Announcement: American-Iranian Academic Exchange

Section members and other interested professionals! Please see the following announcement from Taraneh Salke, who is leading an effort to organize a public health exchange to Iran. This exchange, while modeled after APHA’s sponsored delegation to Cuba, is not directly affiliated with APHA. If you are interested in learning more, please contact her at taranehsalke@yahoo.com.

If you would like to publicize commentary on the exchange described below, you may do so in the Comments section here, or contact me directly at jmkeralis [at] gmail [dot] com.


Dear colleagues,

My name is Taraneh Salke, an APHA member. I am writing to invite the APHA community to join an academic exchange trip to Iran tentatively scheduled for October of 2014. The American Iranian Academic Exchange is the first of its kind in nearly four decades, presenting a historic opportunity for public health professionals to bridge the distance of culture and politics, taking advantage of new openings created by high level dialogue between the American and Iranian governments. The exchange aims to support global academic cooperation through scientific exchange with our Iranian colleagues. This exchange is open to all professionals from all health and medical fields.

The visit will help us gain an understanding of the Iranian medical care structure, its integration with public health systems. The country’s successful family planning and reproductive health programs have led to maternal mortality rates at levels comparable with the United States, a total fertility rate of 1.6, and rates of contraceptive use that are among the best in the world. Iran’s public health establishment has also pursued a rigorous immunization campaign, reaching 99% coverage rates for most indicators tracked by UNICEF.

To learn more about Iran’s health care system, we will visit hospitals, clinics and medical universities. Also on our itinerary are visits to the Pasteur Institute of Iran and a generic pharmaceutical manufacturing plant in Isfahan.

In joining this project, we also join in the prospect of fostering collaborative research and the sharing of ideas, culture and values between American and Iranian health communities. There is a strong desire among Iranian professionals of all fields and many government officials to improve relations with the United States. During our travels, we will also be exposed to Iran’s rich culture–including Persian culinary arts, a storied architecture and the country’s famous rug crafts–which had the Huffington Post calling Iran a top tourist destination for 2014.

This trip is led by myself, Taraneh Salke, and my team. Since 1999, I have been working to promote women’s health and rights in the Middle East, founding the nonprofit organization Family Health Alliance (FHA) in 2005 to carry out my vision. In my position as FHA’s Executive Director, I have designed and implemented over 30 capacity building programs in Afghanistan, training hundreds of local health providers on strategies to reduce maternal and infant mortality. I have also studied Iran’s health care system extensively, coordinating two previous projects with Iranian medical universities and public hospitals.

More information on me and the work of Family Health Alliance is available at the following links:

http://www.taranehsalke.com/

http://www.familyhealthalliance.org/

The American/Iranian Academic Exchange is modeled after an APHA-sponsored delegation to Cuba that I had the good fortune to be a part of. The APHA community has helped build bridges between the scientific communities around the world, and this is an opportunity to continue in that tradition.

In November 2013, I traveled to Iran meeting with university officials and medical professionals who have eagerly agreed to participate in and host the academic exchange. There is a great deal of excitement over this trip among members of the Iranian scientific community. I have been asked to convey their desire to establish connections with their counterparts in the American public health community. They are hopeful that interactions during the exchange will serve as a springboard for collaborative research and joint publications, as well as leading to American academics teaching in Iran, and vice versa.

They have also invited exchange participants to present before our Iranian colleagues at a major medical university in Tehran, an opportunity available to those joining us in the October. The deadline for submitting abstracts is in June.

I am approaching APHA members’ to explore your interest in participating in this historic trip. The deadline for submitting visa processing documents is April 30th. This will reserve applicants a spot to be considered for the exchange trip. The deadline for making a final decision and submitting a security deposit is in June. We have requested for an extension on the visa application, please let me know if you require additional time for the visa application.

Please, if you have any other questions, feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,
Taraneh Salke
Executive Director, Family Health Alliance
taranehsalke@yahoo.com

FYI: Upcoming USAID Webinar on New Climate Change Document

The USAID Office of Global Climate Change is introducing a new climate resilient development framework to the Adaptation Community.

On April 8, 2014, at 4 p.m. EST, Kit Batten, USAID/GCC Coordinator, and the adaptation team at USAID will lead a special presentation covering in detail a new publication on climate adaptation for developing countries: Climate-Resilient Development: A Framework for Understanding and Addressing Climate Change. Working with decision makers in governments and across sectors, the framework has been applied in Barbados, Jamaica, Nepal, Peru, Philippines, St. Lucia, Tanzania, West Africa, and other countries that are preparing communities for a climate resilient future. The framework describes USAID’s “development-first” approach, which aims to achieve development goals despite climate change. This framework is an update of the approach presented in 2007 in USAID’s Adapting to Climate Variability and Change: A Guidance Manual for Development Planning.

The event will take place on Tuesday, April 8, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. EST.

In-person: Engility, 1211 Connecticut Avenue NW, 8th floor conference room, Washington, DC 20036

Online webinarhttp://irgltd.adobeconnect.com/climate/
Enter page as a Guest and type in your first and last name. Please include the name of your organization in parentheses.

Call-in number:
United States: 1-877-685-7326   Conference code: 8170974215
International: 1-678-735-7838    Conference code: 8170974215

Please send your RSVP by April 6th and questions about the presentation to Joyce-Lynn.Njinga@engilitycorp.com.

