Journal Club 11/29/21: Ethics of Humanitarian Work

POCUS in Resource-Limited Settings presented by Holly A. Farkosh

POCUS, or point-of-care ultrasound, is a focused exam performed and interpreted by an examiner usually at the bedside, that must answer a specific question (is there a pleural effusion, yes or no?). The diagnosis must also be 1) relevant to consecutive treatment decision-making and 2) easily and accurately recognizable by the physician applying the US without extensive training.

There are many advantages to using POCUS in a resource-limited setting, including but not limited to: 

– Portability; relatively inexpensive starting at $2000

– Limited access to other diagnostic imaging equipment (XR, CT, MRI–all of which require additional training to read and use/operate)

– Rapid, noninvasive

– No ionizing radiation exposure

– Improves success and safety of bedside procedures

– Can easily be repeated, quickly, and without increasing radiation exposure, especially if clinical status or physical exam findings change 

– Particularly cost-effective (in the United States) in pediatric appendicitis and trauma (found to have decreased time to OR, decreased CT scans in the pediatric population, shortened length of hospital stay)

Some of the disadvantages include:

– Requirement of formal training

– Issue of how to power/charge and reliable access to this

– Handheld US requires a smartphone

– Supplies (US gel)

– Upkeep and repair

– Image portability (inability to print or save images for patients to share with other healthcare providers)

– Ethical considerations? 

Tying it all Together: Ethical Considerations for POCUS in Resource-Limited Settings

– Cost-effectiveness: some resources are deemed too expensive

– Resource limitations and differences in standard of care between the United States and other countries 

– Practitioners who may be teaching US may have limited knowledge of practicing in resource-limited settings, or there may be discrepancies in both knowledge of using the technology/resources available as well as the common presenting diseases in that region

– Sustainability: in relation to implementing training programs– what happens after instructors leave? Requires adequate planning for system integration and ongoing supervision and skill maintenance

– Limited capacity and inconsistent availability of follow-up care; screening without available treatment

Discussion Questions:

  • What other ethical considerations are there to implementing POCUS in resource-limited settings?

       – Advantage: lack of need for significant infrastructure; skills can quickly be acquired; real-time video training/support between the United States and other countries

        – Limited support for continued supervision/continual mentorship on improving skills; sustainability of training programs

        – Potential costs of training

  • What to do when you come across findings not consistent with physical exam– how to advocate for further diagnostics/evaluation?
  • Using US for central lines: lack of US availability; no formal US training; need to teach how to use US, but also important to teach things such as sterile prep/technique

Why do we have a desire to work in Global Health? By Cody Ritz

Chapter nine from Reimagining Global Health: An Introduction aims to explore a few different answers to this complex question. It’s possible that many of our desires to work in Global EM stem from some of the moral frameworks or values systems presented in these pages. The chapter lays them out as such:

Depending on your own personal motivations, you may identify with one, many, or none of these moral frameworks or value systems. This list is not meant to be exhaustive, and it barely scratches the surface of the many nuances included in each of these philosophies. While we could go to much greater lengths to wholly explore these schools of thought, I believe the greatest benefit in naming them is not solely for the purpose of categorization. Rather, by taking the time to compare these sources of motivation, we can equip ourselves with a vocabulary and mindset that helps give form to our innermost determinations. While this form develops, we can begin to understand the foundations of our own interest to work in not only global health but medicine at large. As we come to better understand ourselves, let us hope this allows us to better understand others as well.

Discussion Points:

  • With which of these frameworks/value systems do you identify personally? – One? Multiple? None of them at all? – and how has that framework informed your own perspective and approach to global health?
  • Imagine that you’re in an interview for a position you want in the future and the interviewer asks—Why do you have these interests in global health when there is already great need within your own backyard?— How do you respond? In what ways could you explain your motivations within the frameworks discussed in this chapter?

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!

Holly Farkosh, MS4

Holly Farkosh, MS4

Marshall University School of Medicine

Cody Ritz, MS2

Cody Ritz, MS2

Drexel University College of Medicine

Keep in Touch:

Cite this article as: Global EM Student Leadership Program, "Journal Club 11/29/21: Ethics of Humanitarian Work," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, April 6, 2022, https://iem-student.org/2022/04/06/journal-club-11-29-21-ethics-of-humanitarian-work/, date accessed: December 5, 2022

Journal Club 11/08/21: Resource Equity in a Pandemic

The Global Burden of Schistosomiasis presented by Farah Mechref

Endemic in 74 countries across Africa, the Middle East, South America, and Asia, schistosomiasis is a neglected tropical disease caused by flatworms or blood flukes known as schistosomes. About 440 million individuals are infected with these trematodes, which reside in the blood vessels of their definitive host and lead to different clinical manifestations depending on the species. In regions endemic for schistosomiasis, the most prevalent form of the disease is
chronic schistosomiasis, resulting from repeated immunological reactions to eggs trapped in organ tissues. Infection begins when individuals enter bodies of water that contain contaminated snails that have released infectious cercariae. These cercariae penetrate the skin of the human host and produce an allergic dermatitis at the site of entry or a “swimmer’s itch.” Antigens are then released from their eggs, which stimulates a granulomatous reaction composed of T cells, macrophages, and eosinophils, resulting in the clinical disease. 

Acute schistosomiasis typically presents with sudden onset of fever, malaise, myalgia, headache, fatigue, and abdominal pain lasting 2–10 weeks, with eosinophilia noted on lab findings. Chronic infection cause granulomatous reactions and fibrosis in affected organs, which results in clinical manifestations
that include: 

-In S. mansoni and S. japonicum: upper abdominal discomfort that then shows palpable, nodular hepato-spenlomegaly with eventual development of portal hypertension from fibrosis of portal vessels and resulting ascites and hematemesis from lethal esophageal varices.

-In S. haematobium: hematuria, which is so endemic that it’s thought to be a natural sign of puberty for boys and confused with menses in girls, with eventual development of squamous-cell carcinoma of the bladder.

