With all the exciting World Cup happenings, especially the recent match between Ghana and the US, we've all had soccer on our minds! While our loyalties are slightly torn, we're cheering for both the US and Ghana teams. Two of our founders, Emily and Lauren, attended a Black Stars game while in Ghana with the student organization they also founded at UNC, Project Heal. Soccer is a huge sport in the rest of the world (though not so much in the US with the exception of the World Cup) and that is no exception in Ghana. The excitement and support for the Black Stars team is felt throughout the whole country and I'm sure it is an exciting time to be there now!
A recent article published in the Smithsonian Magazine focuses on Ghanaian immigrants in New York City, specifically in the Bronx. The authors, Sue Halpern and Bill McKibben, were taken to eat traditional Ghanaian food such as fufu, ground plantain pounded into a thick doughy ball and served in soup, and banku, fermented corn, served with okra soup, and to meet local leaders in this community.
'“We’re an invisible community,” says [Felix] Sarpong, a dean at a local high school who’s also a music promoter—indeed, a promoter of anything that will bring attention to his fellow Ghanaians. “The American mainstream, they simply don’t recognize this culture. This culture needs more spotlight. Ghanaians are so loving, so helpful, so kind. They’re just invisible."'
Approximately 20,000 Ghanian immigrants make up this community, one of the largest ethnic communities in the Bronx. There are restaurants that serve traditional food, a movie house named after the town Agogo in the Ashanti region, the Adum African Market, and an area called "Little Accra." There are numerous barbershops and hair salons and Ghanaian high-life music can be heard playing throughout the community. Twenty years ago this area was a predominantly of Jewish neighborhood, but now its almost completely Ghanaian. Many of these immigrants arrived in the US, and subsequently the Bronx, in the 1980s and 1990s.
For those who are doing well, work in the US will often end in a move back to Ghana. Says Bronx resident Danso Abrese: "'...In three years, when I’m 62 and have my pension, I’ll go home. I came here to work, and when the work is over I’ll go.”' Felix Sarpong’s parents, who spent forty years here in the US, have already gone back to Ghana.
Unfortunately not everyone fares as well. Even with high degrees and education, some recent immigrants have been forced to abandon their skills and resort to driving cabs or working in hotels. Its a very stressful time for many, with little time to relax, and especially tough on older adults and children. '“...Lots of people back home, they have this idea of the American dream, and they sell everything to come. When they get here, it’s heartbreaking for them”' said Samuel Asamoah.
However, this is a tight knit and interwoven community, with many lending their skills to help others in the community and abroad. The three Boakye siblings, Kwaku, Kwabena, and their sister Maame, all embody this. After following their parents to the US 17 years ago, where their father worked as a radiologist, brothers, Kwaku and Kwabena both went to medical school and have founded the Gold Coast Medical Foundation. This organization sends equipment and supplies to hospitals in developing countries and also sponsors medical trips to areas struck by natural disasters. They also lend aid to their current community, setting up a network throughout the Bronx that provides immigrants with basic health information.
Their sister, Maame, began training as psychologist but then earned a culinary degree from the Art Institute of New York City. After working on nutrition at an HIV/AIDS clinic she serendipitously met the celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson after he recently opened his restaurant, the Red Rooster in Harlem. Since then she's been working alongside Samuelsson and serving up Ghanaian dishes to mainstream NY, working on fulfilling her dream of making "Ghanaian food known worldwide."
May was a busy month for the nutrition center! There was 1 child still receiving treatment at the beginning of the month and then 5 new patients began treatment throughout May, yielding a total of 6 children treated at the center last month. The best news is that half of the patients recovered enough to be referred for outpatient treatment by the end of May! Three children remained in inpatient treatment but we're hopeful they will also be referred for outpatient during June. We are so excited that the nutrition center continues to remain busy because that means its helping many of the children throughout Lawra recover from malnutrition. The most exciting parts of our updates each month, however, are seeing how many children recuperate enough to be discharged from the hospital. We look forward to another update and more discharges at the end of this month!
