This was originally published at Scientific American
Just a few weeks ago, I flew into India to join other new media specialists and journalists with the International Reporting Project to examine issues of child survival and health. (Before I continue, I simply must extend thanks to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for providing a portion of the IRP funding to make this trip possible, the School of Integrative Biology at UIUC for supporting my participation in the project and GoPro Cameras for outfitting me with a Hero3 for documentation purposes.)
I have talked to many many people who have experienced India, I’ve read numerous books (fiction and non-fiction), and watched many documentaries, TV shows, and fictional movies about India, but knew that the experience of visiting would be something valuable. I was warned of the approximately “five people per square foot” population density in Mumbai, of the smell–a persistent sewer/trash odor, the pollution, the noise, the dogs, cattle, and goats, and the widespread extreme poverty. I discovered that the southern port city of India in Maharashtra State where we first landed, formerly known as Bombay, to be all that and even more. It was humid and warm during our visit, but actually in a relatively cool and dry streak, at least for India. The city, as I was exaggeratively informed by John Schidlovsky, founder and director of the IRP, “was built on mold” and with my allergy to mold so severe that I carry an epipen, I found myself taking more than the recommended dose of allergy meds just to breathe, each day grateful it wasn’t the rainy season. Thankfully, we eventually traveled north to cooler, drier, and less moldy climes to a rural area outside Nagpur and later to New Delhi.
Throughout most of India, I found myself delighted at the fact that women still wear colorful sarees on a daily basis, not yet succumbing to western trends, and impressed that men and boys generally wear button-down shirts, slacks, and nice shoes everyday, no matter their income level or age (try convincing a young boy to do that in America day to day–no way!)
If you have seen the movie “Slumdog Millionaire”, it begins in Mumbai, in one of the largest slums located near the airport and situated right at the largest dumping ground in India. This area was our first stop in order to visit the Niramaya project drop-in health center. We toured the slums and received an overview of healthcare and educational awareness work Niramaya does in the community.
6 years ago • Blog, Health, STEM, Travel • Tags: CDC, environmental enteropathy, India, International Reporting Project, Mumbai, open defecation, Rose George, sanitation, Scott Huler, slums, United Nations Children's Fund, WHO
I am writing this to you from New Delhi, India as I am here with the International Reporting Project as a New Media Specialist! We have been in the crowded, bustling, port city of Mumbai, the central city of Nagpur (home of several tiger refuges), the rural village area of Gadchiroli, and finally to the modern city of New Delhi in order toexamine issues of child survival. I have several blog posts written in the run up to this project, with many more to come over the next month or so.
Did you know India has a National Science Day? National Science Day is celebrated in India on February 28 each year to mark the discovery of the Raman effect (the scattering of photons from an atom or molecule) by Indian physicist Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman on February 28, 1928. He won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in 1930.
6 years ago • Blog, Engineering, Science, STEM, Travel • Tags: Angela Saini, child survival, Geek Nation, Genome Valley, India, International Reporting Project, Jantar Mantar, National Science Day, Raman effect, Scientific American, STEM, V.V. Raman
Malnutrition and Sanitation
What if children seem to have enough of the appropriate nutritive food, yet still exhibit signs of malnutrition? Could there be something else going on here? Indeed. In the past few years, scientist have discovered a phenomenon called ENVIRONMENTAL ENTEROPATHY which is caused by prolonged exposure to food and water contaminated with feces.
Environmental enteropathy, (EE) also known as gut dysfunction, affects up to 50% of children in the developing world, and causes no overt symptoms or signs in children.
6 years ago • Blog, Engineering, Health, Science, STEM, Travel • Tags: Engineering, environmental enteropathy, golden rice, India, International Reporting Project, Joanne Manaster, Malnutrition, NPR, sanitation, science, wiseGEEK
Part 1: The Science of Nutrition and Malnutrition.
Today’s post is number three in the run-up to my International Reporting Project trip to India where I will be part of a team of 10 journalists covering the topic of child survival. First, I addressed Infectious Diseases, then Vaccinations. Today, we will look at Malnutrition. What is the state of malnutrition in India? How has scientific understanding of what good nourishment means helped us work on the malnourishment issue particularly in developing nations? Can science put an end to world hunger? How are sanitation and hygiene related to malnutrition?
Before we go on, let’s define a few terms so there is no confusion:
- Malnutrition is the condition that occurs when your body does not get enough nutrients.
- Starvation is a severe deficiency in caloric energy, nutrient, and vitamin intake.
- Famine is a widespread scarcity of food, usually accompanied or followed by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality.
- Emaciation is abnormal thinness caused by lack of nutrition or by disease.
- Marasmus is chronic wasting of body tissues, especially in young children, commonly due to prolonged dietary deficiency of protein and calories.
- Kwashiorkor is a syndrome occurring in infants and young children soon after weaning. It is due to severe protein deficiency, and the symptoms include edema, pigmentation changes of skin and hair, impaired growth and development, distention of the abdomen, and pathologic liver changes.
6 years ago • Blog, Health, Travel • Tags: child survival, diarrheal diseases, environmental enteropathy, India, International Reporting Project, Malnutrition, Nobel Prize, nutrients, nutrition, research, science, STEM, UNICEF, WHO
Part 2: Vaccination Challenges in Developing Countries
Developing countries generally wait an average of 20 years between when a vaccine is licensed in industrialized countries and when it is available for their own populations. Economic, infrastructural and scientific hurdles all contribute to this long delay. The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) is a partnership between many public and private organization, including UNICEF, WHO, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, members of the vaccine industry and NGOs. GAVI was formed in 1999 to address the long delay between vaccine availability in industrialized countries and developing countries. Scientific advances that would help make more vaccines available in developing countries include the development of temperature stable vaccines, development of vaccines that required less than three doses to immunize and the development of needle free methods to administer vaccines.
