Global Ambient Air Pollution (Interactive Map)

The World Health Organization recently published an interactive map (click the image below) based on their “Global Urban Ambient Air Pollution Database,” which contains data on the concentration (micrograms per meter cubed) of particles less than 10 microns in diameter (1/7th the diameter of human hair) around the world, also known as PM10. Since major sources of these particles include motor vehicles, wood burning stoves/fireplaces, construction/agricultural/landfill dust, waste burning, and industrial sources, PM10 concentration is a good proxy for pollution level. 

Apart from China, which has made news on repeated occasions for air pollution, I was particularly struck by the levels of pollution in Saharan Africa, the Persian Gulf, and within India. I can only imagine the human health health and ecosystemic effects of contaminated air in these regions. Of note, however, the vast majority of activities that result in PM10 production are tied in some way or another to economic productivity. Innovation at the level of technology, business, and governmental policy is clearly in need to enable less environmentally deleterious means of economic productivity in these regions of the world.

-AT

 

Four Life Lessons from Medical School

Austin and Galveston

After four exciting and formative years, I finally graduated from Harvard Medical School a few weeks ago. Aside from the abundance of bedside manner, physiology, pathophysiology, and procedural skills that I learned, here are the top four life lessons that I took away from the experience:

  1. Stay humble.
  2. Never be afraid to ask questions.
  3. Maintain balance between work and life — it makes both much more enjoyable.
  4. Stay plugged into your supports (faith, family, and friends).

AT

 

Data for Change.

earth_eastern_hemisphere

Data is an integral element of the world in which we live. Innovative companies analyze user-collected data to improve the efficiency of daily tasks like searching the Internet, navigating a city, and finding the best place to eat. Similarly, healthcare is an incredibly data-drive field. On a daily basis, physicians and medical students like myself integrate patient data with findings from large studies published in major medical journals to provide the best care possible. To this end, there are numerous collective databases that exist among groups of medical professionals such as transplant surgeons, oncologists, radiologists, and even plastic surgeons which enable larger sample sizes and thus more accurate determinations of health outcomes and the effect of various interventions among patients of a variety of backgrounds.

As a fan of open-source data, I was pleased to recently discover website healthdata.gov, one of the most powerful ventures by the United States Department of Health and Human Services in my opinion. I had forgotten just how much information the United States government collects through the services it funds such as hospitals, Medicare, Medicaid, and other national and state-based organizations. Whether digging through a geotagged database of toxic chemical spills in the United States or analyzing a database of cancer outcomes in low income elders, I can’t wait to delve into the plethora of eye-opening information that this website offers.

The information we need to make change already exists. It’s our job to put that information into action.

-AT

 

A Step Toward Eliminating Systemic Discrimination Against Women in Haiti

Haitian woman
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Let’s face it, major social issues often take a back seat in the immediate aftermath of natural disasters. One unfortunate example of this is the systemic gender discrimination and rampant violence against women that continues to occur in Haiti (now 6 years after the colossal earthquake in 2010). The non-profit organization Human Rights Watch recently made a submission to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women regarding the systemic problems that contribute to the marginalization of women in Haitian society.

More specifically, this HRW submission to the UN provides eye-opening insight into the impact of gender-based violence and widespread lack of rights to fresh water and sanitation on women’s’ access to healthcare and education in Haiti. Perhaps most apparent is the direct infectious health risks that result from poor sanitation.  Less obvious, however, is that the absence of easily accessible fresh water (a problem that was greatly exacerbated by the widespread destruction that occurred during the 2010 earthquake) is forcing countless girls and women alike to put themselves at risk of rape and other violence in order to retrieve water while also foregoing empowering activities such as education and entrepreneurship.

Simply put, systemic injustice at the level of government and society are responsible for perpetuating, if not creating, the large amounts of suffering among marginalized groups in countries like Haiti that have recently suffered major catastrophes. While it is undoubtedly difficult to eliminate these systemic issues overnight, the work of organizations like Human Rights Watch and the UN to raise awareness about the issues and their systemic causes is an important first step toward progress.

By Andrew Taliaferro

Is the proposed EU-India Free Trade Agreement worth putting generic medicines beyond the reach of millions worldwide?

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

As stated in the Independent article below, Indian generic drugs are crucial for the health of millions of Africans and others in different regions of the developing world.

Yes, the EU-India FTA would have fantastic economic implications for both parties.  Overall business and exports between the two would see substantial increases, but the big question is…

Is it worth it?

India has, by far, the largest number of people dying of hunger each year.  One would hope that such a free trade agreement would boost poor Indians’ ability to feed themselves and their families via increased employment and perhaps even wages, but such a result is not guaranteed to happen!

The Indian government has a history of withholding the fruits of its economic gains from the masses (eg. amassing massive buffer stocks of imported Green Revolution wheat while millions starved).

Hopefully, though, these times have passed.  India could seriously use the economic boost from such a free trade agreement, but perhaps they should reject the UK’s offer of support to India’s booming pharmaceutical companies in favor of those in different parts of the developing world who need cheap, readily available medications.

What would I do?

1.) Eliminate any plans of EU support of Indian pharmaceutical companies.

2.) Allow this revised trade agreement to be inacted.

Overall, this is one of the many issues that arises on a daily basis, with the livelihoods of millions swinging in the balance.  Thankfully, we all have voices and can use those voices to make a difference.

Let’s do this people.  Let’s Touch the Sphere.

Article by The Independent:

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/eu-drive-to-protect-drug-firms-puts-fight-against-aids-at-risk-6699876.html

Article by The EU:

http://ec.europa.eu/trade/creating-opportunities/bilateral-relations/countries/india/

-AT