Our wonderful partners at MedWish International recently shared a blogpost and request about a Canadian doctor who not too long ago began a project to build a hospital in his home country of Ghana. After seven years of hard work, detailed planning, and haggling over contracts and loans, Dr. Adu-Poku's dream is about to come to fulfillment in the form of the Santasi Hospital in Ghana. The hospital will house 50 beds throughout several wards, two labor and delivery rooms, two operating rooms and a large outpatient area. The hospital will begin with just a 10 person staff and then slowly expand. While he expects to see many patients with malaria, Dr. Adu-Poku also hopes to provide community vaccination and preventive care services throughout the hospital and will include a specific focus on maternal and child health.
Despite the initiation of a national insurance scheme in Ghana, many patients still cannot afford hospital fees. When discussing the fees for service at his own hospital Dr. Adu-Poku stated: “'I will likely do what some of the area Catholic Hospitals do: Have those who can afford it pay for services, and simply take care of those who cannot.'”
Dr. Adu-Poku is now traveling to Ghana to oversee the final construction on his hospital. MedWish International has already sent one shipment of medical supplies and are gearing up to send a second container soon. They are still in need of delivery beds and OR tables so please reach out to them if you know of any donations! We are excited to see how the hospital progresses and learn more about Dr. Adu-Poku's work and will definitely be tuning into the MedWish blog to find out!
“'It’s funny—sometimes when I talk to people at home, they think I’m a dreamer,” he said. “But they thought I was a dreamer seven years ago, and here I am about to open a hospital.'”
Read the full blog post and find out more Dr. Adu-Poku on the MedWish blog: https://www.medwish.org/blog/a-doctors-dream-for-his-community/
The nutrition center continues to help a steady influx of children from the Lawra District recover from malnutrition. During the month of March the center treated 3 new patients and 1 returned patient, in addition to three children who were already being treated at the beginning of the month. 6 of these children recovered enough to be discharged while one remained in treatment during the month of April. In addition, the nutrition center was the focus of the second training on the management of severe acute malnutrition, which was held at the Lawra District Hospital in April. We will soon receive information on the treatment statistics during the month of May and will be sure that share it! We are so grateful the nutrition center continues to serve as a great resource for treating malnourishment in the Lawra District.
We are so excited to be a featured part of the May issue of the Carolina Alumni Review! The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill holds both personal and organizational ties for MedPLUS Connect. Our three founders and current Board Members, Emma Lawrence, Emily Nix, and Lauren Slive, are all members of the class of 2009 their experiences at Carolina also played a huge role in the beginnings of MedPLUS Connect. Our Executive Director also has ties to UNC as a member of the class of 2010. In 2008, MedPLUS Connect competed in the Carolina Challenge, a competition held by the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC designed to promote entrepreneurship, and were awarded honorable mention. After sending their first shipment of medical supplies in 2008, Emma, Emily, and Lauren competed again in the 2009 Carolina Challenge competition, winning the overall competition and the People's Choice award. The winnings from this competition helped MedPLUS Connect grow and develop into the organization it is today. Although the Carolina Challenge played a large role in enabling MedPLUS Connect to become a reality, the immense support offered throughout the University also played an extremely significant role. From Lauren Slive, our Board President:
"I don't know if MedPLUS Connect would have ever developed without all the encouragement we received from people in many departments, especially the Campus Y as well as the business school and its entrepreneurship program. We feel extremely lucky to have been in an environment that encouraged and supported and funded all of these ideas that may have met with skepticism or criticism in other environments."
The article also discusses our past shipments as well as our current projects of establishing the nutrition center and cervical cancer program. We are honored to have our organization featured in the Carolina Alumni Review and to revisit our strong ties with Carolina. Thank you Carolina Alumni Review for the feature!
