Monday, June 28, 2010

Documentary Film Discussion "The Day My God Died": Child Sex Trafficking in Nepal

In Nepal, a small country in South Asia, hundreds of children are trafficked into work as sexual slaves each year. While nonprofits like Maiti Nepal have emerged to fight, prevent, and assist victims of sex trafficking, political, social, and economic circumstances in and around Nepal have created conditions where child slavery and trafficking persist.

A film that documents the personal, social and human rights abuses of child trafficking, "The Day My God Died" was recently screened at Harvard University (I found the video via the Geo Blog). A panel discussed the film following the screening and was hosted by the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Anuradha Koirala, Founder and Executive Director of Maiti Nepal, was among the panelists.

In attendance were academics, journalists, and anti-trafficking/slavery activists. One of my favorite questions was: "What do you think needs to happen in the Nepal, India and the US to change the social mindset so can not buy another human being, that it will not be tolerated." The question was asked by a woman working to curb the commercial sex trade through reducing demand for commercial sex among men.

Koirala responded without hesitation: "Education. Education. Education. Awareness."

Watch this short video - or find a way to view the film. I'll be looking for an opportunity to see it, as well!

Since 2001 the US government has supported anti-trafficking programs in Nepal. For more information on the U.S. anti-trafficking policy in Asia read this November 2009 USAID Trafficking in Persons report.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Guest Post: A ridiculous burger

As you are probably aware, this is a time of transition for Veritas Health. I just completed my Master's degree from Harvard School of Public Health and am moving back to the San Francisco Bay Area to begin a new phase in my public health career.

Interviewing and packing has been taking up a lot of my time these past few weeks - so I am extremely grateful to Jessica Yen, who serendipitously offered to write a guest post for VH. Jessica is a great friend and public health colleague and I hope that you enjoy her writing and insights as much as I do!
- Katelyn Mack

A Ridiculous Burger
by Jessica Yen

The other day my roommate saw a report that Lotteria, a fast food chain restaurant in Japan, has a new ten-layered hamburger called the “Cheeseburger Tower.”  Ten slices of cheese alternating between ten beef patties, the burger will subtract ten dollars from your wallet and add ten points to your cholesterol level. 

The ad claims that they created the Cheeseburger Tower in response to customer demand, but really now – I’d like to have seen those focus groups!  And although one would hope that such a menu item could not possibly catch on among Japanese consumers, it’s the broader health implications that worry this household of self-professed public health nerds.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Lead Poisoning - A true global health problem

Around the world children are dying from lead poisoning and many more suffering from the neurological and physical health problems associated with lead exposure. In one region of Nigeria, lead poisoning has caused an estimated 163 deaths, mostly among children.

CNN ran a lead story on the tragic developments this week, even though it seems that the problem was first recognized back in January. Lead is a toxin that can cause serious neurological problems and even death in young children, as well as adults. The most commonly cited consequences of lead poisoning in the US are learning disabilities and behavior problems.

I am mostly familiar with the problem of lead poisoning affecting children and families through inadequate housing that contains lead-based paint. However, in the Zamfara State of Nigeria, the region where these recent lead-related deaths are concentrated, the source of lead exposure appears to be the minerals brought home by workers from the mines.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Gates Pledges $1.5b for Maternal & Child Health

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged $1.5 billion over 5 years to improve systems that will reduce maternal and newborn deaths and illness in the developing world. The announcement came yesterday during the Women Deliver conference.

I heard the story first on NPR  - you can access their brief interview with Melinda Gates here. But this story peppers papers from the Wall Street Journal to USA Today and has now made headlines on Politico and the Kaiser Family Foundation websites. Melinda Gates wrote her own article, 'A New Vision for the Health of Women & Children' in the Huffington Post.

The Gates Foundation sees this clearly as an area that requires public-private partnerships. In other words, they recognize that in the case of maternal & child health private organizations and nonprofits cannot have meaningful, sustainable change without the support of local and national governments.

Improving consistent access to contraceptives to prevent unwanted pregnancy clearly appears to be a major focus of the Foundation's efforts.

This investment is great news for the field of maternal and child health -- and will hopefully raise these issues to greater prominence both here in the US and abroad. In addition to raising awareness, effective use of $1.5 billion ought to have considerable impact on the health of women and children - and I hope to see and read about these improvements.