Project Wisdom Itinerary

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Read: Unite for Sight, Ghana Program Details

Read: “Improve Cancer Care For 100 Children In Ghana” from Global Giving

Task: Make a friend at Operation Hand-in-Hand.

Reflect: Whatever’s on your mind

Discuss: Group time to work on projects

Note: There are literally hundreds of health care crisis in Ghana. From a severe shortage of equipment to a brain drain of medical professionals, from tropically neglected diseases to diarrhea deaths – there are far too many problems and not nearly enough solutions. For this packet, Project Wisdom has decided to focus on just a few that we felt were relevant to your potential projects: malaria, cancer, eye exams, and mental health.

UNICEF Ghana Fact Sheet: Malaria

Students Join Together To Fight Malaria

Arlie Peyton, who runs a business program for 170 students at Lincoln High School in Portland, Oregon, is the type of teacher who believes some of the best lessons are taught outside the classroom. When he was working on a way to teach his students about social equity, his research led him to Malaria No More’s Power of One campaign, in which one dollar provides a life-saving malaria test and treatment for a child in Africa. With more than 480,000 children dying each year from malaria, each donation – however modest – makes a huge impact. As Peyton explained it, “I didn’t know that one dollar could do so much good.”

He decided the Power of One campaign was the perfect way to share the idea of social equity with his students. To try and bring home the impact of a disease that mainly affects people across the world to a classroom full of students in the U.S. – where the disease has been eradicated for more than 60 years – he used one of the most powerful facts about the massive toll the disease still takes on young people globally: A child dies every minute from malaria. That adds up to nearly the entire student body at Lincoln High School losing their lives to a mosquito bite each day.

Peyton says that visualization really hit home with the kids, and led them to the goal of their campaign – to repopulate an entire school the size of their own by raising enough money to purchase 1,500 life-saving malaria tests and treatments for children in Africa.

To achieve this ambitious goal, they learned a lesson in marketing – Peyton had them form small groups and produce their own “commercials”, encouraging the public to donate. And they played to their target demographic of fellow peers by capitalizing on their interests – check out this creative video inspired by the wildly popular teen franchise, The Hunger Games. The videos turned out to be a huge success, helping the kids rack up almost all their goal in just a few months. To bolster their donations, students did everything from place collection boxes in English classes, selling t-shirts at basketball games, holding car washes and setting up lemonade stands – one especially dedicated student even sold his bike to raise cash! The students raised $1,500.

DDT for malaria control should not be banned

Amir Attaran, director, international health research1-1001 and Rajendra Maharaj, deputy director, vector-borne diseases1-1002

Last year, deaths from malaria in Africa reached an all time high. Next year they will probably do so again, claiming around a million children. Yet in this deadly upward spiral, political pressure is building at the United Nations Environment Programme to pass a treaty by the end of 2000 to internationally ban or restrict one of the world's best anti-malarial tools.

That tool is, of course, DDT—dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane. The campaign to ban it, joined by 260 environmental groups, reads like a who's who of the environmental movement and includes names such as Greenpeace, Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), and (ironically) the Physicians for Social Responsibility. Together, they are “demanding action to eliminate” DDT and its sources.1-1

This view is stunningly naive. DDT residual house spraying is an inexpensive, highly effective, practice against malaria, and it has been approved by the World Health Organization. In it, trained sprayers apply a small quantity of DDT on the interior walls and eaves of homes in endemic regions. The quantities involved are minimal (2 g/m2) and, unlike agricultural uses which inject tonnes of DDT into the outdoors, indoor house spraying results in little harmful release to the environment. For the amount of DDT used on a cotton field, all the high risk residents of a small country can be protected from malaria.1-2

Few things compare for drama with an effective DDT spraying programme. In its heyday, DDT was successfully used to eradicate malaria from some nations (United States, Europe) and to lower case rates by over 99% in others (Sri Lanka, India).1-3,1-4 In South Africa it was used to eradicate the two most dangerous species of malaria mosquitoes, Anopheles funestus and A gambiae, from the country. All this saved millions of lives.

So, if DDT can be this successful, why ban it? The latest campaign stems from charges that DDT is an “endocrine disrupter” whose ability to cause harm (like Melville's Moby Dick and all excellent monsters since) is both indiscriminate and vast. The World Wildlife Fund and Physicians for Social Responsibility indict DDT chillingly: as a carcinogen, a teratogen, an immunosupressant, and so on.1-5,1-6

All this would be worrisome if it were true. Conspicuously absent behind the campaigners' claims are any epidemiological studies to demonstrate adverse health effects. Although hundreds of millions (and perhaps billions) of people have been exposed to raised concentrations of DDT through occupational or residential exposure from house spraying, the literature has not even one peer reviewed, independently replicated study linking exposure to DDT with any adverse health outcome. Even researchers who find DDT in breast milk and claim it leads to early weaning in children quietly confess a “lack of any detectable effect on children's health.”1-8 Very few other chemicals have been given such extensive scrutiny, and there is still no epidemiological or human toxicological evidence to impugn DDT.1-9

Involuntary Treatment: The Invisible Health Care Crisis

MARCH 5, 2013 By Shantha Rau Barriga

Imagine being taken to the hospital by a family member against your will, put in a solitary cell and forced to sleep, eat and defecate in the same 4x4 space. Imagine telling your nurses that you don’t want to take a certain medication because it causes serious side effects, yet you are held down and forced to take it, or later find out that it was hidden in your food.

For many people with mental disabilities around the world, this is a familiar scenario. Harriet (not her real name), a 25-year old woman in Ghana, was pregnant when she spent six months at Accra Psychiatric Hospital. Conditions were terrible -- overcrowding, poor hygiene, inadequate shelter. Many patients slept on cold, hard concrete floors with no mattress or bedding, and during the day, patients crowded in the few spots in the shade, trying to avoid being under the baking sun.

But Harriet’s ordeal didn’t stop there. Like other patients, she was threatened with physical abuse when she complained about painful medical treatments, and at one point was put in a dirty, dark seclusion room for 12 hours.

Michael, a 38-year old man with schizophrenia, faced similar abuse at another public hospital in Ghana. “We are beaten by the security men and the male nurses,” he said. “They beat me when I tried to escape from the ward.”

In all three public psychiatric hospitals in Ghana, patients can be held in solitary confinement for up to three days, sometimes for refusing to take medication, and face medical treatment without their consent, including electroconvulsive therapy without anesthesia. Who wouldn’t try to escape conditions like these?

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