8 December 2018
Drone technology being used to aid delivery and support health care services in rural areas
It was in mid August this year that I read in the Island Sun newspaper of an interesting partnership between a company called SKYEYE and TELECOM in an arrangement that would use Telekom’s expansive network and a SIM card placed in a GPS device to enable the location of a vessel or vehicle to be transmitted to a client’s phone or computer.
The newspaper article went on to say (quote)
“SKYEYE not only deploys GPS tracking technology but also specialises in the use of drone technology or remotely piloted aircraft (RPA).
“ SKYEYE has conducted over 100 individual fights in the Solomon Islands and its applications vary, says Managing Director Christopher Saili.
“Last year we concluded a project where we counted all the organic coconut trees in Samoa using drones, last week we flew drones for a farmer wanting to measure his land so it’s hard to say what drones are particularly used for as we keep finding new ways to use the technology.”
It occurred to me on reading that piece that drone technology could be adapted to assisting in many areas of health care in the Solomon Islands.
Interestingly this last week, Vanuatu launched a three day trial for the delivery of vaccines to remote areas by drones.
“The Vanuatu government has already begun working with commercial companies as well as the UN children's agency, UNICEF, to develop drone programmes.
“The three-day trial began last Wednesday at Takara village, North Efate, with 100 community members, health workers and children watching the drones take to the sky for the first time.
“Vanuatu's Prime Minister Charlot Salwai said he was proud of the country using innovative ways to help bring life saving vaccines to children living in remote communities.
“Following the trials it is expected the government will consider using drones to deliver vaccines to health clinics on Epi and the Shepherds Islands, Erromango and Pentecost, as soon as January 2019.”
A feature on drones in South Africa by the New Scientist was also published quite recently (quote)
“The distribution of health care around the world is notoriously uneven. Remote rural areas do not get their fair share of resources. Attempts to attract healthcare professionals to work in rural areas to redress this imbalance have been only partially successful. An alternative approach is needed.
“Medical practice has been bolstered by technological advances that lend themselves to rural application more readily than the redeployment of healthcare personnel. One example is the burgeoning use of diagnostic technologies, such as molecular testing. The technology is not only used for diagnosis but also to guide which therapeutic options are likely to be effective.
“In testing for tuberculosis, a simple DNA based test can provide both an unambiguous diagnosis and microbicidal sensitivity profile at a single stroke. This spares the patient the need to see a doctor to make the diagnosis before therapy can be initiated. And it obviates the fruitless therapeutic trial of agents that will not be effective.
“The advent of cell phone networks has significantly aided the way results are transmitted from the laboratory to the clinic. But this is obviously not applicable to physically transporting samples.
“Drones are potentially a solution to this logistical problem.
“A cargo-carrying drone service could also be used to support remote areas with medical supplies such as point of care testing materials and therapeutic agents including pharmaceuticals, blood, sera and vaccines.
“Through several studies we have concluded that DNA samples of sputum are arguably the perfect cargo for delivery drones. This is because they are lightweight, occupy very little space and have zero commercial value.
“They are also mission-critical for effective health care and are readily disinfected to remove biohazards while preserving analytical integrity. DNA is also sufficiently robust to resist degradation by physical or chemical treatments that inactivate pathogens.
“Relying on new technology for effective health care in remote areas is still critically reliant on effective logistic support to transport samples to the nearest laboratory capable of performing the test, and to transmit the result back to the clinic.”
In the Solomon Islands there seems to be a need for drones as a practical and visible means of leapfrogging over infrastructural inadequacies in support of rural health services.
Through SKYEYE’s partnership with Telekom let us hope that the Solomon Islands Government will embrace the possibilities of drone technology in support of the MHMS and rural health care services and especially in the delivery of vaccines as is being tested already in Vanuatu with UNICEF’s aid.
7 December 2018
Non-Communicable Diseases a growing threat to Solomon Islander’s health
A the time of writing this story, a young Solomon Islands mother needs help in getting urgent surgery for her heart condition and an appeal has been launched locally through the media and Linkedin.
It is my earnest plea that she is given the help she needs.