Currently, the only control measures available include (1) mass treatment with Praziquantel (Biltricide) in communities where schistosomiasis is endemic, (2) introduction of public hygiene programs to provide safe water supplies and sanitary disposal of stool and urine, (3) snail eradication programs using molluscicides, and (4) vaccination development to create a more durable and sustained reduction in transmission.

Discussion Questions:

  • Knowledge of transmission and preventative measures play an important role in schistosomiasis control, what other endemic conditions could be better tackled with improved patient education?
  • With 230 million actively infected patients and another 200 million with latent infections, is a vaccine worth the resource distribution or should funding go towards expanding the anti-parasitic classes available for treatment? 

Resource Equity in a Disease Outbreak by Alison Neely

The Ebola virus disease of 2013-2016, centered in West Africa, was considered one of the most threatening cases of infectious disease outbreak in modern history up until the emergence of Covid-19 in 2019. Due to the high case fatality rate of Ebola, the core element of the outbreak response was effective case identification and rapid isolation; treatment centers were quickly overwhelmed and experienced limited bed supply and staff time. A study drawing from interviews with senior healthcare personnel involved in this Ebola outbreak response aimed to identify the ethical issues involved in such a response and to create a framework of ethical guiding principles for future responses.

The framework proposed after analysis of the participants’ interviews was split into four categories: community engagement, experimental therapeutic interventions, clinical trial designs and informed consent. Community engagement stood out as a key element both in the framework and in the journal club discussion that followed. Engagement can include promotion of collaboration and open dialogue, incorporation of community insights into decision-making processes, encouragement of transparency, building trust, and reflecting on context-specific cultural values. As future physicians with special interest in global medicine, these ideas of respecting cultural context and complete inclusion of the local community in response efforts were highlighted as very relevant to our future practice.

Discussion Points:

  • Have the principles presented here been followed in the global response to the Covid-19 pandemic?
  • Our discussion also focused on the parallels and differences between this Ebola response and the global response to the Covid-19 pandemic, calling attention to the ways that the response both followed and diverged from the framework presented in this article. As the idea of a disease outbreak has become part of daily conversation in the last 2 years, investigations and discussions such as this will become increasingly relevant and important. We also touched on the idea that our global response to Covid-19 may have been very different, and potentially weaker, if the Ebola outbreak had not occurred when it did.
 

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!

Farah Mechref, MS4

Farah Mechref, MS4

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

Alison Neely, MS4

Alison Neely, MS4

Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Keep in Touch:

Cite this article as: Global EM Student Leadership Program, "Journal Club 11/08/21: Resource Equity in a Pandemic," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, February 23, 2022, https://iem-student.org/2022/02/23/resource-equity-in-a-pandemic/, date accessed: December 5, 2022

Journal Club 10/18/21: The Global Burden of Disease

Global Health and the Global Burden of Disease presented by Denise Manfrini

Global burden of disease is the quantity of disease (conditions, illnesses, injuries) and their impact on a population. The impact is measured in disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), which is the years of life lost from premature death and years of life lived in less than full health. There are other metrics used as well to compare countries, such as incidence, prevalence, mortality, and fertility rate.

In order to determine these metrics to measure global burden of disease and see where a country’s health system should focus, disease surveillance is required. This led to the creation of the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Project in 1992. It aims to develop a consistent way to estimate disease burden in eight global regions (established market economies and formerly socialist economies) using the metrics described above, particularly the DALY. The project initially quantified 107 conditions and over 400 sequelae and has been expanding and updating its findings in the following years. This level of detail has allowed tracking of disease changes over the years and given insight into which interventions are effective. Initial results have shown high disease burden, premature mortality, and health disparities when comparing established market economies and impoverished countries; notably, developing countries suffered more from infectious and parasitic diseases, respiratory infections, and maternal and perinatal disorders. Developed countries suffered more from diseases due to poor lifestyle, such as cardiovascular disorders. Results from 2019 indicate shifts. Overall health is improving worldwide since those results in 1994 (GBD 2019 Diseases and Injuries Collaborators 2020). As seen in the chart, diseases affecting primarily children, such as respiratory infections, diarrheal infections, measles, neonatal disorders, tetanus, malaria, have decreased significantly. The prevalence of diseases affecting older adults, such as ischemic heart disease, diabetes, stroke, lung cancer, has increased and indicates that health care systems need to be prepared to manage an older patient population.

An alternative approach advocated for the right to health of every individual as envisioned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The 1978 Alma Ata Declaration proposed that the fulfillment of these rights belongs to the international community through international collaboration. The past several decades has seen an increasing movement towards this idea and away from one based on economics. An example of this would be the recognition in the 1990s that citizens of developing nations with HIV are inherently as deserving of treatment as those from developed nations. By taking an approach rooted in human rights, the international community was able to lower the cost of HIV medication and provide treatment for patients in the developing world.

Change in worldwide burden of disease from 1990 to 2019. Red - infections/perinatal/maternal conditions; Blue - noncommunicable disease; Green - Injuries/accidents. Source: GBD 2019 Diseases and Injuries Collaborators. (2020). Global burden of 369 diseases and injuries in 204 countries and territories, 1990–2019: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019. The Lancet, 396, 1204–1222.

Once burden of disease can be quantified, how do we decide how to tackle it? Enter priority setting to determine how to best allocate resources. A few models have been proposed. In 1971, Abdel Omran posited four stages through which developing countries progress, called the epidemiological transition. The four stages are: age of pestilence and famine; age of receding pandemics; age of degenerative and manmade disease; and age of delayed chronic disease. Developed countries would be categorized in this final stage. However, the stages do not have clear divisions nor is the progression so clear-cut; a country can be in more than one stage simultaneously. For example, developed countries are currently suffering from the Covid pandemic and from chronic diseases. Thus, priority setting based only on the epidemiological transition would provide incomplete aid to countries encountering more than one stage. Another model is the idea of cost-effectiveness. For an intervention to be considered cost-effective, it must cost no more than 3x the per capita health costs. This is difficult to achieve in countries where the per capita health cost is extremely limited and not enough to cover a worthwhile intervention. After recognizing that poor health leads to limited economic development and to address the challenge of figuring out which interventions need investing, the Disease Control Priorities (DCP) Project was created. It aimed to enable countries to choose and prioritize interventions that maximally impact disease burden and that are supported by their health budgets. The latest DCP project promotes equity and advocates for universal health coverage. Both the DCP and GBD projects are ongoing.

