Rx for Survival: A Global Health Challenge



In this Issue

  1. Rx for Survival ™ in the News
  2. Project News and Updates
  3. Web Site News and Updates
  4. Rx for Child Survival ™ Campaign News and Updates
  5. Global Health Headlines
  6. Success Stories
  7. About Rx for Survival

Dear concerned global citizen,

Did you realize that, around the world, health agendas are inextricably linked to politics and policymakers, and the policies made in the U.S. affect the health and survival of children across the globe? True global change will require many of us working together.

To support informed participation in the formulation and funding of U.S. public health policy, the subsection of the "Politics and Global Health" feature on the Rx for Survival Web site called "How Public Health Happens in America," has been expanded to include an interactive organizational chart detailing the interrelationship of all U.S. government agencies with substantial public health mandates, both domestic and international. You can find it at: www.pbs.org/wgbh/rxforsurvival/series/politics/how0.html

This chart, combined with the existing step-through description of the annual budgetary process for all U.S. public health spending, provides vital tools to follow health legislation and policy-making.

If you are moved to take action, then let your friends, neighbors, and policy-makers know what you think. Individual actions can make such an important difference in global child health, so imagine what the actions of many people can do!

Speak out:

Additional opportunities:
www.pbs.org/wgbh/rxforsurvival/campaign/speakout/ other-opportunities.html

Send an e-postcard:
www.pbs.org/wgbh/rxforsurvival/campaign/spreadword/ e-postcards/index.html

By letting others know what actions you've taken, you can significantly raise their awareness about global child health and survival. Your commitment and enthusiasm may inspire them to take action too.

And please read on for the latest on Rx for Survival — future broadcasts, Web site updates, partner activities, and more!

Rx for Survival in the News

Rx for Survival was reviewed in the January 2006 issue of The Lancet Infectious Diseases. The reviewer exclaimed:

"Rx for Survival represents an heroic effort to raise awareness among the general public, particularly in the USA, about the toll infectious diseases and other major health problems are taking in the less developed world. The six-part series also strives to balance issues that are 'journalistically tough' to cover — for example, the scourge of AIDS and river blindness in Africa — with 'optimism' about potential solutions, producer Larry Klein told TLID. 'We tried desperately to be journalistically sound and not overly negative, and to look at some of the projects that have great track records of working."'

To read the entire article, click on the link below and scroll down to # 20.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=IssueURL&_tockey= %23TOC%236666%232006%23999939998%23614216%23FLA%23& _auth=y&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0& _userid=10&md5=d32c545352d7420974958ed3b47385d5

Project News and Updates

Rx for Survival new broadcast
Rx for Survival — The Heroes is a two-hour special premiering Wednesday, April 12th at 9 PM. Using highlights from the acclaimed six-hour Rx for Survival series, this new special focuses on some of the individual heroes whose tireless perseverance saves millions of lives across the globe. From young polio warriors in India to armies of grandmothers in Nepal, Rx for Survival — The Heroes takes viewers inside the stirring campaigns that have brought renewed faith to poor communities from Africa to South America. Be sure to mark your calendar and check your local listings.

Rx for Survival Returns to Davos
Building on the successful presence of Rx for Survival at the 2005 World Economic Forum, the project returned to Davos, Switzerland, for the 2006 meeting, which convened world leaders from business, government, non-profit organizations and academia and focused on "The Creative Imperative" to devise innovative approaches to solving the world's problems.

To support the global health topics on the agenda, 3,000 copies of the Rx for Survival series were distributed to participants and 100 Newsroom Guides to Global Health were made available to the global business press covering the meetings.

A letter from Paul G. Allen — executive-in-charge of Rx for Survival's co-producer Vulcan Productions and co-founder of Microsoft — accompanying the DVDs urged others to help prevent needless child deaths. "Each year, over ten million children under the age of five die — and over six million of those deaths are preventable. … I'm committed to stopping this needless loss with tools that are within our reach. The world has more scientific knowledge and economic resources now than it has ever had. We have the knowledge, but, it seems, not the will to eradicate these diseases permanently. I hope that with efforts like this one, we can change that for the better within our lifetime."

