Category Archives: APHA IH Section

Spotlight on Brazil: The World Cup and More Doctors

The World Cup ended on Sunday and with all the controversy surrounding host country Brazil, I found myself wondering about their health care system. I knew access to basic health services was one of the main points of protest against the Brazilian government’s spending for the World Cup, but I didn’t know all the details.

A few quick searches online provided me with the information I wanted and led me to this video from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) documenting the impact of the arrival of doctors in two Brazilian towns that previously had no doctors. According to the World Health Organization, there is a serious shortage of doctors in Brazil with 1.8 physicians for every 1,000 people. Although the Constitution calls for free health care for all citizens, the reality is that there are major inequalities in access to health services with 700 neglected municipalities and a lack of local primary health care.

The PAHO video focuses on Mais Medicos (More Doctors) – a program between the Brazilian and Cuban governments that allows Cuban doctors to work in under-served Brazilian communities for three years. I did some more searching online and learned that the program is part of an initiative by President Dilma Rousseff to import 13,000 foreign doctors in order to address the shortage of medical professionals. The program has been criticized and although I agree with some of the points of opposition (How are their foreign credentials vetted for local standards? How does this translate to a long-term plan to address the larger issues with health care in Brazil?) I think the reception of Cuban doctors by local Brazilian doctors was too harsh.

Despite the controversy surrounding the program, the PAHO video illustrates its positive outcomes through patient testimonials about improved access to health care, fewer journeys to far away hospitals, and increased treatment and service quality. Residents in the two remote communities featured in the video are quite happy with the program and appreciative to have basic health care.

What do you think? Does the program provide enough value to balance costs and outweigh the risks? Watch the video and share your thoughts in the comments below.

IHSC June 19th Conference Call with Dr. Pablo Ariel-Mendez, USAID

Please see the following announcement from Mary Carol Jennings of the newly-formed Student Committee.


The International Health Student Committee of the APHA IH Section is the section’s newest student group. As part of the core group of leaders, I wanted to plan a nationwide series of virtual events and conversations about leadership and career decisions in international health. Another group member, Nila Elison, has recently joined me, and together we’re starting the IH Career Development Sub-Committee.

I believe that organizations like APHA can play a valuable role in introducing new public health practitioners to potential mentors. I myself am not following a perfectly straight career path. I’ve worked in community organizing, policy, clinical medicine, and now am finally, formally, in public health, in my second year of the general preventive medicine residency at Johns Hopkins. Only recently have I started to find mentors in people, who like me, have taken similarly non-linear paths.

To set the stage for the upcoming year, our first guest speaker is going to talk about his own career path and his insight on leading a large global public health organization.

Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez is a public health physician who serves as the Assistant Administrator for Global Health at the U.S. Agency for International Development. Appointed by President Obama in 2011,  his work involves implementing the mission of the Global Health Initiative. His impressive resume includes leadership and experience within the World Health Organization, The Rockefeller Foundation, and Columbia University in New York City.

Dr. Pablos-Méndez will join the International Health Student Committee on June 19th from 4-5pm EST, and we hope you’ll take part in the conversation about developing your own career in international health.

We had previously closed registration, but because we want to share the conversation with those who are inspired by this blog post, we have re-opened the RSVP form until June 15th. We also welcome your sharing this with your classmates and school communication forums.

RSVP link: http://bit.ly/1n9J1Xc

A few twitter hashtags: #IHSCspeakers, #GlobalHealthSpeakers #IHSCCareerDevelopment

Details about the conference line number and access code will be sent to your RSVP email.
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APHA connect http://connect.apha.org/group.htm?igid=257321
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Twitter @APHA_IHSC

Bill Gates & Party Tricks: Happy Belated World Immunization Week!

