Global Health Blog

  1. Teju Cole visits to talk about the White Savior Industrial Complex

    April 25, 2015 by Arianna Yanes
    Northwestern community members listen intently to Teju Cole address the White Savior Industrial Complex.

    Northwestern community members listen intently to Teju Cole address the White Savior Industrial Complex.

    Teju Cole opened his presentation with a video clip. A white girl with shaggy bangs and a colorful headband plays her violin while another sings Rihanna’s song, We Found Love. The scene cuts and we discover that she is in Africa, playing her violin and smiling among native Africans, from the classroom to the field.. From the classroom to the field, she interacts with the Africans. The clip ends with her reflecting on this life-changing, sentimental experience.

    “There’s something going on in a video like that that is worthy of our attention and our worry,” Teju Cole said to the crowd that nearly filled Leverone Hall.

    It’s what he calls the White Savior Industrial Complex. The concept is that white people go to Africa thinking they can do good and solve problems without first consulting the local people on what the problems they face truly are.

    “If we are going to interfere in the lives of others,” Cole writes in the Atlantic, a little due diligence is a minimum requirement.”

    There is an air of superiority and a desire for sentimentality associated with the complex. In a series of tweets that garnered attention, Cole wrote, “The white savior supports brutal policies in the morning, founds charities in the afternoon, and receives awards in the evening.”

    Cole described how when white people travel to Africa to help, their hand that gives is above the hand that receives. This element of superiority and supremacy in the “exchanges” creates a one directional flow of favors being done from one group for the other.

    To illustrate his point, Cole created the character Brad, admittedly hoping that nobody in the crowd was named Brad. Brad is a nineteen-year-old white boy from Minnesota. He goes to Haiti to do medical missions, yet he knows essentially nothing about medicine.

    “You think the people don’t know that Brad is nineteen?” Cole asked the crowd. “They’re poor, not dumb.”

    Brad leaves Haiti feeling accomplished and fulfilled, with a new Facebook profile picture in tow. The profile picture is one we’ve all seen before: Brad crouching down with a few African children near him smiling. What you would never find on Facebook, Cole elucidates, is a picture of Brad with a homeless man in a shelter in Minneapolis.

    “Happy African children are available in that way,” Cole said.

    Cole was not condemning all aid. What he was saying is that we need more constellational thinking, Cole said. Similarly to how we look at the stars and draw lines between them to make shapes, we need to look at events, causes, and effects and connect them to each other to create understanding. Aid has to be applied strategically and carefully with know-how and knowledge, Cole explained. The first question we should always ask is, “How much do I not know about the situation I’m stepping into?” It is respectable to want to provide aid and relieve suffering in the world. However, for this to happen, Cole believes you must leave your sense of superiority first.

    “Unbalance is inefficient,” Cole said. It does not succeed as much as it fails.

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  2. Emory Adventure: Finding Global Health Solutions for Central America

    April 3, 2015 by Guest Bloggers

    By guest blogger Eleanor Burgess

    Photo Credit: Emory GHI (@emoryghi) | Twitter

    Photo Credit: Emory GHI (@emoryghi) | Twitter

    Few settings are more suited for developing Global Health solutions than Emory University, and the Northwestern team made the most of our experience there at the 2015 International Global Health Case Competition. The cherry trees were in full bloom, and petals fell softly through the air as all 24 teams from the United States, Denmark, and Australia walked from our tour of the CDC to our Friday workday locations. We experienced a taste of the South, enjoying biscuits and grits for breakfast, and Southern comfort food for dinner including baked beans, pulled pork, banana pudding and of course lots of sweet tea.

    The case stretched us to the limit: we had only a week to solve the pervasive problem of Gun Violence in Honduras.This interesting case was outside of our medical experiences, but ultimately allowed us to dive into the difficult social, economic, and health situation in Honduras. Our solution targeted new gang-member recruitment in Honduras to stop the vicious cycle of violence. We proposed a multi-pronged solution, and our Saturday morning presentation was selected as one of the four final round presentations! Myself and my all-girl team of four intelligent ladies, Katie Kunstman, Kori Cooper, Shweta Hosakoppal, and Marine Coste, presented our final round solution to a huge room full of all the other teams and a panel of eight judges. After our presentation, we had to think quickly on our feet to answer the judges’ tough questions to the best of our knowledge and ability.