Discussion Questions:

To what extent should developed countries provide economic support to developing countries?

Which diseases can we anticipate becoming a larger portion of the burden of disease and what can we do to prepare? 

Tuberculosis: Global Policy and Impacts of COVID-19 presented by Andrew McAward

Prior to the current COVID-19 pandemic, tuberculosis was the leading cause of death from a single infectious disease. In 2020, 1.5 million people worldwide succumbed to TB, while an additional 10 million were infected with primary TB. However, major global health organizations agree that tuberculosis is both curable and preventable. For this reason, combating tuberculosis continues to remain at the forefront of global health efforts today.
The pathology of the TB is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection, which classically results in the development of granulomatous lesions in lung tissue. This disease can be latent, acute, or systemic/miliary in nature. Updated treatment protocols continue to recommend using derivations of the “RIPE” therapy regime for up to 6 months. The BCG vaccine is widely used in countries with high TB burden, providing strong protection against tuberculosis meningitis and miliary TB spread in children. However, this vaccine’s lack of effectiveness in adults and contraindication in both pregnant women and the immunocompromised has prompted the WHO to initiate new vaccine development. Additionally, the rising concern of multidrug-resistant TB has increased global efforts to establish new treatment options and a more effective vaccine.

Global health organizations have renewed their ambitions to mitigate the spread of TB. In 2014, the World Health Organization’s “End TB Strategy” set a goal to reduce TB incidence by 80% and death by 90% by 2030. The organization’s intention was to embolden local governmental policies and increase research efforts such as through the development of a new adult candidate TB vaccine, M72/AS01E. Similarly, the United Nations joined the WHO’s response by including the elimination of the tuberculosis epidemic on a list of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved by the year 2030. Despite these efforts, the progress made in battling TB has been halted by COVID-19. New cases of tuberculosis markedly fell in 2020 due to lack of access to diagnostic services, while global deaths increased for the first time in over a decade. The current COVID pandemic has also worsened prognostic outcomes of patients currently undergoing treatment for tuberculosis. Prior successes of global TB health policy, such as maintaining steady drug supply chain or providing healthcare personnel to assist with direct observation drug therapy, have been disrupted due to the economic and social implications of the current pandemic.
Since 2000, over 66 million lives worldwide have been saved through the diagnosis and successful treatment of tuberculosis. Despite dramatic setbacks caused by COVID-19, the global health community should remain optimistic about the long-term mitigation of this disease.

Discussion Questions:

How can global health policies help to overcome the challenges caused by COVID-19 in the diagnosis and treatment of TB?

How can healthcare professionals continue to further the progress made against TB burden in their own communities?

Journal Article: Five insights from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019 Presented by Rachael Kantor

1. Double Down on Catch-up Development
Improvements in SDI have increased universally at an exponential rate since the 1950s. Originally (and predictably) we saw high SDI countries developing at a much faster rate than low SDI countries BUT since the start of the millennium counties of lower SDIs have been progressing at a rate much faster than those of high SDI statuses showing catch-up development. To close the gap, we must “double down” by increasing economic growth, expanding access to education, and improving the status of women in lower SDI countries. **Socio-demographic Index (SDI) is a measure used in the GBD to identify where a geographic area sits on the spectrum of development.
2. The Minimum Development Goal Health Agenda HAS been working
It’s no secret that since the early 2000s the global health community has focused heavily on decreasing mother and child mortality and decreasing the burden of communicable diseases (specifically TB, HIV, and malaria). The good new is these efforts have been incredibly successful BUT we owe it to ourselves to pay close attention to non-communicable disease (NCD) trends. Population growth and aging have led to a steady increased in NCDs.
3.Health Systems need to be more agile to adapt to the rapid shifts to NCDs and disabilities
As health profiles and SDI rankings change, universal health coverage must adapt to meet current health needs. This means increased focus on NCD coverage and greater attention to disorders causing functional health loss (MSK, substance abuse, mental health, etc.) to reduce the massive policy gap.
4. Public health is failing to address the increase in crucial global health risk factors
As global SDI has increased, many risk factors have seen a sharp decline. However, risk factors including High SBP, FBG, and BMI, as well as alcohol and drug use have increased alarmingly by > 0.5% a year.
5. Social, fiscal, and geopolitical challenges of inverted population pyramids
The GBD has estimated that by 2100 there will be over 150 countries whose death rate exceeds its birth rate; this compared to 34 countries in 2019. Many country populations will decrease—resulting in tremendous controversy regarding workforce maintenance, the ongoing immigration debate, and fertility incentivization2.

Discussion Questions:

Many editorials/opinions call the neglect of chronic illness, and the exponential rise of preventable risk factors the “perfect storm” to fuel the COVID-19 pandemic.   What sort of policies (concrete or abstract) should be put into place to take urgent action against this “failure of public health,” making countries more resilient to future pandemic threats?

The authors of this study have concluded that exposure to/smoking tobacco has fallen 1-2% a year worldwide since 2010 due to the major efforts to implement international tobacco control policies rather than providing information to consumers about the harms of tobacco. However, the rate of exposure to other risk factors are increasing by more than 0.5% a year. Given the successes/failures of the efforts to decrease tobacco exposure, what place does government and international legislation have in the efforts to reduce these other risk factor exposures?   

~This second discussion question provided an excellent conversation on the importance of individual autonomy and governmental policy influence, as well as those factors, including social determinants of health that limit both the individual and a government’s ability to take viable action to reduce risk factor exposure.  