During this past month in April, a training on the management of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) took place at the Lawra District Hospital for members of staff. The training was facilitated by Ms. Patience Gaa, the nutrition officer in charge of the daily operations of the Lawra nutrition center, and three regional experts on SAM from the Upper West Region. This training was the second training on the management of malnutrition in children but the first to be held onsite at the Lawra District Hospital. The first training was held at the Maternal and Child Health Hospital in Kumasi, Ghana and was attended by Ms. Gaa and two nurses from the Lawra hospital. The Lawra Nutrition Center is modeled after the program in Kumasi and so this first training was instrumental in providing the skills necessary to make the Lawra Nutrition Center a success. That, combined with the experience Ms. Gaa has gained since the nutrition center opened in October of 2013, gave her the confidence and ability to help facilitate this most recent training in Lawra. The training used a variety of methods of instruction, including reading, written exercises, discussions, role play, video, demonstration, and practice in a real inpatient care facility to give health care providers adequate skills on the management of severe acute malnutrition. It was attended by 11 members from the various units of the Lawra District Hospital, including 9 nurses, a midwife and a medical assistant. This group will act as a “trainer of trainees” in which they can now train additional health care providers in their respective wards. They were instructed on the impact of malnutrition in children, how to identify and manage a child with malnutrition in addition to other medical conditions, how to prepare therapeutic food, and how to educate mothers on proper nutrition at home.
We are so excited to have been a small part in making this training a reality and seeing how the nutrition center continues to increase its impact! Below are a few pictures from the 6 day training.
MedPLUS is excited to welcome two new interns to our team and also want to wish farewell to one of our longterm interns who will start medical school this fall. Hannah Lawrence is currently a first year student in the clinical psychology Ph.D. program at the University of Maine with a developmental concentration. She attended Davidson College for her undergraduate degree and graduated in 2012. While at Davidson she held leadership and research positions in pyschology and continues to be highly interested in pediatric and child psychology as she pursues her graduate degree. Hannah is currently helping MedPLUS as our Outreach Specialist and is already forging new connections for our organization.
Parin Nanavati graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2013. While at UNC she was involved in Project Heal which led to her interest in public health issues and a deep connection to the community of Lawra, Ghana. She is currently a research intern at UNC School of Medicine's Center for Heart and Vascular. She also volunteers as a doula in local hospitals and hopes to attend medical school in the future. Parin is eager to continue to serve the people in Lawra as a part of the MedPLUS Connect team.
We are so excited to have Hannah and Parin join the MedPLUS team but are also sad to say goodbye to one of our long term interns, Anna Handorf. Anna has worked with MedPLUS since 2011, performing a variety of tasks and providing instrumental support to our organization. She has especially helped MedPLUS in finding information, searching for grants, and organizing fundraisers, including helping to plan the Piccadilly fundraiser held in Cleveland last month. Her caring nature, strong character, and fantastic organizational skills have been a great help to us over the past years and although we will miss her, we know that she will do great things as she pursues her dream of becoming a doctor and begins medical school this fall. Thank you Anna and best of luck in all your future endeavors!
We are excited to announce that the next Matching Day with Global Giving is next week on Wednesday, May 7th! Matching starts at 9am and all donations, up to $1,000, will be matched at 30% by Global Giving. That means if you donate $100, Global Giving matches your donation to give MedPLUS Connect $130! We are continuing to fundraise for the cost of the supplies and equipment for the cervical cancer program and with Mother's Day fast approaching, a donation to our project could be the ideal gift. If you're struggling to find the perfect gift or want to give a gift that means something truly special, consider donating to our project and giving a gift that will go beyond just a monetary donation. Honor mom by giving her the gift of helping save the lives of numerous women in Ghana, many whom are also mothers. If you would like to make your donation a gift in honor of Mother's Day, Global Giving and MedPLUS Connect will send a tribute card, either by mail or email (your choice) to your recipient. Although cervical cancer is the most common cancer among women in Ghana, women in the Upper West Region of Ghana currently lack access to cervical care and must travel up to 700km to receive treatment for cervical cancer. With your help and support we have made significant progress towards raising the funds necessary to purchase the supplies and equipment to establish the regions first cervical cancer screening and treatment program. However, there is still more to be done. See your donation make a greater impact and help us make the cervical cancer program a reality by making a donation next Wednesday. Just $28 provides cryotherapy treatment of precancerous lesions for one woman, $50 purchases a tenaculum to screen and treat women for cervical cancer, and $100 provides screening to detect cervical cancer for 16 women. Follow this link directly to our project page to find out more and make a donation: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/prevent-cancer-for-women-in-ghana/