    After a reception spent networking with fellow participants, we found out we had been awarded fourth place and that we had won some money for our efforts. This experience was intense, occasionally stressful, and exciting throughout the process. I am glad that I had this opportunity, and I thank Northwestern for covering the flight costs so my whole team could compete in this intellectual and extremely interesting competition. I wish good luck to next year’s Northwestern team participants.

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  3. International Women’s Day Global Health Symposium makes global health discourse a reality

    March 9, 2015 by Arianna Yanes

    image1The first International Women’s Day was held on March 8, 1911, and the day continues to be celebrated today, to call for greater equality and recognize the achievements of women. On March 6, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs hosted the International Women’s Day Global Health Symposium at the Standard Hotel in Chicago to address women’s health around the world. Twelve Northwestern University Global Health Studies students attended the conference, along with a few faculty members.

    “Engaging with global health discourse in the classroom is one thing, but to see the people who are actually making change happen speak about it makes that discourse a reality,” said Abhi Veerina, a junior Global Health Studies minor who attended the conference.

    If you were unable to make it to the conference, but are interested to know what was said, here are the main takeaways from three key talks.

    Health Food for a Healthy World

    The panelists for this keynote, which took place over breakfast, were Kate Maehr, executive director and CEO of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, and Roger Thurow, a senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and author of the One Book One Northwestern 2013-2014 choice, “The Last Hunger Season.” Thurow stressed the importance of the first 1,000 days on tackling hunger and the stunting of children around the globe. The first 1,000 days, from a mother’s pregnancy to the child’s second birthday, can help determine the course of their future, profoundly impacting the child’s ability to grow, learn, and rise out of poverty. This is important to individuals and societies as well, as Thurow explained the opportunity costs that result from stunted children that could have otherwise made large societal impacts.

    In the panel, Maehr explained how food deserts exist all across the globe, though the causes differ by region. In some places of the world, hunger is a result of war, weather, and geography. Here in Cook County, the issue is poverty. More than one million people live at or below the poverty level, which for a family of four is less than $23,000 yearly income. Additionally, she discussed the prevalence of hunger in all parts of our country, emphasizing that it is not only a rural issue.

    “Hunger is alive and strong in every one of Illinois’ counties,” Maehr said.

    The main takeaway was that nutrition is the bedrock issue for many societies today. In order for education or health initiatives to succeed, nutrition must first be addressed. The Greater Chicago Food Depository acknowledges this and works to combat issues of hunger and malnutrition in our community.

    “These are not problems that we have to tolerate,” Thurow said.

    Global Mental Health

    The next panel addressed global mental health, with Scott Portman, the Director of Special Projects at Heartland Alliance International, and Karlee Silver, the Vice President of Targeted Challenges at Grand Challenges Canada, as the two panelists.

    Silver discussed the current issues regarding mental health around the world, with 90% of people without access to proper care and a widespread stigmatization that prevents conversations and limits progression of treatment. She is working on an initiative in Canada called Saving Brains, that aims to “develop sustainable ways to promote and nurture healthy child and brain development in the first 1,000 days” to impact low-resource areas and foster human capital to solve the challenges that exist in these communities.

    To improve care in the U.S., Portman suggested U.S. development agencies be created with a specific focus on mental health and try to integrate mental health into policies. He believes the U.S. should enact programs like Saving Brains in Canada to promote healthy minds. On an individual level, Silver urged audience members to have more conversations about mental health in every day life, or to just talk to each other in general and reduce the loneliness that many feel around the world.

    Smart Economics: Women’s Reproductive Health

    Purnima Mane, the President and CEO of Pathfinder International, an organization that focuses on family planning and reproductive health in developing countries, opened this talk with a discussion of women’s reproductive health and related statistics. Pathfinder International’s efforts in India attempted to change the pattern of young girls getting married, pregnant, and dropping out of school. From their efforts, they found a 13% increase in use of contraception to delay the first pregnancy and a 19% increase in contraception to space pregnancies. Mane emphasized that change is possible and more efforts should be made to promote reproductive health.

