May 4, 2017. There are so many wonderful experiences from the USAID/Nepal Early Grade Reading Program that Another Option is working on.  Applying the behavior theories and strategies we use in our health and energy being utilized in education and early grade reading to encourage parents (…and grandparents and older siblings) to read with their children is one exciting experience.

Research shows that the most effective way to change behavior is through one-on-one experience or interpersonal communication. I saw it in action last week (April 24 ) when I attended a parent meeting in Bhaktapur, Nepal. The parents could not stop talking about their children….and especially their desire for them to learn how to read and to achieve beyond what they as parents have.

The meeting was a parent (peer) education training session conducted by the program’s social mobilizers.  Another Option developed the training guide the mobilizers are using to get parents to talk to other parents about the importance of Early Grade Reading and share tips on how they can go from desire for their children to read and excel to actually taking the necessary steps. The guide is posted on the web site (link).

It is powerful for parents to know that they are not doing this alone and that other parents are also trying to fit in time to read with their children with work outside of the home. Parents (peers) who have experience with reading at home share ideas and tips with parents such as relieving the child from some household chores to study and read each night and listening while the child reads for 10 minutes each day.

Parents and grandparents attended the training session, are a mix of residents and migrant families who live there for work. Parents learned the importance of early grade reading, talked about their ideas for

This is one of 250 trainings that will be held in this district in the next three months.

 

“My grandfather inspired me to read and always brought me books. Now when I travel, I always remember to bring back books for my children.”
Pushpa Basnet, CNN Hero 2016-17

“In the 2014 earthquake, houses with strong foundation withstood the damage. Early grade reading is the foundation to improve our children’s future.”
Mr. Baburam Poudel, Director General, Department of Education (DOE)

“Teaching is all encompassing – it is as cultural, social and familial process.”
Dhananjaya Sharma, Education Expert

The commitment and resolve of these statements reflect the focus of the media orientation workshop organized by the Department of Education (DOE) and the USAID-funded Early Grade Reading Program (EGRP).

Held on February 6 in Kathmandu, the workshop was the first opportunity for 28 Nepali print and broadcast media journalists to come together and understand the program and their role in strengthening the program. Using presentations and group discussions, Focal Person, Bishnu Adhikari, Deputy Director, DOE and EGRP Chief of Party, Edward Graybill along with other technical team leads, shared strategic ideas about the relationship between EGRP and the government’s National Early Grade Reading Program (NEGRP).

Further, participants received information packets with community mobilization and peer advocacy materials, developed and designed by the program, with the intention to facilitate better communication amongst beneficiary parents and between parents and teachers about children’s reading habit.

Mr. Baburam Poudel, Director General, Department of Education welcomed the participants and opened the workshop by reiterating the critical nature of quality early grade reading and stressed all involved stakeholders to work in tandem to improve access, quality and management of primary education.

Education expert, Mr. Dhananjaya Sharma called for teachers and other stakeholders in primary education to encourage two-way interactions with students and to change classroom settings to make it child-friendly among others.

Special guests at the orientation included comments by Ms. Basnet, named as a CNN Hero in 2016-2017. She stressed the importance of reading in her own personal development from a shy student to a confident woman.

Deputy Director Mr. Adhikari spoke at length about the National Early Grade Reading Program (NEGRP) and raised issues about program’s implementation including ownership of the program, lack of technical resources and lack of commitment of policy making and implementation.

A key message that came out of the interaction between the journalists and the EGRP and the government teams was that a strong sense of camaraderie and commitment to this important work was required from all stakeholders to implant the love for reading in Nepali children from the very early grades.

