September 23, 2009

This morning I participated in an Action Network Workshop that focused on Health Systems. This past month, I wrote an Op-Ed for the Boston Globe, "Global Healthcare Needs More Than a Pill." In that, I argued that we need to consider a "systems-approach," looking at health systems as a whole - beyond just preventing and treating infectious disease. This would include considering the renovations of health clinics, providing good roads for transportation to those clinics, access to clean water, treating chronic disease, addressing child survival, and partnerships across governments, NGO's, and the private sector to make this work. Given this framework, a discussion followed about how to move forward horizontally and vertically with infectious disease, chronic disease, and maternal and child health.
The end of August has brought with it an amplified reminder of the cultural divide between America and Tanzania. The sighting of the first crescent of the new moon signified the beginning of Ramadan and because Tanzania has a sizable Muslim population the effects are quite noticeable. Ramadan is a Muslim holy month meant to cleanse the soul and express repentance for all the sins committed during the rest of the year. Muslims must, amongst other things, fast from dawn to dusk everyday for the duration of the holy month. The goal is to be pure in thought and deed, which means Muslims give up behaviors that are thought to be sinful, negative, or distracting from spiritual introspection and closeness to God. Less orthodox Muslims who usually don't are now wearing traditional Muslim clothing and in many parts of the city where there are concentrated Muslim populations you will find restaurants closed during the day and open late into the night. In Zanzibar, where something like 98% of the population is Muslim you can be fined if caught eating publicly during daylight. The most orthodox Muslims are so strict about fasting that they spit on the ground all day to avoid consuming their own saliva.
t's not all that easy to get to Xi'an, in the heart of China, when you are in Beijing or Shanghai, but since we have a day, we are off to see one of the great wonders of the world - one that man built 2,300 years ago but just discovered during my adult lifetime.

Situated geographically in north central China, Xi'an is ranked among the great historic centers of the world. From its early role in Chinese civilization as the center for the first empire from which "Qin" (I pronounce "chin") gave the West the concept of "China," this gateway to the fabled Silk Road also was the largest and most cosmopolitan city on earth during the golden ages of the Han and the Tang.
From Big Kenny Interview: The First Trip -- Impressions of Akon, SUDAN 2007

Love Everybody has helped with the facilitation of the Konyok School for Girls in Akon, Sudan. The school currently has 550+ students enrolled. Love Everybody's goal is to instill hope, strength, and excellence to all students who attend so they can prosper in life. Their motto: "Highlight the good, inspire greatness, and encourage mutual responsibility for the betterment of humankind. -- Love Everybody." Member of the Tennessee Global Health Coalition.

August 26, 2009

So, two years ago; October of 2007, my wife and I and several friends from the organization My Sister's Keeper from Boston and Dr. David Marks and Walt Ratterman from Sun Energy Power decided we were going to get together and go into the country of Sudan. We went there and visited this village, which is basically a refugee camp right in southern Sudan, about 50 kilometers from the line of demarcation between there and Darfur. So this is an area that people had fled into that had been pushed off of their land. Like farmers. My dad's a farmer, and I guess that's why it hits with me.
Met this morning with the Minister of Health. The last time I was at the ministry we met just down the hall from the minister's office. That was in 2003, and SARS had struck just the month before. Allegedly the Chinese government has hidden the problem from its people and the world, but as the outbreak grew, the news exploded, and no longer could the government contain the news. I was openly critical that day in our public meeting, representing the U.S. and world opinion. Though my remarks had nothing directly to do with what was about to occur, the minister just hours later was summarily fired, a sign of recognition that China would officially change its secretive policy of minimizing the ongoing impact of SARS. And the epidemic rapidly spread throughout China, Asia, and Canada, paralyzing travel and tourism, killing hundreds, and greatly diminishing economic growth for the next year of Asia and Canada.
As much as I hate to say it, my time in South Africa has now come and gone. Calandra Miller and I safely arrived back on American soil at 7:30 AM on August 6, 2009. At the time, I could not say the same for our luggage, which remained (safely) in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The last couple of weeks spent in South Africa were bittersweet, to say the least. I was looking forward to coming home and seeing my family and friends once again, but at the same time I was having to say goodbye to many good friends and, what I consider to be, family back in South Africa. The volunteer girls, Betty, Eva, and Engelinah treated us to some milkshakes as a going away present. This was a distinct honor to me, because what we might take for granted in the United States, they had to budget for weeks in advance. We also spent some time celebrating with Stefan and his family, the Wiids (the family who hosted me in their cottage during my stay in SA), and Pastor Dave Garton and his wife Gail (who run the rehab program that Project HOPE is partnering with). In the midst of our imminent departure, I took some time to reflect on what I was doing and had done since arriving in South Africa.
August 24, 2009

Today, after meeting all day with health reformers in China, it is clear that partnerships with U.S. academic institutions are important to build capacity and institutional support here.

At Peking University, Dr. Ke Yang, Executive Vice President of Peking University (PKU), enthusiastically described the great results of a Duke-Peking University two-week global health diploma program with the School of Public Health.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

9 pm, Beijing

In 2003, representing the U.S. Senate I met with President Hu Jintao, CMC Chairman Jiang Zemin, Premier Wen Jiabao, and the Foreign Minister and Health Minister. One evening there was a majestic dinner in our delegation's honor, similar to our State dinners, hosted by the NPC Chairman Wu Bangguo (who I understand is coming to DC in a couple of weeks). It was the height of the SARS crisis and China had been shut down. I remember so vividly the discussion we had in the Ambassador's residence in Japan (the country visited just prior to our planed trip to China) when I gathered all the Senators around to make a final decision of whether to enter China at a time of some risk. We decided to go ... to demonstrate our support of the Chinese government in those difficult times as it did its best to fight the new, frightening and deadly SARS virus.

I am reminded of all this as I enter China today and read the China Daily headlines in the airport, "H1N1 will endanger more lives," with a subtitle "Up to 2 Billion may be infected; China will see rise in cases this winter." The article goes on in the first few paragraphs to say that the number of H1N1 cases will double every three or four days until they reach the peak transmission period.

The world is a small place. SARS tore out of China and invaded Canada. The affected economies grounded to a halt. Similarly HINI will be a worldwide pandemic. There are no borders to these cagey and fatal viruses. We are all in this together and our response must be mutually dependent. We are one. There is no separation of global health from domestic health when it comes to these emerging diseases.

August 22, 2009

Frist Update and Expectations: Written on the plane to Shanghai

Just getting used to the new Prius. I am taking a lot of heat from my family who see me more the Tahoe or Suburban type. It was tough trading my 1992 Suburban (my only car) because of the family memories that centered on that car. I had saved some money back in ‘92 by getting a two wheel drive (though I regretted it later when in DC I kept getting stuck in the snow - sometimes doesn't pay to be too cheap); it was the car the boys learned to drive in the narrow streets of Georgetown (side mirrors a little scratched). I resisted this clunker deal initially because I thought it wrong that the taxpayer was buying my new car for me, but after a few days I broke down on the moral argument of mileage, pollution, etc (and the gift of the average taxpayer!!). I always buy my cars from Lee Beaman; his dad and mine were best friends. Christi, who works with me, picked out a great Yukon for me. But I opted for the Prius - why? Because it gets 4 times the gas mileage and I want to reduce gas consumption since so much of the proceeds goes to those who feed terrorism. And it is cheap - we actually ended buying two Pri(i) - one for me and one for my brother Tommy - for the price equal to one Yukon. Still hate to see the Suburban go - and it sounds like they poison it to kill it. Ugh.

Subscribe to our newsletter to recieve the latest updates.