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HOPE works in more than 35 countries worldwide. Please enjoy our blog as we document the successes and challenges of our work to provide Health Opportunities for People Everywhere.

Project HOPE Applauds the President’s Request to Congress for Supplemental Funds to Combat the Zika Virus Epidemic

Posted By: Tom Kenyon, M.D., M.P.H. on February 23, 2016

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Project HOPE is addressing the Zika virus in the Dominican Republic

Congress simply must act. 

If lawmakers in both parties don’t rapidly approve the request the President lodged on Monday, February 22 for $1.9 billion to combat the Zika virus epidemic sweeping the Western Hemisphere, there could be devastating consequences for Americans, especially unborn children. 

Time is not on our side. Yes, we need better science around what is going on with Zika virus, but in the meantime millions of pregnant women and unborn fetuses are at risk and need support now to avert a further disaster.  The virus can cause microcephaly, a tragic, irreversible condition, which depending on its severity, can be accompanied by a range of complications, including mental retardation. Thousands of cases of this heart rending disease, which can deal a crushing blow to the hopes of expectant parents, have already been recorded. And there are major societal implications as the integrity of the reproductive process — which underpins humanity itself, is at risk. 

The CDC once estimated that the lifetime costs of caring for a child suffering from mental retardation topped a million dollars. So averting less than 2,000 cases of microcephaly and mental retardation would offset the President’s request. And this is an investment that will deliver returns many times over. In fact, if Congress approves this investment, Americans will be getting a bargain. An important knock on effect of funding this program will also lead to lasting control of mosquitos that can spread disease and stronger public health systems that could prevent other outbreaks of disease from reaching America’s shores.

There is no time to lose because the Zika virus is already on its way. With 26 countries and territories in the Western Hemisphere already reporting cases, with thousands of cases of microcephaly already identified, and with the mosquito vector already in America, the conditions are ripe for the U.S. mainland to be increasingly affected as we move into the spring and summer months. 

But while the threat is serious, history is on our side. In the 1940s the United States faced major mosquito-borne outbreaks of malaria and yellow fever in the southern states that were brought under control through public health investment and hard work, leading to the formation of the CDC in Atlanta. 

But before we can tackle the Zika outbreak, we need Congress to do its part. It is being suggested that the quickest way of funding the President’s request would be to divert resources currently being used to contain Ebola in West Africa. But this makes little sense — in fact it would be like diverting the fire hose from a house fire that is smoldering, to one that is in flames. It only takes a puff of wind for the original conflagration to ignite again.

Does Congress really want to run the risk of having BOTH Ebola and Zika virus cases in the mainland U.S. in the coming months? Really? Time will tell, but this is not the time for Congress to belabor this issue.

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Global Health Security: Forging the Leaders of Tomorrow

Posted By: Tom Kenyon, M.D., M.P.H. on February 12, 2016

Labels: , Global Health Expertise, Disaster-Relief, Alumni, Health Systems Strengthening

Global Health Security: Forging Young Leaders in fight against HIV, Ebola and now  Zika

Global health crises require constructive involvement of our diplomats abroad and policymakers at home, as we have seen with the global HIV pandemic, as we saw with the Ebola epidemic last year, and as we are seeing now with the Zika virus epidemic in our own hemisphere. So it was very timely to have the opportunity to address this topic on a recent panel discussion in Washington D.C., “Securing HOPE”, sponsored by our young professionals’ leadership board, the NextGen of HOPE, and the Young Professionals in Foreign Policy

NextGen of HOPE hosts panel to  disucss global health security threats like HIV, Ebola and now Zika.

The panel included experts from the Department of State, USAID, the Department of Defense, and NGO sectors to provide a range of viewpoints on strengthening the response to epidemics and how to engage the next generation of leaders in global health security (GHS), an issue that is going to be increasingly important as their careers progress.

Of course, HIV, Ebola, and the Zika virus are very different from one another, but they have their own sinister way of creating a crisis, affecting society, and threatening security. Ebola kills rapidly and is scary. The Zika virus, so we think, strikes in a tragic way at reproductive health, which is at the very core of our existence. And the global HIV pandemic, which now spans 30 years and has claimed the lives of 40 million people, is a clear example of how unresolved global health challenges are going to be passed on to the next generation.

Partnerships are crucial to achieving progress in the fight against Ebola, HIV, and now the Zika virus, which threatens communities in the Americas and has been detected in the U.S.  These and others (H7N9, MERS, Chikungunya, etc) are prime examples of how insecure we really are when it comes to containing disease outbreaks.  The UN Security Council has even taken the unprecedented step to declare Ebola and HIV as threats to global security.  The goal of GHS, through investment in public health systems strengthening, is to prevent outbreaks of disease from escalating into wider scale epidemics and pandemics and to better prevent, detect and respond. But to fulfill its potential, GHS needs a seamless partnership between government, the private sector, and where we come in — NGOs. 