A similar workshop will be organized in Bhaktapur, Kaski, Banke, Saptari and Kanchanpur districts in February and March

This blog was prepared by Adheep Pokhrel, Communication Manager for USAID/Nepal’s Early Grade Reading Program managed by RTI International

Once the dust had settled following the devastating Ebola outbreaks in West Africa, it was discovered that deaths resulting from Ebola were disproportionately concentrated among health care workers. Based on some estimates, .11% of Liberia’s entire general population had died due to Ebola, compared with 8% of its health care workers. In Sierra Leone, the loss was 0.06% of the general population compared with 6.85% of the health workers, while 0.02% of Guinea’s overall population had died compared with 1.45% of all health workers, according to May 2015 data from the World Bank. It was this situation that partly led to the creation of a company called Kinnos, which invented a new substance to decontaminate health care and other potentially contaminated facilities.

Kinnos posited that regular bleach disinfectant was not always sufficient to protect all health workers from highly contagious viruses such as Ebola. Although bleach is recommended by the World Health Organization and other international health agencies as the best and most cost efficient disinfectant for surfaces contaminated by infectious disease, its effectiveness is limited by the fact that it is clear. This makes it easy to “miss spots” and leave gaps in coverage of disinfection. Kinnos created Highlight, a patent-pending powdered additive that colorizes disinfectants. This makes it easier to visualize, ensure full coverage, and adhere to surfaces. The color is only temporary, however; it fades once decontamination is complete.

Highlight is being used by the New York Fire Department and was a winner of the USAID Fighting Ebola Grand Challenge. It has also been field tested by health care workers in Liberia and Guinea. The new technology was spotlighted at TEDMED 2016, taking place this week in Palm Springs, CA.

One of the co-founders of Kinnos, Kevin Tyan, spoke to attendees about the company, which was founded by him and two others when they were undergraduates at Columbia University in 2014. Responding to TEDMED 2016’s overarching question to attendees, “What if?”, Tyan and his colleagues asked, “What if we could highlight invisible threats for our lifesavers?” The development of products such as Highlight could be part of the answer. Another component of fighting emerging diseases such as Ebola and Zika is detecting them early so that proper treatment and precautions can be taken. TEDMED 2016 speaker Charles Chiu, an infectious disease physician and researcher, detailed the development of a tiny next-generation sequencing device (from Oxford Nanopore Technologies) that could improve how quickly and effectively we can diagnose and respond to the next deadly disease. Chiu’s talk fed into the overarching theme of this year’s TEDMED – “What if?” – by posing the question, “What if next generation sequencing could help us diagnose mysterious infectious illnesses.” The device can “detect any infectious agent…no matter whether it is a bacteria, virus, fungus, or parasite” in a single test, and can do so in a matter of hours and in remote, low-resource settings, Chiu explained.

By working with a number of national and international partners, the researchers have been able to bring this instrument and its associated protocols and laptop software to remote areas around the world – Barbados, Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Ethiopia – for diagnosis and surveillance of acute febrile illness from pathogens such as Zika virus, Ebola virus, and Plasmodium falciparum malaria. The way this technology works is like quickly finding a needle-in-a-haystack. Clinicians collect a sample – blood, spinal fluid, nasal swabs, or tissue – and generate hundreds of millions of sequence reads. They then diagnose infection by identifying sequences corresponding to all potential viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites using a bioinformatics program called SURPI, which stands for sequence-based ultra-rapid pathogen identification. “SURPI can analyze 300 million sequences within hours, and is available on servers, the cloud, and even on a laptop,” Chiu noted.

This is warp speed compared to conventional testing, which often involves using cultures, where you grow the organism from days to weeks and can waste “precious time retesting limited amounts of sample looking for an endless array of potential agents,” Chiu explained. By implementing all of this in a single test, patients can obtain “targeted, timely, and effective treatment before it’s too late.”

In addition to testing the technology in other countries, in June 2016 Chiu and his colleagues launched a multi-hospital study on the “Precision Diagnosis of Acute Infectious Diseases.” Over one year, they will enroll 300 patients and compare the metagenomic next-generation sequencing test, which has now been clinically validated in a licensed diagnostic laboratory, to conventional testing. This demonstration project aims to establish the clinical utility and cost-effectiveness of this test for diagnosis of meningitis and encephalitis. Their efforts are particularly timely given that the FDA in May of this year released draft guidance for next-generation sequencing diagnostic devices.

