different ethnic groups and nationalities. With so much of diversity in the community, we see a number of different issues and it is our sole responsibility to identify them, recommend the most appropriate over the counter treatment to fulfill the need of the concerned person, or refer to a prescriber for more serious issues. One of the best aspects about being a pharmacist is that we have the opportunity to encounter new types of people and novel ailments every day. On the other end, some of the ailments encountered are difficult to manage due to a variety of reasons. Different groups of people who visits the pharmacy can be divided into men, women, older adults, pediatrics, and soon to be parents. In each population there are multiple issues which I will describe in detail in the following sections.

Pediatrics 

I would like to start talking about my most favorite population, pediatrics. Multiple concerns are present when it comes to children in the UAE including obesity, vitamin D deficiency, genetic problems, diabetes, and, most commonly, allergies and asthma. Out of these concerns, asthma and vitamin D deficiency are frequent ailments patients seek the care of a pharmacist for. One in every five children is suffering from asthma which initially, parents don’t realize. They self-diagnose it as night time coughing, chest congestion or persistent nagging. The cause is not simple. it could be anything airborne like construction dust (In the UAE, there is constantly large buildings being constructed), sand (UAE being the desert) and pollen from palm trees. Another major cause can be going in and out of air conditioner due to hot & humid weather. Cough suppressants and expectorants are first requests by parents and desperate patients even ask for montelukast or steroid based inhalers which is not an appropriate avenue to address the issue. First and foremost, the triggering allergen should be identified as airborne, smoke, or a viral cold. Educating parents about the importance of flu shots, the use of a peak flow meter to find out a child’s lung function and supplementing them with Echinacea, zinc, Elderberry or even Vitamin C to keep their immune boosted are also viable methods to address this ailment. Vitamin D deficiency is another common concern in children. Because hot and sunny summers last for a long time, children stay indoors rather than going out for any physical activities. Most of the body parts are covered with clothes which is common in UAE. 90% of the population is suffering from vitamin D deficiency including men, women and children. Pharmacists should recommend Vitamin D supplementation during these months in order to prevent this deficiency. 

Men’s Health 

Men’s health is often the most difficult to discuss because males make limited health visits. This could be because men ignore the illness affecting them or they could be uncomfortable discussing their health problems. Mainly, I want to talk about erectile dysfunction (ED) in men. One in every 3 men from age 40-70 suffer from ED, but due to cultural issues, the topic is often avoided. They avoid asking for professional help on this sensitive issue because they feel challenged, embarrassed and/or guilty. High diabetes and obesity rates and smoking/alcohol use are the main factors causing ED. Pharmacist counseling can provide significant help with lifestyle advice, proper supplementation, and education for reasons to follow up with a prescriber.

Older Adults

No matter which part of the world we belong to, a majority of older adults we see are on poly-pharmacy. This creates unique challenges in this population by having multiple health issues and taking a number of medications. In the UAE, proper guidance on use of these medications is often missing which leads to non-adherence to medications. From a patient’s perspective, taking 5 or more medications, either prescription or non-prescription, can be time-consuming and frustrating. For older adults with cognitive issues, issues surrounding medication adherence is exacerbated. As a community pharmacist, I would like to raise awareness about poly-pharmacy, adherence, and its effect on older adults. Many steps can be taken to increase the adherence. Color-coded pill boxes, properly labelled vials and easily read fonts should be used. Technology reminders should also be utilized to improve adherence. Another commonly noticed concern in older adults is drug induced nutritional deficiency which is defined as being on multiple medications that lead to a number of important nutrients being depleted. As pharmacists,  we should inform the patients the importance of this issue and help patients to identify the nutrition depletion by the medications they are taking.