    Priya Agrawal, the Executive Director of Merck for Mothers and Jeni Klugman, a fellow in the Women and Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, spoke next. Klugman explained how restrictions on the agency of women are holding back progress around the globe. For example, she described restrictions on abortion do not prevent abortions from occurring, but instead have them done in unsafe manners. In her opinion, reproductive health is central to gender equality.

    Agrawal described why investing in women is a smart economic decision. Providing reproductive health services and contraception to all women who want them would cost $3.6 billion dollars a year, but would generate annual benefits of $432 billion. In other words, each dollar invested in women’s health generates $120 in benefits. In Agrawal’s words, healthy women lead to healthy families, communities, and economies, and “quite frankly, that’s really good for business.”

     

    If you are interested in viewing the full panels, you can watch the tapings at http://www.thechicagocouncil.org/event/womens-health-rewriting-goals.

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  4. Motorcycle use: A global health crisis?

    February 22, 2015 by Arianna Yanes

    The use of motorcycles has been growing around the world, due to the mobility and speed that they offer, as well as affordability. With increased use comes more frequent accidents, making motorcycle use a public health issue around the world. According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Burden of Disease study, road accidents are on track to become the fifth leading cause of death in poor countries. Worldwide, 23% of the world’s road traffic deaths occur among motorcyclists, just 8% less than the amount of deaths among car drivers.

    While hefty funds have been raised to combat AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, significantly less attention has been given to motorcycle accidents as a threat to public health. Some have gone so far to say that the world’s motorcycle boom is the “most-overlooked” health crisis.

    In some poorer nations, motorcycles have revolutionized the economy, says Professor Noelle Sullivan, lecturer in the Department of Anthropology and Global Health Studies. Though the use of motorcycles is “tremendously costly,” according to Sullivan, the economic benefits reaped contribute to the continual growth of their use. Because people can get around cheaply, selling crops in main markets becomes more accessible. In Tanzania, where Sullivan conducted public health research with a group of Northwestern students this summer, the problem is evident.

    “In 2013 when I visited Tanzania, 3 young motorcycle drivers from one small village died in the course of a single weekend,” Sullivan says. “In 2014, I met a father whose two daughters, ages 5 and 7, were hit by a motorcycle in the main market.”

    Last year, the United Nations General assembly declared 2011-2020 to be the Decade of Action for Road Safety, acknowledging motorcyclists as “vulnerable road users” with “inadequate infrastructure and insufficient policies in place” for their protection. The WHO Global status report on road safety 2013 served as a foundation for this resolution. This report details the lack of motorcycle helmet use around the world, with head injuries among motorcyclists as a growing concern.

    According to the report, motorcyclists comprise one-third of all road traffic deaths in South East Asia and Western Pacific regions. In Europe, head injuries contribute to approximately 75% of deaths among motorcycle users. Proper helmet is encouraged to prevent such injuries and progress has been made in a number of countries in regard to motorcyclist helmet use. While 131 countries had helmet laws applying to both motorcycle drivers and passengers in 2008, 155 countries had laws in 2011. However, enforcement is not strong and only a fraction of the countries with helmet laws have specifications for the quality of helmets.

    The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting joined with the Washington Post to create a Roads Kill Map, visually representing the statistics presented in the WHO’s global report. The road deaths in some countries, such as Thailand, Iran, and Nigeria, are over 30 per 100,000 people, with as much as 73% from motorcycle accidents in Thailand.

    A study detailing motorcycle crashes in Brazil highlights many of the global issues with motorcycle use. By analyzing all fatal motorcycle crashes between January 2001 and December 2009 in Campinas Brazil, the researchers found that 90.8% of the 479 of deaths were male and the mean age was 27.8. This demonstrates the global trend, with young adults aged 15-44 accounting for 59% of global road traffic deaths and 77% of all road traffic deaths occurring among men. young males . Traumatic brain injury was the cause of death in two-thirds of the crashes. Notably, half of the accident victims died before receiving medical attention. This indicates that prevention programs and laws may be the best way to combat this global health crisis.

