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The World Health Organizations (WHO) recommends there be at least 2.3 health care workers for every 1000 people, yet 61 countries across the global do not meet this standard (Save the Children International, 2011). For comparison, the United States has a ratio one doctor per 350 (Weiner, 2002). Millions of adults and children die each year from poor sanitation and inadequate health care (Prüss-Üstün et al., 2008). Most of these deaths could be prevented with adequate nutrition, access to preventative measures and medical care from a trained professional.
Four out of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG) set forth by the UN are directly related to health and medicine. MDG 1 aims to eradicate poverty and hunger which both indirectly impact health. MDGs 4 and 5 aim to reduce the mortality rate for children under age five by two thirds and to reduce the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters. Finally, MDG 6 sets out to completely halt the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other major diseases by 2015. While significant advancements have been made in all of these areas, we are still a long way from reaching the Millennium goals (Jensen, 2010).
In 2008, four diseases — pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, and AIDS — accounted for 43 percent of all deaths in children under age five worldwide (Jensen, 2010). The highest rates of child mortality are found in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia where, in 2008, one in seven and one in fourteen children, respectively, died before their fifth birthday (Jensen, 2010). Some progress has been made in these areas but is not enough to meet the 2015 targets. Especially urgent is the need to refocus attention on pneumonia and diarrhea, two of the three leading killers of children. The use of vaccines and safe vaccine delivery tools against pneumococcal pneumonia and rotaviral diarrhea could add momentum to the fight against these common diseases (Jensen, 2010). Prevention methods and vaccines have been developed but are not always available in more rural areas due to difficulties with storage, delivery, and safe waste-disposal.
One of the leading challenges to children's healthy survival is malnourishment, with about one in four children under the age of five being underweight in the developing world. More than 25 percent of infants are underweight at birth, with the highest percentage in Southern Asia at 46 percent (Jensen, 2010). Micronutrient deficiencies threaten the health, development, and productivity of millions worldwide. Vitamin A deficiency is a problem for 40 percent of children under the age of five, weakening their immune systems and resulting in about 1 million deaths in the developing world ("PATH," 2011).
According to UNICEF's Micronutrient Initiative, each year severe iron deficiency kills at least 60,000 women during pregnancy or childbirth ("PATH," 2011). Hemorrhaging during birth accounts for over one third of maternal deaths. A majority of these cases could be prevented or managed through a range of interventions administered by a skilled health-care provider with adequate equipment and supplies available locally at a low cost.
There is reason to hope for major improvements in health and well being around the world. Programs that expand the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets as well as affordable, easy-to-use diagnostic tools have greatly reduced the number of deaths caused by infectious diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis. Solar-powered vaccine storage refrigerators and needle-free injections are among the most recent innovations to overcome challenges to the delivery of vaccines where these diseases are most prevalent. Researchers have developed low-cost solutions to micronutrient deficiencies; these foods and supplements are currently being distributed in selected areas but are not well-known outside of the medical community. As access to information and communications technologies improve, more communities will be able to benefit from high-impact innovations in health care and nutrition technologies.
As a practical aid in the search for appropriate solutions, TEL has organized the vast field of health and medical care into the following categories: Medical and Surgical Care, Prevention and Vaccination, Nutrition, Maternal and Child Health, and Women's Health. Since some solutions may be applicable to more than one area, users may want to browse multiple categories, and/or use the special Solution Search function, with keywords.
Medical and Surgical Care includes a number of diagnostic approaches and devices, as well as surgical equipment and environmental support aimed at helping health-care providers in areas where sophisticated equipment and safe waste-disposal systems are not available.
Prevention and Vaccination encompasses the wide range of preventative measures, from insecticide-treated mosquito nets to specialized vaccine delivery technologies that ensure safety and effectiveness even under very adverse conditions.
Nutrition technologies are currently being developed and distributed which can supplement the diets of the millions who are underweight or malnourished (i.e. high-protein preparations that can be produced locally.)
Maternal and Child Health focuses on methods and technologies to protect and improve the health of pregnant women, newborns, and children. (i.e. a simple-to-use sling scale to assess the weight of newborns and thus help midwives decide on best action.)
Women's Health solutions empower women, often with the support of health-care providers, to take control over family planning and their own reproductive health.
About the millennium development goals. (2011). We are the generation that can end poverty. Retrieved August 1, 2011, from http://www.endpoverty2015.org/en/goals
Health workers save lives. (2011). Save the Children International. Retrieved August 1, 2011, from everyone.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Health_workers_briefing.pdf
Jensen, L. (2010). Millenium development goals report. New York: United Nations.
PATH: ultra rice technology. (2011). PATH: a catalyst for global health. Retrieved August 1, 2011, from http://www.path.org/projects/ultra_rice.php
Prüss-Üstün, A., Bos, R., Gore, F., & Bartram, J. (2008). Safer water, better health: costs, benefits and sustainability of interventions to protect and promote health. Geneva: World Health Organization.
Weiner, J. P. (2002). A shortage of physicians or a surplus of assumptions? Health Affairs, 21, 160-162.
UN Millennium Development Goals:
UN Population Fund:
UNICEF — Micronutrient Initiative:
World Health Organization: