by Brande Jackson

We are very proud to be back out with Brad Paisley on his H20 Tour again this year. Our first stops in Virginia Beach, Hartford and Cleveland were a hug success; we talked to lots and lots of country fans about the importance of clean water. As always, we were impressed by how engaged fans were in our project, and how eager they were to help. Our first three shows were a big success, and we are very excited about the remaining dates over the course of the summer. 

Like last year, we are also using our work with Brad to provide unique volunteer opportunities for those interested in this issue. By volunteering, you are not only contributing to your community (and getting a free Brad Paisley show as a thank you!) but demonstrating first hand the idea that a ‘small drop can make a big ripple’! To learn more about volunteering and to get signed up, visit: 

We also made a stop at Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival this year as well. We were joined by a stellar team of 7 volunteers: Slidana, Jason, Jeff, Sarah, Krystina, Ralph and Audoin. Our team worked very hard in the infamous Bonnaroo dust and sun to educate Bonnaroo fans about why clean water is so important, and what role they can play in bringing it to those who lack it. By the end of the dusty weekend, we had talked to over to 500 Bonnaroo attendees about this important issue, and raised money that will go towards a new well building project - something Bonnaroo fans can be very proud of! 

In the months ahead, we’ll be making stops in Texas, Darien Lakes, Chicago, Tampa, DC, Philly and many other cities. We’re always looking for some volunteer support; visit the Water = Hope website to learn more.



by Jenny Eaton Dyer, Ph.D.

WHF and Sten 6.13.11

Last night, Hope Through Healing Hands and the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health partnered hosting a meeting with the members of the Tennessee Global Health Coalition (TGHC). Doctors, academicians, nonprofit leaders, faith leaders, and private sector leaders alike joined together representing over 80 different organizations to discuss their work in global health and ways in which we could all work together better. 

Senator Bill Frist, MD and Sten Vermund, MD PhD both spoke to the members encouraging the building of relationships and partnerships between NGOs, universities, and the private sector. Both shared successful examples of how working together, pooling together resources, knowledge, and expertise, can save lives. 

Breaking out the guests among topics such as Haiti, South America, Africa, Orphan Care, Emergency Relief, or Medical Mission, the members had the opportunity to get to know one another and learn more about one another’s organizations with shared interests. 

To close the evening, we discussed how the TGHC might better serve the global health community of individual organizations. Suggestions included more meetings per year, a breakout of topical meetings, better portal for communication among members, better marketing of the TGHC as a whole and its members, and aid with grant writing, among others. 

As a hub for the coalition, HTHH will work on these recommendations and convene another meeting in the near future! Many thanks to all who participated, and a special thanks to our co-host, the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health.

by Emma Apatu
ETSU College of Public Health
American Samoa

emma apatu american samoa 1

Photo: Dr. Aga, (preceptor; Emma Apatu, Kasie Richards (East Tennessee State DrPH candidate); Aufa'i Areta, Associate Director/Acting Extension Program Coordinator)

Talofa (greetings)!  I arrived in American Samoa almost a week ago, and have fallen in love with the Samoan culture.  I have found the people to be very friendly, the fresh foods are delicious, and the oceanic and mountainous views to be postcard worthy.

 I have also been fascinated by the beauty of the traditional Samoan garb.   It is very common to find men wearing Lava Lavas which is a cloth like wrap skirt, and the women to be clad in beautifully printed dresses complimented by a flower in their hair.

 As I witness the beauty of this island, I have also taken note of the obesity problem.   It baffles me to see people of an island that has a plethora of nutritious food to have one of the world’s highest obesity rates.

The World Health Organization attributes American Samoan’s obesity problem on the fact that a great number of the people have stopped eating traditional foods and have adapted diets rich in processed foods.  A few days ago, I talked to some of the local people, and they also agree that a great part of the obesity problem is due to poor diet choices. 

Today I met with my field experience preceptors Dr. Aga and Aufa'I  Areta, at the American Samoan community college.  The meeting today was very productive and Kasie and I will meet with Dr. Aga and Aufa’I Areta who is the Associate Director/Acting Extension Program Coordinator later this week to finalize the scope of our community based Food and Nutrition project. 

I am looking forward to next upcoming weeks!   

June 8, 2011

In Case You Missed It...

The Tennessean

More than one-fifth of preschool children are overweight or obese. That’s 20 percent of kids 5 years old and younger who are already on track for chronic health problems such as cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease before their first day of kindergarten.

That’s more than 4 million toddlers already queued up for health issues that will last them a lifetime. And of the heaviest youngsters — those who are obese — more than 160,000 live in Tennessee.

Our state’s and our nation’s obesity epidemic is well-documented, and childhood obesity continues to be an appropriate focus. We are learning more and more how nutrition and exercise at the very earliest stages of life can have a dramatic impact on our bodies as we age.

If the body mass index (or BMI, the ratio of height to weight that is typically used to determine a healthy weight) increases too soon or too rapidly for a young child — as young as 3 years old — research shows that child has a much higher risk of obesity later in life.

In short, too much fat produced too early sets the stage for a battle against obesity that will last a lifetime. Before most kids can add 1 plus 1 and get 2, their bodies are learning that being overweight is a way of life.

To start our children in life along this path is simply unacceptable.

There are plenty of statistics to cite, from economic — nearly $150 billion per year is being spent nationally to treat obesity-related medical conditions — to national security — more than 25 percent of all Americans ages 17-24 are unqualified for military service because they are too heavy. But those statistics shouldn’t be necessary.

Being overweight doesn’t necessarily equate to low self-esteem or an inability to achieve, but we cannot intentionally start toddlers out with a predisposition to type 2 diabetes and cancer and heart disease and expect things to be easier for them.

The next 15 years are going to be hard enough; we don’t need to make things any more difficult.

Solving the problem, however, is more complex; there is no silver bullet. Private- and public-sector leaders all have a critical role to play.

Several mayors from across the country recently pledged to do more for those in early child-care education settings in their cities. Many private-sector companies are helping to curb this epidemic, too. Specifically, a recent commitment from the planet’s largest retailers and food and beverage manufacturers to reduce calories in their products by 1.5 trillion by 2015 is laudable.

Parents, get kids moving

Parents also play a role. That’s why we’re calling on everyone to get our youngest kids more physically active. Whether that’s taking a walk or playing a game, it’s just as important for the 3-year-old in your life as it is for the 33-year-old in your life (or, in my case, older still). Cut out the sugar-sweetened beverages for kids under 5 and look to low-fat or nonfat milk for kids over 2 years old.

Equally, the private sector needs to continue to step up. Parents don’t need more complexity and more costs; they need more answers and easier ways to provide a healthy lifestyle for their kids. We need the private sector to make healthy choices as easy and as economical as possible.

We’re asking private industry to better serve their customers and communities by helping them access healthier products. This allows kids to have healthy childhoods. We can do better.

For a nation that prides itself on opportunity, we owe our youngest and most vulnerable at least that: the pledge to ensure their future is as healthy as possible.

And that means starting right from the beginning.

The Honorable William H. Frist, M.D., is vice chairman of the Partnership for a Healthier America, an organization working with the private sector to solve the nation’s childhood obesity crisis.

by Katie Baker
ETSU College of Public Health
Appalchia/ASPIRE Scholar

Sun Safety booth Katie Baker

Let me begin by introducing myself – I’m Katie Baker, a second year doctoral student in Community Health attending East Tennessee State University’s College of Public Health.  I was recently selected as a recipient of the 2011 ASPIRE Appalachia Scholarship and, as such, will be completing my summer field experience with the Tennessee Cancer Coalition, a state-wide organization focused on reducing cancer incidence, mortality, and morbidity and improving the quality of life for those affected by cancer in Tennessee.  This experience could not have been better suited for me, as I have received intensive training in skin cancer prevention throughout my time at ETSU. 


After meeting with my preceptor and local supervisors, I have developed several objectives for my summer field experience.  My objectives are as follows: 

  • Assist in planning sun safety awareness and outreach activities for local events, including the Blue Plum Festival in Johnson City, Tennessee (June 3 & 4)and FunFest in Kingsport, Tennessee (July 15-23).
  • Develop an evidence-based skin cancer prevention toolkit designed specifically for high-school aged adolescents by performing rigorous literature searches informed by evidence-based principles, consulting with experts in the field, and facilitating discussions among local public health professionals with experience in this topic and target population.  The toolkit will serve as a packaged program ideal for dissemination to each of the eight county Health Councils in the Appalachian Northeast Tennessee region.   Health educators and interested volunteers throughout the state will also have access to the toolkit, with the goal of educating every high school student in the state of Tennessee on the dangers of skin cancer and effective ways to prevent the disease. 

Sun Safety at the Blue Plum Festival, Johnson City, TN

June 3 – 4, 2011 

The Blue Plum Festival, spanning two full days of 90+ degree heat and cloudless skies, provided me with the perfect opportunity for sun safety outreach in my community.  For this event, the Tennessee Cancer Coalition, along with the American Cancer Society, provided no-cost educational materials and sun protection aids (i.e., SPF 15 sunscreen; visors; bracelets made from UV beads) to be distributed by members of the Washington County (TN) Health Council from a booth in Majestic Park in downtown Johnson City.  Strategically situated between the food venders on Market Street and the arts and crafts vendors on Main Street, our booth was a popular stop for festival goers, especially children.  Many approached the booth, at least initially, because they wanted a bracelet made with UV beads – small beads that change color once they have been exposed to sunlight.  However, once they received our message that the beads changing color indicates that they should apply sunscreen, many of them took the opportunity to apply the sunscreen we provided, and quite a few walked away wearing a Tennessee Cancer Coalition visor as well.  Overall, this experience was a wonderful glimpse into the “real world” of health promotion.  I was able to meet and interact with the Director of the Washington County Health Council, public health professionals working for the Washington County Health Department, and community members impacted by skin cancer – all of whom served as a reminder that I truly love the field of public health and that skin cancer prevention is becoming an increasingly important area of research and public outreach. Thank you to “Love Everybody” for making this experience possible through your scholarship support.

by Shannon Langston
Department of Emergency Medicine
Vanderbilt Medical Center
Georgetown, Guyana

langston baby 1

It usually comes to me in a super market, sometimes Wal-Mart.  This time, it was in a Chili’s restaurant in Miami International Airport.  I was returning from 6 weeks in Guyana and the bustling airport led me to seek refuge in a restaurant.  The burger I ordered, with a thick slab of bacon, nearly overcame me with emotion.  It wasn’t that it was such an incredible burger. It was my reflection, the contrast, of the place I often take for granted and the place I was returning from.   The excess we have become accustomed to.  Something so simple as a good burger is not obtainable everywhere.  Many things aren’t. 

The Emergency Department at GPHC, Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation, the country’s tertiary care facility, is busy.  It sees about 70,000 patients per year.  The House Officers and Residents work tirelessly to sort the truly ill from the baseline chronic disease present in the population.  I spent the majority of my time consulting on patients, standing at the bedside, and teaching the Emergency Medicine Residents and House Staff alike on the care of acute and chronic illness.  Often, as I went through the differential diagnosis of the patient, I would realize, we might never discover the exact cause of the patient’s illness.  Many of the diagnostic tests so easy to obtain here, are simply not available.  Blood cultures, to determine the infectious bacteria of a septic patient, aren’t easy to obtain.  A CT scan of the head, often ordered to excess in the US, is expensive for the population of Guyana, sometimes costing a months salary for a test that may be negative or have little impact on a patients’ subsequent care. Cardiac enzymes, used to diagnose heart attacks, aren’t readily available.  And, even if they were, neither is a catheterization lab.  I had to ask myself often where to draw the line between teaching good care and teaching appropriate care. 

