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
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
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
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
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
Last month, the world received some encouraging news: Liberia was declared Ebola-free. After a 14-month battle with the virus that claimed nearly 5,000 Liberian lives and brought the country to its knees, the World Health Organization announced that the devastating epidemic was over (Guinea and Sierra Leone, however, are still experiencing new cases).
As Liberia recovered from the outbreak and began the long, uphill process of rebuilding its health system for other ongoing and future health challenges, some of its leaders reflected on what could have been done to prevent the Ebola outbreak. In a New York Times editorial written about a month before the epidemic’s conclusion, Bernice Dahn, Vera Mussah and Cameron Nutt discuss a troubling reality: that European researchers knew about latent Ebola antibodies in Liberian blood samples as long as 30 years ago, positioning Liberia in the Ebola endemic zone. Yet, like many studies conducted by Western researchers, the findings sat atop the proverbial ivory tower, out of reach of the Liberian doctors and policymakers who could have acted to prevent the eventual outbreak.
This disconnect between development research and the communities it studies is an all-too-common trend in an international development community that hosts a Healthcare in Africa Summit in London and discusses poverty reduction strategies fresh off private jets.
Full article on Next Billion