MedPLUS Connect has recently partnered up with Amazon Smile to make it even easier for you to help support MedPLUS Connect! AmazonSmile is a website operated by Amazon that lets customers enjoy the same selection of products and low prices as Amazon.com. The difference is that when you use AmazonSmile, the Amazon Smile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the total of each qualifying purchase to MedPLUS. Many of our supporters have signed up for iGive, which donates a portion of your purchase to MedPLUS when you shop online at a variety of stores. However, iGive and Amazon are not yet compatible and we know that many people may shop primarily through Amazon for your online shopping needs. If you are someone who shops mostly through Amazon, you can give your purchases a philanthropic benefit by choosing MedPLUS Connect as your beneficiary on Amazon Smile and help us earn 0.5% of every purchase you make! You can follow this link to help MedPLUS Connect earn money while you shop through Amazon just like you normally would: http://smile.amazon.com/ch/87-0790691. All you have to do is keep MedPLUS Connect selected as your charity of choice. It may seem small, but the proceeds from each purchase adds up over time and can potentially help MedPLUS earn up to a couple hundred dollars- an amount that can help us purchase therapeutic food for the nutrition center or extra value added supplies for future containers. Thank you for all you do to help support MedPLUS Connect!
This past weekend our Executive Director attended the inaugural Yale Alumni Nonprofit Alliance (YANA) conference "Social Enterprise: Turning Vision Into Reality" in New York City. The conference began with a reception on Friday night and then went into an all day affair on Saturday. It was exciting to be a part of so many like-minded individuals coming together to discuss different ways to impact the world for the better. YANA lined up a set of incredibly successful members of both the nonprofit and for-profit world for a series of keynotes and panels on storytelling, branding, and the future of funding. The conference ended with a "Social Entrepreneurship Showdown" where 6 different conference attendees competed to win the support of YANA for their emerging entrepreneurial ideas to benefit New York City. A common theme throughout the conference focused on the increasing overlap between nonprofits and for-profits with a social agenda. Many speakers discussed ways in which the two sectors can collaborate to help make a greater social impact. Attending the conference was a rewarding experience and we at MedPLUS are looking forward to implementing what we've learned and seeing this new partnership between nonprofits and for-profits develop. Below are a few snapshots from the weekend.
We are so excited to report that the supplies from our third Upper East Regional shipment are being distributed to 51 different hospitals and health centers throughout the region! This container held almost 15,884 pounds of medical equipment and consumable supplies. A bulk of that weight was taken up by 16 exam tables, 12 wheelchairs, 11 hospital beds, 6 patient gurneys, 21 IV poles, 20 nebulizers, 20 walkers, and 20 crutches. We were also fortunate to be able to send several more advanced pieces of equipment that are often difficult to obtain in the Upper East. These included 6 combination oto/ophthalmoscopes, 5 vital sign monitors, 2 oxygen concentrators, and 1 ultrasound machine.
The hard work of our fantastic partners at MedWish International also packed this container with 5 pallets of mixed medical supplies and an entire pallet of exam gloves, which provided more than 100,000 gloves to the region! The Upper East Region was also significantly lacking enough blood pressure cuffs, digital thermometers, and stethoscopes. Working with our partners at Globus Relief, we were able to help reduce a significant chunk of this deficit by sending 1,000 blood pressure cuffs, 500 thermometers, and 125 stethoscopes as value added supplies! We are so excited for the distribution of these much needed supplies and look forward to hearing how they are able to help the dedicated physicians and nurses at the hospitals and health centers save the lives of their patients.
We're excited to share another update on the Nutrition Center in Lawra! During the month of February, 3 new children were treated at the center and the nutritional education for mothers and caregivers was continued. The hospital is also in the midst of planning the second training, which will be held at the nutrition center and be facilitated by three regional experts on childhood malnutrition from the Upper West. The training is set to begin on March 31st and go through April 5th. Since the training is being held on location at the Lawra District Hospital, many of the hospital staff will be able to attend and learn about the management of severe malnutrition in children. This will enable the staff to be valuable contributors in identifying and treating malnutrition. We're so excited to hear how the training goes and will share more information with you all after it takes place!