An emerging threat of “digital pandemics”- lessons learned from the anti-vaccine movement

SeymourHeadshotGuest blogger: Brittany Seymour, DDS, MPH

During the 20th century alone, the world experienced a larger gain in life expectancy than in all the previously accumulated history of humankind. This triumph has been dubbed one of the greatest achievements in global health and is largely attributed to the 20th century success of vaccines. However, a digital assault (one that began with autism but has ballooned to numerous other concerns) regarding the safety and importance of vaccines has permeated the Internet. Anti-vaccine sentiments, derived from this study – now retracted – perpetuated by celebrities such as Jenny McCarthy and Kristin Cavallari, and other concerned citizens, have gone viral. A “digital pandemic” is underway, and like a game of telephone, the truth has morphed, facts were lost in translation, and the story of vaccines today boggles the mind. Public acceptance and trust in their safety and utility has waned. Regions of the world, including the United States, are experiencing their worst disease outbreaks in nearly two generations (IOW since the invention of the associated vaccines), and many of these are attributed to exemptions from the recommended vaccine schedule. As rotavirus vaccine inventor (and recipient of death threats due to his pro-vaccine work) Paul Offit describes it, every story has a hero, victim, and villain; in this story gone viral, Jenny McCarthy is the hero, the children the victims, which leaves one role for public health experts: the villain.

More recently, is public health at the forefront of yet another digital assault, susceptible once again to the label of villain? Last month, a study with known limitations was released naming fluoride as one of six newly identified developmental toxins in children. Ironically, this followed the American Dental Association’s announcement only two weeks prior that it has changed its longstanding guidelines for the use of fluoride in young children, recommending an increase in fluoride exposure before the age of two years old, as compared to the former recommendations. Yet, within a matter of hours from the release of the study, the story of fluoride as a new threat to normal child development created a flood of posts on Twitter (just search #fluoride) and was covered in popular media news stories for CNN,USA Today, Forbes, and Time. These news sources alone generated over 54,000 views and shares over social media by the end of the weekend. Does fluoride share the same vulnerabilities as vaccines?

To many public health experts, these stories trigger bewildering thoughts. How is it possible that such misguided health information can spread so far so fast, painting public health experts as villains? Is there a way we can reverse our role in this story and emerge the heroes? Lessons learned from the vaccine story provide insights into an emerging threat of digital pandemics and the power of social media as the medium. Public health is encountering an unfamiliar menace, a rising global pandemic of rapid and unrestricted information transfer.

In today’s global society undergoing tremendous technological advances, new and emerging media modalities are greatly affecting health by influencing policy decisions, direction of philanthropic aid, and individual health behaviors. No doubt, due to the power of handheld technology and online social networking,social media and “citizen journalist”have played a role in propagating potential detriment to what is revered as one of public health’s greatest triumphs (vaccines). Thomas Patterson explains that information accuracy is becoming obscured, “The internet is at once a gold mine of solid content and a hellhole of misinformation.” As Nicco Mele illustrates, the internet makes David the new Goliath, where citizens are capitalizing on the power of social media’s velocity and reach, disarming the traditional gatekeepers of information quality.

Even when presented with corrective information, it’s no wonder the public continues to be confused, and concerned, about potential dangers of our intentional public health interventions. But what triggers a digital pandemic, and where is the threshold between an outbreak of bad health information versus a true online pandemic wrought with content persuasion? In a world of expanding voices sharing health information online through social media, how can we ensure that the cream still rises to the top and the public is making health decisions based on the most accurate information possible?These are the big “opportunity” questions we as public health experts need to be addressing under our responsibility to keep today’s citizens, their children, and our societies healthy.

Brittany Seymour is an Instructor on Global Health at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine’s Department of Oral Health Policy and Epidemiology and the Inaugural Harvard Global Health Institute Fellow. Her research includes interdisciplinary global health curriculum development and pedagogy, capacity strengthening for oral health delivery systems in resource-challenged regions, and digital information transfer and impacts on health.

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.

PAHO Call for Applications: Edmundo Granda Ugalde Leaders in international Health Program (LIHP)

PAHO’s Unit of Human Resources for Health, Bioethics and Research is pleased to launch the call for applications for the Edmundo Granda Ugalde Leaders in international Health Program (LIHP) 2014.  As you may be aware, this Program has a long tradition in the Organization, from its inception in 1985 to its current decentralized modality offered through the Virtual Campus for Public Health. To date, 270 persons from 36 countries have participated in the virtual decentralized modality of the LIHP, including program and project directors in health and other ministries, government personnel responsible for international relations and international cooperation, PAHO/WHO country office staff, partners from other international agencies, sub-regional integration bodies and NGOs, members of the Cuban Medical Brigades, and others.

The LIHP 2014 will strive to broaden knowledge and contribute to discussions regarding universal health coverage from an international health perspective, in recognition of its importance in the quest for health equity. The Program plans to facilitate debate on this issue, bringing together regional and global experts as well as promoting the development of country projects related to the same. Additionally, and taking into account the PAHO Strategic Plan 2014-2019 and the myriad challenges facing the Region, the LIHP will continue to support the analysis of other topics, including chronic diseases, food security, health diplomacy, and access to medicines, among others.

We invite you to disseminate information on the program in the attached brochure. Additional information including eligibility, application procedures and program requirements are available here.

For any questions, please see below for contact information:

Edmundo Granda Ugalde Leaders in International Health Program
Department of Health Systems and Services
Pan American Health Organization
525 Twenty-third St., NW
Washington,DC 20037-2895
Tel: (202) 974-3803
Fax: (202) 974-3612
email: INTLHLTH@paho.org