BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Uncategorized

Time and time again, we are reminded of the importance of public health interventions as opposed to total reliance on hospital care. Whether it’s the recent surge of non-communicable diseases like diabetes, cancer and hypertension; or epidemic proportions or the ongoing infectious Covid-19 pandemic, a common theme of overwhelming hospitals is evident. Modern healthcare, in understanding of this, has increasingly advocated for preventive approaches to healthcare. High income countries tend to place emphasis on public health intervention as it tends to actually cut down the burden of diseases and healthcare expenditure in the long run.
For example: In the Covid-19 expenditure, Canada allocated about 15% of its total covid funds to screening alone. Screening, though not commonly heard in the news like vaccination, is a very important preventive health practice. It relies on strong evidence based scientific principles and regular research to investigate conditions when it is most likely to occur and in people most susceptible to it. Screening has produced tremendous benefits in modern healthcare; specifically, a decline in most diseases have been recorded with its incorporation.

The success and actualisation of screening, however, requires both a preventive-conscious health system as well as compliance of the population involved.This is why it is important for better education and media coverage on the necessary screening needed by people so as to increase awareness.This is because a woman would likely seek help from a physician when she notices a bloody discharge from her nipple but would neglect an asymptomatic mass she occasionally feels on her breast. When she knows that a mass like that needs to be investigated, she is likely to seek care which would lead to earlier detection and cure of cancer.
Some people may not visit their caregivers due to fear. Hence, it is important that these fears are allayed by the health media as early detection can be the difference between life and death. People should be made to understand that late presentation is always worse than early presentation. Screening ought to be viewed as a form of self care much like vaccination.
Screening guidelines vary from country to country and also from one individual to another. For example: a traveller, foreigner, immigrant or visitor from a Tuberculosis prevalent country is expected to be screened for TB.

The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care (CTFPHC) recommendations on screening are so broad that it would be difficult to exhaust them. However, there are some common ones people should be aware of, they include:
 Screening for chlamydia and gonorrhoea in young sexually active adults
 HIV screening
 Regular breast exam
 Regular testicular exam
 Cervical cancer screening every 3-5 years
 Pap smears from 21 to 65 years
 Regular blood pressure checks
 Lipid studies
 Colonoscopy every 10 years for those above 50 years for colon cancer screening
 Diabetes screen for individuals > 45years
 Screening for common elderly problems like osteoporosis and abdominal aortic aneurysm in women and men more than 65years of age
 Screening in elderly men and women who have smoked for lung cancer, the commonest cause of cancer deaths in both men and women

Although there have been concerns about increased risk of unnecessary interventions due to screening, it is important to understand that screening is backed by scientific principles and health systems always research to know if it is beneficial to the individuals recommended. Regardless of any controversies, healthcare data support the truth that screening, just like vaccination, deserves the attention of any preventive health system.

Despite the lifting of bans and restrictions surrounding Covid in almost every part of the world, the virus is still very much with us. Some people may even argue that-like the flu, COVID has become the new norm. Globally, as of April 15, 2022, there have been over four hundred and ninety-seven million (497,960,492) confirmed cases of COVID-19, including about six million (6,181,850) deaths. Additionally, as of 5 April 2022, a total of 11,250,782,214 vaccine doses have been administered- these numbers, according to World Health Organization, continue to rise daily.

Certainly, the pandemic continues to affect the world both socially and economically. Economically, the world GDP has been negatively impacted to a large extent. Since World War II, the COVID-19 global recession is the toughest recession faced by humankind, affecting virtually every part of the world. According to the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook Report published in April 2021, global economy decreased by 3.5 percent in 2020, a 7 percent loss compared to the 3.4 percent growth forecast back in October 2019. This decrease in economic growth was most vivid in the poorest parts of the world, although almost every country was affected.

As Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) succinctly puts it, the COVID-19 pandemic worsened already present social and economic inequalities within and between societies. During the peak of the pandemic, pregnant women, low-income households, sick individuals, disabled people and seniors, were disproportionally affected. These already vulnerable groups experienced increased vulnerability to infection by covid, as well as, faced barriers to accessing healthcare. Pregnant women could not have their partners or family present during childbirth, this decreased the amount of support received by these women in such crucial times. On the other hand, seniors- due to lowered immunity, experienced increased susceptibility to COVID-19 and its complications. These groups are still recovering from the traumatic experiences faced during the peak of the pandemic.