    Moving forward, education and preventive measures may help to reverse the trend. In Cambodia, a country with 60% of road deaths among motorcycle users, a social marketing campaign was enacted to increase helmet use. Graphic images of a road traffic crash and threat of law enforcement were effective methods of marketing. Additionally, radio advertisements, billboards and TV commercials were used to communicate the messages of the campaign. The results of the program showed high reach and high recall among the target audience. The effects of the program on actual helmet use have yet to be assessed. These types of educational measures, in addition to stronger law enforcement, are necessary to address this public health crisis.


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  5. Northwestern Hosts 2nd Annual Global Health Case Competition

    February 20, 2015 by Emily Drewry

     

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    Participants of Northwestern’s 2nd Annual Global Health Case Competition teamed up February 14th to present solutions to the problem of combining access with accuracy in infant HIV testing in Tanzania. The teams, representing three undergraduate schools and four graduate programs, presented solutions to a panel of judges, including Kara Palamountain, the author of the case. The winning team consisted of Eleanor Burgess, School of Communication; Kaitlyn Kunstman, Feinberg School of Medicine; and Kori Cooper, Marine Coste and Shweta Hosakoppal, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. The team will represent Northwestern at Emory University’s Global Health Case Competition this March.

    The team’s approach, according to Burgess, involved a serial testing model for infant HIV diagnosis. “We made sure that our proposal was equitable across rural and urban regions and incorporated our core principles of community collaboration and sustainability,” she said. The team focused on a variety of issues, including appealing to stakeholders, testing strategies, and resource shortages. “We were also cognizant of the healthcare shortage in these regions,” said Kunstman, “and made a point that we would implement training programs for local community health workers and midwives.”

    In organizing the event, Global Health Program Assistant Chelsea Ducharme sought a case written by a member of Northwestern faculty that offered students the opportunity to apply academic lessons in a realistic scenario. The case itself challenged participants to develop effective roll-out recommendations for infant HIV tests in Tanzania, in the meantime considering challenges such as healthcare providers’ lack of human resources, electricity, and water, and clearly discrepant test-related preferences among higher- and lower-resource organizations.

    Each team presented for ten minutes in front of a panel of Northwestern judges, each with important expertise in the realm of global health at Northwestern. Kara Palamountain, a Research Assistant Professor at the Kellogg School of Management and the Executive Director of the school’s Global Health Initiative, is currently working to develop and produce affordable HIV diagnostics for resource limited settings. Mark Fisher, the Director of Engineering at Northwestern’s Center for Innovation in Global Health Technologies, has vast experience in the medical industry, both in development and strategic positions. Rob Dintruff, a faculty member at Kellogg and a Board Member of Northwestern’s Global Health Foundation, has worked extensively with global health diagnostics and testing programs. The combined experience and skill of each judge was invaluable for students, according to organizer Matt Pietrus. “Both Mark Fisher and Rob Dintruff provided invaluable feedback to the participants,” he said.

    “We were so fortunate that Kara, Mark (Fisher), and Rob (Dintruff) were available and willing to judge the competition based on their involvement in the actual project in 2008,”said Ducharme.

    Echoed Kunstman, “it was very interesting to get the judges’ perspectives on the case, and obviously we were very lucky to have Kara Palamountain herself speak to the unique challenges her team faced while tackling the same case.”

    The competition kicked off with a welcome address by Michael Diamond, Adjunct Lecturer of Global Health Studies, who told students their commitment to global health was admirable. The case competition offers students a chance to “reflect reality,” he said, and complemented the collaborative essence of the competition. “People need to work together for more effect,” he said, “and efforts here signify the opportunity to demonstrate the value of multidisciplinary approach to complex challenges.”

    Each of the eight teams in the competition consisted of students from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds and cross-schools at Northwestern, offering diverse perspectives that have proved invaluable in global health work. Kunstman, a first year medical student at Feinberg, appreciated the range of her team. “We all brought our own global health experiences to the table, but even more so, we all had different interests and real life experiences to add as well,” she said.

    In the closing remarks of his speech, Diamond stressed the importance of intramural experiences that focus on building expertise in the field of global health. “The world is going to be a better place for what you are doing here,” he told students.

    Competition sponsors: Program of African Studies/Department of Education, Title VI; Global Health Studies/International Program Development; Feinberg’s Center for Global Health; and The Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Studies.

     

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