Women’s Health 

Last but not the least, about 60% of the female population has issues regarding women’s health and are visiting pharmacists more often. Women’s health concerns are almost all interlinked including irregular menstruation, infertility, post menopausal symptoms, and urogenital complications. There are many more complications which could contribute to the larger discussion about this population. However, the one problem I would like to discuss is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) which is infrequent or irregular menstruation or increase in androgen levels. It can be difficult to diagnose,  but many symptoms are excessive hair loss, acne/oily skin, weight gain and infertility. UAE has the highest rate of PCOS than any other part of the world. PCOS is a more recent disease which could be linked to modern lifestyles, more indoor activities and a decrease in outdoor activities, stress, and junk food intake. It can be caught initially if any adolescents discover a missed period or heavy periods. Most of the time, they don’t take it seriously and realize it when it is too late which could result in difficulties with conception or infertility. PCOS can not only lead to infertility but also anxiety and depression. Rates of infertility are increasing. When I investigate patients on their cycle most of the time, I find out they were having irregular periods in their early 20s, missed 3-4 months, and no action was taken because of it being such an intimate topic. I believe if we have any female patients coming to the pharmacy with issues like hair loss, excessive oily skin, facial hair, they should be advised for early screening of PCOS. Folic acid supplementation should be advised to people who are trying to conceive with PCOS or anyone with an irregular menstrual cycle. Lifestyle modification and weight loss should be emphasized as well.

Dr. Bryce Adams, Pharm D., RPh.
Oncology Medical Science Liaison
Washington D.C., United States of America 

Older Adults

I believe the biggest health concern for older adults in the USA is Alzheimer’s disease. This has been a growing concern as the human race’s lifespan has been exponentially increasing. While billions of dollars have been spent in research looking for a treatment, there hasn’t been much success. The current treatment options, cholinesterase inhibitors or N-Methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonists, only slow the progression of the disease, albeit, with limited success. Therefore, these agents are most effective when initiated before the severity of the disease reaches a certain point. To address this concern, I believe we need to work on detecting the disease earlier and continue to research new options. Alzheimer’s screening needs to be incorporated into routine check ups in older adults, and implemented at a younger age with those with a family history of this ailment. Additionally, there needs to be continued research regarding the disease. This includes research to gain a better understanding of the pathophysiology as well as new agents to treat the disease. Most of our current research has been in regards to amyloid beta. While this could lead to better treatments, most of the efforts focusing on this have failed, therefore, I think we should start to focus more efforts elsewhere.

Pediatrics

The biggest health concern for American pediatric patients is the lack of novel treatments. While there have been great strides and new medicines for adult patients, there is typically a delay for access to these medicines for pediatrics. One way to combat this is to ensure there are a proportionate amount of clinical trials that include pediatric patients. This work is currently underway and hopefully will result in greater access to medicines for pediatric patients.

Pregnancy

I believe preeclampsia is the greatest concern during pregnancy as it is fairly common and can result in the death of the mother and/or child. While there are some treatments for this condition, there is still much room for improvement in terms of early diagnosing, prevention, and more effective therapy options. I believe we can improve outcomes by focusing our efforts on the aforementioned methods of improvement: identifying risks for preeclampsia more efficiently and preventative measures. 

Men and Women’s Health

I’ve combined men’s and women’s health into one as I believe the greatest concern is the same: heart disease. While there are several treatments currently for heart disease with decent success, there hasn’t been much advancement in recent years. Our current agents can manage the disease and reduce symptoms, but for the most part, they are unable to cure the disease. In order to combat this issue, American researchers and practitioners need to improve screening to identify the disease earlier on as well as focusing on new treatment options that have the potential to cure the disease.

APHA 2019 Annual Conference: Recap

My name is Christa Cook and I am a Communications Committee Chair.

This year, I was able to attend the annual APHA conference for the first time! My schedule was packed full of sessions and meet-ups and it was all so worth it! I am an infectious disease epidemiologist, so my work is mainly focused on infection control and disease transmission, and I love it… but I’m also interested in other aspects of public health like chronic diseases and social and behavioral health. The conference allowed me to get a little taste of what’s going outside of my focused public health field. I highly recommend attending if your interests in public health are varied.