We've recently created a company page for MedPLUS Connect on LinkedIn and want to invite all of our supporters who are LinkedIn users to follow us! We're excited to utilize our page as another method for keeping our supporters up to date on whats going on with MedPLUS Connect and also to find out more about our supporters. We will be posting upcoming fundraising events, volunteer opportunities, ways to get involved and general updates so be sure to follow us to stay up to date! Here is the link to our page: http://www.linkedin.com/company/medplus-connect
"Women's equality has made positive gains but the world is still unequal. International Women's Day celebrates the social, political and economic achievements of women while focusing world attention on areas requiring further action."
Every year, International Women's Day is held on March 8th to celebrate the achievements of women throughout the world. This event is now in its 103rd year, as the first International Women's Day was held in 1911. Every year the UN declares a theme and the 2014 theme is "Inspiring Change."
In thinking about how far equality for women has come, we can't help but think about the change that is still needed and this includes improvements in women's health. Women in the Upper West Region of Ghana currently face the risk of cervical cancer without having the option of treatment nearby. These women must currently travel to the southern part of the country, up to 700km away, to receive treatment for cervical cancer. And cervical cervical cancer is the most common form of cancer among women in Ghana. By establishing a cervical cancer screening and treatment program in Wa, centrally located in the Upper West Region, we will be able to help prevent cases of cervical cancer and offer treatment options to women already affected. We are fundraising for the cost of the equipment and supplies needed to establish this program. Once these supplies are purchased, regular screening for cervical cancer will be incorporated into the existing health care system and provided at several hospitals and health centers throughout the Upper West Region. The Wa Regional Hospital will also have the ability to provide treatment for women suffering from cervical cancer. Cervical cancer can be easily treated when caught early. By providing regular screening throughout the region and offering accessible cervical care and treatment, we hope to both prevent cases of cervical cancer and catch them in the early stages where they can be easily treated. Consider making a donation today to celebrate women around the world and save the lives of women in Ghana.
You can read more about our project and make a donation here: http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/prevent-cancer-for-women-in-ghana/
Find out more about International Women's Day and the different events going on around the world here: http://www.internationalwomensday.com/theme.asp
There is a general shortage of health care professionals throughout Ghana, but the Minister of Health recently called attention to the shortage of ophthalmologists in the country. According to The Minister of Health, Sherry Ayittey, "'There are a little of over 74 ophthalmologists currently in the country attending to over 24 million people"" and the 3 northern regions can not even claim 3 ophthalmologists between them.
This shortage was discussed as the Minister of Health inaugurated a new, modern eye care center at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) in Kumasi. The 50-bed center includes three modern theatre complexes with five operating tables, an expansive out-patient department (OPD), a training and lecture wing, and a diagnostic section with consulting rooms.
At the inauguration, the Minister of Health expressed the hope that this eye care center will help decrease the healthcare gap in Ghana. She also discussed her concern over the refusal of many doctors and nurses to accept postings to rural areas, which has caused a shortage of eye care and general health care in many rural areas.
Professor Ohene Adjei, the CEO of KATH was very excited for the opening of the eye care center and also urged the center to "undertake outreach programmes and design basic courses in the diagnosis and management of common eye conditions for health staff in district hospitals without ophthalmic professionals to go a long way to improve eye care services."
The opening of this new eye care center is certainly very exciting for Ghana and will hopefully lead to improved and more equal eye care throughout the country, especially in the rural areas.
A new study by researchers at the Boston University School of Public Health shows that the effects of malnutrition may be reversible later in childhood. A common public health belief has been that the harm caused by malnutrition on a child during the first two years of life is permanent. However, this study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, challenges that. The study looked at chronic undernutrition, called stunting, in 8,000 children among Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam and found evidence that interventions to improve childhood nutrition, even after the first two years of life, may still help children recover from the effects of stunting.
