Journal Club 1/10+1/31/22: Sustainability and Language Justice

Tropical Diarrheal Illnesses in Children by Ying Ku

Tropical diarrheal illnesses (TDIs) are major health concerns around the world, especially in resource-limiting countries, resulting in approximately 500,000 child deaths annually. TDI is a gastrointestinal infection caused by pathogens that are prevalent in the tropical regions, with diarrhea being the main presentation. Most commonly, these diseases are spread by contaminated food and water due to inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene. Among various microorganisms that can result in TDIs, Rotavirus and E. coli are the most common agents causing moderate to severe diarrhea in children in resource-limiting countries. Some common signs and symptoms are diarrhea, nausea & vomiting, cramps, fatigue, fever, and chills. However, TDIs may result in death secondary to severe dehydration. When assessing TDI patients, it is crucial to determine  dehydration status and identify the type of diarrhea (watery or dysentery) given the different treatment approach. The most important treatment is rehydration with oral rehydration salts (ORS). ORS can be made with: 1 L water + ½ tsp salt + 6 tsp sugar. The more detailed treatment algorithm can be found in the Clinical Care Guideline for Integrated Management of Childhood Illness. Strategies in preventing TDIs can be summarized into blocking common transmission factors such as feces, fingers, flies, fields, fluids, and food via proper sanitation and hygiene. Lastly, we can help with this global health concern via donation/fundraiser for the organizations working to improve access to safe drinking water and sanitation, as well as being involved in projects to help develop prevention and control strategies in different locations.

Discussion Questions:

  • What are the challenges in promoting better hygiene in developing countries?
  • Despite the widespread use of ORS, mortality associated with severe dehydration in children remains significant. What are some factors contributing to this challenge?

Language Barriers and Epistemic Injustice in Healthcare Settings by Savanna Hoyt

  • Introduction
    • Language injustice is one of the most significant challenges facing national health systems.
    • Language barriers between patients and practitioners can have significant adverse impacts on quality of care.
    • Every phase of the healthcare process relies on effective communication.
  • Language and Healthcare: Complex Dynamics
    • In diverse societies, healthcare challenges stem from the fact that while language is a human commonality, it manifests through a wide range of languages.
    • Culture influences every aspect of illness, including interpretations of symptoms, explanations of illness, seeking help, adherence to treatment, and patient-provider relationships.
  • Linguistic Epistemic Injustice:
    • An example of testimonial injustice (misjudgement of how a person speaks), is when a patient and physician do not share a first language, but must communicate in it due to a lack of translation services.
    • Different concepts of illness across languages can result in hermeneutical injustice (misjudgement of what a person says).
  • Linguistic Epistemic Humility:
    • Linguistic epistemic injustice can be countered by linguistic epistemic humility.
    • In healthcare, epistemic humility involves becoming aware of your own capacities within your own language, with other languages, and actively searching for ways to overcome language barriers.
    • When considering patient-physician relationships across language barriers, the physician can facilitate positive relationships and deliver better care by recognizing their own language ability, acknowledging language needs of the patient, and attempting to correctly pronounce the patient’s name.
  • Conclusion
    • A more language-aware healthcare process can further advance the health of the general population, ensuring practice and research are carried out in a more equitable manner.

Discussion Points:

  • How can we as future physicians work towards eliminating language barriers in healthcare?
  • What are the possible outcomes of addressing language barriers in healthcare?

Social Forces and their Impact on Health Presented by Sreenidhi Vanyaa Manian

In medical school, we learn about the causes of various diseases usually falling into categories of infectious, genetic or immune-mediated processes. However, when it comes to causes often it is enclosed under the broader umbrella of social forces that impact health—defined as the social ‘determinants’ of health.  

“The unequal distribution of power, income, goods , services, globally and nationally, the consequent unfairness in the immediate visible circumstances of people’s lives-their access to healthcare, schools, and education , their conditions of work and leisure , their homes , communities, towns and cities – and their chances of leading flourishing life.”

We witness these social forces everyday and millions across the globe experience its impact on health. Insufficient food, inadequate safe water and discrimination based on race, gender and ethnicity are obstacles on the road to health. 

Rudolph Virchow investigated a typhus epidemic which he later called the ‘artificial epidemic’ as he identified the role played by factors such as lack of access to food, education, employment, as well as political isolation with the spread of disease rather than the microbe itself. 

“Medicine is a social science and politics (is) nothing but medicine on a grand scale”

Who LIVES? Who dies

Structural violence creates and perpetuates ill health, suffering and death. It is an unfair and evil entity that victimizes the underserved communities creating a lasting impact on their emotional, social, physical and mental well-being. Structural violence is inherently political and is fundamentally about resources and power. 

Poverty constrains choice, often in a brutal fashion.


Communities with lower socioeconomic status have been shown to have higher rates of accident, drug use depression and anxiety compared to those in higher socioeconomic groups. 

In 1848 Rudolf Virchow identified the lasting impact of social forces on health. How do we combat this? The answer is biosocial approach to global health wherein the healthcare provider attempts to understand the patient’s experiences, including the social forces present in the life of the person; as well as the impact of illness in the context of his/her daily life. This necessitates a deep historical, political and social understanding of the community

We all have heard the quote “Health is Wealth.” But we must understand that some degree of wealth is required in order to attain health that gives people a fair chance on their journey to liberty, peace and the pursuit of happiness.  

Discussion Points:

  • Any social movements that you know that led to better chances for good health in your community?
  •  What will you suggest (given the power) to the government to mitigate adverse social determinants?
  • What do you think is the greatest barrier to achieve equitable health?
  • During history taking, what are the other questions that can be asked to the patient for a more holistic approach to treatment?

Wrap up!

As you can imagine, our mentees had a wonderful discussion surrounding these three topics! We are thrilled to be able to present a brief summary of their work here. Please stay tuned for details about our upcoming meetings.  Connect with us through one of our contact options listed below if you are interested in attending!

Thank you to our authors and presenters!

Ying Ku, MS3

Ying Ku, MS3

Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine

Savanna Hoyt, MS2

Savanna Hoyt, MS2

Northeast Ohio Medical University

Sreenidhi  M Vanyaa, MS4

Sreenidhi M Vanyaa, MS4

PSG Institute of Medical Sciences and Research

Halley J Alberts, PGY2

Halley J Alberts, PGY2

Blog Editorial Lead
University of South Carolina
Prisma Health Midlands

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Cite this article as: Global EM Student Leadership Program, "Journal Club 1/10+1/31/22: Sustainability and Language Justice," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, January 18, 2023,, date accessed: October 1, 2023

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