 

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!

Denise Manfrini, MS4

Denise Manfrini, MS4

University of Florida

Andrew McAward, MS2

Andrew McAward, MS2

Marshall University, Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine

Rachael Kantor, MS4

Rachael Kantor, MS4

The Medical School for International Health at Ben Gurion University

Sources and Further Reading:

  • Mukherjee, J. (2017). Chapter 4: Global Health and the Global Burden of Disease. In An Introduction to Global Health Delivery (pp. 89–105). book, Oxford University Press.
  • GBD 2019 Diseases and Injuries Collaborators. (2020). Global burden of 369 diseases and injuries in 204 countries and territories, 1990–2019: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019. The Lancet, 396, 1204–1222.
  • Global Health CEA registry database with publications from different countries about cost-saving interventions – https://cevr.shinyapps.io/LeagueTables/
  • Kant, Surya, and Richa Tyagi. “The Impact of Covid-19 on Tuberculosis: Challenges and Opportunities.” Therapeutic Advances in Infectious Disease, vol. 8, 9 June 2021, p. 204993612110169., https://doi.org/10.1177/20499361211016973.
  • Kirby, Tony. “Global Tuberculosis Progress Reversed by COVID-19 Pandemic.” The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, 2 Nov. 2021, https://doi.org/10.1016/s2213-2600(21)00496-3.
  • Roy, A., et al. “Effect of BCG Vaccination against Mycobacterium Tuberculosis Infection in Children: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” BMJ, vol. 349, no. aug04 5, 2014, https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g4643.
  • “Tuberculosis (TB).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 Oct. 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/tb/default.htm.
  • “Tuberculosis (TB).” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 14 Oct. 2021, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/tuberculosis.
  • GBD 2019 Viewpoint Collaborators. Five insights from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019. Lancet. 2020 Oct 17;396(10258):1135-1159. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(20)31404-5. PMID: 33069324; PMCID: PMC7116361.
  • Global age-sex-specific fertility, mortality, healthy life expectancy (HALE), and population estimates in 204 countries and territories, 1950–2019: a comprehensive demographic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019. Lancet. 2020; 396: 1160-1203

 

Keep in Touch:

Cite this article as: Global EM Student Leadership Program, "Journal Club 10/18/21: The Global Burden of Disease," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, December 13, 2021, https://iem-student.org/2021/12/13/journal-club-the-global-burden-of-disease/, date accessed: December 5, 2022

Journal Club 10-04-21 : Health Equity, Medical Tourism, and Maternal Mortality in LMICs

Welcome back! The first GEMS LP  journal club of the season took place on October 4th, 2021. During each meeting, we discuss a journal article, a global health clinical topic, and a book chapter from one of two books: An Introduction to Global Health Delivery by Joia Mukherjee or Reimagining Global Health: An Introduction by Paul Farmer, Jim Yong Kim, Arthur Kleinman, and Matthew Basilico.

The goal of journal club is to expose our mentees to fundamental global health concepts and their applications in the real world. Having a diverse cohort of participants allows for lively and engaging discussion based on each participants’ life experiences. Below is a summary of each section presented at journal club. Be sure to join us at our next meeting, taking place November 8th, 2021.

Many of the global health disparities that exist today are a result of centuries of exploitation of developing countries that can trace its roots to the slave trade. As slavery ended in the 19th century, the extraction of people was replaced with the extraction of resources as European nations divided up Africa amongst themselves. By the 20th century, centuries of exploitation had robbed newly independent countries of the resources needed to provide healthcare for their citizens. Newly liberated countries came to rely on Western monetary institutions for loans, which often came with strings attached. Loans from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund limited the amount of public expenditures on vital healthcare infrastructure, medication, and personnel. Healthcare in developing countries was further undermined by the neoliberal policies promoted by Western countries beginning in the 1980s. Developing countries were compelled to fund healthcare through above-cost user fees, which reinforced unequal access to care and widened healthcare inequality. The neoliberal approach also championed the concept of sustainability, which focused on low-cost preventative care instead of treatment. By the 1990s, this approach had led to widening healthcare inequity between the developed and developing worlds.

An alternative approach advocated for the right to health of every individual as envisioned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The 1978 Alma Ata Declaration proposed that the fulfillment of these rights belongs to the international community through international collaboration. The past several decades has seen an increasing movement towards this idea and away from one based on economics. An example of this would be the recognition in the 1990s that citizens of developing nations with HIV are inherently as deserving of treatment as those from developed nations. By taking an approach rooted in human rights, the international community was able to lower the cost of HIV medication and provide treatment for patients in the developing world.

Discussion Questions:

·Reflect on prior medical service trips you may have gone on or may be offered by your university. In what ways do these trips reflect the legacy of colonialism? How can we “de-colonize” global health in medical education? 

·Should all medical interventions in lower-income and developing countries be “sustainable”? 

Medical tourism is a modern practice in healthcare that is exacerbating global health inequity. For centuries, people of higher socioeconomic classes commonly visited higher developed countries to receive care for their medical ailments. Their journeys are much more expensive than an ordinary citizen could afford but with the advent of air travel and a rapid development of the middle class with a larger share of disposable income, many more people are travelling for medical services today than ever before. The propagation of medical tourism is exacerbating the divide in quality of care in developing countries. As private hospitals primarily attract international patients, they attract more doctors with higher salaries and benefits paid for by medical tourists’ bills. This develops a positive feedback loop that continues to neglect the care of the poorest patients who need the most advanced care and rely on public hospital systems that are already overburdened. Rather than focusing on bettering the care of public hospitals and working for the native populations, private hospital systems and governments encouraging medical systems are further dividing the health gap between socioeconomic classes and contributing to health inequity.

Discussion Questions:

What are some ethical issues developed by private healthcare systems motivated by financial incentives?

• How can medical professionals in our country educate patients about the risks of medical tourism?