When outbreaks occur, which is often unavoidable, governments must provide funding, leadership, coordination, communications with the public, support for research and development, and carry out disease surveillance so we know the extent of the problem.  We need the private sector to develop and distribute effective and affordable diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics. And the non-health sectors are critical in keeping transport, commerce, and communications systems up and running.

 

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HOPE Delivers

Posted By: Tom Kenyon, M.D., M.P.H. on February 4, 2016

Labels: Macedonia, Namibia, Poland, Romania, Sierra Leone, South Africa , Global Health Expertise, Disaster-Relief, Chronic Disease, Humanitarian Aid, Women’s and Children’s Health, Alumni, Health Care Education, Partners, Infectious Disease, Health Systems Strengthening, Volunteers

Dr. Tom Kenyon in South Africa

It has been a very busy, and fulfilling first few months leading Project HOPE.  

“Global health is global” so I’ve needed to see our work overseas, starting with visits to Ethiopia, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Poland, Macedonia, and Kosovo. I had a close look at our programs on HIV, TB/HIV, diabetes and hypertension, Ebola, biomedical engineering, neonatology, our support for children’s hospitals and our efforts to ease the refugee crisis in Europe.

I’ve been pleased to discover, but not surprised, that Project HOPE is truly making a difference. Let me just share a few examples:

Achieving Impact

  • In Romania the mortality rate among newborns weighing 1,000-1,500 grams has been cut in half between 2007 and 2012 as neonatal care improved with HOPE support.
  • In South Africa, the rate of blood pressure control in patients attending the HOPE Centre clinic in Johannesburg has nearly doubled in two years, thereby reducing the risk of premature stroke and death.

Driving innovation

  • In Namibia, Project HOPE works with the Ministry of Health to place community health workers in HIV/AIDS treatment centers to use information technology to track down treatment defaulters who have been lost in remote communities. This will help prevent HIV transmission, drug resistance, and preventable morbidity and mortality.

Building capacity

  • In Poland, Project HOPE was honored with a medal of recognition at the 50th anniversary celebration of Krakow Children’s Hospital (KCH), where we have had a 41-year partnership, involving more than 700 HOPE volunteers going to KCH, and more than 300 Polish specialists visiting children’s hospitals in the US.  KCH is now a center of excellence for children with special needs in Poland and performs highly advanced cardiac surgical procedures, all made possible through long-term partnership with Project HOPE. Building capacity takes time.
Dr. Kenyon Sierra Leone

“HOPE delivers”

  • “HOPE delivers” is what I heard loud and clear from the medical director for the refugee crisis in Macedonia, who spent a day with us visiting the transit center on their southern border with northern Greece. Project HOPE didn’t just come, drop off supplies, and leave; it has stayed and strengthened the ability of health authorities to deal with the massive and evolving migration of refugees fleeing  very difficult circumstances.
  • And in Sierra Leone, President Ernest Bai Koroma recently awarded Project HOPE with a medal of recognition for the close partnership and strategic supply of critical medical products, drugs, and consumables that saved lives during the recent Ebola epidemic. 

In addition, Project HOPE’s journal Health Affairs was recently ranked #1 in “Impact Factor” among all health policy journals according to Journal Citation Reports, the annual ranking of scholarly journals produced by Thomson Reuters.

Together with our partners, we are making much progress but much more is needed.  Thank you for your dedication and steadfast support in bringing, HOPE, Health Opportunities to People Everywhere.  

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Volunteers Help Refugees with a Variety of Ailments

Posted By Louisa Reade, RN, Project HOPE volunteer on January 13, 2016

Labels: Macedonia, Syrian Refugee Crisis , Humanitarian Aid

Louisa Reade, RN and Dr. Corey Kahn in Gevgelija, Macedonia

Louisa Reade, RN, MSN is a registered nurse from Ashland, Oregon, who spent three weeks in November 2015 volunteering with Project HOPE at the Gevgelija Transit Center on the border of Macedonia with Greece, where about 3,000 migrants passed through per day on their way to seek asylum in EU countries. Reade and fellow volunteer Dr. Corey Kahn, also from Ashland, Oregon, provided free medical care to refugees in need.

Start of the Second Week

Today we had a 2-year-old boy come into the clinic in severe respiratory distress. I gave him the medications that Cory had ordered, observed him for some time and then said yes to being the sole rider with him to the hospital (with his family). Corey asked me to take Epi with me just in case he stopped breathing. We had other patients who needed her.

The boy was lethargic except for the incredible work he was having to do to keep breathing. I kept thinking, “please don’t die, baby.” We got to the hospital, and I hooked him up to oxygen while we waited. The MD I had met previously with another patient arrived. He is kind and soft spoken. I gave the report and left. Back to the transit center for more.

Dr. Corey Kahn with a patient at the Gevgelija Transit Center

We have many patients who are on some type of medication – for infections, diabetes, inhalers for asthma, etc. When the refugees are crossing the sea, boats capsize or their precious belongings fall overboard. They come to us for medications. It is a process trying to figure out the diagnosis, what they need and what medication they had taken. For instance, if the patient is on an antibiotic, which antibiotic did that person take and for how long? Our patients primarily speak Arabic; some speak Farsi. If there is not someone who speaks English and Arabic, we form a row: the patient, the Arabic-to-Macedonian interpreter, the Macedonian-to-English interpreter, the nurse and the doctor. Can you picture it? A very full examination room!

