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Archive for the ‘International Health Students’ Category

By: Gopika Das

India is home to 1.3 billion people, accounting for 17.5% of the world’s population . It is also home to 27% of deaths caused by cervical cancer worldwide (Cousins 2018). Despite cervical cancer having the best chances of secondary prevention, it remains a leading cause of female mortality globally. The burden of the disease is especially heightened in developing countries like India and Pakistan. In India, lack of the HPV vaccine in governmental immunisation programs and inadequate access to screening for the disease, are major contributors to the extremely high incidence rate.

It is agreed that the HPV vaccine along with early screening for cervical cancer, can prevent upto 70 percent of new cases (Swaminathan 2016). The HPV vaccine has been approved for use since 2006, and as of 2017, 71 countries have included it in their vaccine programs. India however has been extremely reluctant. While the government has severely dragged its feet on providing adequate resources, societally there is a negative association with the vaccine. In 2009 funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, the NGO PATH, launched a $3.6 million HPV program. However within a year, there was an uproar over the deaths of seven girls following the vaccine, effectively halting the program. Despite officials declaring that the deaths were not caused by the vaccine, people got scared and the aversion to the vaccine stuck.

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By Yanzie Chow

“How would your family treat a sore throat?”

This question, when I first heard it, made me chuckle. I remembered back to when my elderly Chinese grandmother, upon hearing the words “sickness,” would bustle into the kitchen and immediately begin concocting a cure-all brew. I’ve spotted bundles of tweed-like herbs, yellowish roots, even dried grasshoppers on the counter, waiting to be submerged into the mixture. For the sore throat in particular, she would simply hand me a jar of pei pa koa – loquat syrup, an extremely bitter and minty liquid with the consistency of tar. I wouldn’t be able to speak for an hour after swallowing a spoonful, but I would emerge as vocal as ever.

I wonder how my grandmother would respond to China’s rapid medical advancement, its movement towards Westernized practices, and the effects on the ancient remedies that she entrusts her health and vitality to.  The New York Times ran a fascinating article titled “Nobel Renews Debate on Chinese Medicine,” discussing the aftermath of Tu Youyou’s receiving China’s first Nobel Prize in a scientific discipline for extracting the malaria fighting compound Artemisinin from the plant Artemisia annua.

 In 1969, Dr. Tu was recruited by Chairman Mao to “523,” a medical research project designated for the search for a natural malaria treatment that was killing North Vietnamese troops in southwest China. She and her team stumbled upon the usage of qinghao, sweet wormwood to treat malaria while studying the Manual of Clinical Practice and Emergency Remedies by Ge Hong of the East Jin Dynasty. She tested the effects of this treatment on humans successfully, and it soon became a major advantage in campaigns battling malaria in Asia and Africa.

The article, however, also touches on a conflict surrounding the implications of the evolving practice of Chinese traditional medicine. Some traditional physicians (associated with the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences) argue that artemisia, which has been used for centuries to fight malaria and other fevers, must be acknowledged through the lens of cultural heritage. More contemporary scientists (associated with the Chinese Academy of Sciences), on the other hand, argue that future medical development must focus more on researching the value of herbs with a modern scientific approach. These debates reflect an emerging division among Chinese physicians and scientists over the desire to be recognized as major contenders in the medical field today, juxtaposed with a great pride in medical achievements of the past.

Ongoing considerations about the path that China should take remain, especially as a whopping 1.1 million Chinese health professionals are being trained in Western medicine, compared to 186,947 being trained as traditional doctors. What are the benefits of investing in the learning, teaching of traditional medicinal techniques and remedies, and incorporating them into practice? Would referring back to natural treatments be an effective way to take advantage of therapeutic knowledge that physicians years ago have already discovered?  At the same time, would traditional medicine and remedies be able to ward off – prevent, treat, and protect against– devastating modern epidemics without 21st century interventions? Would patients of this generation trust treatment grounded in ancient medicinal practices rather than technological ones?

When reflecting on these questions, we must remember that medical innovation is a double-edged sword, both destructive and progressive for society. For example, China has been criticized for mishandling of antibiotics – from over-prescribing to patients to overusing antibiotics to treat livestock and fish – that has led to widespread microbial resistance, and there is much discussion about the need to return to building natural immunity and curatives, rather than reliance on chemical prevention. Perhaps moving forward, China and all nations, really, would be better off building a bridge between traditional and modern medicine, rather than glorifying one or the other.

 

Relevant:

Exclusive Interview: Did Tu’s Nobel Prize prove the credibility of Chinese Traditional Medicine?

 

References:
Jarkowsky, Patrick. “Greetings, from the Post-antibiotic Era.” Global Health Governance.   Young Voices Blog, 19 Jan. 2016. <http://blogs.shu.edu/ghg/2016/01/19/greetings-from-      the-post-antibiotic-era/>.

Johnson, Ian. “Nobel Renews Debate on Chinese Medicine.” The New York Times. The New    York Times, 10 Oct. 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/11/world/asia/nobel-  renews-debate-on-chinese-medicine.html>.

Phillips, Tom. “Tu Youyou: How Mao’s Challenge to Malaria Pioneer Led to Nobel Prize.” The      Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 05 Oct. 2015. <https://www.theguardian.com/

science/2015/oct/05/youyou-tu-how-maos-challenge-to-malaria-pioneer-led-to-nobel-

prize >.

 

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The secret to success in applying to public health programs is understanding what motivates admissions officials at US schools of public health.  All of them want to rise in the (really useless, but really influential) US News and World Report (aka Useless News and World Distort) standings, or to stay at the top if that is where they are lucky enough to be.  Here are the most recent (2011) rankings: http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-health-schools/public-health-rankings  (note that Harvard is not #1…)  I don’t think these rankings are very accurate, or even very useful, but I do admit that almost everyone uses them and thinks they’re important, so I’ve reluctantly drunk  the Coolaid (but only a small sip!), and am writing to help you understand the system and make it work for you. (more…)

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After earning degrees in fields applicable to the field of Public Health, many students go on to work around the world to improve access to healthcare. However, some students refuse to let a lack of credentials keep them from starting this work while still completing undergraduate studies. Non-profit organizations such as Global Brigades channel the resources available to university students to fundraise and volunteer around the world. Students involved in Global Brigades start chapters on their campus to fundraise for and volunteer in programs related to Global Health in rural communities in Honduras, Ghana, and Panama. However, some question the true impact of student involvement such as this.

Can students, without degrees or jobs in the field of Public Health, perform meaningful sustainable development work? Can you provide healthcare without a medical degree? Can you build a water system without having taken an engineering course? Can you set up a microfinance program without being an economist? Students around the United Sates have responded with a resounding “Yes”. (more…)

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