Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Esther Duflo Bribes India's Poor To Health

An excellent article on the realities of effective development work in Fast Company

Rajasthan is India's desert state, an often inhospitable place where per capita income averages around $1.77 per day. Poverty like that--understanding it and imagining ways to fix it--is what Esther Duflo lives for. Since 2003, her Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (named for a wealthy Saudi donor), or J-PAL, has conducted 240 randomized, controlled trials of specific ways to help the poor. She tests poverty solutions the way medical researchers test new drugs, which can violate the pieties of the philanthropic community. But she has earned a lot of respect along the way: In 2009, the MIT economist won a MacArthur "genius award" for bringing the scientific method to development work.

In Rajasthan, Duflo has been exploring whether incentives might help get more young children vaccinated.
Bribing the poor is a notion that could offend just about anyone. We all like our philanthropy pure: Give the money, volunteer at the shelter, act with good intentions, and things will just get better. That's not a mode of thinking that allows the less fortunate to have human motivations, and it's certainly not a mode of thinking that encourages us to reflect on our own flaws. But be honest--you'd probably offer your own child a piece of candy as a reward for taking her shots. If we really want to make change, we have to discard what Duflo calls our "car­toon visions" of the poor. Doing good means engaging with what people really need and getting it to them by any means necessary

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Infecting Mosquitoes With Bacteria To Keep Them From Infecting Us With Dengue Fever

Dengue fever affects 50 million people, with no cure in sight. But maybe prevention could work instead: Scientists have found a way to get mosquitoes sick with a bacteria that prevents them from carrying the disease.

Study: Foods To Lower Cholesterol

Eating more plant-based fat and protein lowered cholesterol more than eating a diet low in saturated fat, according to a study published Tuesday.
The report offers further evidence that low-fat diets aren't the most effective way to improve heart health.

Experts have been moving away from the notion that simply cutting dietary fat is most effective. Instead, evidence has grown that replacing sources of saturated fat, such as red meat and dairy products, with sources of healthy fats like nuts and soy products has greater benefits than replacing them with carbohydrates, according to Walter Willett, chairman of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health, who wasn't involved in the study.
Over six months, 351 adults with high cholesterol were told at doctor visits to follow either a vegetarian diet, or a low-fat diet focused on low-fat dairy, whole grain cereals, fruit and vegetables. Both groups increased fiber and cut back on saturated fat. Those who ate largely plant-based foods had significantly greater reductions in LDL.

Schooling Kids to Wash Hands Cuts Sick Days

Kids will be heading back to school soon and that means colds, flu and other easily shared infections are bound to pick up. But illness and school absenteeism can be significantly reduced through a program of mandatory hand hygiene, according to a recently published study in the American Journal of Infection Control.

Malaria Gets the Foil-in-a-Microwave Treatment

What wacky idea has the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation put $1 million into now?
A plan to treat malaria by sticking the patient into a microwave.
O.K., not the whole patient. Probably just an arm or a leg. And not just any microwave oven, but one set at very low power and with the frequency of its electromagnetic field tuned very precisely.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Feeding the youngest famine victims

(CNN) -- Millions of people are suffering in the drought-ravaged Horn of Africa, but help is on the way thanks to relief groups from around the world.
One of them, Mary's Meals, is focused on the youngest victims of the crisis. Founded by Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, a 2010 CNN Hero, the organization is providing food to 24,000 children a day in northern Kenya.
MacFarlane-Barrow recently spoke to CNN's Danielle Berger about his organization's efforts.

The whole focus and mission of Mary's Meals is about meeting the immediate needs of the hungry child by providing them a meal in a place of education -- so that we draw them into our schools or nurseries in the belief that education can be their ladder out of poverty. On average, we can feed a child for an entire school year for $15.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Phone Messages Improve Care, Study Finds

Using cellphones to broadcast text messages reminding health workers in Kenya how to treat children’s malaria increased the number of cases handled correctly, a new study has found.
The study, done by researchers from Oxford and the Kenya Medical Research Institute and published recently in The Lancet, involved 119 health workers who saw 2,269 children with malaria symptoms. The workers randomly chosen to receive twice-a-day reminders handled 24 percent more cases correctly. Six months later, they were still better at it.

Medicaid Pays Less Than Medicare for Many Prescription Drugs, U.S. Report Finds

WASHINGTON — Medicaid gets much deeper discounts on many prescription drugs than Medicare, in part because Medicaid discounts are set by law whereas Medicare prices are negotiated by private insurers and drug companies, federal investigators said Monday in a new report.

The study comparing Medicare and Medicaid was required by the new health care law.
Drug companies oppose the type of discounts required by Medicaid, seeing them as government price controls. Drug makers say they prefer Medicare’s market-oriented approach, in which discounts are negotiated by drug plans and manufacturers.
Two Democrats, Representative Henry A. Waxman of California and Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, recently introduced bills that would require drug manufacturers to pay the higher Medicaid rebates for drugs provided to Medicare beneficiaries who are also eligible for Medicaid. President Obama’s deficit-reduction commission has endorsed the proposal, saying it could save $49 billion over 10 years.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Alex and Jillian Newlywed!

One of the highlights, if not the highlight, of 2011 for me was attending the wedding of Alex Abboud and Jillian D'Amico in Connecticut.
Here is a link to coverage of their wedding in the New York Times.