 

Global health disparity is apparent in the care of pregnant individuals, with 94% of all maternal deaths occurring in low and lower-middle-income countries. A leading cause of maternal and perinatal mortality in these regions is hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, especially pre-eclampsia and its spectrum of diseases. Crucial to the screening and diagnosis of these disorders are regular antenatal care and assessment of risk factors, such as advanced maternal age, obesity, diabetes, and existing hypertension. For pre-eclampsia and eclampsia, the WHO has released evidence-supported recommendations for both preventative measures, such as calcium supplementation in areas with low intake, and treatment, such as using magnesium sulfate over other anticonvulsants. In low resource settings, some of the barriers that hinder the care of pregnant individuals with hypertensive disorders are a shortage of specialty-trained healthcare workers, inadequate transportation to healthcare facilities, limited antenatal care, and traditional cultural practices. While much work still needs to be done in tackling many of these challenges, especially in improving basic obstetric emergency treatment at primary community settings, innovative strategies such as task-shifting to train community health workers (CLIP initiative) in providing regular antenatal care and community cost-sharing schemes to eliminate financial barriers to obstetric care in Mali have been shown to have positive outcomes.

Discussion Questions:

· What other non-health related barriers may contribute to maternal mortality?

· What roles can emergency services/emergency medicine physicians play in improving the outcome of obstetric emergencies?

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, the next of which is taking place November 8th, 2021.  Connect with us through one of our contact options listed below if you are interested in attending!

Thank you to our authors and presenters!

Brian Elmore, MS4

Brian Elmore, MS4

Medical University of South Carolina

Jai Shahani, MS2

Jai Shahani, MS2

Rutgers New Jersey Medical School

Luxi Qiao, MS4

Luxi Qiao, MS4

Washington University School of Medicine

Sources:

  • Mukherjee, Joia. “Chapter 1: The Roots of Global Health Inequity.” An Introduction to Global Health Delivery: Practice, Equity, Human Rights, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 2018.
  • Mutalib, Nur & Ming, L C & Yee, Esmee & Wong, Poh & Soh, Yee. (2016). Medical Tourism: Ethics, Risks and Benefits. Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Education and Research. 50. 
  • 261-270. 10.5530/ijper.50.2.6.
  • http://ijper.org/sites/default/files/10.5530ijper.50.2.6.pdf
  • WHO. Maternal mortality evidence brief, 2019.
  • WHO. WHO recommendations for prevention and treatment of pre-eclampsia and eclampsia, 2011.
  • Fournier P, Dumont A, Tourigny C, Dunkley G, Drame S. Improved access to comprehensive emergency obstetric care and its effect on institutional maternal mortality in rural Mali. Bull World Health Organ 2009; 87: 30-8
  • von Dadelszen P, Vidler M, Tsigas E, Magee LA. Management of Preeclampsia in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Lessons to Date, and Questions Arising, from the PRE-EMPT and Related Initiatives. Maternal-Fetal Medicine 2021; 3(2): 136-50.
  • Firoz T, Sanghvi H, Merialdi M, von Dadelszen P. Pre-eclampsia in low- and middle-income countries. Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol 2011; 25: 537-48.
  • Milne F, Redman C, Walker J, et al. The pre-eclampsia community guideline (PRECOG): how to screen for and detect onset of pre-eclampsia in the community. BMJ 2005; 330: 576-80.

 

Keep in Touch:

Cite this article as: Global EM Student Leadership Program, "Journal Club 10-04-21 : Health Equity, Medical Tourism, and Maternal Mortality in LMICs," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, November 1, 2021, https://iem-student.org/2021/11/01/health-equity-medical-tourism-and-maternal-mortality-in-lmics/, date accessed: December 5, 2022

The State of Emergency Medicine in Ecuador

Ecuador is fast approaching its 30th anniversary of recognizing emergency medicine as a specialty. Within these three short decades, the country has achieved significant milestones in advancing the field of emergency medicine, including the development of a national EM society and implementation of post-graduate training programs. However, there is still much work to be done.  I was lucky enough to have a conversation with the ACEP Liaison to Ecuador, Augusto Maldonado, to learn of recent advancements of emergency medicine in the country. 

“Igual que todos los países del mundo, el rol los que responden inicialmente y la organización de los servicios de emergencia frente a esta emergencia de salud ha sido muy especial.”

The COVID-19 pandemic certainly affected the specialty in the scope of medical practice, as well as highlighted some of the limitations of the medical system that were already present. Following the global trend, emergency care providers came to the forefront of medical attention with the manifestation of the pandemic. Dr. AM says that many emergency departments were forced to adapt in the face of the pandemic, as some hospitals became designated ‘COVID hospitals’ requiring emergency departments to coordinate care for the remaining patients. For example, some emergency physicians suddenly found themselves providing postoperative care when patients would be transferred directly from surgery back to the emergency department. In other places, emergency departments were transformed into intensive care units, staffed by emergency physicians. Dr. AM explains that the COVID-19 pandemic has given the specialty the push it needs, stating “ . . regarding the issue of the pandemic, it really has given us a very big boost as a specialty and I believe that to the authorities it is now very clear the importance of emergency medicine as a specialty to face this type of complex situation”. 
This increased visibility of the specialty is mirrored by the substantial popularity of the country’s national emergency medicine society, Sociedad Ecuatoriana de Medicina de Emergencias, which has increased in number by over 500%! 
The country has also seen an increase in the number of residency training programs over the last year.  In addition to the two already running in Quito, a third and fourth have been established in the city of Cuenca, and a fifth is set to open in Guayaquil. Furthermore, a critical care fellowship is in the works at Universidad San Francisco de Quito. This project stems from a recent study which identified a high demand for a critical care fellowship in Ecuador. 
A distribution of the five emergency medicine residency programs found in Ecuador
The impact of COVID on trainees’ education has, thankfully, not been substantial. Unfortunately, the pandemic did result in residents not being recruited to the Quito programs for 2020, but the programs in Cuenca did start a new class of trainees last year. As with many training institutions across the world, the residents were initially barred by the health authorities from treating COVID patients. However, the creation of ‘COVID’ and ‘mixed’ hospitals has resulted in an increased workload for residents serving the non-COVID population – “I believe that the residents have more work than before . . . and have more procedures because of the overhang generated by the creation of ‘mixed’ hospitals. There’s a lot to do.” He states that residents are on-track for completion of their programs, with ample procedures logged to graduate.
Another aspect of residency training is the required completion of a scholarly project. Research has been slowed across the country as a result of the pandemic. Interest in COVID investigations sparked the Ministry of Health to establish an ADHOC committee explicitly tasked with expediting the review of research proposals. The committee was mandated to review proposals within five days of submission, but in reality, approvals are taking upwards of three to four months. La Universidad San Francisco de Quito explored this roadblock and revealed that some twenty studies had been published through alternative review processes due to the lengthy process of gaining official approval. Dr. AM views COVID as a potential kick-start for encouraging providers to do research, saying “I see it as a great opportunity to better focus [on] research, which is one of the things that we have been looking to do for a long time . . . with the pandemic, [we see] the importance of doing clinical research [in being] able to give adequate treatment to our patients.” 