When I first clicked on this YouTube video link, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But once the video started playing, I quickly realized it’s a scripted (but entertaining) demonstration of vaccine cold chains featuring Hans Rosling with a cameo from Bill Gates. The topic of the video is how cold chains function and the challenges in getting vaccines through an uninterrupted cold chain to those who need them. Using juice, containers, and glasses, Rosling answers the question “What percent of 1 year old children receive basic vaccines?” In the spirit of World Immunization Week, which ended yesterday, take a few minutes to watch the video.

After watching, I did a little digging to find out more about Rosling and the Gapminder Foundation, which produced the video. Turns out this video is the first in a series of “Demographic Party Tricks” that are part of the Foundation’s Ignorance Project. The gist of it is they’re on a mission to cure ignorance when it comes to key global development trends and statistics.

I spent a significant amount of time on their website exploring their various data sets, labs, and interactive graphs. Some of my favorites are:

  • Africa is Not a Country (a personal pet peeve of mine)
  • The Wealth and Health of Nations
  • Stop Calling Them Developing Countries
  • The River of Myths (sound familiar?)

Click here to take a look around. You may learn a thing or two! And let us know which sections of the site you like most in the comments below.

A Request From the Students: Please Remain Firm on Your Commitment to Fight NTDs

On April 2, many of the world’s experts on Global Health met in Paris at the Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) event, and pledged to place more emphasis on the diseases that are often overlooked by those who determine policy and hold the purse strings. Billions of people—and the governments and NGOs serving them—suffer from the drastic impact of these diseases on virtually every aspect of medical care and daily life. Neglecting them is no longer an option. As medical students, we often read about the outcomes of these distant meetings in the same way we scan over the stock market closing prices (with $100,000 of education debt) or ask about the final score of the Superbowl (while studying); however, my relationship to this meeting was remarkably different, thanks to a moving experience I had at the Unite for Sight Global Health and Innovation Conference.

The Unite for Sight Global Health and Innovation Conference took place this past weekend, just two weeks after the discussion in Paris. Presenting my poster on soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH) in the indigenous Panamanian population served by Floating Doctors , I expected a few students to passively glance at my tables as they walked past. Instead, I found myself surrounded by professionals with senior positions in well-known global health organizations.

This surprised me, as my research, which deals with the consequences of conditions seldom experienced here in the US, rarely generates great excitement. With Floating Doctors I found that even treated aqueducts cannot deliver clean water to villages when their cracked PVC pipes run through livestock pastures, and TOMS generous donations cannot prevent STH when school children carry their shoes through the fields to keep them clean. Additionally, the well-intentioned bi-annual school-based anthelmintic distributions are either not happening or are ineffective, because over 50% of children in Floating Doctors clinics continue to present with complaints of helminthiasis.

When asked for a solution, I sheepishly replied, “Well, it seems like an impossible problem.” As soon as the words were out of my mouth a senior research officer from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation smiled and firmly said, “No. It is not impossible. That is why we are here. We will help you find a way.” In that moment, the discussion in Paris became less of a distant news story. It brought hope and inspiration to not just me, but to Floating Doctors, a tiny powerhouse of an NGO, and most importantly, to the STH-burdened populations we serve.

My motivation for sharing this experience is to follow it with a sincere request: On behalf of all idealistic and motivated global health students and young professionals, I ask you to please maintain your enthusiasm for tackling these unglamorous and devastating NTDs beyond these first two weeks, and beyond the next few years. Help us turn the fight to reduce and ultimately eliminate NTDs into a challenging, motivating, gratifying, and feasible lifetime career that we can pass on to the students who follow us.

A Yale infectious disease physician made it very clear, as he showed me live hookworm larvae under a microscope in his lab, that the solution to the NTD problem cannot be achieved with plans, protocols, and medications alone. In order to create a truly sustainable fight, young scientists, physicians, and public health professionals must be supported and inspired to research these problems with fresh eyes and open minds.

To those who participated in motivating or making the decision to invest in well-informed steps toward combating the preventable diseases that devastate the health, economy, and educational productivity of people like those served by Floating Doctors, I extend a whole-hearted Thank You!