Similar to Covid-19, the present war between Russia and Ukraine, like adding fuel to fire, is creating a major humanitarian crisis which has affected millions of people. Additionally, the war has caused an extreme economic shock of significant magnitude that will potentially linger for an extended period of time. Over three million people have already fled Ukraine- a significantly higher number than the number of asylum-seekers that moved into European countries at the height of the Syrian refugee crisis in 2015-16. Certainly, accommodating and providing for these numerous Ukrainian refugees will strain the receiving countries. In the midst of the already strenuous economic conditions caused by COVID, the cost of housing, food, healthcare and childcare will have to be provided by these countries, a totally unplanned economic expenditure.

As an organization whose aim is to affect the world through health, Blessworld Foundation International is available to partner with individuals, government, international organization and other charities in providing support for people impacted negatively by both COVID and the war. Please reach us via our contact numbers.

For about two years now, COVID-19 has plagued the entire world, causing significant changes in the way we live and relate to one another. So far, several medically important strains of the virus, also called variants of concern, have been isolated and identified. Most recently on  November 26 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) designated a new variant of concern, the B.1.1.529. On the advice of WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution (TAG-VE),, this variant was isolated and subsequently named Omicron,. Decisions on whether a variant should be of concern is based on the evidence presented to TAG-VE about the unique behaviour and characteristics of the virus such as transmissibility, mutative tendencies and severity of disease caused.

It was initially unclear whether Omicron is more transmissible than previously identified variants, including the Delta variant. Although South African researchers reported an increase in the number of people testing positive in parts of the country where the Omicron variant was dominant, epidemiological studies were needed to decipher if the increase was attributable to the new variant or as a result of other factors. In addition, the severity of the disease caused by Omicron was not fully understood, even though some data suggested an increase in the rate of hospitalization. The observed increase may not necessarily be due to infection with Omicron, hence, more research has been conducted in different parts of the world, as researchers continue to better understand the unique characteristics of the Omicron variant.

It is important to note that all identified variants of concern are capable of causing severe disease or death, especially in vulnerable people. It is therefore essential to take all the necessary precautions even before more research is available. This may be the reason why the United Kingdom and Canada initiated restrictive travel guidelines and banned several African countries in early December as a measure to curtail the spread of the new variant. However, following some international backlash and in light of more information about the Omicron variant, the ban was lifted and travel regulations relaxed barely a week afterwards. This is because there is currently no evidence to show that symptoms associated with Omicron are more severe compared to those from other variants  according to WHO and other international/governmental organizations.

Irrespective of the variant identified, vaccines remain indispensable in reducing severe disease and death. More so, PCR tests continue to be reliable in detecting infection, including infection with Omicron. WHO consistently coordinates with a large number of researchers on various topics  around the any variant of concern including viral  transmissibility, severity of infection, vaccine effectiveness, diagnostic testing and disease management. WHO encourages countries and hospitals to collect and report patients data as well as to enhance surveillance methods. Additionally, countries must continue implementing effective public health measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

 References

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The major question on everyone’s lips remains “Can COVID-19 be treated?” 

Well, governments, scientists and drug companies have been working very hard to find a cure. So far, Remdesivir, an antiviral agent, was the first drug to gain full FDA approval for the treatment of COVID-19 in October 2020. While many investigational treatments exist, only  Remdesivir and Dexamethasone (a steroid medication) have been approved to lower death rate in hospitalized covid 19 patients. 

Research has established that hospitals, although vital to health systems, have never been the solution to public health problems. Consequently, vaccination is regarded as the means to the end of COVID 19, through achieving herd immunity. This is why vaccination and the hope to attain herd immunity remains the cul de grace- a final trump card to bring an end to COVID-19. The vaccine rollout started as early as late December 2020 in countries like Israel but became very popular in other countries by April 2021, especially in countries that took big hits in terms of death rates like France, Italy, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom. 

Different types of COVID vaccine include:

  • Protein Subunit: Novavax is working on a protein subunit COVID-19 vaccine
  • Viral Vector: The Janssen/Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is a vector vaccine. AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford also have a vector COVID-19 vaccine
  • Nucleic Acid (RNA AND DNA): ThePfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccines use mRNA.

Despite success with vaccine availability, reaching herd-immunity thresholds has been impossible because of factors such as vaccine hesitancy, emergence of new variants and the delayed arrival of vaccinations for children. In most countries, vaccine distribution is stratified by age, with priority given to older people, who are at the highest risk of dying from COVID-19. Therefore, some vulnerable groups  are left out; for example, children (who have less developed active immunity) or adults that have medical conditions or are undergoing specific cancer treatment that cause them to produce few or no antibodies in response to a vaccine. With herd immunity, the spread of the virus in communities are reduced and most people are protected by default.