Dr. Al Sommer to Headline the Unite for Sight Conference at Yale University
On April 1st and 2nd, Unite For Sight's Third Annual International Health Conference will gather more than 600 people from around the world who are interested in international service, global health, public health, and medicine. Being held at Yale University, the conference brings together student leaders and activists, doctors, public health professionals, nurses, Peace Corp Volunteers, and others. The conference's goal is to inform the public about health divides and empower them to develop solutions to improve access to care for the medically underserved.

Rx for Survival advisory board member and recognized global health hero, Dr. Alfred Sommer of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health will highlight the project in his keynote address and present a clip from the series. In addition, Back to Basics, the episode of Rx for Survival in which Dr. Sommer is featured, will be screened, and Rx for Survival materials will be distributed at the event.

Christine Gorman, Senior Health and Medicine Writer for TIME Magazine, has launched a new blog called the Global Health Update at time.blogs.com/global_health/

While the initial posts covered the TIME Global Health Summit (Nov. 1-4, 2005), her December 7th post explains:

"The Summit is over but TIME's commitment to global health continues. On a personal note, I realized once again how much a journalist like myself can be a bridge between many different worlds. The people I met and the stories I heard inspired me to find a way that I could help keep the conversation going and make sure the search for solutions moves forward."

Web Site News and Updates

Watch Rx for Survival online — two and a half hours of video have been added to the Rx for Survival site. When visiting the "Deadly Diseases" (at www.pbs.org/wgbh/rxforsurvival/series/diseases/index.html) or "Global Health Champions" (at www.pbs.org/wgbh/rxforsurvival/series/champions/index.html) features, look for the "From the Series" box on the right, which will open and play a video clip from the series offering background information or further insight into the featured topic. Stay tuned for new additions as we prepare for the broadcast of Rx for Survival — The Heroes

Read how a panel of global health experts responded to your questions about vaccines, international aid, and the danger of another deadly flu pandemic in the "Ask the Experts" feature at www.pbs.org/wgbh/rxforsurvival/series/experts/index.html.

The global health conversation continues! Visit the Rx for Survival discussion board at discussions.pbs.org/viewtopic.pbs?t=40388 to share your thoughts and hear from others on this vital topic.

Rx for Child Survival Campaign News and Updates

Grand Rapids/WGVU Coalition
Based on the belief that childhood diseases and infections have no borders, and on the value of building relationships for children and adults across cultures and across borders, Rx for Child Survival's Michigan coalition, WGVU Grand Rapids, has created an exciting reading exchange program between children in West Michigan and those in Nicaragua.

"From Surviving to Thriving: The Reading Exchange Program" is in conjunction with Grand Valley State University and is held in partnership with schools in Miraflor, Nicaragua and its surrounding areas and schools in Muskegon and Grand Rapids, Michigan. This program utilizes tape-recorded and direct discussion, photographs, artwork, and mutual visits (if possible) to have children in both locations learn about promoting child health together. Spanish and English-language Rx for Survival educational resources are also shared through the program. Program content includes handwashing, nutrition, oral hygiene, and antibiotic resistance. Desired outcomes will not only harbor increased awareness about disease and infection prevention and improved nutritional and oral health practices, but will also teach important elements of each other's culture. In addition, the program will facilitate mutual curriculum development and implementation as well as form friendships across borders.

Boston/WGBH Coalition
On January 19th, Medicine in Need and the Harvard Initiative for Global Health held an event about the Rx for Survival project and to show the Rise of the Superbugs episode from the series. The group was especially interested in educational materials designed for the project, including secondary school curricula and games designed for small groups, as well as finding ways to motivate the Harvard undergraduate community to become more interested in global health.

A group of medical students associated with Physicians for Human Rights organized a screening of clips from Rx for Survival on Thursday, February 9th at the University of Massachusetts Medical School campus in Worcester, Massachusetts. Approximately 35 second- and third-year medical students attended the luncheon/screening and heard a presentation of the project by Rx for Survival Senior Content Director Linda Harrar. The students engaged in a lively Q & A session after the screening. They were especially interested in volunteer opportunities abroad, and concrete actions that individuals can take to improve global health.