6 years ago • Blog, Health, STEM, Travel • Tags: bioengineers, CDC, cold chain system, Gates Foundation, HIV, India, International Reporting Project, malaria, The History of Vaccines, tuberculosis, UNICEF, Vaccine Viral Monitors, vaccines, WHO
Part 1: How vaccines are made and how they work
In 2008, WHO estimated that 1.5 million of deaths among children under 5 years were due to diseases that could have been prevented by routine vaccination. This represents 17% of global total mortality in children under 5 years of age.
Hygiene, proper nourishment and sanitary conditions make for a healthy community, with lowered incidence of infectious disease, but since much of this is lacking in developing countries, vaccination is very helpful to giving the immune system a boost.
We can thank scientists, physicians and engineers for their work in understanding the immune system and how to make it work for us against disease by using vaccinations.
6 years ago • Blog, Health, Science, STEM, Travel • Tags: attenuated vaccine, child survival, diphtheria, effective vaccines, hepatitis, inactivated vaccine, India, International Reporting Project, pertussis, Polio, STEM, tetanus, The History of Vaccines, typhus, vaccine types, vaccines, WHO
Image: Incidence of childhood clinical pneumonia at the country level from WHO
This page is part of Pediatric Infectious Diseases in India post
I will limit this discussion to pneumonia and tuberculosis (which isn’t solely respiratory) for the sake of brevity.
Pneumonia is the leading global killer of children under five, responsible for almost 1.6 million deaths per year. In that vulnerable population, it is a disease of poverty and occurs most commonly when a child’s still-developing defense system is weakened by malnutrition, air pollution, co-infections with HIV/AIDS and measles, and low birthweight, with 43 million cases for children in India alone.
- Pneumonia is the leading cause of death in children worldwide.
- Pneumonia kills an estimated 1.2 million children under the age of five years every year – more than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.
- Pneumonia can be caused by viruses, bacteria or fungi.
- Pneumonia can be prevented by immunization, adequate nutrition and by addressing environmental factors.
- Pneumonia caused by bacteria can be treated with antibiotics, but around 30% of children with pneumonia receive the antibiotics they need. (source)
Pneumonia occurs when the sacs of the lungs, known as alveoli, become filled with pus and fluid, limiting oxygen intake and making it hard to breathe.
6 years ago • Blog, Health, Travel • Tags: antibiotics, CDC, disease resistance, India, International Reporting Project, Klebsiella, Legionella, pneumonia, respiratory diseases, Salmonella, tuberculosis, WHO
Image is of the Anopheles mosquito, the main insect vector of Plasmodium falciparum, the causative agent of Malraria via the CDC
This post is a continuation of Pediatric Diseases in India (part 4).
“Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease that affects more than 500 million people annually, causing between 1 and 3 million deaths. It is most common in tropical and subtropical climates and is found in 90 countries—but 90% of all cases are found in Sub-Saharan Africa. Most of its victims are children. The first stage consists of shaking and chills, the next stage involves high fever and severe headache, and in the final stage the infected person’s temperature drops and he or she sweats profusely. Infected people also often suffer from anemia, weakness, and a swelling of the spleen. Malaria was almost eradicated 30 years ago; now it is on the rise again.” (source)
This post is a continuation of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases in India post.
Diarrheal disease is the second leading cause of death in children under five years old. It is both preventable and treatable.
- Diarrheal disease kills 1.5 million children every year and account for >10% if child mortality in India.
- Globally, there are about two billion cases of diarrheal disease every year.
- Diarrheal disease mainly affects children under two years old.
- Diarrhea is a leading cause of malnutrition in children under five years old.
- Diarrhea can be of bacterial origin (ex: cholera), viral origin (ex: rotavirus) or parasitic (ex: ameobic dysentery)
This is the first in a series of five posts leading up to my trip to India to examine issues of child survival with the International Reporting Project via Johns Hopkins University with significant funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. For the duration of the trip, I am to consider my self a New Media Journalist with IRP.
Infectious diseases are common all over the world. You probably know them as generally communicable diseases of bacterial, viral or protozoan origin that will enter the body and infect it, causing illness and sometimes leading to death, especially if the body is weakened by malnutrition or stressful environmental factors.
6 years ago • Blog, STEM, Travel • Tags: books, cholera, diarrheal diseases, Gates Foundation, GIS, HIV, India, International Reporting Project, malaria, mathematics, pneumonia, respiratory diseases, rotavirus, STEM, TB, tuberculosis, UNICEF, videos, WHO
I will be leaving in just a matter of days to go to India with the International Reporting Project as a New Media Journalist to examine the issues of child survival. We will be in Mumbai, Nagpur, and New Delhi with visits to rural and slum areas. The IRP has a full schedule for the ten of us chosen to share our findings with our audiences within social media and blogs.
I made a video explaining why I’m going and what I plan to do to further the understanding of STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) during this trip in relation to child survival issues.
Many of the issues surrounding child survival in India; malnutrition, maternal and fetal care, sanitation, infectious diseases, and vaccinations, can be viewed as social issues, ones that stem from the difficulties of being a developing nation with a tremendously large population, and many of them living below the poverty levels and without education. Segments of India are thriving and growing and on the cutting edge of technology, with some of the most highly educated people in the world, making India a land of disparities.
6 years ago • Blog, Travel, Video • Tags: Angela Saini, child survival, Geek Nation, India, Infectious Diseases, International Reporting Project, Malnutrition, Maternal-Fetal Health, Sanitation/Environmental Issues, Vaccinations