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Our Global Voices

Raising our voices to improve health around the world.

Selected Category: noncommunicable diseases (NCDs)

My journey into Global Health: Dr. Pragna Patel

Categories: cardiovascular disease, HIV/AIDS

Dr. Patel at her family’s clinic in India where they provide health services to indigent communities.

Dr. Patel at her family’s clinic in India where they provide health services to indigent communities.

Dr. Pragna Patel says “Taking the road less travelled and working for CDC on HIV and NCD has been a worthwhile journey”

 Dr. Pragna Patel

Dr. Pragna Patel

As a young girl growing up in New York City, I would often help out at my father’s pediatric clinic in an indigent neighborhood of the Bronx.  My father was a caring and compassionate doctor whom I truly admired and wanted emulate by providing a service to society in a meaningful way.  At that time, I never imagined that I would follow in his footsteps and become a physician. Taking the road less travelled, joining the US Public Health Service (USPHS) and working with CDC has been a circuitous, but rewarding experience and well worth the journey.

Growing up as a daughter of immigrant parents from India, I always had a desire to return to their native country, and in some way, ‘give back’.  Years later while I was a medical student, I spent two months living and working in a village in India and saw things that I never imagined possible. One day, I was standing in the operating room and my only hope in that moment was that the fly buzzing around my head would not land in the open abdomen of the patient on the table. As I stood there wearing blood-stained flip flops and gloves that had been autoclaved for re-use, I began thinking about the conditions in India and the need to improve the country’s medical care system.  Seeing a ward full of beds occupied by two people and families providing nursing care for their loved ones was very sobering for me and sparked my interest in public health.

Why I Care about Cancer in Developing Countries

Categories: cancer

Being treated for cancer in a lonely hospital room in Guatemala City.

Being treated for cancer in a lonely hospital room in Guatemala City.

Jeff Glenn

Jeff Glenn, Public Health Advisor, Office of Noncommunicable Diseases, Injury and Environmental Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDC

I’m 30 years old and have already had cancer three times. If I lived in a developing country I likely would have died from my testicular cancer, or from my melanoma, or almost surely from my recurrence of melanoma that spread to the liver and brain. Fortunately for me, I have the opportunity to access an extraordinarily high level of care that has kept me alive and hopefully will continue to do so. Unfortunately for billions of people around the world, the same cancers that are largely preventable or treatable in countries with access to good-quality care can still be devastatingly deadly for them. Even in 2015, whether you survive cancer still depends very much on where you live.

As a public health advisor in CDC’s Office of International Cancer Control, for the past four years I’ve been working to develop programs that increase access to cancer prevention and treatment services in low- and middle-income countries. While traveling for my job I’ve often reflected on my ongoing personal experience with cancer and how different things would be for me if I had been born somewhere without access to good-quality cancer care. I feel a powerful connection to the cancer survivors and public health professionals I meet. My experiences have given me a unique perspective on cancer disparities that exist between countries and the importance of international collaboration to address them.

Take charge of your health this World Diabetes Day

Categories: diabetes, noncommunicable diseases (NCDs)

world diabetes day
Diabetes is a chronic condition that continues to be a burden throughout the world. As we observe World Diabetes Day, let’s define some terms and talk about who is at risk. How does diabetes affect you or someone close to you?

Ann Albright, PhD, RD, Director, CDC Division of Diabetes Translation

Ann Albright, PhD, RD, Director, CDC Division of Diabetes Translation

Diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal. Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use for energy. The pancreas, an organ that lies near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the cells of our bodies. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes glucose to build up in your blood.

A person with prediabetes has a blood sugar level higher than normal, but not high enough yet for a diagnosis of diabetes. He or she is at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes and other serious health problems, including heart disease and stroke.

Two Initiatives Worth Their Salt: Reducing Sodium Intake in Philadelphia and Shandong, China

Categories: cardiovascular disease, noncommunicable diseases (NCDs)

September 29 is World Heart Day.

September 29 is World Heart Day.

Background information

Barbara Bowman, Ph.D., Director, Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDC

Barbara Bowman, Ph.D., Director, Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDC

CDC’s 2013 Vital Signs publication reported that more than 200,000 deaths among Americans younger than age 75 are preventable. These deaths from heart disease and stroke, both primary contributors to cardiovascular disease (CVD), could be prevented through better lifestyle practices and better care. Heart disease and stroke are two of our nation’s leading causes of death, responsible for nearly 1 in 3 deaths in the US each year. Globally, hypertension accounts for almost one-half of heart attacks and strokes. In China alone, CVD caused an estimated 3.5 million deaths in 2008.

Excess sodium intake is a key risk factor for hypertension, and reducing sodium intake is a global and domestic public health priority. A 2007 study found that reducing average population sodium intake by 15% in 23 low- and middle-income countries (bearing 80% of the chronic disease burden) could prevent 8.5 million deaths over 10 years, at a cost of only $0.05 / person / year (see footnote #1). In China and in the US, average sodium consumption is in excess of recommendations (see footnote #2). Primary sources of sodium vary depending on the country: the primary sources of sodium in the US are packaged and restaurants foods, while in China it is salt added during cooking. Thus, efforts to reduce sodium consumption in each country focus on their respective primary contributors to sodium intake.