Although focusing on proper nutrition in the first two years (and in utero) of a child's life is especially important, this study shows that interventions in preschool and primary school-aged children are also important in recovering from the effects of malnutrition. These interventions include providing children a proper diet, hygiene, access to clean water, and sanitation post infancy. It is also highly important to protect these children against infections, which can play a role in stunting.
Approximately 38% of children in Sub-Saharan Africa are stunted but this study shows more hope for these children than before. According to Kirk Dearden, a co-author on the study and an associate professor of international health at BU's School of Public Health,'“We’re saying, ‘Prioritize children’s nutrition in the first 1,000 days, but don’t give up after that...There’s potential for children to catch up in growth, learning, and cognition. Just because infants aren’t doing well in the first year or so doesn’t mean it’s over.”'
See the summary of the study in the Bostonia here.
Read the entire study here.
The next matching day with Global Giving is this Wednesday, Februrary 12th! All donations, up to $1,000, will be matched at 30% starting at 9am EST. This means that if you donate $100, Global Giving will match your donation so that we actually receive $130! Its a great way to make your donation go farther. There is $75,000 available in matching funds, but once that runs out donations will no longer be matched, so make sure to donate early! We are continuing to fundraise to establish the first cervical cancer program in the Upper West Region of Ghana, which will save the lives of numerous women in the area. Cervical cancer is the most common cancer among women in Ghana, but the women in the Upper West currently don't have access to any form of cervical care in their area. Help us purchase the equipment necessary to begin screening and treating cases of cervical cancer in women of the Upper West Region.
Also, Valentine's Day is in just 5 short days! Still need a gift idea? Give a gift in honor of a loved one for the holiday. Global Giving will mail or email (you choose) your significant other a personalized card stating that a donation was made as a gift in their honor. Show the love and share the love this Valentine's day by giving a gift that will make a huge difference in the lives of women in Ghana. To see our project and make a donation follow this link: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/cancer-screening-and-treatment-for-women-in-ghana/
We wanted to share a quick update on how the Lawra Nutrition Center is doing. The nutrition center, which is located at the Lawra District Hospital, provides therapeutic food to children who are suffering from severe malnutrition and offers nutritional education for the caregivers of patients. Since opening in October of last year, the center has treated a total of 37 children! The center saw the highest number of patients when it first opened, treating 14 children in the first month. However, malnutrition is prevalent throughout the Upper West Region and so the center has continued to see a steady influx of patients since, treating 4 new patients in January. Patience Gaa, the Nutrition Officer in charge of facilitating the nutrition center, is also planning a training on the management of severe malnutrition for the staff of the Lawra District Hospital. The training will be facilitated by three regional experts on malnutrition and will hopefully be taking place at the end of February or early March. We are excited to see the plans for the training advance and the continued treatment and recovery of children with malnourishment.
As our first fundraising effort as a new partner with Global Giving we are preparing for the first matching day of 2014, which will take place on Wednesday, February 12th! Now that we've been granted a permanent position on Global Giving's website we will be fundraising for the cervical cancer program year round using our project page on their site. Unlike matching days during the Open Challenge, on February 12th Global Giving will match all donations to our project, up to $1,000 and while the matching funds last, at 30% instead of 15%! That means that if you donate $100 to our project your donation will be matched to actually be $130!
All funds raised on our project on Global Giving are going towards establishing a cervical cancer screening and treatment program in the Upper West Region of Ghana. Although cervical cancer is the most common cancer among women in Ghana, women in the Upper West currently have no access to cervical care. Our project is helping to purchase the equipment needed to begin screening women regularly for cervical cancer and to treat confirmed cases. Help us save women's lives by donating to our project on Wednesday, February 12th. No donation is too small, as even $12 will purchase a speculum, which is a necessary tool in screening for cervical cancer project.
The matching day officially begins at 9am on Wednesday, February 12th and only lasts while there are matching funds available. So if you haven't already, and would like to donate to the cervical cancer screening and treatment program, the matching day is an excellent day to donate and see your donation go farther! Make sure to donate early (but after 9am EST) to have your donation is matched. Visit our project page to read more and make a donation: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/cancer-screening-and-treatment-for-women-in-ghana/.