Looking forward, Dr. AM says that there are many remaining opportunities for growth in the field of emergency medicine, much of which he hopes can be better addressed once the economic situation in Ecuador recovers. He says there is much desire for innovation within the field, but many EM providers are having to work two to three jobs to have a sufficient income to live, leaving little time for research, teaching, or collaboration. There are many lessons to be learned world-wide from the pandemic, but Dr. AM says that in order to address future issues international cooperation is key.

Cite this article as: Global EM Student Leadership Program, "The State of Emergency Medicine in Ecuador," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, September 18, 2021, https://iem-student.org/2021/09/18/the-state-of-emergency-medicine-in-ecuador/, date accessed: December 5, 2022
Halley J. Alberts, MD
Halley J. Alberts, MD

Halley is a first year resident training in Emergency Medicine at Prisma Health - Midlands at the University of South Carolina. She was a GEMS LP mentee for the class of 20-21 and has now joined the leadership team by managing the new GEMS LP blog page and assisting with journal club.

COVID-19; Reflecting on a Globalized Response

COVID-19; Reflecting on a Globalized Response

As I write this is, it has been 200 days since the first reports in China came out regarding an unspecified viral illness in Wuhan, China. What is now the pandemic of COVID-19 has spread around the world, and in history books and our collective memory, the year 2020 will forever be closely associated with this virus. There have been nearly 14 million confirmed cases around the world and nearly 600,000 known deaths from COVID-19. Some countries have done incredibly well with containment measures, while others continue to see case counts grow every day.

It has been fascinating to see how the outbreak has had different impacts in communities around the world, including how local and global responses have efficiently controlled or been unable to contain this novel public health problem. Prevention and mitigation strategies continue to form the foundation of public health management of this outbreak. The capacity for any country or locality to provide the most invasive supportive care is widely variable, and even when it is available mechanical ventilation is certainly not a panacea as COVID-19 case-survival rates in those being mechanically ventilated have been low (from 14% to 25%).

At the core of the variable outcomes seems to be a mix of sociological issues: a mix of personal beliefs, geography, politics, socio-economics and health infrastructure which lead to vastly different outcomes around the globe.

The accumulation of more epidemiological data over the past 200 days has improved our collective understanding of the COVID-19 virus, as today we have improved models and a better understanding of the rates of asymptomatic carriers (estimated at 40%) and mortality rates (1.4%-15.4%). Yet still, uncertainties and local variability (even within countries) have made an accurate calculation of the COVID-19 basic reproductive number (R0; the number of people who are infected by a single disease carrier) difficult. In the early stage of the outbreak in Wuhan, R0 calculation ranged from 1.4-5.7, and some have suggested that instead of single R0 value, modellers should consider using ongoing contact tracing to gain a better range of transmissibility values.

We have seen how prevention strategies such as hand-washing, face-masking, and physical distancing can impact local and disseminated disease spread. While many communities have come together through a collective approach to lock-downs and universal masking measures, other localities have struggled to get adequate levels of citizen compliance. Others have struggled with obtaining testing supplies. Certain political systems allow for streamlined and unified directives while others have made it difficult to provide adequate centralized coordination.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has spread to almost every country in the world, outbreaks are smoldering in much of the global south. While the United States continues to see rising numbers of cases with numerous states confronting ongoing daily record high incident cases, other countries such as Brazil are seeing similar upward trends. At the global level, the curve of daily incident cases seemed to have “flattened” and held steady through much of April and into May with aggressive seemingly worldwide measures. However, since the last days of May, global incident cases have been again steadily increasing. This is likely due to a variety of reasons but is linked, at least in part, to efforts to reopen economies and return to pre-pandemic routines and lifestyles.

covid-19 daily cases
Source: Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html, accessed July 17, 2020

As an American citizen and a physician with training in public health, it has been both interesting and frustrating to see the how some countries (including my own) have had deficiencies in dealing with testing and basic prevention (such as mandatory universal masking). While I don’t want to engage in political rhetoric or cast blame in any one place, I do think it is instructive to point out that in the United States (or anywhere else for that matter) the sociological factors of personal preferences and autonomy, geography, and local politics have had an overwhelming influence in determining the progress of the pandemic.

Quarantining has always been a unique problem that sits at the intersection of personal autonomy and communal wellbeing, and is implemented and respected by citizens in different ways around the world. It would seem, at least anecdotally, that cultures with an emphasis on personal independence and autonomous choice have had greater difficulty with containment or in obtaining high levels of compliance with masking and distancing measures, even when compared to other localities with similar socio-economic situations.

These sociological factors are key to responding to and managing any epidemic health concern. We have come to see that in our globalized world, our ability and desire to work together towards a common goal, even at the cost of personal sacrifice, will determine our ability to control both the COVID-19 pandemic and the next health crisis of the future.