“We are currently in the process of seeking FDA approval for this test, and hope that approval for tests such as these can be fast-tracked as soon as possible and made widely available to patients,” Chiu said. They are also working with NASA on potentially sequencing in space.

In August of this year, astronaut Kate Rubins reported for the first time a successful sequencing run in space on the MinION nanopore platform. “Ultimately, the goals of sequencing in space will include diagnosing infections in astronauts, environmental surveillance, and even the discovery of new life,” Chiu stated. To see these space-age goals realized, the populace will have to live long enough.

Another TEDMED 2016 speaker, Dr. Nir Barzilai, an Israeli internist, is examining a way to target the process of aging to help us live longer, healthier lives. He is spearheading a randomized controlled trial of a medicine, metformin, that aims to interfere with the aging process. Meformin, Barzilai explained, is a generic drug that has been used for over 60 years to treat patients with type 2 diabetes. It directly targets several important mechanisms of aging, and has been shown to extend the health and life spans in organisms including worms and mice. In humans, metformin prevents type 2 diabetes in those at high risk and has been associated with reduced cardiovascular disease risk. In patients who already have type 2 diabetes, metformin is associated with a 30% reduction in cardiovascular risks and death, and a 20-40% reduction in cancer risk. It is also associated with a decrease in cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.

With those preliminary results as a backdrop, Barzilai and his colleagues have launched a study, Targeting Aging with MEtformin (TAME). They will be studying 3,000 elderly volunteers who will be assigned to either placebo or metformin. They will attempt to measure the time it takes for any of age-related diseases — cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and death – to manifest. Because the study aims to show how metformin affects the rate of aging, the researchers are working with the FDA so that the drug will carry an “anti-aging” indication if it is proven to be effective for that purpose. Gaining this indication will spur more companies to pursue the development of anti-aging medications, Barzilai stated. He is hopeful that the study will show that “metformin will probably add healthy years to life.”

But metformin is only the beginning: he predicted that next generation drugs will be better and better,” Even a “modest change in people’s health span,” he added, “will be translated into $50 billion in health care savings by the year 2050.”

TEDMED 2016 was held in Palm Springs, CA from 30 November through 2 December 2017. Visit www.TEDMED.com for more information

Guest blogger is Tula Michaelides – has 25 years of professional experience writing for a variety of audiences, predominantly in the fields of global and U.S. public health. She attended TEDMED 2016

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Word of mouth or peer education is still the most reliable way to get information. Making sure that information is correct or accurate is another story.

One of Another Option’s role under USAID/Nepal’s Early Grade Reading Program managed by RTI International is to create awareness among parents of children in grades one through three about the benefits of reading, and for children to read outside of schools at home, reading corners, and libraries.

With the Ministry of Education, we developed a peer education guide to encourage parents to talk to other parents. Our research showed that parents talked to other parents about maneuvering their way through the school culture and to assure parents received good advice on what to do for their children to succeed.

Approved by the Ministry of Education and USAID/Nepal, the guide is in English and Nepali with plans to translate into three other languages. The training kit consists of three components: trainer guide, participant guide, and wall hanging with recommended behaviors and activities for parents.

An electronic version will be posted for any to use. Please give credit to USAID/Nepal. Drawings and illustrations by Keshar Joshi.

We are pleased to announce our affiliations with Ljubica Latinovic and Gisele McAuliffe!

Ljubica Latinovic, Founding Partner and Managing Director of LYAHealth

Ljubica Latinovic, Founding Partner and Managing Director of LYAHealth

Dr. Ljubica Latinovic (@LYAHealth) is a Founding Partner of LYAHealth, a woman-owned business that specializes in communication strategies and solutions to health issues. LYAHealth also provides crisis and emergency communication management in public health, digital media, message development, and media relations.