Hannah Elsevier, MD/MPH Candidate, APHA International Health Student Committee Co-Chair

Aid and Development: Power with a Capital P

The Guardian recently posted an interview with Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina. You may know his name from the popular satirical essay “How to Write About Africa” or his commentary on the new laws in Nigeria and Uganda targeting LGBTI groups, but if you’re unfamiliar, he’s an opinionated, outspoken, and often controversial figure (especially when it comes to development in Africa).

In the interview, Wainaina speaks about stereotypes in development and the failure to align aid with the reality of Africa. He talks about the imbalanced, unsustainable power relationships between the West, African governments, and civil society. He calls for a restructuring of these relationships, and says it must come from Africans. I’d like to hear more about his ideas on exactly what it takes for Africans to shift power in an effective way, but he didn’t go into details in this interview. Also, according to Wainaina, it’s within the political sphere that change can happen and because civil society has “become anti-politics,” it’s missing the mark

His blunt criticisms and his definition of the word community – someone utterly powerless upon which power is being imposed – made me laugh. If you work in development I’m sure you’ll agree that there’s some truth to everything he said, but as with most generalizations, they don’t apply to all aid, civil society organizations, or African governments. I can think of many counterexamples.

Click here to watch the video and share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

2014 Call for Award Nominations: Recognizing our finest in International Health through the IH Section Awards

Note: The deadline has been extended to May 12. Please send in your nominations!


Each year, the International Health (IH) Section of the American Public Health Association (APHA) recognizes outstanding contributions of its members through its Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in International Health, its Mid-Career Award in International Health, and the Gordon-Wyon Award for Community-Oriented Public Health, Epidemiology and Practice. The Section is now seeking nominations for deserving candidates for these three awards, to be presented at its Awards Ceremony at the APHA Annual Meeting in New Orleans, LA in November 2014.

The Lifetime Achievement Award in International Health was created by the IH Section to honor the visionaries and leaders in APHA who have shaped the direction of International Health.  The evaluation criteria for the Lifetime Achievement Award include: (1) Quality/creativity/innovativeness of the individual’s contributions to the field of International Health; (2) The individual’s contributions to the development of APHA or the IH Section; (3) Application of the individual’s work to service delivery (as opposed to primarily theoretical value); (3) The individual’s contributions as a leader/visionary/role model; (4) The volunteerism/sacrifice associated with the individual’s contributions; and (5) Membership in APHA (preferably with primary affiliation with the IH Section), a State affiliate, or a national public health association that is a member of the World Federation of Public Health Associations. No self-nomination is allowed.

Prior winners of the Lifetime Achievement Award in International Health include Dory Storms, Tom Hall, Samir Banoob, William Reinke, Michael Latham, William Foege, Clarence Pearson, Stanley Foster, Joe Wray, Carl Taylor, Milton Roemer, Warren and Gretchen Berggren, John Wyon, Derrick Jelliffe, Tim Baker, Cicely Williams, Bud Prince, Veronica Elliott, Moye Freymann, Jeanne Newman, Jack Bryant, Richard Morrow, Ray Martin, and Miriam Labbok.

The Mid-Career Award in International Health is intended to recognize outstanding young professionals in the IH Section. The evaluation criteria for the Mid-Career Award include: (1) The individual must have committed herself/himself to the promotion and development of primary health care in a cross-cultural setting over a period of 5-15 years [Primary health care is meant here to encompass a broad array of public health issues, including HIV/AIDS prevention and environmental health]; (2) The individual must have demonstrated creativity in expanding the concepts pertinent to the practice of public health with an international focus; and (3) Membership in APHA (preferably primary affiliation with the IH Section), a State affiliate, or a national public health association that is a member of the World Federation of Public Health Associations. No self-nomination is allowed.

