Saturday, March 23, 2013

Norovirus Strikes!

Happy Spring Break to all! I know one reason I'm happy to get off campus for a bit is to get away from the various illnesses circulating campus as winter drags on into late March (alas, I was still a victim of a hearty case of the common cold). One particularly nasty bug that has made its presence known is norovirus, or the stomach bug, which can infect a poor, unsuspecting student if only a few virus particles make contact with the host.

Alarmed by how serious the impact of norovirus was on College Hill this winter, I researched a bit to see how other parts of the country and the world fared this season. Turns out, not so hot: I found out from this BBC video that this year saw many more cases of stomach flu worldwide because a new strain of norovirus called "Sydney 2012" was responsible for infecting millions of people with the "winter vomiting bug" (as the Brits call it) from the UK to the US. Apparently, new strains don't make an appearance too often (at least not on an annual basis, like influenza), but when they do, the number of infected persons that season is distinctly higher than normal years. With no vaccine or sure-fire cure for the virus, the best that can be done to prevent infection is constant hand washing, but for those who do have the misfortune of acquiring it, be sure to rest and drink plenty of fluids.

Take care to help prevent the spread of infectious disease! But don't worry, spring should be right around the corner...!

Marisa M.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Balancing the rights of the sick with the rights of the healthy

At our last few meetings, our GlobalHealthU discussions have considered the question “Who has more rights than others?” Last week, we talked about the rights of the sick versus the rights of the healthy. We looked at various ethical scenarios, including quarantining a village to prevent the spread of multidrug-resistant TB. There was actually a surprising amount of disagreement about whose rights the government should be focusing on. Should we work to take care of the sick, or focus on keeping the healthy from getting sick?

I think this TED talk by Boghuma Kabisen Titanji about the problems for patients in developing countries involved in HIV research trials is an interesting example of the rights of the sick versus the rights of the healthy. While these research trials are invaluable in the search for better HIV treatments, patients are often left in the lurch after the trials end. In this situation, the sick have basically no rights-- they can choose to participate in a trial, with little to no understanding of what the trial is about and what will happen to them when the trial is over, or they get no treatment at all. To balance the rights of the sick with the rights of the healthy, Titanji stresses the importance of informed consent and examination of the cost and availability of treatments used in clinical trials. This way, patients would know what they were getting into, and would be able to continue to receive treatment after the end of the trial.

-Anna H.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Kuza Project Interviews: Mary

A few notes on Mary's interview:

Mary is one of the leaders of the Kuza Project- Stella is the other. An enthusiast of the Kuza Project from the start, she has been instrumental to the success of the project.

At the time of this interview- although the Kuza girls were highly engaged in, and enthusiastic about, the program, they were not be able to optimally benefit from the program because the Kuza Project was not capable of supporting some of their critical physical needs (some of which Mary mentions).

This year, we were happy to announce that Brown GlobeMed has incorporated basic funding into the Kuza budget to support some of these needs! Furthermore, a skill-building component has been included that will train the girls in marketable skills that will allow them to start generating an income!

Along the same lines, the mentors are also frequently forced to make difficult monetary decisions; They are often torn between the desire to help the girls in the program and their responsibility to their own families. Furthermore, as she mentions- it is sometimes difficult to agree to buy things for one girl without feeling a responsibility to buy something for all of them. And while we hope that the additions to the program will help the girls provide more for themselves, we do hope to eventually provide a stipend for the mentors as well.

-Sarah Sneed

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Kuza Project Interviews: Stella

A few notes on the interview with Stella:

Due to our general ineptitude at speaking Swahili, the mentors were kind enough to speak with us in English during the interviews- although it was more difficult for them. However, part of the miscommunications in this interview (and others) lies not necessarily in the language barrier, but rather in that Lili and I were speaking too quickly and not differentiating enough between our questions. Stella was the very first mentor we interviewed and so she also had to deal with both our bubbling excitement and nervousness as well as our inexperience (this was both mine and Lili's first time drafting interview questions and conducting a one-on-one interview). So both parties were kind of playing it by ear- very informal- but I like to think more genuine. We didn't tell any of the mentors the questions we were going to ask in advance. We just sat down and talked.

To clarify- the Kuza mentors and program coordinators meet once a week on Mondays (I believe Stella said that they have their 'monthly' meeting on Mondays), while every Saturday the mentors meet with the girls.

The places Stella mentions, Mukuru Kwa Reuben and Lunga Lunga are Youth Centers run by U-Tena that are open to all youth, not just the Kuza girls. However, these centers (among other places) are used by U-Tena to run Kuza meetings. Most Saturdays it is 10 girls working with 2 mentors. However, once a month all the mentors and all the girls gather at Lunga Lunga to give presentations, have group discussions, play games, and share a meal.

Lastly, at the end of the interview Stella mentions that "some mentors are not ready to work." This should not be read as some of the mentors aren't invested in the Kuza program, rather that extenuating circumstances can make it difficult for some of the mentors to participate to the optimal extent. Many of the mentors have their own children to take care of- and as Stella mentions, being a Kuza mentor is entirely volunteered time; The mentors are not earning a stipend for their work. In talking to the mentors I learned that often, although they do not have money to spare, they will give money to the girls in the program if the problem is critical ( allowing girls to purchase much needed food, feminine hygiene products, etc.). What she is talking about in terms of improvement that there needs to be better coordination between the mentors- a better system- to help overcome both individual and group problems so that mentors don't have to deal with complex and physically/emotionally exhausting situations on their own.

We also apologize for the poor video quality, we didn't anticipate the difficulties in video file format conversion. :(

-Sarah Sneed

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Upcoming Kenyan Presidential Election

On Monday, Kenyans will return to the polls to elect a new president for the first time in five years, when the last presidential election precipitated fierce clashes between the various ethnic groups and tribes of Kenya. I recently read in the New York Times (you can read the article here) that although precautions are being taken by Kenyan officials and international officials alike to prevent another episode of violence like that which followed the last election, there are still some simmering tensions between some of the tribes and even a rumor that machete sales have risen steeply. Still, with new digital voting machines replacing the outdated, nonfunctioning manual voting systems and constant calls for peace in the media, it seems that Kenya is far more prepared than last election to prevent any outburst of violence that may follow the vote.

At our meeting last week, GlobalHealthU gave us some background of the political situation in Kenya and shared a video of a presidential debate between this year's Kenyan candidates. In small groups, we all noted that the debate was conducted very much like a "first-world" presidential debate, with live reporters who spoke flawless English, broadcasts transmitted throughout the entire country (and world) on multiple radio and television channels (and online streaming), and a patriotic opening of the debate with the Kenyan National Anthem. This certainly forced us to realize that Kenya is not a simple, undeveloped country as the Lion King suggests, but rather one of Africa's most modern countries that meets the standards of Western countries. Unfortunately, this isn't always positive: Kenya has a "swing-tribe" in this election much the way the U.S. has "swing-states," and this may exacerbate tensions between ethnic groups. I suppose we'll just have to wait and see what the election brings!

Marisa M.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Family Dinner

Woot! Last week, we went out to dinner at a Thai/Cambodian restaurant down the hill!
It was SO fun geting to know the staff better. Why didn't we talk more before!? 

I think, building a strong GlobeMed community at school will help us remind ourselves of our goals and be more passionate about acting on our beliefs. 

<3 globemedlurve