Jillian Elizabeth D’Amico and Alexandre Bishara Abboud were married Saturday in Greenwich, Conn. The Rev. Rolando Torres, a Roman Catholic priest, performed the ceremony at St. Mary Church, where he is parochial vicar.
The bride, 23, and the bridegroom, 24, met at Duke, from which they graduated

How to Beat Roaming Fees While Traveling Abroad By

LAST week’s column suggested ways to save when calling home from abroad. This week I’ll tackle data roaming fees, which wireless providers charge when customers use their phones outside their service area. With travelers using smartphones and other wireless devices abroad in the same way as they do back home (to check e-mail, to update Facebook and Twitter and to pull up online maps), the skyrocketing fees are taking many by surprise.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Mistakes in Scientific Studies Surge

Since 2001, while the number of papers published in research journals has risen 44%, the number retracted has leapt more than 15-fold, data compiled for The Wall Street Journal by Thomson Reuters reveal.

Retractions related to fraud showed a more than sevenfold increase between 2004 and 2009, exceeding the twofold rise in retractions related to mere error, according to an analysis published in the Journal of Medical Ethics. The analyst, Grant Steen, reached that conclusion after studying 742 medicine and biology papers that were withdrawn from 2000 to 2010. He said 73.5% were retracted simply for error but 26.6% were retracted for fraud.
Another researcher, John Budd of the University of Missouri-Columbia, looked at roughly the same set of journals, though over a longer period, and also found the prevalence of scientific misconduct to be on the increase.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Après le Déluge, What?

Another great essay by Peggy Noonam of the Wall Street Journal...

Riots and flash mobs have root causes that government can't reach.
The riots in Britain left some Americans shaken. In the affluence of the past 40 years, and with the rise of the jumbo jet, we became a nation of travelers. We have been to England, visited a lot of those neighborhoods. They were peaceful; now they're in flames. But something else raised our unease as we followed the story on TV and on the Net. I think there was a ping on the national radar. We saw something over there that in smaller ways we're starting to see over here.
The denunciations were swift and fierce. Max Hastings, in the conservative-populist Daily Mail: "The depressing truth is that at the bottom of our society is a layer of young people with no skills, education, values or aspirations. . . . Nobody has ever dared suggest to them that they need feel any allegiance to anything, least of all Britain or their community. . . . Not only do they know nothing of Britain's past, they care nothing for its present."
In the left-tilting Guardian, youth worker Shaun Bailey called the rioters opportunists. "Young people have been looting the shops they like: JD Sports and mobile phone shops have been hit, yet Waterstone's [a bookstore] has been left alone. These young people like trainers [sneakers] and iPhones; they are less interested in books. This is criminality in a raw form, not politics."
Where does that leave us? In a hard place, knowing in our guts that a lot of troubled kids are coming up, and not knowing what to do about it. The problem, at bottom, is love, something we never talk about in public policy discussions because it's too soft and can't be quantified or legislated. But little children without love and guidance are afraid. They're terrified—they have nothing solid in the world, which is a pretty scary place. So they never feel safe. As they grow, their fear becomes rage. Further on, the rage can be expressed in violence. This is especially true of boys, but it's increasingly true of girls.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Making Medical Donations Work

This is a great article about international medical aid.
 “There are a slew of complex issues that make donations of any kind aside from financial  really poor practice for trying to help developing countries. When it comes to medical equipment donations, the consumables necessary to operate many of these machines, such as x-ray film, reagents, etc,  are often not considered prior to the donations; nor is life-cycle costing and maintenance and operational costing and support figured in. Subsequently we see a lot of discarded medical equipment lying around clinics, hospitals and dump sites in low-income countries we work in.”
Homira has identified a few ways that donations can go wrong.  There are plenty of others.  But you don’t have to donate cash to be useful.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Computer Vision Sydrome

Interesting Infographic on computer vision syndrome from Mezzner Eyeglasses...via mashable

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Five (And Then Some) Tech Tips for Travel

David Pogue from the NYtimes with some good travel tips: link
One that I am happy about is that airlines are now using QR codes on a smartphone for boarding passes. No need to  print a boarding pass the night before, which can be difficult in remote hotels that don't have business centers...


Staying Connected Overseas (Cheaply)

Great tips below...what I do is use skype over a WiFi connection--which will probably be present in your hotel, if you are staying in a hotel....

Trust me, it’s easy to run up a thousand-dollar bill on your cellphone in a single trip if you don’t know the ins and outs. And not being in touch at all can be even more costly. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned:

Friday, August 05, 2011

ORBIS International receives donation of USD5m and MD-10-30 aircraft from FedEx

A great reason to support Fedex!!!! They have been instrumental in the success of Orbis since inception!

ORBIS International, a non-profit organisation dedicated to saving sight around the world, on Wednesday announced it has received a new USD5.375m commitment in the form of cash and in-kind gifts from Fedex Corp (NYSE:FDX),a logistics company.
FedEx is also donating an MD-10-30 cargo aircraft to ORBIS to be the third-generation Flying Eye Hospital. The new Flying Eye Hospital will be built on an MD-10-30 freighter aircraft and will use a modular design concept. It is said to be the first time such modular units have been designed for an aircraft and they must meet both aviation and medical certification standards.
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