The WHO classified snakebite envenomations as an NTD in 2017 for causing enormous suffering, disability, and premature death worldwide. Bites by venomous snakes can cause paralysis, fatal hemorrhages, irreversible kidney failure, tissue damage and more, leading to permanent disability and limb amputation. Over half the world’s envenomation events and deaths occur in India; this epidemic has been termed “the neglected famer’s tragedy” due to a disproportionate increase in agricultural areas, and a “therapeutic black hole” due to ineffective or unavailable interventions within the region. With 5.8 billion people at risk of encounters, and 2.7 million reported cases of envenomings, it is estimated that there are between 81,000 to 138,000 deaths and countless more debilitating injuries each year in the country.
The WHO developed the Snakebite Envenoming Strategic Plan which calls for a 50% reduction in mortality and disability caused by snakebite envenoming by 2030 through 4 goals:
- Empower and engage communities.
- Ensure safe, effective treatment.
- Strengthen systems.
- Increase partnerships, coordination, and resources through strong collaboration.
Our project focuses on the first WHO goal; Empower and engage communities. However, it includes aspects of all the 2030 goals by creating an education system that will help prevent envenomations and arm the community with a safe plan to approach such events to reduce morbidity and mortality. The project will focus on educating and engaging community leaders, to promote sustainability and community engagement. These community leaders will be trained to teach and discuss topics including characteristics of venomous and non-venomous snakes, dispelling, and discussing common misconceptions surrounding proper envenomation management, first-aid, initial management, and stabilization. Community leaders and community members will also be connected with national partners like the National Snake Bite initiative (NSI) as well as international partners like WHO through The Platform, an interactive Application that allows the public to participate in reporting events and venomous snake sightings, slowly creating a regionalized database.
Qualitative surveys before and after educational campaigns on community knowledge, perceptions, sociocultural and spiritual understanding and depiction of snakes and snakebite envenoming can help to measure how receptive communities have been to the program. Since envenomation events are underreported, it is difficult to assess any qualitative differences (hospital admission events), however, since we plan to implement this program on a community-by-community basis it may be possible to investigate numbers through local health ministries, clinics, and hospitals to assess different trends before and after program implementation.
Based on the WHO Snakebite Working group budget we estimate this project would not cost more than $15,000 USD, with much of the funds allocated to program creation, program coordinators and educators, community leaders, and program creation. The WHO allocated over $140 million USD over 10 years worldwide to this problem and $650,000 USD to community education in 10 countries. Using this logic, we estimated that more than $65,000 would be allocated to a country like India. If this project were to pilot its educational campaign in a specific region, we estimate no needing more than $15,000 USD.
By partnering with national partners on the ground like the NSI and community leaders who will continue to train and educate, this program will become sustainable through working with those that are inherently invested in more positive outcomes through education in their own communities. Additionally, the WHO’s Platform application will be promoted during educational programming to further engage and empower the community to take an active role in their own education and safety by sharing photos of potentially venomous snake sightings along with their location data. By promoting effective interventions involving education surrounding proper venomous snake identification, snake education, medical interventions, and effective reporting this program will reduce snake bite deaths and long-term disability and empower at risk communities in India to take their safety into their own hands.
After presenting the proposal to the group, we engaged in discussion on this proposal. One of the questions that sparked deep and insightful conversation was “Why is the focus of this project education, and not ensuring that are adequate and strategically placed life saving anti-venom available?”
Below is a summary of the most pertinent ideas posed:
1. Many companies producing have stopped/gone out of business and even if there was plentiful supply it would still not help with preventing or addressing the problem when most cases of snakebite envenomation that occur are not reported.
2. With an educational campaign the people are able to take power into their own hands.
3. The cost benefit ratio of this method is extremely low. Many people reside far away from any form of health care and in India, the cost of initial treatment has been reported to be as high as USD$ 5,150, which makes investments in anti-venom unsustainable.
Kasturiratne A, Wickremasinghe AR, de Silva N, et al. The global burden of snakebite: a literature analysis and modelling based on regional estimates of envenoming and deaths. PLoS Med. 2008;5(11):e218. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050218
Yanamandra U, Yanamandra S. Traditional first aid in a case of snake bite: more harm than good. BMJ Case Rep. 2014;2014:bcr2013202891. Published 2014 Feb 13. doi:10.1136/bcr-2013-202891
Chauhan V, Thakur S. The North-South divide in snake bite envenomation in India. J Emerg Trauma Shock. 2016;9(4):151-154. doi:10.4103/0974-2700.193350
International Journal of Mental Health Systems, vol. 9, no. 1, 12 Mar. 2015, 10.1186/s13033-015-0007-9. Accessed 13 June 2020.
About GEMS LP project proposals
These project proposals are completed by our mentees, who are medical students, to encourage independent thinking from a global perspective.
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