Currently, Pfizer–BioNTech and Moderna have now enrolled teens in clinical trials of their vaccines, and the Oxford–AstraZeneca and Sinovac Biotech vaccines are being tested in children as young as three. Vaccination rates have also been highly variable across regions in countries. In Canada for example, Yukon, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia have total fully vaccinated above 70% while Nunavut has only 52%. The situation in the United States is even more variable with Vermont at 68% and Alabama at 39%.

 As of October 2021, 62.2% of the U.S. population have had at least one vaccine dose and 52.8% are fully vaccinated. Worldwide, only about 36.5% are fully vaccinated. These percentages are constantly changing.

Estimates from the United Kingdom show that two doses of the Pfizer vaccine are between 85% and 95% effective against symptomatic disease with the Alpha variant, while two doses of AstraZeneca are 70% to 85% effective. Overall, vaccine effectiveness appears to drop about 10% with the Delta variant. With the increase in variants, which may be more infectious and could potentially impact the effectiveness of vaccines, that percentage is now estimated to be higher—some say up to 85%.

Thankfully,, there has been massive support from international organizations like the WHO, UN and Gavi COVAX initiatives and even from non-profit organizations. In Canada, some bodies like the Canadian Red Cross society have increased funding to nonprofit organizations involved in COVID 19 relief in any way. A couple of Canadian nonprofit and charity organizations have been pooling resources together to help different communities manage the crisis. Bless world foundation international has also been engaging communities during this pandemic; specifically, the cradle2fame program aims to support and help with talent development.

Finally, there has been a truly gruesome journey but the world is adapting to this whole change.With up and downs to things returning back to status quo, the post covid era is taking longer than we thought

It takes time to heal and time will heal.

Stay safe.

The role and impact of technology in today’s world cannot be ignored or overstated. As a result, COVID-19 pandemic was significantly influenced by technology and in turn, the pandemic inspired some new technologies that helped control it. According to World Health Organization(WHO), COVID-19 pandemic undeniably spurred the development of over one hundred (100) health innovations and some of these innovations have been subsequently endorsed and adopted in Africa.

The aim of these innovations developed around the world was to target different areas of the COVID-19 response as well as use the insight and application of technology in the combat of the pandemic. The geographical distribution of the  technologies may be worthy to evaluate. A detailed study of these innovative technologies shows that about 12.8% were developed in Africa. Of these, 57.8% were related to Information and Communications Technology, 25% were based on 3D printing and 10.9% were robotics. ICT innovations were majorly WhatsApp, Chatbots, self-diagnostic tools, contact tracing apps and mobile health information tools. Associated African countries with their respective contributions include South Africa (13%), Kenya (10%), Nigeria (8%), Rwanda (6%) and Ghana (2%)

Needless to say, technology was, and remains very essential in various areas of COVID-19. Response areas and other areas where technology is constantly applied include, but not limited to:

  • Control and Prevention
  • Epidemiological Surveillance
  • Contact Tracing 
  • Community Engagement
  • Treatment and Vaccine 
  • Laboratory Systems
  • Information Dissemination

In a speech by Dr Matshidiso Moeti- WHO Regional Director for Africa, he acknowledged that despite being one of the worst challenges of the 21st century, COVID-19 revealed the need to invest in innovation and an opportunity to foster innovation in health technologies. He also commended the zeal and commitment of the African continent regarding the fight to end COVID-19. Notable technological inventions include hand-washing equipment powered by solar energy and mobile applications that build on Africa’s rapidly growing connectivity. 

WHO recommends increased investment in ICT infrastructure, robotics, artificial intelligence, drones and mechatronics because investing in innovation yields huge dividends. Additionally, implementing the right policies is important to boost creativity, entrepreneurship and university-led research.