Public health education and communication, it would seem, is at the crux to getting collective buy-in and global participation.

Unfortunately, as with so many things these days, such issues can be easily politicized and cause fractured and disparate approaches to response. In our globalized world, this coronavirus outbreak is unlikely to be the last public health crisis we must face as a worldwide community.

As thoughts turn towards what is to come, from vaccine development and distribution to numerous long-term economic impacts, we are not nearing the end of this outbreak yet.

The incidence curve is growing, and there is much work left to be done. My hope is that as we move into the second half of 2020, our global community can continue to find ways to improve communication and coordination in order to come together to approach and control this pandemic collectively. The fate of this outbreak, and likely the next, hangs in the balance.

Cite this article as: J. Austin Lee, USA, "COVID-19; Reflecting on a Globalized Response," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, August 3, 2020, https://iem-student.org/2020/08/03/covid-19-reflecting-on-a-globalized-response/, date accessed: December 5, 2022

Advantages of Global Health and International Emergency Medicine Outreach Experiences

Bryn Dhir - Global Health

Wherever you go, be all there

– Jim Elliot

International medicine is among the most valuable experiences not only for residents and students, but for physicians from all specialties. Emergency medicine (EM) physicians, in particular, have previously been highlighted with critical qualities and characteristics essential to successfully providing medical aid and care in some of the most remote regions, rugged wilderness, and disaster zones. In recent years, the practice of physicians travelling overseas with the goal of outreach, and professional and personal development, has been met with the flux of international patients travelling to the United States and Canada in search of medical treatment, as well as international physicians seeking to develop their own clinical skills and enhance medical practices to take back home. Physicians and patients both face challenges associated with these new experiences: the stresses of traveling, financial concerns, family obligations, cultural practices, and preparing for the unknown. As such, it is important to remember that patients also encounter anxiety, cultural and communication differences, have concerns for the continuity of care associated with filling in missing gaps in their own medical records and fluctuating medical aid providers and often lack medical knowledge and understanding of health issues. Interactions that patients have with visiting physicians can also allow patients to gain insight into new practices, cultures and traditions. These experiences can be life-changing for everyone involved.

While global outreach, international medicine or disaster preparedness isn’t for everyone, it is important to remember that global health does not equate to the definition of international medicine, and that there is a strong need for domestic medical outreach in rural America and Canada, in locations that present with similar challenges of underserved patient populations and with limited resources. Nonetheless, the benefits of medical work in new environments outside of comfort zones can provide tremendous benefits and contributes to the overall continuous development of a well-rounded physician. The advantages of participating in global health and international medicine are extensive, and this article highlights only some of the major benefits.

Strengthen leadership, communication and interpersonal skills

Before EM physicians begin their medical work with patients, the potential to strengthen leadership, communication and interpersonal skills through interactions with local residents is often experienced with language being a major factor in effective communication. This includes not only the spoken word, knowledge of key phrases in the native tongue, but the use of body language, eye contact, and hand gestures. Understanding different approaches to patient scheduling, staff and local perceptions about meal, travel and leisure times, administrative and medical support, and negotiation and conflict management skills, allows for a more productive and enjoyable experience. Further, not only are individual skills, but so is teamwork and an understanding of the functional dynamics. Participation in outreach contributes to the development of many skills including independent decision making, project management (from funding to administration, allocation of materials and supplies, to public relations and follow up), and creativity in the face of limited resources.

Team building and group dynamics
Team building and group dynamics through icebreakers and interactive games for medical volunteers. The ability to draw on previous training and skill sets outside of clinical practice is beneficial for ease flexibility, adaptability and cooperation.

Cultural Competency

Exposure to patients contributes to cultural awareness, understanding of the impact of socioeconomic factors on health care, historical and geographical issues, and puts to use clinical and language skills while immersed in a new environment. Participating in local events is a valuable learning experience, and clinical work in the developing world or remote rural locations in North America can contribute to a physician’s ability to understand and advocate for patient health care needs.
These basics will allow for a better understanding of cultural differences, institutional and policy barriers, communication barriers, managing through unknown and incomplete medical records, financial constraints which can limit tests and treatments, and influence management as medical work begins. Numerous resources are available for emergency physicians entering new environments for the first time to help provide insights regarding gender issues, cultural practices, religion, politics, current social events to name a few. It is important to do thorough background research into patient populations and to be aware of the community you will be entering. For EM physicians in rural North America, opportunities to work with nongovernment organizations and refugees can provide exposure to international and global patient populations who need your clinical skills and medical training. The American College of Emergency Physicians(1), Emergency Medicine Residents Association(2), Society for Academic Emergency Medicine(3), offer thorough information and resources for rotations and fellowships for international emergency medicine, and the American Academy of Family Physicians lists resources for physicians interested in Global Health(4). A list of additional reading and resources is provided below.

understanding cultural differences
Getting acquainted with local surroundings, understanding cultural differences and being open to participate in traditions while maintaining the security of your team and yourself.

Exposure to new practices and health care systems

Physician shortages and limited financing of healthcare are global concerns; however, there is an excellent benefit for physicians who learn to treat and understand a variety of patient populations despite these limitations.

This is an essential obligation of EM physicians. International medical rotations are a concept that has slowly been incorporated into medical schools. Nearly ten years ago, a survey published in Academic Medicine concluded that international rotations broadened medical knowledge and reinforced physician examination skills(5).

International rotations broadened medical knowledge and reinforced physician examination skills.

– Academic Medicine

Further, learning about other healthcare systems, medication preferences and availability, and equipment as well as protocols and practices, can allow for incorporating practices back home, as well as suggesting sustainable changes for improvement overseas.

The challenge of thinking outside the box and learning to be resourceful with equipment is yet another benefit to international medicine, where poverty-related diseases demand thoughtful consideration to resources and long-term management of patient cases. Distinguishing differences among clinical practice and procedural skills in a respectful, intuitive manner and with an understanding of varying standards of care and limited resources is also essential for international outreach. While dealing with these issues may be frustrating, maintaining confidence in one’s own training, calling on previous life experiences and harnessing multi-disciplinary teams with diverse cultural backgrounds, will prove to be beneficial in providing effective patient treatment. Besides, exposure to other health care systems can allow for research into the best strategies for administration and management, for not only physician practices, but for patients and health care systems at large.

