All posts by Lewisam10

Women in Office = Better Healthcare for Women

By now, every Republican-led move related to women’s health feels like a legislative subtweet directed at feminism and the female body—perhaps a thinly-veiled backlash to the perceived threat on male supremacy, or just a muscle-flexing reminder of the gendered power dynamic behind healthcare policy. (See, for instance, the all-male contingent reveling in the House’s passage of the American Health Care Act, and the Senate’s unveiling of its new healthcare working group of 13 white men.)

In theory, political representation shouldn’t determine political priority: Our elected officials should represent the interests of their constituents regardless of gender. But in reality, the gender of our public servants sets the women’s health agenda, and in the US, men control a filibuster-proof majority.

Full article on VICE

Why Weed Decriminalization Alone Won’t Fix Racist Drug Enforcement

Hidden amid the smoke clouds of last week’s National Weed Day was a decision by the city of Atlanta to put off a vote on marijuana decriminalization. Ordinarily, local legislative procedures wouldn’t warrant much attention, but for a city once at the heart of the Civil Rights Movement, the issue has become a proxy for a broader debate about racist policing and the measures needed to change it.

The policy debate started three months ago, when two plainclothes Atlanta policemen smelled marijuana coming from the car of a young Black man named Deaundre Phillips. As documented on surveillance video, the cops proceeded to shoot and kill Deaundre on the spot, etching his name in local headlines and hashtags. Since then, activists have pressured the city’s lawmakers to soften penalties for recreational marijuana, hoping decriminalization would lower unnecessarily violent encounters with police.

Today (April 25) Atlanta’s Public Safety Committee is meeting to discuss the ordinance, setting up another possible City Council vote in the coming weeks. But in a city where more than nine in 10 marijuana arrests are of Black people—among the highest rates in the country—marijuana’s criminality (or lack thereof) may not be enough to fix racist policing.

Full article on Colorlines

Breathing Life into Medical Oxygen Ahead of WHO Committee Decision

Mount Kilimanjaro stands nearly 20,000 feet above sea level, its snow-capped peaks providing a stark contrast against northern Tanzania’s otherwise equatorial backdrop. As Africa’s tallest mountain, it draws tens of thousands of climbers a year: some of whom reach the summit successfully, many of whom must stop short because of low levels of oxygen in their blood (the peak’s atmospheric pressure offers about half the breathable air as at sea level). The irony, however, is that in Tanzania – and nearly every country in sub-Saharan Africa – you don’t need to climb a mountain to reach an environment with too little oxygen; you just have to walk into a hospital.

Oxygen is one of the most frequently-required medical interventions in the world, yet it remains in critically short supply in low-resource hospitals. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that less than half of health facilities in Africa have reliable access to medical-grade oxygen – let alone the trained staff, supplies and infrastructure to deliver it.

Full article on Impatient Optimists

Why Do People Cry More on Planes?

Last month, I was midway through an overseas flight and near the end of my in-flight movie when I discovered a vaguely salty liquid building up inside my eyes. Immediately diagnosing the rare secretion as tears, I thought back to the last time this non-gendered and totally acceptable phenomenon occurred in my life. It was on a plane just a few days prior.

While it’s possible that the two on-board movies I watched, Steve Jobs and Inside Out, cause a disproportionate amount of proverbial dust to accumulate in all viewers’ eyes, something seemed different. Sure enough, when I mentioned it to a few friends and colleagues, they revealed similar experiences watching movies and TV shows on airplanes: uncontrollable bawling during Miss Congeniality 2; soft, quiet sobbing during The Lobster; imbalanced laugh-cries during Infinitely Polar Bear. It turns out a portion of us have unknowingly been part of the Mile Cry Club all along.

Full article on VICE/Tonic

Is This the End of Solitary Confinement?

Not that facts matter anymore, but back when they used to, they had a remarkable ability to drive policy change during public health emergencies, even among unpopular groups of patients. Look no further than famous fact-denier Mike Pence, whose solution of “praying the virus away” was failing to control an HIV outbreak among heroin users in Indiana. Eventually swayed by studies showing that distributing clean needles was the most effective infection-prevention policy, Governor Pence begrudgingly bowed to the altar of fact and lifted the state’s ban on needle-exchange programs, slowing the HIV crisis.