As a life threatening pandemic, Covid-19 remains one of the most talked about news in the world today with updates reported on a daily basis. In addition to all the noise about the vaccine, there’s more recently, a buzz about the newest strain of the virus that causes COVID-19. This strain is said to have  originated in the UK sometime in September, 2020, and has since spread to the U.S., Canada and some other countries. Researchers  are still gathering facts and insight on this new variant, in attempt to answer the following questions:

  • How different is it from the other strain
  • Is it more dangerous
  • Does it need further precautions
  • Does it infect children more easily than previous strain
  • Will the current vaccine be effective against it

The questions go on and on, however, emergence of  new strains of the Covid-19 virus was not at all a surprise to scientists. In fact, it is expected given the nature and biology of viruses; In the human body, viruses attach to cells, penetrate them, and make copies of their RNA, which helps them spread. In this process, errors randomly occur, causing changes in the viral RNA. These changes are called mutations, and will result in a new strain of virus. Currently, the seven types of corona viruses that infect humans are divided into four sub-groupings, called alpha, beta, gamma, and delta:

  • 229E (alpha)
  • NL63 (alpha)
  • OC43 (beta)
  • HKU1 (beta
  • MERS-CoV, a beta virus that causes Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)
  • SARS-CoV, a beta virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)
  • SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19

Since the inception of the pandemic, there have been multiple variants of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes COVID-19. These variants or strains are different from the strain first seen in China. New strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus are detected on a weekly basis, however, there isn’t enough research to confirm that these new strains are more virulent or contagious. The newest strain (B117) was detected in southeastern England in September 2020 and by December, it became the most common cause of infection, accounting for about 60% of new  cases. New strains were also seen in Denmark, The Netherlands, and other European countries. Additionally,  another variant was detected in Africa, specifically Nigeria and South Africa (1.351). In Brazil, a variant called P.1 which contains a set of mutations that may affect its ability to be recognized by antibodies, was identified. It is  worthy of note that most of the genetic changes in these viruses have no significance or functionality. However, the newest strain-, B117, appears to spread up to 70%  more easily than previous strains of COVID-19.

According to current research, there is no evidence that the newer strains infect children more easily neither is there reason to suggest that vaccines would not work against new strains. However, scientists and public health experts are intensifying research and studying these variants  to ensure that laboratory tests and vaccines remain effective. More so, CDC, in collaboration with other public health agencies, is closely monitoring the situation and working to detect emerging variants.

Digital revolution has tremendously affected many aspects of our lives especially health and medical care, in general. Medicine has long been influenced and complimented by technologies like X-rays, CT scans, MRI and other diagnostics to help in better care.  However, digital revolution is something more significant; It includes electronic health records, m-health, tele health, amongst others. It is the integration of technology into every bit of healthcare forming it’s very foundation. Digitisation has produced impressive results in other industries like automobile, aviation and as such have been advocated by health organisations and professionals as the future and hope of healthcare. This change in the course of healthcare which brings  it closer to patients and healthcare consumers is in fact the boldest move to patient centred care.

Since the early 2000’s, there has been a global trend in view of the prospects of digitisation, that is, making healthcare completely digital. Most significant would be the gradual digitisation of health records. The result is a new health record system known as the electronic health records (EHR). EHR is simply the digital form of paper records but collected and available in real time through multiple media outlets. The immediate advantage of the EHR centres around ease of accessibility and portability with increased transparency. All these allow for a more integrated, coordinated and personalised care. At the very least, it eliminates most of the errors of the traditional paper-based record system like medication errors due to poor legibility and suboptimal emergency care due to limited access to data.

Despite these  advantages, the reality of the current EHR has left both health professionals and patients frustrated,  negatively impacting care. This issue of usability  has been pointed out by healthcare workers as a major problem- It is only in healthcare that systems are designed without inputs from the very users (healthcare workers). In  aviation for example, airplanes are test run by pilots and their suggestions are used to improve the design. This lack of user-based design has led to increased time with computer mostly to repeat the same inputs. This results in fatigue, as well as poor interface and inflexibility. Many health workers have tried several solutions with little success like using a voice recognition program to prevent them fixating on their screens, using scribes  or  paper records and then entering them in the EHR later. Additionally,  there is high cost of installing EHR as well as non-transferability of records from one hospital to another.

 Technological advancement has also brought gradual modifications to the doctor-patient relationship; Gone are the days when the doctor’s note belonged to the doctor alone. Patients can now see their health records and the doctor’s note that was once private, due to changes in social structure and the presence of third parties such as :lawyers, insurance companies  and employers. There is consequently, and quite understandably, the concern over privacy due to digitisation which has been an issue of increasing concern with the growing rate of cyber crimes.This is why government agencies in charge of privacy like must set strict privacy protocols for EHR vendors to follow and ensure that health records are kept secure and private.Irrespective of these lapses, EHR can still be looked upon as the hope and future of healthcare because many professionals still consider it an inevitable step in the right direction. In line with digital revolution, BlessWorld Foundation is in her final stages of unveiling the World Hospital Initiative Project (WHIP)- a digital platform that represents a one-stop-shop for all health care goods and services across  the globe