Tag Archives: children

Deaths That Don’t Have to Happen: The Relationship Between Knowledge and Health

Editor’s note: As part of  a writing class I took this summer, I had to do a group project addressing a social issue within our society.

Part of that assignment was writing an essay that promotes activism to address the issue.The research inspired me, so I decided to share that essay with you. Hope you enjoy! 

Knowledge, and the desire to use it to better our own lives, as well as the lives of everyone else. This is what has made our species so great.

Fire, the wheel, internal plumbing, electricity, refrigeration. All of these creations were the result of intelligent people with an insatiable drive to solve major problems that affected everyone within their communities.

As the world progressed into the modern era, more and more of these advancements came from the realm of medicine. For thousands of years, smallpox was a scourge that regularly plagued populations all over the world.

A close-up of the smallpox virus. Click to enlarge. Magnification: x28,500

In the 19th century, the disease was killing 400,000 Europeans every year. In the 20th century, it accounted for an estimated 300 million deaths worldwide.

Now, consider this: the vaccine for smallpox was discovered, by a man named William Jenner, in 1796. However, it took more than 160 years for the World Health Assembly to pass a worldwide resolution to eradicate the disease in 1959, and another 20 years for the disease to be completely eradicated.

There hasn’t been a single documented death from smallpox since 1980, but it took nearly 200 years to make that happen.

Click to enlarge

Our modern world is no different. Every year, 3 million people die from vaccine-preventable diseases, half of that being children 5 years old or younger.

Other preventable diseases, like diarrhea and pneumonia, claim the lives of another 2 million children who are simply too poor to afford things like clean water and basic treatment.

If you’re keeping track, that’s 3.5 million children dying every year from basic problems that we solved ages ago. Another way to think of it: imagine every kid enrolled in public school in New York City, Los Angeles and Houston dying this year. Imagine, just for a second, all the human potential that we are losing along with these children.

I know you may be thinking that it’s somewhat inevitable that developing countries lag behind the rest of the world when it comes to new vaccines, treatments or procedures, so chew on this for a second: out of a list of 18 developed countries, the United States was at the very bottom when it came to deaths from preventable causes.

For people under the age of 75, these preventable causes account for 23% of total deaths for men and 32% of total deaths for women.

Preventable disease per 100,000 citizens. Click to enlarge

How many more people are we going to let die simply because they lack access to resources that are so plentiful that they are taken for granted by the rest of us?

We have to always remember that the position of privilege we find ourselves in only exists because someone at some point in history fought for our right to good healthcare.

So now, it is our responsibility, our duty, to use this position of privilege to extend this same basic human right to health to the countless people still living without it, not only in our country but across the globe.

Groundbreaking New Malaria Vaccine Could Receive Approval as Soon As 2015

Every minute, a child dies from malaria. According to the World Health Organization, 3.4 billion people, nearly half of the Earth’s entire population, are at risk for the disease.

Though malaria rates have dropped by 42% since 2000, the disease is still expected to kill anywhere from 600,000 to 800,000 people this year, with the majority of them being children under the age of five. In fact, malaria is the third largest killer of children worldwide.

We have been slowly but surely lessening the effects of malaria worldwide in the past 15 years. Click to enlarge

And while improving medical technologies and practices have been steadily reducing the number of malaria-related deaths, there is no proven vaccine against the disease.

But a promising new vaccine created by pharmaceutical manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) may be about to change that.

The vaccine can’t prevent  every single case of malaria, but it has proven to have a very significant impact. During multiple trials of the vaccine, researchers found that on average about 800 cases of malaria could be prevented for every 1,000 children who got the vaccine.

In the most advanced of these trials, 1,500 children in several different African countries received the vaccine. 18 months later, researchers found that the vaccine had nearly halved the number of malaria infections in small children.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the center of the malaria crisis. 90% of all malaria deaths occur in Africa. Click to enlarge

The testing also suggests that the vaccine’s impact becomes even more pronounced in areas that have particularly high infection rates.

For example, in a number of Kenyan cities, the researchers were able to prevent about 2,000 cases of malaria with only 1,000 vaccines (many people in the area contract the disease multiple times).

GSK has now applied for regulatory approval of the vaccine from the European Medicine’s Authority. This is the first malaria vaccine to ever reach that step.