Dr. Corey Kahn with a young patient at the Gevgelija Transit Center, Macedonia

The Next Day

We arrived at work today, got busy and then a Macedonian doctor/nurse team showed up. The Macedonians staff the clinic when we are not there. So, there was confusion with the schedule. However, it was a non-stop day for us, and we kept them busy running patients to the hospital.

Here is a snapshot of patients we saw today.

  • A 13-year-old refugee with fever and developmental delay and weakness had been left with us and that was the last we saw of the person who brought that patient in. There is an organization that connects families that get separated, and they are working on it.

  • A man arrived after receiving CPR from the Red Cross out between the border of Greece and Macedonia. We evaluated him and sent him to the hospital.

  • Violence in the morning was caused by people having been out in the cold all night, trembling from the chill when they came into the clinic.

  • There was a man with a broken arm, and a boy with a major shoulder injury.

  • There was a very, very sad woman who had lost THREE children: a baby, a toddler and a young child OVERBOARD. She cried. I cried. She tolder her story in Arabic to me. I didn’t understand a word, but I could sure feel for her. She brought her infant’s socks out from where she had them, tucked beside her breast. Oh the grief!

Pipes were being laid down, and holes were being dug, causing stress from the additional loud noises nonstop all day. Plus there was the additional stressful sound of the refugees chanting. They are very restless. Many people were projectile vomiting. There was lots of diarrhea. So many people just collapsed. The stretcher was used a lot today. There were pregnant women and children with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and ear aches. A toddler tripped an impaled the roof of her mouth on a stick.

And then we went home. The electricity went out, and our landlord brought us roasted chestnuts. How sweet is that?

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Volunteer Nurse Journals about Helping Refugees Crossing into Macedonia

Posted By Louisa Reade, RN, Project HOPE Volunteer on December 24, 2015

Labels: Macedonia, Syrian Refugee Crisis , Humanitarian Aid, Alumni, Volunteers

Volunteer nurse Louisa Reade center with Project HOPE staff and fellow volunteer Dr. Corey Kahn at the Gevgelija Transit Center in Macedonia

Louisa Reade, RN, MSN is a registered nurse from Ashland, Oregon, who spent three weeks in November 2015 volunteering with Project HOPE at the Gevgelija Transit Center on the border of Macedonia with Greece, where about 3,000 migrants passed through per day on their way to seek asylum in EU countries. Reade and fellow volunteer Dr. Corey Kahn, also from Ashland, Oregon, provided free medical care to refugees in need.

First Day

Today is my first day in Macedonia. We have seen our first patients, and everything is different: the medicine, the IVs, fluids, etc. At times I feel overwhelmed, but Corey is amazing to work with – knowledgeable, with a calm, friendly bedside manner. The Red Cross runs a separate clinic and refers more acute or complicated cases to us or instances where the patient is very young. We were in the clinic for 13 hours today and treated about 10 people. About 1,000 people came through the transit center, only because the Greek ferry operators are on strike. We have heard they will be back to work tomorrow, and we expect 15,000 people to pass through tomorrow, making our clinic very busy.

Volunteer Dr. Corey Kahn helps refugees at the Gevgelija Transit Center

Second Day

Today, when not treating patients, I handed out water and sacks of food provided by two other organizations. During our shift, 5,000 people passed through the refugee center. We drove the ambulance to the hospital today, so a woman in early pregnancy could have an ultrasound. It was quite an adventure! Even though it was only our second day, I felt at home in the clinic.

I cried three times today, mainly because I was worried about families or groups being separated. Each family travels in a group. If a refugee chooses to seek health care, he or she might become separated from his or her group. The group could move onto the next destination – taking the train or bus to Serbia – while he or she receives treatment. For this reason, a person may choose not to seek health care. Everyone found one another today – thank goodness. And, sometimes the search was heart wrenching.

Refugee children at the Gevgelija Transit Center, Macedonia

Next Few Days

What do we do each day? We start moving around 6:30 – 7:00 am and head out the door by 7:55. We get a ride to the transit camp from the Ministry of Health. Once we arrive, we do a one or two minute report-ish hand off from the night staff, also a doctor and nurse. I say “ish” because they speak Macedonian, and we speak English. I wipe down all the surfaces. Corey reviews the charting from the night before, and we see patients as they filter in.

The Red Cross medical staff screens the patients and then sends the very young and/or very sick to us. Mainly I do vitals, give oral medications, IM injections, start IVs and in general work as part of a team under Corey’s leadership. At 8 pm we pack up, wait for the night team to arrive and ride home in the Ministry of Health-provided vehicle. Food, Facebook, reading, FaceTime with family and always laughter are the best medicine after a long day.

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