Atlanta/GPB Coalition
The Carter Center Conversations event "The Silent Tsunami of Preventable Diseases" was held on January 19th at The Carter Center in Atlanta. Dr. Donald Hopkins, Associate Executive Director of The Carter Center's health programs, was joined by other Center health experts in an exploration of solutions to alleviating debilitating diseases such as Guinea worm, trachoma, lymphatic filariasis, and river blindness, illustrated by video clips of Rx for Survival. Health experts Dr. Paul Emerson, technical director for the Center's trachoma program, and Dr. David Addis, medical epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also participated in the panel discussion. This event also will be webcast at www.cartercenter.org

Global Health Headlines

To help readers grasp how global health affects each one of us, below are links to global health-related stories currently in the news.

World Health Day 2006: Working together for health

Children are his concern
www.deccanherald.com/deccanherald/jan302006/ metromon14322006129.asp

Group Aims To Get Tuberculosis Treatment to 50 Million People
usinfo.state.gov/xarchives/display.html?p=washfile-english& y=2006&m=January&x=20060130153254cmretrop7.381618e-03 &t=livefeeds/wf-latest.html

Bird Flu: Scientists Face Tough Challenges In Developing Vaccine

Global Health Hero

While working in some of the poorest countries in the early 1970s, Alfred Sommer, an ophthalmologist by training, saw firsthand the tragic consequences of leaving nightblindness — a common illness — untreated. "The children will go truly blind, because what happens is the cornea, that clear front of the eye, just melts away. And it can melt away in the course of one day." Millions of children were losing their vision permanently, Sommer learned, because of a simple lack of vitamin A in their diet.

Vitamin A was one of the first essential "micronutrients" to be identified. One of its functions is to produce a light-sensitive chemical called rhodopsin in the retina, which allows us to see in low light. This is why carrots help us see in the dark, along with liver and dark green leafy vegetables like spinach — all foods that were missing from the diets of the children Sommer encountered.

Sommer was in a unique position to combine his expertise in ophthalmology with his training in epidemiology. "Epidemiology is medical detective work," he says. "It's solving who is the perpetrator of a crime. It asks three questions about a disease or an epidemic: when, where, and who?"

Further study of 4,000 children in Indonesia led to a remarkable discovery: night-blind children seemed to be dying at a much higher rate than children with normal sight. Could the vitamin A deficiency that was causing nightblindness also make the children fatally susceptible to mild childhood illnesses like measles and diarrhea?

To prove their theory, Sommer and his team gave an oral dose of vitamin A to 10,000 children and compared them with children not getting vitamin A. The results were astounding: Just two cents' worth of vitamin A given twice a year reduced childhood mortality by a third. "We were absolutely elated," he recalls. "Suddenly you have a very inexpensive, practical way to save more than a million lives a year of young children, year in and year out, and prevent half a million children from going blind."

And the lifesaving power of vitamin A did not stop there. In a subsequent trial in Nepal, Sommer and his team found that giving pregnant women vitamin A supplements reduced maternal mortality by nearly 40 percent.

The World Bank has judged the vitamin A capsule one of the most cost-effective medical interventions of all time, and programs to dose children with it have now been rolled out in 70 countries.

Learn more about Dr. Sommer's work in Rx for Survival — The Heroes airing April 12th on PBS (check local listings at www.pbs.org/wgbh/rxforsurvival/airdates.html).

About Rx for Survival

A multi-media project that includes a six-hour PBS television series airing November 1-3, 2005, Rx for Survival — A Global Health Challenge™ is a co-production of the WGBH/NOVA Science Unit and Vulcan Productions, Inc.

Rx for Child Survival — A Global Health Challenge™, a project of the WGBH Educational Foundation and Vulcan Productions, Inc. in collaboration with CARE and Save the Children, and in association with The Global Health Council and UNICEF, urges Americans to get informed and involved in making a difference in the lives of young children around the world.

Major funding for Rx for Survival — A Global Health Challenge is provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Merck Company Foundation.

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