It’s also a great opportunity to network and meet other members of the sections or committees you’re involved in. I’ve been working with the International Health Section’s Communications Committee for over a year, and I was finally able to meet some of the people I’ve been talking to over the phone with at every month’s leadership call! I attended the business meeting for the section on Sunday and as each representative from committees gave their update, I was able to grasp just how much our section does. Here are a few highlights from each of the section’s committees:

  • The Policy and Advocacy Committee sponsored 3 policy statements, endorsed 2 policy statements, and reviewed/provided feedback to all 17 proposed policy statements.
  • The Communications Committee is now producing the section’s newsletter, the Section Connection. They continue to recruit bloggers for the section website and are active on all social media including Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
  • The Nominations Committee fielded a full slate of candidates for section leadership positions this spring. This year we elected Jirair Ratevosian, Samer Jabbour, and Rania Millerson as governing councilors. Carmyn Polk stepped up to run for secretary-elect, and will assume the secretary position in November 2021. Jay Nepal, Roberto Jorge Esteves and Ucheoma Nwaozuru were elected to the three open section councilor position. Caitlin Wolfe was elected to our section student liaison position. We hope you consider running for a position next year. The latest leadership roster is available here
  • The Membership Committee conducted an online membership survey in Spring and based on the feedback proposed a plan to more actively engage members.
  • The Global Health mentoring program saw an increase in the number of mentor/mentee pairings in 2019 compared to 2018. Applications for the 2020 cohort are now open.
  • The Program Committee created over 40 scientific sessions for this year’s annual meeting on emerging public health issues of international importance, including nine collaborative sessions with association components.

It was so inspiring to learn about the work that each of our committees does! I also was introduced to a few of the International Health section’s different working groups such as the breastfeeding working group, international abortion working group, and the climate health and working group. I wasn’t aware of these groups beforehand and found myself interested in learning more. I even connected one of the heads of the working group with a colleague at the conference because I knew her passion aligned with the group’s mission. 

APHA International Health Section’s Open House

After the business meeting, the section held their Open House. The Open House is an opportunity for all members to get to know the work the section does. This year our Assistant Social Media Manager, Jackie Bell, represented the Communications Committee. The format of the Open House was similar to speed dating where members and potential members would spend a few minutes at a table with each Committee and listen to what each Committee does and ask questions.

On top of attending the country’s largest gathering of public health professionals, you also get to explore a new city. This year, the conference was held in the wonderful and historical city of Philadelphia. I got to sneak away to see where the Declaration of Independence was signed as well as do a cheesy tourist bus ride to learn more about the other historical sites scattered around downtown! I learned SO much inside and outside of the walls of the conference center.

Annual Awards Ceremony and Networking Event

On Tuesday night, I was able to briefly attend the section’s annual Awards Ceremony and Networking event. During this event, section members are able to meet other section members as well as section leaders. It was a great opportunity to learn more about the wonderful global health work our members do. During that time, they also presented awards to people I’d consider to be global health heroes.  To learn more about this year’s awardees, click here.

To summarize the conference events, I’ve found some quick links for both attendees and those who were unable to attend this year. See below:

For attendees:

  • Check out pictures from the fun-filled week right here! Try to find yourself if you attended!
  • Did you attend and forget to file for continuing education credits? Check here for instructions on how to obtain your credits.
  • Did you learn the APHA dance and want to teach others at your workplace? Find the youtube video here!
  • Did you attend and want to share about the conference? Comment on the blog post below or find us on our social media platforms. We may spotlight your experience this month!

For those wanting a recap:

  • The theme of this year’s conference was “Creating the Healthiest Nation: For Science. For Action. For Health”. Read more about what that means in the link above.
  • Some of the best highlights from the conference can be found here on APHA TV! These quick clips can give you a taste of some of the biggest speakers that presented.
  • The annual meeting had many diverse workshops the Saturday before the conference. See a listing of the different options that were available this year here.
  • If you’re interested in reading other’s perspectives about sessions at the conference, check out the blog here. You can also cruise APHA’s social media channels to see what others retweeted or posted about the conference!
  • The conference also had a neat Social Media Lab! Check out the link to see what was available for attendees. This was super beneficial for those wanting to revamp their organization’s social media platforms to increase their public health presence. 
  • Still want more? You can purchase sessions like the opening, general and closing sessions from APHA Live. If you’re a member, it’s half price! 

I hope I’ve convinced you to attend next year’s event in San Francisco!