Stay-at-Home Female Doctors Serve the Poor Online

Women have been slowly but surely breaking the barriers that have been set for them in the past centuries. A beauty queen with Down’s syndrome made history, single mothers run startup companies, more women are fighting back against sexual harassment and even lead hundreds of people to resuscitate a dead river.

Here’s to another amazing woman. A female Pakistani doctor recognized the odds stacked against physicians in her context, and acted to provide more flexible options for women in the medical industry. Dr. Iffat Aga founded a platform to connect home-based female doctors to poor communities.

Sehat Kahani is a revolutionary tele-health platform that connects at-home, out-of-work doctors who can provide quality health care to underprivileged patients in low and middle-income markets.

The organization currently constitutes a network of 14 facilities across Pakistan which have served more than 550,000 patients. When a patient visits the clinic, a nurse logs their basic medical history, and then doctors are called in to continue the consultation through a video conferencing system.

The percentage of women in local medical schools are higher than those of men, but less than half of these women eventually end up as practitioners because they believe they need to nurture their families first. Because of the responsibility weighing down on them, female doctors stop pursuing their careers.  Dr. Iffat knew this problem needed a solution, so she partnered up with women who similarly understood — and perhaps personally experienced — the crisis, and together they built Sehat Kehani.

With a vision to create an all-female health provider network, Sehat Kahani simultaneously promotes women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship, and the basic need for affordable, quality healthcare in rural and urban communities – all without the doctors ever having to leave their homes.

It is truly an inspirational balancing act to target both the issues of gender inequality and poverty at the same time. Women are not only fighting for their own rights; they are doing so in order to join larger fights.

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Why We Need to Celebrate the Smallpox Vaccine

In light of brilliant breakthroughs like gene alteration for genetic disorders, nanomachines to cure cancer cells, minimally invasive treatment procedures for epilepsy — no, the smallpox vaccine doesn’t seem like a big deal. It obviously isn’t a new medical discovery. In fact, last May 8 commemorates the fact that the world has been free of the illness for 38 years. But the reason we need to celebrate it is precisely because of the many successes that followed the 1980s smallpox eradication. And the need to counter the threats to these successes.

William Foege, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has written a book in 2011 called House on Fire where he explains just how he made it possible. He and other health workers wiped out smallpox — “by dreaming, being savvy in politics and unafraid to break the rules, and devising the brilliant ring vaccination strategy.”

Foege and his colleagues found that instead of using the vaccine on entire populations, it was more effective to distribute it among the demographic most at risk, which were the contacts of the infected. After being proven true in the smallpox case, this strategy on immunization was replicated on the prevention of other diseases or viruses such as measles, polio, malaria, HIV/AIDS, Ebola, and others. Some have been nearly wiped out as well, while the incidence rates of some have significantly dropped.

However, a few decades later, people now face a dilemma. What about the now-debunked finding that vaccine causes autism? The anti-vaccine movement discredits the milestones of smallpox eradication and immunization. Does the use of vaccine actually pose more risk than benefit to humans? Well, it might be time to look back at history for answers regarding the progress of human health. William Foege, the man who developed the global strategy for vaccination, is still fighting for truth.

“I think vaccines are really the foundation of public health . . . By the early 1980s, [many of] our vaccine diseases had gone down to close to zero . . . So things were going quite well until Andrew Wakefield did his Lancet article [suggesting there’s a link between the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and autism] . . . He specifically said the MMR vaccine was the problem. He was disbarred in England because of the falsifications of his [data].”

Turns out, the research linking vaccines to autism is completely bogus that Wakefield even lost his medical license. But that hasn’t stopped parents all over the world from being paranoid. Foege understands that parents are only “trying to do the right thing,” but in doing so, they forget the risk of disease and focus on a completely false risk of the vaccine. This seems to make the anti-vaccine movement more of a health education issue, as people are just clearly misinformed.

38 years after smallpox eradication and other successes, vaccination has become a social problem more than a scientific one. In some countries, the public health debate even results in violence. But globally, more often than not, it results in the slower prevention and elimination of certain diseases. But Foege is still hopeful.

“I think we’re at the beginning of an eradication era — because of vaccines — and as we learn more and more about logistics, cold chains, how to develop vaccines that don’t require refrigeration, don’t require using needles and syringes, I think the future is very bright for disease eradication . . . You have to believe a disease can be eradicated . . . you have to put up with all the frustrations . . . you stick with your vision of what the last mile is.”

True enough, a disease can be eradicated. Smallpox is a testament to that. So celebrate the fact that you were born after it’s gone. Celebrate the fact that it led to much slimmer chances of measles in your lifetime. Now more than ever, we need to celebrate this feat, so that decades of medical history — thus, strong leads to medical progress — will not go down the laboratory drain.