The patients presenting to the emergency department in Guyana are often complex.  In addition to the ills that face patients in the US, tropical disease such as Malaria, Dengue, and Typhoid are present, complicating the clinical picture.  One child in particular nearly died from something so simple as touching a caterpillar, the most toxic known.  TB was a common complaint and is seen daily at GPHC, often in advanced stages.  At times it seemed as if the taxi drivers are actually aiming for the children as they make their way to school, so common is their appearance in the trauma bay with broken bones and head injuries.  Those injured in the interior, the jungle, often have to endure many hours over rough inland roads, or a choppy river, to reach the hospital.  I was often surprised by their survival and endurance of what must be agony, only to be gracious for the care provided.  Those intubated in the emergency department are ventilated by hand until a ventilator can be found in the ICU, sometimes hours later.  The nurses often take turns ventilating with few complaints. 

As I choked down my burger, I thought back to the infant with meningitis, gasping for air.  There was no spinal needle for children that would allow a lumbar puncture.   Despite aggressive treatment and antibiotics, the baby succumbed, as did another a few days later.  I recalled the young lady that presented with mild confusion and fevers.  In a matter of a few hours she was unresponsive with a dangerously low blood pressure.  I spent hours at her beside with the residents, struggling to keep her alive, without the rapid tests that would give me the cause.  One resident intubated and another started a central line.  Fluids, antibiotics, and multiple drips were started.   A lumbar puncture and an ultrasound were performed.  We wracked our brains to discover the missing piece of information that would keep her alive, a diagnosis that fit.  Her husband, whom I kept updated, was brought into the room.  I told him she was gravely ill, and would not likely survive.  I encouraged him to talk to her and say anything he wanted.  He whispered into her ear and kissed her on her cheek before walking away, sobbing.  Our efforts were not enough.  She died a short time later. 

Despite the challenges and material limitations, the physicians are eager to learn.  Suggestions to improve care are readily embraced by residents and management and solutions are sought to overcome an often challenging work environment.  In my short time there, through the work of many people, I was able to secure a readily available supply of much needed blood for trauma patients.  A resident is now teaching the calculated administration of vasopressors to other interns and sharing new knowledge to improve patient care for the local population.  By saving patients that would have died just a few years ago, they are learning to be hopeful as they provide compassionate care.   These things, it seems, are available everywhere

by Orville Bignall, MD

Meharry Medical College

Georgetown, Guyana

I am sorry it has taken me this long to post again; the work here in Guyana is so great, and keeps me busy and exhausted. I’ll try to do better this week.

Today, I’ll share a bit about my hospital. Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) is the primary referral center for the country of Guyana. The “Accident and Emergency” Department treats roughly 75,000 patients a year. In a country with a total of only about 750,000 people, that’s roughly 10% of the nation’s population. To get an idea of what that’s like, imagine if one emergency room in the United States saw 30 million patients a year!

georgetown hospital

Unfortunately, the hospital lacks many resources US hospitals take for granted. Patient beds lack basic heart monitors, and IV lines do not have automated pumps to tell the staff how much medicine is being given to their patients. Lab results that would take minutes to obtain in the US take hours or days here. Even the blood bank can be critically low, sometimes having fewer than a dozen units of blood for the entire hospital!

georgetown male medical ward

As is often the case in resource limited settings – including in America – the lack of high-tech equipment, fancy tests, and expensive medicines means that the doctors here are skilled at diagnosing disease by relying on their brain and not a computer. The physicians at GPHC are some of the smartest I’ve ever met! Here I learn to think outside of the box to deliver the best care possible. I’ve learned to not only appreciate the luxuries I have as a doctor in America, but I’m acquiring the creativity and brilliance necessary to take care of all my patients, no matter the situation.

by Shannon Langston
Department of Emergency Medicine
Vanderbilt Medical Center
Georgetown, Guyana

She was only six years old.  She had somehow fallen from a height, landing on her head…unfortunately on concrete.  It’s always concrete here.  Her father told me she had been knocked unconscious immediately and she had not spoken since she fell.  She had not vomited, but she also had not moved since the fall. 

My residents and I performed a physical exam on the girl based on the “ABCDE” pneumonic I had been reinforcing:  Airway, Breathing, Circulation, Disability, and Exposure.  It is designed to simplify the assessment of trauma victims and to ensure that examinations are performed that same, every time, by every person.  The theory is that if you do something the same way every time, there is less of a chance that you will miss something important. 