A Call for Action: Responding to the Tobacco Epidemic and the Price of Cigarettes

Categories: cancer, cardiovascular disease, noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), tobacco

Woman smoking tobacco

“Raising taxes to increase the price of tobacco products is the most effective means to reduce tobacco use and encourage smokers to quit.” – WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2013

Samira Asma, DDS, MPH - Chief, CDC Global Tobacco Control Branch

Samira Asma, DDS, MPH - Chief, CDC Global Tobacco Control Branch

Real People, Real Stories

Mehmet Nuhoğlu started smoking when he was in middle school at the age of 12 after hearing that real men smoke. Little did he know that 45 years later his two pack a day addiction would lead to a heart attack and then cancer. “I never thought it would happen to me. I still can’t believe it,” he says.

Featured in national ads similar to the US Tips campaign, Mehmet was one of the real-life people featured in Turkey’s anti-tobacco mass media campaign that was launched in the later part of 2011. He tells of his experience with cigarettes and what daily smoking ended up costing him- his voice and his health. Now speaking with the help of an electrolarynx (a device that helps users who have lost their voice box produce clearer speech), he confesses that he regrets smoking.

March 10-16 Is World Salt Awareness Week

Categories: cardiovascular disease, noncommunicable diseases (NCDs)

 

This blog was originally posted on CNN.com on January 23, 2014.

 

Grocery store

Almost two years ago, Philadelphia launched its Healthy Chinese Take-out Initiative with the goal of reducing sodium content by 10% to 15%.

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden

The city’s Public Health Department worked with 206 restaurants, first evaluating their menus for sodium content and then helping them choose ingredients and develop recipes with less sodium. One way found to reduce sodium was for restaurants to cut the use of commercially prepared sauces and instead make their own.

After nine months, the initiative analyzed two popular dishes from 20 participating restaurants to see what changed. The result? A 20% reduction in sodium, more than the project’s goal.

It’s one thing to choose how much salt to add to your food when you eat. It’s another to live with decisions made by those who prepare your food before it makes it to the table.

Global Burden of Mental Illness

Categories: mental health, noncommunicable diseases (NCDs)

Barbara Lopes Cardozo, MD, MPH, CDC Division of Global Health Protection

Barbara Lopes Cardozo, MD, MPH, CDC Division of Global Health Protection

“Total health” includes both physical and mental health. The Surgeon General’s landmark report on mental health in 1999 raised awareness about the inter-connectedness of mind and body, of physical and mental health. That reality has been validated ever since. However, mental health and addressing mental health-related problems are often under-emphasized.

CDC recognizes that the mental health of individuals in the community is a vital component of public health and that public health cannot be adequately addressed without also addressing mental health. Therefore, CDC is working on the public health issues related to mental health.

Improving Disease Surveillance and Outbreak Response in the Latin American and Caribbean Region through the Field Epidemiology Training Program

Categories: global health security, health systems strengthening, infectious disease, noncommunicable diseases (NCDs)

 

FETP residents taking water sample to test for cholera (2013)

FETP residents taking water sample to test for cholera (2013)

Dr. Victor Caceres, CDC Field Epidemiology Training Program Branch

Dr. Victor Caceres, CDC Field Epidemiology Training Program Branch

With increased global travel, everyone is more vulnerable to emerging and reemerging public health threats. This vulnerability is why every country needs a team of highly trained epidemiologists that can detect and rapidly respond to outbreaks and is why CDC is committed to working with countries to establish and support Field Epidemiology Training Programs (FETPs) all over the world including the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region.

For the last three years, CDC has been working with the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Health (MoH), in collaboration with the University of Puerto Rico, to strengthen basic and intermediate-level training capacity for epidemiologists and laboratory personnel as part of the three-tiered “pyramid” training model developed and implemented by countries in Central America. 

Increasing Community and Stakeholder Knowledge, Awareness, and Acceptability of Cervical Cancer in Kenya

Categories: cancer, noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), women's/maternal health

Children in Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya

Children in Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya (Photo courtesy of Natasha Buchanan, CDC)

This year, in recognition of World Cancer Day, CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control (DCPC) is raising awareness about the impact of cancer around the world and CDC’s efforts to reduce the global burden. DCPC’s global activities include cancer prevention and control projects in Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, Trinidad and Tobago, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, Botswana, India, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Natasha Buchanan, PhD, CDC Division of Cancer Prevention and Control

Natasha Buchanan, PhD, CDC Division of Cancer Prevention and Control

Many of these global projects are focused on helping to reduce the burden of cancer in developing regions, where more than half of the annual 14 million new cancer cases and 8 million cancer deaths occur. Among women worldwide, cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer and the fourth leading cause of cancer-related death, but in less developed regions, the burden is much higher.

Eighty-five percent of cervical cancer deaths occur in developing countries where cervical cancer screening programs are incomplete or nonexistent. Because most women with cervical cancer in developing countries are 50 years old or younger, cervical cancer is the largest cause of years of life lost due to cancer in the developing world.

Working together to help strengthen Kenya’s capacity for birth defects prevention: A great collaborative start

Categories: child health, noncommunicable diseases (NCDs)

 

Working together to help strengthen Kenya’s capacity for birth defects prevention

 

Alejandro Azofeifa and Diana Valencia work to expand birth defects surveillance worldwide through Birth Defects COUNT, a CDC global initiative.

A Call for Assistance

Diana Valencia

Diana Valencia

Alejandro Azofeifa

Alejandro Azofeifa

In early 2012, Dr. Leland Albright, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Kijabe Hospital in Kijabe, Kenya, alerted CDC to what appeared to be a rising number of patients with some serious birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects. He asked CDC to help pinpoint whether the prevalence was actually increasing or if there was simply an increased number of referrals to the hospital from throughout Kenya. Dr. Albright also questioned whether genetic, nutritional or social factors could be causing the increase.

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