Gisele McAuliffe, President of Advocacy Communications International, Inc. and Bigger Impact

Gisele McAuliffe, President of Advocacy Communications International, Inc. and Bigger Impact

Gisele McAuliffe (@curiousadvocate) is an international communications and advocacy consultant who presides over Advocacy Communications International, Inc. and Bigger Impact. With more than 20 years of communications experience, McAuliffe collaborates with diverse teams to plan, implement and evaluate strategic outreach efforts.

We are excited for our future work with Ljubica and Gisele!

Story by Adheep Pokhrel, Communications Director, Early Grade Reading Program. Another Option is a subcontractor specializing in social and behavior change communication (SBCC) under USAID/Nepal’s Early Grade Reading Program (EGRP) managed by RTI International. EGRP operates in 16 districts in Nepal’s terai (plains) and far west regions. Targeted to parents of students in Grades 1 – 3 from minority ethnic populations and their teachers. Another Option and its research partner, GTA, conducted qualitative research among these target audiences. The qualitative research findings were used to develop messages and the SBCC strategy.
 
A Message Development Meeting called by the Department of Education was held on February 8, 2016.

What do you say to parents to encourage them to support their children in early grade reading, or to be engaged in their children’s early grade reading program?

Turning correct information into memorable and effective communication messages is not as easy as it might first appear. The Department of Education and USAID’s Early Grade Reading Program (EGRP) organized a Stakeholder’s Message Development Meeting held on February 8th to develop key messages that will be used in radio advertisements, social mobilization and a communication campaign targeted to parents, teachers and key stakeholders.

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Representatives from the Central Line Agencies (CLA) and the EGRP communication team worked together to develop messages that combined parents’ and teachers’ personal goals with desired behaviors.  The participants actively engaged in the message development session and produced a series of creative messages that reinforced positive behaviors and came in many forms, including songs, poems and rhyming verse and even a promise of a peaceful and happy life.

The meeting was led by Mr. Bishnu Adhikari, Deputy Director, Department of Education. In his remarks he emphasized the role of the media and education journalists in mobilizing communities to promote early grade reading, and the need for correct messages.

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Mr. Madhav Prasad Dahal, Deputy Director, Distance and Open Learning Unit, NCED, said in his formal remarks, “My office welcomes collaboration with EGRP to develop radio Public Service Announcements for early grade reading that will be aired on national radio. My staff is available to work with EGRP.”

Through community and media mobilization, EGRP will focus on building understanding of the importance of children reading in their first language among parents and communities, as well as engaging parents and community-based organizations in evidence-based practices to support young readers.

The meeting was held at the National Center for Education Development (NCED) in Bhaktapur. Participants included government officials from the Central Line Agencies (CLAs) and the EGRP communication team.

These graphics are taken from The Washington Post’s article, The invisible threat: Rising temperatures mean insects can carry viruses such as West Nile to wider areas, that ran on November 28, 2015 (story by Joby Warrick; photos by Jeremy Lock). One Health is not just a slogan but it is a movement that sees the interconnection between animal health, human health and the environment.


 

As the world warms, the zones of cool temperatures keeping certain mosquitoes in check will move north. Rising temperatures will usher in tropical diseases, such as dengue fever, or “break-bone disease,” which is transmitted primarily by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes infected with the virus. Sources: Nature, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization

As the world warms, the zones of cool temperatures keeping certain mosquitoes in check will move north. Rising temperatures will usher in tropical diseases, such as dengue fever, or “break-bone disease,” which is transmitted primarily by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes infected with the virus.
Sources: Nature, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization

tick-spread-600

The black-legged tick, or deer tick, transmits Lyme disease, babesiosis, Powassan virus, and Borrelia anaplasmosis.
Sources: EcoHealth, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

 

Article originally written by Tom Fowler for Medgadget – November 20, 2015.