Her airway was intact and she was breathing, and her blood pressure was just slightly elevated.  Unfortunately, she was still unconscious and I could not get her to respond with movement, even to painful stimulation.  A careful head to toe examination revealed only a large lump on the back of her head.  Her pupils were slowly reactive and equal, but she stared blankly, not bothering to blink or look away as I shined the light in her eyes.  The residents started IV’s and prepared airway equipment should it become necessary, riding with her across the street to the CT scanner, a relatively new diagnostic modality in Guyana. 

The images showed an epidural hematoma.  Essentially, it is a big blood clot pressing against her brain.  It was dangerously close to damaging structures essential for life.  Luckily, her spine was not injured in the fall.  Although there is no formally trained neurosurgeon at Georgetown Public Hospital, a general surgeon has taken on the task.  Mentored by a Canadian Neurosurgeon that works in Guyana for a few weeks a year, he has learned the basics of brain surgery.  When he has questions, he will send photos of the patient, and CT scan, over his cellular phone to the neurosurgeon for guidance.   He has had great success, although he often wishes for others to bounce his ideas off of or someone to help him refine his technique in shunt placement. 

This small girl had a serious injury, and none of us were sure she would have a good outcome.  The surgeon took her immediately to the operating room and relieved the pressure growing inside her head.  He placed a small drain for the blood to evacuate and transferred her to the pediatrics ward, a large open room with multiple beds and cribs.  Within several hours she opened her eyes and started to moan. 

I checked on her for the next three days hoping to see her up and smiling, perhaps talking.  Her family stayed at her bedside, hoping along with me.  Unfortunately she would only lie there, sometimes moaning in discomfort, other times appearing to sleep.  The fourth day I went in and noticed she was missing.  I feared the worst.  The nurses informed me that she had been discharged.  She had been talking and playful since the day before and the drain had been removed from her head.   I was fortunate enough that my student had taken the time to get a photograph of her prior to her discharge.  It shows her standing in her bed (with rails up), smiling at the camera. 

That a general surgeon would take it upon himself to be the neurosurgeon for those in need, without a formal residency, is a demonstration of the kindness and ingenuity of the Guyanese.  

Mother-and-child health challenges persist globally

The Tennessean

This Mother's Day, moms in Tennessee and around the world have more to celebrate than ever before. Infant mortality rates are declining in many communities and many countries. Yet even today, where a woman gives birth determines dramatically different odds of survival for her child. We can, and must, change that.

A baby in Shelby County has a 1 in 77 chance of dying before her first birthday. In some of our rural counties, 1 in 45 babies die. Those frightening rates are on par with Sri Lanka and Mongolia, respectively.

Overall, the U.S. child mortality rate is worse than in 40 other countries. It's one of the main reasons Save the Children ranks our nation 31 out of 43 developed countries on the Mothers' Index of its new State of the World's Mothers report.

Within the United States, Tennessee has long had one of the worst infant mortality rates. But our state's effort to change that is paying off. We've moved up from 46th to 41st in the latest national comparison on child health. That's good news, but I'm sure you'll agree, it isn't nearly good enough.

Even in tough times, state programs making a difference — including Healthy Start, which makes home visits possible for new moms in rural areas — must be protected if we are to improve the health of moms and kids across the state. Healthy kids lead more fulfilling and productive lives. They create jobs and grow economies.

Children's programs face possible federal cuts

Together,we must speak up for mothers everywhere. Federal programs that have helped reduce global child mortality by a third in the last 20 years are in danger of major cuts.

Worldwide, 8 million children still die each year, mostly from preventable causes. Imagine if diarrhea or pneumonia became a death sentence for your child. This is a daily risk for millions of mothers with no access to trained health workers or the most basic, inexpensive medicines. In Afghanistan, one in seven infants dies.