You don’t have to be a brain surgeon (or epidemiologist, as it were) to see how acting on basic public health knowledge can go a long way in keeping society healthy, even the parts of society we tend to cast aside. It’s no surprise then that our failure to act on the facts around solitary confinement has led to a mental health epidemic that reaches well beyond the prison walls. This is the central focus of VICE’s ongoing project streaming live from a solitary cell.

In the US today, there are nearly 100,000 inmates in solitary confinement, where they spend all but an hour a day in a six-by-nine-foot cell, in total isolation. While some solitary sentences—determined not by a court, but by a jury of one’s guards—could last a few days, many continue for years, and almost all produce an inmate in worse psychological condition than when he entered. Since most prisoners will eventually walk free, the current use of solitary has yielded a breeding ground for mental illness that affects millions of Americans.

Full article on VICE/Tonic

The Women of Rural Zambia Walk Miles to Give Birth

Hariane hadn’t heard the expression “Life is about the journey, not the destination.” To this modest young mother living in rural Zambia, her life, and that of her newborn daughter, was very much about the destination.

“When I was due for delivery, I came to the clinic but there were no nurses or staff there,” Hariane says. We’re sitting in a one-bed labor ward in Zambia’s Southern Province, just out of the earshot of a dozen mothers and newborns waiting for immunizations. “As I walked back to the village, the baby’s head was already coming out. I didn’t know what to do.”

So Hariane gave birth to her daughter, Violet, under a tree next to a narrow dirt road about an hour’s walk from her village. In other words, her childbirth happened on the journey because her destination was out of reach.

Full article on VICE/Tonic

Reparations Require Identifying Slavery’s Victims First

Georgetown University recently acknowledged its historical role in slavery, offering preferential admissions status to descendants of 272 slaves it sold in 1838. Along with other measures, Georgetown updated its admissions policy to give the same advantage to the slaves’ descendants as it grants alumni, faculty and other “members of the Georgetown community.” While it is one of many U.S. institutions that was built and funded — at least in part — on the kidnapping, forced labor and sale of Black men and women, according to Richard Cellini, the Georgetown alumnus who spearheaded an independent search for the descendants, the school is one of the first to explore reconciliation beyond nominal changes and lip service.

The move highlights a critical need in bids to address reparations: As America grapples with whether and how to pay, this approach overlooks the fraught but essential process of identifying the unnamed victims and piecing together the family histories of millions of Black Americans living with and, in some cases, still suffering from the legacy of the country’s early sin.

Full article on Ozy 

On World Anesthesia Day, It’s Time to Wake Up to a Critical Medical Breakthrough

Looking back on a long and storied history of medical breakthroughs, we’re inclined to remember the discoveries that take the form of lifesaving solutions: penicillin, the polio vaccine, radiotherapy, antiretroviral drugs. Our minds turn almost naturally to the game-changing inventions designed to cure or prevent disease; rarely do they conjure up those that sow the seeds of a whole new playing field.

Such is the story of modern anesthesia, first administered in Boston on this day in 1846. If surgery was the game-changing solution to save or improve lives, anesthesia was the discovery that allowed the game (as we know it) to be played in the first place. And it’s only fitting that we rarely remember its role.

Full article on Huffington Post

(French) Redéfinir « l’innovation » dans la technologie médicale en Afrique

L’innovation – le mot à la mode peut-être le plus utilisé dans le monde du développement international – se présente de plusieurs façons mais, dans la plupart des cas, il fait référence à une variante d’une nouvelle technologie. Il peut s’agir d’une lanterne alimentée par la puissance solaire, d’un dispositif portable de filtration d’eau ou d’un test de diagnostic en temps réel. Il est cependant rare que l’innovation se concentre sur des systèmes nécessaires à la durabilité et à l’efficacité de ces technologies. Autrement dit, l’innovation porte trop souvent sur le produit et non sur le process

Pour les futurs entrepreneurs sociaux étudiant des sujets tels que la science, la technologie, l’ingénierie et les mathématiques, il est tentant de se concentrer sur l’innovation au sens traditionnel et orienté sur le produit, particulièrement en Afrique. Après tout, dans un continent confronté à des défis sociaux, économiques et environnementaux, des technologies innombrables pourraient avoir un impact immédiat et de grande portée. Par conséquent, pourquoi ne pas mettre ses talents à l’œuvre pour concevoir et développer de nouveaux produits ?