 

makernurse_sign_logos_reallysmall

Anna Young, co-founder of MakerNurse, is bringing rapid prototyping tools into hospital units to enable nurses, other providers, and even patients to problem-solve with innovative do-it-yourself labs within hospitals, with the end goal of ultimately improving patient care. Anna and her team at MIT’s Little Devices Lab bring rapid prototyping tools into hospital units creating “Maker Health Spaces”. They recently spunoff Pop Up Labs, a privately held company to take these tools to scale across clinical environments. Supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, MakerNurse aims to empower nurses and bring nurse “making” to helm of changing the face of health care. I had the opportunity to meet with Anna at this year’s TEDMED conference in Palm Springs, CA, to talk about her work.

MakerNurse co-founder Anna Young

MakerNurse co-founder Anna Young

Tom Fowler, Medgadget: So Anna, have you always been a tinkerer?

Anna Young: I walked into MIT as a trained economist 6-years ago and it was there that I learned how to teardown medical devices, learn how they work and modify them through design and prototyping. If I could do it, I knew anybody could do it. That became my main interesting: how do you develop democratizing tools for medical device design and prototyping.

Medgadget: What type of traction do “Medical Maker Spaces” see in hospitals? What percentage of nurses will take the leap of faith into becoming device developers?

Anna Young: Across the board, 1 in 5 nurses is what Eric von Hippel will call, a “lead user”, they are faster than a device firm to identify a gap in a product and to spot an opportunity for problem solving. Hospitals are loving the notion that they get to transform themselves from problem spotters in need of design and engineering partnerships to developers of their own solutions.  And it’s not just traditional research hospitals. Our biggest opportunities are in regional and community hospitals with large volumes of patients.

Medgadget: Provide an example of one awesome, and one terrible product that has come from a Maker Health Space.

Anna Young: Best example, wearable google to control hydration in eyes for burn patients.  Worst example, an anatomical wound model that burned through 5lbs of 3D printer filament only to create a very awkward looking mold. To be fair, we love both of them. We think everyone deserves the chance to experiment and prototype. I’d rather see 20 failed prototypes than 1000 post-it notes of ideas for products that never get created.

Medgadget: Does this model have legal dilemmas running into the FDA?

Anna Young: We shepherd the prototyping process to make sure our medical makers meet every regulatory guideline at different levels. Whether it’s an internal IRB study or a 510k submission. Our Maker Health Spaces come wrapped with an ethical and legal advisory board that makes sure the prototypes meet regulatory guidelines. That means that you can prototype a device, take through an internal research study to learn how well it performs and be faster at designing its pathway into patient care.  At the end of the day though, safety is always #1.

Medgadget: If I donated $1 billion to you for any project, what would you do?

Anna Young: Build a network of lending libraries of Maker Health prototyping kits around the country so that prototyping tools become more accessible and we remove the digital device in health technology.


Tom Fowler worked as a programmer in the healthcare IT industry before settling back in school to learn how to become a doctor. He likes to dabble with biotech startups, write postcards to his relatives, and play his ukulele. He was a TEDMED ’13 scholar, has published research in biomedical informatics, and continues to advocate for international maternal and child health. Currently in the SELECT MD leadership program at USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.


Another Option is proud to be a part of TEDMED 2015.

 

 

Congressman Raul Ruiz and TEDMED Chief Operating Officer Shirley Bergin.
Photo credit: Jarod Harris

The Honorable Congressman Raul Ruiz, representative of California’s 36th district, visited the 2015 TEDMED conference on Friday, November 20th. The Congressman is a medical doctor whose background includes working abroad in Mexico, El Salvador, and Serbia, and serving as an emergency physician at a nonprofit hospital in his district’s Coachella Valley. Congressman Ruiz is dedicated to improving health care and addressing health disparities, topics that are closely tied to TEDMED 2015 host city Palm Springs. Palm Springs is an exemplar of a city with a strong, functional health care system: it is a highly diverse community with high quality, accessible health care providers.

TEDMED has announced that their 2016 conference will be held in Palm Springs again next year.


Another Option is proud to be a part of TEDMED 2015.