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Late Menopause May Benefit Women’s Memory

The past few years have seen an increase in various research studies about women’s health that have truly been a long time coming. One example is New Delhi’s move to proliferate biodegradable sanitary pads which not only addresses women’s reproductive needs but also the needs of our environment.

Recently, a new study led by Diana Kuh from University College London in the United Kingdom looked at how the late onset of menopause may benefit the memory of women later in their lives. By using data from 1,315 women, they found out that women whose menopause occurred naturally and later in life scored higher on the memory assessment tests that they conducted.

Kuh comments on the findings, saying, “The difference in verbal memory scores for a 10-year difference in the start of menopause was small — recalling only one additional word, but it’s possible that this benefit could translate to a reduced risk of dementia years later.”

However, she adds, “More research and follow-up are needed to determine whether that is the case.”

The study’s scope also included other aspects about the women’s health like whether they were taking hormone replacement therapy, whether they had a hysterectomy, their cognitive ability since childhood, as well as social factors like their education and line of work.

Kuh and her colleagues conclude: “Our findings suggest lifelong hormonal processes, not just short-term fluctuations during the menopause transition, may be associated with verbal memory, consistent with evidence from a variety of neurobiological studies.”

Of course, I agree with Dr. Kuh’s statement. Further research is definitely necessary. I also think, as seen in the recently-won fight for equal pay like in Nordic countries such as Iceland, that perhaps more and more institutions and organizations would see the importance of studying and addressing women’s concerns, as more and more women around the world push further for their rights.

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Mediterranean Diet Prevents Heart and Brain Aging

Many people have different concepts of the best diet habits and what the best diet consists of. Here at our blog, I have written before about my personal stakes in maintaining a healthy diet and a co-worker has also said her piece on vegetarianism. Now, I consider myself far from a diet skeptic as I truly believe in having an eating regimen, but some fads just seem quite absurd, like surviving only on lemonade or grapefruit or baby food for weeks. A growing body of research agrees with me.

Scientists continue to affirm that this certain type of meal plan seems to be best: high consumption of vegetables, protein, and healthy fats; then low consumption of processed foods and refined carbs like white bread. This comes in various versions and labels as some people are completely vegetarian, while others choose to include eggs and dairy, or meat and fish, or all of the above, in their meals. But the base principle remains the same.

This Mediterranean diet or “plant-based” diet (or another label that you prefer) seems to be the healthiest.

In the latest issue of the Journal of Gerontology, scientists outline six recent studies of one version of the diet – the Mediterranean meal plan – and suggest that the eating regimen is closely linked to healthy aging, better mobility, a lower risk of chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease, and improved cognitive function.

One study says that a “plant-based” diet may help slow cognitive decline among people who’ve had a stroke, and provide protection of the brain against neurodegeneration (seen in diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s). As for the more physical benefits, this Mediterranean diet provides protein for the muscles, fiber for the digestive system, and vitamins for tissues and bones.

This balance is also key to keeping you full after a meal and energized throughout the day so you don’t feel the need to overeat, Nichola Whitehead, a registered dietician in the UK, previously told Business Insider. “You need to have a balanced meal — things like whole grains, fibre, and vegetables — in order to sustain your blood sugar. Empty calories [like white bread or white rice] give a temporary fix,” she said.

Her use of the word temporary echoes with me as I think about other dieting plans. A “crash diet” doesn’t sound as good when you focus on the word crash, doesn’t it? For me, dieting is best when planned well and executed mindfully. Science can attest to that.

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Contact Lenses that Adjust to the Sun

The medical industry does not lack developments specific to addressing eye conditions. Some particularly interesting examples are the world’s first synthetic retinas and a teen-made AI system that diagnoses eye diseases. Today, I bring good news to my fellow four-eyed people: you can now wear FDA-approved contact lenses that adjust to the sunlight.

“This contact lens is the first of its kind to incorporate the same technology that is used in eyeglasses that automatically darken in the sun,” Malvina Eydelman said in a statement. Eydelman is the director of the Division of Ophthalmic, and Ear, Nose and Throat Devices at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.

The light-reactive lenses, which Johnson & Johnson calls Acuvue Oasys Contact Lenses with Transitions Light Intelligent Technology, are for everyday use and lasts up to 14 days. While it might not yet be available for purchase, it could hit the stores soon enough, as it has already been approved by Food and Drug Administration last week.

The contact lenses contain a photochromic coating that adapts to UV light exposure. Johnson & Johnson says the lenses will automatically return to a regular tint when exposed to normal or dark lighting conditions.

The company also reassures future buyers that wearing darkening lenses does not mean having to look like a demon or an alien; a gray tint just appears, which is nearly imperceptible in brown eyes and just the slightest bit noticeable in lighter eyes. So no worries there, pal.

Now I can barely wait for summer to try this one out.

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Squid Ink Treatment: A New Dental Breakthrough?