« Parce qu’il est moins important d’avoir une nouvelle technologie qu’une technologie qui fonctionne », affirme Francis Kossi, un entrepreneur social et ingénieur biomédical togolais, qui s’est lancé dans la redéfinition du terme « innovation » en Afrique de l’Ouest. « Ce dont nous avons besoin, ce sont des systèmes de distribution et de réparation des produits dont nous disposons ».

Full article on Terangaweb 

The lingering stain after the flags come down

If you walk around campus at Washington and Lee University, my alma mater, you’ll see everything you’d expect from an elite liberal arts college in rural America: idyllic red brick buildings juxtaposed against a perfectly manicured green lawn, a mostly white student body exchanging laughs as they happily mingle on school grounds, a mix of old and nascent intellectuals debating the merits of “cultural relativity” in an interventionalist world. That is, until you stumble into Lee Chapel, the eponymous lecture hall, once a burial site, that honors the great Southern general and former school president, to find its walls bearing those pale stains that signal the fresh absence of a long-hanging piece of wall art.

Though not literal, these stains represent the Confederate battle flags removed two years ago this week by the university after decades lining its most cherished building. Installed four score and six years ago (just one year off from the ultimate irony), the flags proudly flew until the university’s president, Kenneth Ruscio, ordered them to be taken down despite widespread resistance from alumni, students and other groups. This bold move preempted the wave of Confederate flag controversy that has since confronted hundreds of Southern institutions, many of which share Washington and Lee’s nominal affiliation with Robert E. Lee.

But whether or not the flags are waving, Washington and Lee remains unwavering in its commitment to its latter namesake.

Full article on Washington Post

NBA Legend Dikembe Mutombo Rejects the Status Quo of Surgical Care in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Last week, Mashable published a video from an organization called Cordaid that follows a pregnant woman on her way to a maternity clinic in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The video is set in real time, so viewers have the rare opportunity to witness this journey in its entirety. Spoiler alert: it’s five hours long.

The woman, Chanceline, lives 17 miles from the nearest source of healthcare, and because there’s no transportation available to her, she has to make the trek on foot. While pregnant. Across rough terrain. Through a rainstorm. Alone.

Heartbreaking as it may be, Chanceline’s story is commonplace in the DRC. Despite being Africa’s second-largest country by land area and fourth-largest by population, the DRC ranks among the worst when it comes to health and wellbeing.

Full article on Huffington Post

Elevating the Role of Biomeds in Global Surgery

When John Willy—a biomedical equipment technician (BMET) in Uganda—woke up one morning last September, he probably didn’t expect to be a gatekeeper for lifesaving surgery. But after receiving an emergency call to repair an anesthesia machine at a nearby hospital, that’s what he became.

Willy was summoned by the hospital to fix a broken knob that controls the machine’s oxygen concentrator, without which the hospital’s anesthetist wouldn’t be able to manage the flow of oxygen into the patient. (In Uganda, it’s common for hospitals to lack access to cylinder oxygen.) While Willy hadn’t seen this issue before, his training (paired with some ingenuity) allowed him to facilitate the repair and ready the machine for the surgery—now able to be performed because he responded with timely, expert service.

In the world of surgery and anesthesia, BMETs like Willy are crucial pieces to a complex, systemic puzzle—a puzzle that becomes even more complex in low-resource settings like Uganda, where medical equipment challenges are far more rampant, the surgical needs far greater, and the availability of trained BMETs far less common.

Full article on 24×7 Magazine