Why should Tennesseans worry about this when we have our own challenges right here at home? First, it's not an either-or proposition. We should save every child's life when we know how to do it inexpensively and so well. It doesn't take much more than political will to give a child a real shot as a long, fulfilling life,

And it's more than that. When we save children's lives abroad, we help countries develop and give them hope. And when we do that, we help create the conditions for growth and prosperity.

That relates directly to Tennessee, where 44 of our 46 export industries are growing and our state benefits from nearly $26 billion in exports every year. U.S. economic growth increasingly depends on growing markets in developing countries. We are living in a world that is increasingly interconnected. Simply put, by helping mothers and their children everywhere, we help ourselves.

So, as we celebrate this day for mothers, let's make a bold commitment to improve the lives of mothers and children in communities across the globe.

Bill Frist, a heart surgeon, served Tennessee in the U.S. Senate from 1995 to 2007. He is co-chairman of Save the Children's newborn and child survival campaign.

Bipartisan agreement on mothers

By Bill Frist and Jon Corzine - 05/04/11 02:22 PM ET

Political gridlock aside, this is a time of year when Democrats and Republicans can remember one important thing we all have in common: none of us would be here without our mothers. But the truth is, many of us might not be here today if our moms hadn’t had access to basic care during pregnancy, delivery and afterward.

As we honor our moms on Sunday, let’s honor motherhood itself by giving all moms the gift they want most — the chance to deliver and raise healthy children. Worldwide we lose about 1,000 mothers and more than 22,000 children under the age of 5 every day, a daily death toll on par with the recent Japanese disaster repeated day after day. But we can act now to save tomorrow’s mothers and children.

The United States has a long, proud and bipartisan history of leadership in the fight to save children’s lives. We must stay the course.

American researchers pioneered simple solutions that led to a remarkable decline in child mortality worldwide: life-saving vaccines, oral rehydration solutions to treat diarrhea, vitamin A supplements and zinc to fight malnutrition and disease. Much of this was accomplished with generous funding from the U.S. government.

Between 1990 and 2009, the United States worked with developed and developing country partners to reduce the global number of under-5 deaths by more than one-third, from 12.4 million per year to 8.1 million. For years it was unthinkable that our country would abdicate its leadership in this realm.

Polls have consistently shown that more than 90 percent of Americans believe saving children should be a national priority. Congress and administrations since the early 1980s have responded, funding the U.S. Agency for International Development and others to advance the reach of medical breakthroughs and reduce child mortality rates in the world’s poorest countries.

Today, some of our former colleagues in Congress suggest that development assistance is irrelevant to national security, and as a result, foreign aid is ripe for cuts. But they should listen to those who know firsthand the threats we face.

Drawing on his recent experience leading the U.S. Counterinsurgency Training Center in Afghanistan, retired Army Col. John Agoglia says: “It’s difficult to build a stable democracy when health, education and opportunity indicators for women and children are at such low levels. Our policymakers must remember: an investment in people that improves their chances to survive and progress is an investment in our national security.”

Former Xerox CEO Anne Mulcahy is also speaking out. “Let’s make no mistake,” she says, “investing in women and children abroad is an investment in our own economic future.” She notes that U.S. corporations increasingly rely on developing countries for new-income growth, and points out that many of the world’s largest importers of U.S. goods and services were once recipients of U.S. assistance.

Mulcahy and Agoglia are among the prominent individuals and everyday citizens pressing for continued U.S. investment in women and children in Save the Children’s latest “State of the World’s Mothers” report. The report also discusses particularly effective solutions that may surprise you. For instance, a cadre of community-based health workers, given just six weeks of training and a few basic tools, can reduce child mortality by 24 percent or more.

As countries like Malawi and Nepal have shown, U.S. assistance can help empower some of the world’s poorest nations to deliver a child survival success story through strategic choices that deliver the greatest returns with limited resources.

It’s difficult to find much that politicians can agree on these days, but saving the life of a child is surely a goal we can all support. Mother’s Day is no time to deny moms the most meaningful gift of all: the survival of their children.

Bill Frist, M.D., is a former Senate majority leader. Jon Corzine is a former senator and governor of New Jersey. They are co-chairmen of the Save the Children’s Newborn and Child Survival Campaign.



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