Medical clinic on Station Hill, Mayreau Island
Medical clinic on Station Hill, Mayreau Island in the Grenadines. This isolated island is only accessible by boat. Island size: 0.46 square miles, population 271. The number of patients care for during an outreach clinic was approximately 70.
global health

Medical Knowledge, Self-Sufficiency, Resources and Equipment

Caring the patients reveal the diversity of diseases and disorders and provide insight on the local health care issues. The variety of cases differs between hospital and ambulatory settings. EM physicians have the opportunity to see and manage rare diseases and disorders uncommon back home, with a highlight on cases involving infectious diseases, toxicology, advanced diseases. Knowledge of disease presentations, prevalence, and exposure to the seemingly foreign diseases has been a recent consideration with the migration of people not only at the international scale, but at the local level across the States. Social, mental, and financial support is another layer that health care systems are working to provide for these vulnerable patient populations. Moreover, the added pressure of finding solutions for medical cases requiring advanced procedures can be disheartening, and EM physicians must become the nurse, specialist, social worker, therapist, surgeon, administrator, pharmacist and physical therapist all in one. Creative uses of equipment, thinking outside the box, and making use of what is available are other factors that will be frequently tested while in the field. Training in the wilderness and extreme medicine, as well as rural family medicine practices is advantageous for physicians in the global setting where multiple uses for one instrument is applied in various situations. Nonetheless, adhering to the training in medical school and residency is the basis for all medical work and ethical best practice, professionalism and management are the foundation to providing patient care regardless of location.

Learning to do IV
Learning to do IV placements using self-designed, mock equipment and the understanding of the importance of improvisation, flexibility and limited resources.
Knowledge of how to operate medical equipment
Knowledge of how to operate medical equipment without support staff is beneficial.

In response to the growing interest and need for physicians in underserved global populations, there has been an increase in funding opportunities.Prior to embarking into unknown territory and patient scenarios, it is recommended that a physician’s own resources are known, including potential health risks, and that support systems are in place in order to maintain a mental and physical balance to provide care where it is desperately needed. Culture shock, grief and sadness, personal debriefing and reflection, and adjusting to life back home is an additional element to tend to.

neonatal care and pediatric care
There is a great need for neonatal care and pediatric care on a global scale. Experience with these patients will be an asset in the field.

Outreach, Education, Research, Mentorship

The opportunity to provide preventative and screening information directly to patients through clinics and to physicians at training sessions allows for direct two-way communication, clarity and the sharing of knowledge bases. Additional outreach at clinics and mobile health units often add to the overall value and maximizes a physician’s ability to provide outreach and education. Furthermore, opportunities may exist for collaborations with clinicians and scientists as well as health policy advisors. Although the notion of global health has attracted the fad of medical tourism and entails a certain novelty of volunteering abroad, emergency physicians have a great opportunity to make a lasting difference on the lives of their patients as well as those of international colleagues who are either interested in practicing in North America(6) or who will stay with the communities and health systems they are in. Therefore, building and fostering a network of connections for the future is an important and positive outcome, with the potential to provide up to date journal articles, resources to evidence-based medicine and free online medical education, and can allow you to incorporate global health initiatives and outreach back home. At the end of the day, physicians who are driven to extend their medical knowledge and clinical skills into regions with a desperate need for health care and vulnerable patient populations are often those who have made the commitment to serve as an emergency physician.

Basic wilderness training
Basic wilderness training with a focus here on evacuating an injured victim in remote communities (here in northern Nunavut, Canada).
positive lasting impacts on youth.
Global outreach and international medicine opportunities can include taking the time to travel out of the clinic and visit schools to train and share knowledge with younger students. Creating interest and awareness can have a positive lasting impacts on youth.
Youth often appreciate visits to their schools
Youth often appreciate visits to their schools, and their interest in health care, medicine, prevention can be highlighted with education in emergency services, as well as through games and storytelling.

The experience of a global project and working in a clinic on an international scale enables EM physicians and students from all levels of training to provide care in emergent situations from disaster and humanitarian relief to outreach clinics. For physicians and students who opted to pursue medical education in a global setting, as an international graduate or for North American physicians who thrive on global health and international outreach, the experiences are unlike those in North America, and there is an abundance of personal and professional learning and development to gain. Experiences outside of comfort zones, whether in rural America or overseas, create a global community to better medical practices and often advocacy for health care continues long after a global project has concluded.

The Model of the teaching hospital, which links research to teaching and service is what's missing in global health

– Paul Farmer

This article touched on the advantages and benefits of stepping outside comfort zones to provide medical care to vulnerable patient populations, and a follow up to this article will be how to overcome the challenges and barriers that physicians may encounter. Have you participated in a global health project or international outreach? Please feel free to share your own thoughts and reflect on your experiences in the comments section below.

A Piton climb for the view, St Lucia.
A Piton climb for the view, St Lucia. Medical outreach and travel is a demanding endeavor, however quiet moments to enjoy the process and experiences will make it a rewarding one.

Additional Reading and Resources

  • What is International Emergency Medicine? Academic Life in Emergency Medicine – link
  • International Emergency Medicine Section, American College of Emergency Physicians – link
  • The Practitioner’s Guide to Global Health, American College of Emergency Physicians – link
  • US Residents: Discover the World with Emergency Medicine, Emergency Medicine Residents Association – link
  • Fellowship Database, Society for Academics Emergency Medicine – link

Link To References

Cite this article as: Bryn Dhir, USA, "Advantages of Global Health and International Emergency Medicine Outreach Experiences," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, December 4, 2019, https://iem-student.org/2019/12/04/advantages-of-global-health/, date accessed: December 5, 2022

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