When it comes to dental hygiene, being forgetful is not uncommon. Anyway, tooth sensitivity is now easily remedied with green tea extract. If you’re especially lazy, you can invest in an automatic toothbrush, which gets the job done in just 10 seconds. If your pearly whites aren’t faring too well, squid ink treatment is now apparently a thing.

Patients would start by rinsing their mouths with… food-grade squid ink, water and cornstarch. Capillary action would cause that liquid to be drawn up into any gum pockets they might have, and stay there even after the rinse has been spat out.

A light source such as a laser pulse or an LED would then be applied to the gums. This would cause light-absorbing melanin nanoparticles in the squid ink to heat up and expand, generating an acoustic signal.

The squid ink treatment would replace traditional gum disease detection procedures. This means au revoir to that horrifying stick-and-poke tool dentists shove in between your teeth. Formally, it’s known as a periodontal probe, which sounds just as scary as it actually is.

Researchers have successfully tested the technology on pig patients. Clinical trials are predicted to be soon — or at least until a newer, less salty mixture is in the works.

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Wearable Hydration System Is Great For Runners

When it comes to tracking one’s health, there is a gadget for every fitness buff in the field. There is a technology for monitoring nearly anything, whether as part of one’s clothing or used directly on the skin. What we sometimes forget are the humbler devices that contribute directly to our fitness routines. This slick wearable hydration system called Wetsleeve may not be high-tech, but it’s a great tool for runners.

The deceptively simple concept — a forearm-length wrap that comes in three sizes and encloses a fluid-holding compartment —has several innovative design features.

The reservoir, which holds 12 fluid ounces, fits within the zippered upper portion of the sleeve and is detachable for refills. The silicone mouthpiece of the reservoir sits just above the wrist, making drinking easy.

Even better, the water stays cold for at least 30 minutes — the perfect amount of time for a jog. Additionally, Wetsleeve has compartments to store small items such as house keys. Creator Dave Herring also believes Wetsleeve will have a positive environmental impact, because the device is refillable.

“Every day, I see so many empty plastic water bottles — especially on the beach. Anything we can do to reduce that is a good thing.”

Cheers to that, Dave!

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Medical Algorithm Helps Patients Walk Again

Throughout the years, patients with neurological disorders have relied on prosthetics and animal testing in the hopes of regaining the ability to walk. In the U.S. alone, nearly 5.4 million people suffer from a type of paralysis. Expensive and often difficult to obtain, treatments are hard to come by. But this new medical algorithm can help the nervous system ‘relearn’ movements.

The smart walk assist is an innovative body-weight support system because it manages to resist the force of gravity and push the patient back and forth, to the left and to the right, or in more of these directions at once, which recreates a natural gait and movement that the patients need in their day to day lives.

After just a single hour on the harness and algorithm, all 30 tested patients saw an improvement. The procedure has overcome the obstacle of losing muscle mass and neurological wiring.

This is a smart, discreet, and efficient assistance that will aid rehabilitation of many persons with neurological disorders.”

While patients are literally taking it a step at a time, this is definitely a huge leap for the medical field.

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Energy-Producing Patch Uses Sweat To Create Power

It seems wearable technology is the new craze for gadget enthusiasts. From fitness trackers sewn into fabric to temporary e-skin sensors that monitor your health, anything nowadays seems possible. Lately, innovators have created an energy-producing patch that powers electronics using sweat.

[The] flexible square patch… can be applied to the skin, where enzymes in the device could feed on human sweat to produce power.

Although it measured just a few centimeters in size, a single square, or biofuel cell, was able to generate enough power to run a radio for an entire two days.

Looks like power cuts could be the least of our worries — and I’m not complaining. Later versions of the patch create up to ten times more energy. Biofuel cells are almost limitless. They allow us to monitor health and exchange information, all while being non-invasive.

Eventually, they’ll become less expensive, making them a great alternative to devices like conventional blood glucose monitors that require patients to prick their fingers multiple times per day, or permanent surgical implants like pacemakers.

Wearables have, in the past year, proven to be effective and affordable. If less pain means gain, I’m all for it.

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Medical E-Skin Sensor Can Track Health For A Week

We’ve previously commented on how color-changing tattoos that adjust according to bodily changes are now a thing. But we all know tattoos don’t come cheap. Why not invest in a temporary one? This genius medical e-skin sensor can track your health for up to a week.

The new development could open the way for medical wearables that track heart-rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar throughout the week, without being invasive to the user.

“It will become possible to monitor patients’ vital signs without causing any stress or discomfort,”

The device, created in the University of Tokyo, is believed to enhance not only health, but interactions as well. After all, you’ll know whether the person you’re talking to is excited or bored.

“What would the world be like if we had displays that could adhere to our bodies and even show our emotions or level of stress or unease?” [says a professor at the university].

The device is not yet commercially available and is undergoing further testing. However, if approved, it can also potentially serve other purposes such as identification and recognition. And if you’re picky with custom designs, you can always pick another by the end of the week!

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