Dear concerned global citizen,
Thank you for subscribing to the Global Health Update from Rx for Survival — A Global Health Challenge ™. In this issue, we explore micronutrients and why they are such a vital part of a healthy diet. Ideally, you should get all the vitamins and minerals you need by eating a healthy and well-balanced diet. In America, we are fortunate to have a wide variety of food choices: organic products abound and many of the traditional food products on grocery store shelves contain added vitamins and nutrients. In developing countries, however, the nutritional value of the food depends on the quality of the soil where the food is harvested. Economic conditions and culture can also be a factor. In some countries, the staple diet is one that lacks any nutritional value. White rice, for example, popular in most Asian countries contains few nutrients and no vitamin A.
In truth, more than 850 million people worldwide don't have enough to eat. Malnutrition and a lack of micronutrients including vitamins, iodine, and folic acid, are known to cause birth defects and a host of diseases, even in people who have enough food to eat. In its mildest forms, malnutrition can weaken the immune system and increase the likelihood of death from other diseases. In more serious cases, vitamin deficiency can lead to blindness. Millions of the world's poorest children are nightblind due to a lack of vitamin A in their diet.
This issue is explored more fully in the series' fifth program, Back to Basics (airing on PBS November 3rd at 9 p.m. — check local listings). Back to Basics examines the vital connection between health and the essential requirements that so many people in developed countries take for granted. And it also looks at how America's over-abundance of nutrition — in the form of over-consumption — is causing a host of health concerns, such as obesity and adult-onset diabetes, which are beginning to spread to the rest of the world.
Rx for Survival is mentioned in the October 17th issue of People Magazine. In an article detailing Brad Pitt's recent career moves and changes in his personal life there is a color photo of Mr. Pitt during his visit to South Africa accompanied by the caption: "It's heartbreaking to see avoidable illness take away lives," said Pitt, who narrates Rx for Survival, a PBS doc airing Nov. 1-3.
BzzAgent Inc., a word-of-mouth marketing and research firm, is helping to spread the word about Rx for Survival via its national network of volunteers who share their honest opinions about products and services with other consumers. Over the next twelve weeks, 3,000 bzz agents will talk about the campaign across the country, so stay alert for the "buzz." Learn more about BzzAgents at http://www.bzzagent.com
Please help us spread the word about this important project. Visit the Rx for Survival site to customize an e-postcard and send it to a concerned friend, colleague, or family member who would like to learn more about how global health impacts their own lives and how they can help. www.pbs.org/wgbh/rxforsurvival/campaign/spreadword/index.html
We have produced a public service announcement for the Rx for Child Survival campaign, available online at www.pbs.org/wgbh/rxforsurvival/video/psa.html . Keep an eye out for it on television as well — we are working with TIME-Warner Cable, Charter Communications, and other broadcast groups who will be airing the PSA for Rx for Child Survival across their networks during the month of October.
The San Jacinto Girl Scout Council in Houston, TX is spearheading the development of an Rx for Survival participation patch. The patch offers scouts from all councils the opportunity to explore important health issues and educate others about getting involved locally and globally. The patch requires that scouts complete three or four activities that may include watching at least one hour of the Rx for Survival series and engaging in a number of activities found on the Rx for Survival Web site. Afterwards, the girls will complete a service project, and discuss what they have learned with the group. For more information, go to the Girl Scout Participation Patch section at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/rxforsurvival/campaign/givetime/index.html
Maryland Public Television and the Baltimore Sun are hosting an essay contest on their Web site geared towards middle and high school students. The goal of the activity is to provide students with an active learning opportunity around global health while bringing the topic to the attention of parents and community leaders, through this format. Middle school youth will write an essay, while high school students will write a op-ed. Both will center around the concept of why we should care about global children's health.
To help readers grasp how global health affects each one of us, below are links to global health-related stories currently in the news.
Food Safety After Hurricane Katrina
3 Hungary officials get bird flu vaccine
In 1915, a young public health service doctor, Joseph Goldberger was dispatched by the US Surgeon General to solve the mystery of a disease called pellagra. To the despair of the poor throughout the south, pellagra was often found in enclosed institutions, orphanages, and prisons. The early stages of this disease often appeared in rash form, and the symptoms would increase to becoming increasingly serious and for many, fatal. Pellagra killed 100,000 Americans in less than 40 years.
Most experts at the time believed that pellagra was caused by an infectious germ, but Goldberger noticed that in every institution that he visited, the inmates were always the ones to contract the disease, while the staff and physicians always remained healthy.
Goldberger began to focus his research on diet, and began to understand that the poor southern diet lacked vital nutrients and vitamins and seemed to be the cause of pellagra. He took this research and published a paper announcing that pellagra was a dietary and not an infectious disease. Unfortunately, Goldberger's ideas were resisted by the medical community because the notion of dietary illness was far too new and he lacked proof to support his theory.
Goldberger decided to enlist the support of the governor of Mississippi, the state with the most cases of pellagra in the country. Goldberger recruited prisoners at the Rankin Prison Farm as part of a controversial experiment. He intentionally gave the men pellagra by feeding them nothing but corn meal, rice, fat-back, and syrup — the diet of the southern poor. There were no green vegetables, eggs or healthy cuts of meat allowed.
Towards the end of the 6-month experiment, half of the men began to get edgy and complained of aches and pains - the symptoms of the early stages of pellagra. After it was confirmed that the prisoners had indeed contracted this deadly disease, he went a step further and started to cure the men by feeding them a better diet. Within weeks, their health improved dramatically and all traces of pellagra had vanished. It was the willingness to keep an open mind that made Joseph Goldberger a brilliant epidemiologist.
Learn more about Goldberger and other global health pioneers in Back to Basics, airing on PBS November 3rd at 9 p.m. (check local listings).
Good global health policies are often built on evidence from rigorous research. In 1992, a meeting of concerned scientists concluded that large dose vitamin A capsules given twice a year would dramatically reduce childhood deaths in poor countries where vitamin A deficiency is often widespread. The resulting "Bellagio Brief" tipped global nutrition policy. Last year, half a billion large dose capsules were distributed worldwide, saving the lives of a third of a million children.
Learning from that experience, UNICEF, WHO, and other groups convened a meeting of 35 micronutrient scientists at UNICEF's Innocenti Research Center to identify recent research results requiring the attention of global policy makers. This "Innocenti Micronutrient Research Report" has been finalized and is now available at http://ivacg.ilsi.org.
The report concludes that there is ample evidence that zinc supplementation should be included in the treatment of diarrhea in areas of the developing world where zinc deficiency is commonly widespread. Zinc supplements reduce the duration and severity of diarrheal episodes and may help prevent subsequent illness.
The report also concludes that small daily or weekly (RDA) doses of Vitamin A given to pregnant woman in low income countries where Vitamin A deficiency is widespread will improve their vitamin A status and reduce the risk of eye disease and systemic illness.
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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