Sanjeev Krishna is a professor of Molecular Parasitology and Medicine at St. George’s University of London. He was one of the scientists who peer-reviewed the study before it was published in the journal PLOS Medicine. He had his to say:

“This is a milestone. The landscape of malaria vaccine development is littered with carcasses, with vaccines dying left, right and centre…

We need to keep a watchful eye for adverse events but everything appears on track for the vaccine to be approved as early as next year.”

Read more from the BBC here.

If you want to learn more about malaria, these 10 quick facts about the disease from the World Health Organization is a good place to start.

Is Forcing Parents to Vaccinate Their Children A Good Thing or A Government Overstep? (Poll)

Earlier this week, Croatia became the first country to mandate that all children be vaccinated for for measles, hepatitis, pertussis, diphtheria and a number of other diseases. After carefully weighing the pros and cons, the Croatian government decided that,

“The child’s right to health is more than the rights of parents to the (wrong) choice.”

Back in late January, The Higher Learning reported on how the anti-vaccination movement has led to a resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases in recent years, with measles and pertussis being at the top of that list. The movement has also aided the comeback of polio, which was almost completely eradicated just a decade ago.

Child being given a dose of the oral polio vaccine (Photo: CNN)

I understand that many parents are suspicious of the government as well as the health industry, and a parent is totally justified in being very cautious when it comes to injecting their children with various chemicals and substances that the parents tend to have little knowledge on.

But I also understand that this suspicion is often unfounded or taken to the extreme, resulting in children contracting serious, often life-threatening diseases that are easily preventable with a vaccine.

So what’s your take?

How This Guy Is Changing the Lives of Disabled Children Is Truly Beautiful (Video)

“Friends are hard to make when you’re not mobile.”

The average power wheelchair for a child with physical disabilities costs upwards of $1000. Because of this, many disabled children whose parents are unable to afford these chairs are left to struggle around on crutches or rely on a caretaker for mobility.

Physical therapy professor Cole Galloway wanted to change that. So he and a colleague took a trip to Toys ‘R’ Us to examine the mini-cars there. What they found is that for about $200 ($100 for the mini-car, $100 for other materials) they could modify these toy cars to create customized vehicles for disabled children.

The vehicles are modified to each child’s particular disability. For example, one girl with weak neck muscles rarely would keep her head up straight, so they designed her car with the accelerator on the head rest behind her, encouraging her to keep her head straight and strengthen the neck muscles. Check out this awesome video about the project.

“I want you to feel like you have control over your own happiness- and I know for children, that’s attached to your mobility.”

For more information, check out this website.


How Moken Children See With Amazing Clarity Underwater (Video)

Ever wondered why your vision gets blurry when you open your eyes underwater?

Well, as you descend down into the water, light levels quickly drop. Your eye reacts by opening the iris more to let in more light, which in turn widens your pupils, blurring your vision.

Moken children, however, learn at a very young age how to override this natural reaction, closing their pupils as much as possible rather than opening them wider.

This allows them to see twice as well as you or I underwater. However, recent studies suggest that any child can learn this skill.

The Moken people are a semi-nomadic seafaring people who live in and around the Mergui Archipelago, a group of around 800 islands in the Andaman Sea claimed by both Burma and Thailand.

To read more on the Moken, check out this article from Survival International.

Feature image courtesy of BBC One.

There Are More Homeless Children in NYC Now than During the Great Depression

During the month of September, an average of 22,163 children stayed in municipal (government-funded) shelters each night in New York City. If you’re a sceptic like me, your first thought was probably, “There are way more people living in New York City now than there were during the depression so there’s probably a lower percentage of homeless children now.”

So I did a little more research and found that in 1930 there were actually more children (~2,782,000) aged 1-19 living in New York City than there are now (~2,171,000). Using these figures, the child homelessness rate in New York City is actually almost 22% higher now than it was during the height of the Depression. Looking at a more recent scale, there are almost two and a half times as many homeless children in the city now than in the year 2000.

Also remember that these figures only take into account homeless people staying in municipal shelters and doesn’t account for homeless people sleeping on the streets or in other public and private shelters.

Some charts on child homelessness in New York City (click to enlarge):

For more information, check out the Coalition for the Homeless.

Population data sources (other than Coalition for the Homeless):