Prior winners of the Mid-Career Award in International Health include Laura Altobelli, Matt Anderson, Padmini Murthy, Gopal Sankaran, Jean Capps, Tim Holtz, Kate Macintyre, Sarah Shannon, Adnan Hyder, Stephen Gloyd, Luis Tam, Marty Makinen, Colleen Conroy, Mary Ann Mercer, Irwin Shorr, Walter K. Patrick, Dory Storms, Clyde “Lanny” Smith and Mrs. Theresa Shaver.

The Gordon-Wyon Award for Community-Oriented Public Health, Epidemiology and Practice is intended to reward outstanding achievement in community-oriented public health epidemiology and practice. This award was established in 2006 by the IH Section. It is administered by the Community Based Primary Health Care Working Group. John Gordon and John Wyon were pioneers in this field, so encouraging and recognizing others in this field is one important way of honoring their memory. The evaluation criteria for this award include: (1) The candidate must have had a central role in an outstanding achievement in community-oriented public health and practice; (2) The candidate must have demonstrated creativity in expanding the concepts pertinent to the practice of community-oriented public health with an international focus; and (3) The candidate must have membership in APHA or one of its affiliates (either a State affiliate or a national public health association that is a member of the World Federation of Public Health Associations. No self-nomination is allowed.

Previous winners of the Gordon-Wyon Award for Community-Oriented Public Health, Epidemiology and Practice are Rajnikant Arole, Carl Taylor, Henry Perry, Bette Gebrian, Jaime Gofin, and Warren and Gretchen Berggren, Tom Davis, Jr., and Malcolm Bryant.

In addition, the Distinguished Section Service Award is intended to honor outstanding service to the IH Section. Award criteria are: (1) Dedication to the IH Section mission and goals as demonstrated by continuing exceptional contribution to its activities; (2) Serving on the section elective positions or chairing its committees with remarkable or unusual effort and achievements; (3) Distinguished achievement in the international health field with a remarkable career; (4) Excellence in leadership and strong ability for team work with peers in the IH Section and the APHA.  Current membership in APHA is essential.

Nomination Process

Award nominations should include a detailed letter explaining why the individual nominated should receive the award, addressing the criteria for the specific award and the curriculum vitae of the nominee. Only nominations with required documentation will be considered for the awards. Nominations should be submitted by email to Gopal Sankaran (gsankaran@wcupa.edu), Chair, Awards Committee, International Heath Section.

Deadline for Nominations

Please submit the required documents by Monday, May 12, 2014.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Today is International Women’s Day (IWD) and the official theme for this year is “Equality for women is progress for all.”

The origin of International Women’s Day dates back to the early 1900’s and now every year on March 8, people around the world rally together to commemorate and support women. International Women’s Day is not only a time to celebrate achievements, but also a time to reflect on the progress made and call for increased changes. From women’s rights and gender equality to abuse and sex trafficking, various social, political, and economic issues concerning women are highlighted and become points of discussion (and even protest) around IWD.

The Millennium Development Goals call for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women and during the IWD opening ceremony at the United Nations today, Hilary Clinton, known for being a champion of women, said “women and girls and the cause of gender equality must be at the heart” of the UN’s agenda to promote development around the world. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon echoed her sentiments, saying in his message, “This International Women’s Day, we are highlighting the importance of achieving equality for women and girls not simply because it is a matter of fairness and fundamental human rights, but because progress in so many other areas depends on it.”

This plays nicely into the ongoing debate on the post-2015 development agenda. We all know there are major issues around the access, quality, and availability of health services to women in developing countries, and that these issues are often further complicated by cultural and religious norms. I think it’s safe to say that although IWD is only one day a year, the discussion on women’s rights as a core component of global development will continue. It is essential.

Here’s a roundup of some IWD 2014 content in case you missed it:

“The fastest way to change society is to mobilize the women of the world.” — Charles Malik

What does International Women’s Day mean to you? Tell us in the comments below.