Health Matters


If you are rich the chances of you dying of a controllable disease like malaria are miniscule. People die sooner and suffer more when they are poor. In the rich world it is our lifestyle that is the main killer. Often it is a question of choice – junk food, smoking and lack of exercise will kill you. That’s our choice. In the poor world killer diseases still stalk and the billions who earn less that a few dollars a day don’t have a choice. In Hands On this week we report on cost effective developments that can give the poor chances to suffer less and reduce the risk of dying of a controllable disease such as malaria.

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Message in a Bottle – Kenya

The nomadic Maasai families of Kenya depend on their livestock for a living and care for the animals as part of the family. This tradition, combined with their housing construction methods causes the Maasai to be troubled by flies. The disease that is spread by the flies directly affects the families’ health as well as that of the livestock. Children are highly susceptible to diseases such as trachoma and diarrhoea, which are easily transmitted by flies feeding on animal dung. A low-cost design of fly trap, made from two plastic bottles, has helped reduce the prevalence of these diseases.

The Model Patient – UK

For medical students the next best thing to a human is Stan. D Ardman – he is a model patient. Suffering from an array of diseases Stan, a high-tech manikin, is giving these students an ideal opportunity to learn how the body functions in health & disease and to practice their clinical knowledge.

Made in India – India

Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It invades the nervous system, and can lead to paralysis. It can strike at any age, but affects mainly children under five years. To help the lives of these sufferers, an organisation called Mobility India has been developing and disseminating improved, appropriate limb-supporting technology. They accompany this technology with patient therapy and training courses for potential health professionals.

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Out of the Lab – UK

The threat from biological agents has led to production of a technology which can also be used as a rapid diagnostic tool to identify diseases without sending samples to a laboratory. It can be operated on-site by practitioners in the field, and so vital treatment can be administered in a more timely and effective way. The portable mini-lab is being put to use to test both humans and animals for diseases.

Reality Bites – Tanzania

In sub-Saharan Africa, over two million people die every year as a result of Malaria. The majority of victims are pregnant women and children under five years old. There is already an effective means of prevention: insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) have been shown to decrease the incidence of severe malaria.

However, access to nets in sub-Saharan African is problematic and simply giving away nets is ineffective. In Tanzania, a social marketing approach has been adopted. Pregnant women are given a discount voucher worth more than 80 per cent of the commercial price of a net on their first visit to an ante-natal clinic. They can use this voucher to purchase an ITN in selected retail outlets.