In recent years, I believe it is true to say those developing populations such as in the smaller the Pacific island nations, including the Solomon Islands, have seen increasing frequency of cardiovascular diseases (CVD), diabetes and cancer.
Cardiovascular disease is now responsible for a large proportion of total mortality in Fiji
I have written much about the increase in Non-communicable diseases having become a growing threat to Solomon Islander’s health and a burden on the already stretched and under resourced medical services and cardiovascular disease is directly linked to NCD’s.
It is true to say Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have replaced the earlier global threats to health such as undernourishment, malaria, HIV and TB. They have become the main causes of premature death.
How to tackle the threat posed by NCDs and CVD in the Solomons? Quoting from advice given by a recent article published in the Journal of Cardiology Practice the suggestions might help.
“As obesity is becoming the major public health threat in Europe, a similar approach to that which paved the way for the reduction in smoking seen in most European countries over recent decades could be implemented with regard to nutrition. This could be accomplished through a close collaboration among politicians, administrators and representatives of the medical profession as there is an abundance of scientific evidence concerning the beneficial effect of nutrition policies on population health.
“Changes at population level in total caloric intake or types of food consumed consistently lead to a decrease in obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
“ Taxing sugar-sweetened beverages would not only prevent overweight and obesity but also dental caries, leading to extra cost savings and reducing socioeconomic inequalities
“A reduction in daily salt intake by one gram is cost-effective and, combined with a replacement of saturated by polyunsaturated fat, was estimated to lead to annual savings of €7.5 to €11 million in Finland
“Insufficient physical activity is one of the leading risk factors for death worldwide and is a key risk factor for NCD. More than 80% of the world's adolescent population is insufficiently physically active
“Physical activity is declining worldwide and this could at least partly be due to reductions in active commuting (walking or cycling)
“As a population health-promoting action, active commuting has been recommended as a practical way of incorporating more physical activity into daily life.”
Initiatives to encourage and support active commuting could reduce risk of death and the burden of NCDs.
Of course in the Solomon Islands the over consumption of alcohol and home brew (kwaso) undoubtedly contributes to obesity, heart disease, cancer and premature age mortality.
In the Solomons there is already solid proof of the spread of NCDs and related illnesses both for clinical practice and for decision makers to combat the threat of non-communicable diseases with cardiovascular disease as its main contributor.
A reduction in the use of tobacco, supporting regular physical activity and healthy food choices and limiting the use of alcohol will all have a significant impact on the local population and allow the people to enjoy better health and longer lives.
Milestone as NZ gifts new passenger ferry to Tokelau
Quoting Radio New Zealand – 7 December 2018
“New Zealand has formally handed over a new vessel to Tokelau to serve as a small passenger ferry between the territory's three atolls.
“The new $860,000 boat will also serve as an emergency-response vessel.
“New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters formally gifted the 13m boat to representatives from Tokelau at a ceremony in Lyttleton this morning.
“The vessell was funded by New Zealand aid through the Pacific Maritime Safety Programme and has been named Fetu o te Moana (Star of the Sea).
“Representatives from Tokelau's government and all three of its atolls were at the gifting ceremony, as well as Minister for Pacific Peoples Kris Faafoi.
“The Ulu o Tokelau, Hon Afega Gaualofa, said it was an honour to be in New Zealand on yet another exciting occasion in relation to Tokelau's development - and in particular, Tokelau's transport sector.
"Tokelau's transport plan is about ensuring our people receive equal opportunity of productivity and prosperity... all of these opportunities help us meet our strategic goal of improved quality of life for all our people," he said.
Copyright @ 2018, Radio New Zealand
7 December 2018
Solomon Islands mother desperately needing urgent lifesaving surgery overseas.
Will you please help Jenny get the surgery she needs?
Air India can you help with the air fares to/from Chennai?
A 47 year old mother diagnosed with valvular heart disease urgently needs a life-saving surgery overseas.
Jenny Iro needs more than SBD$200,000 in financial support to undergo this vital heart operation in MIOT hospital in Chennai, India.
Ms Iro from Malaita province has been suffering from the disease for about three years now and desperately needs to this urgent operation.
Valvular heart disease is characterized by damage to or a defect in one of the four heart valves: the mitral, aortic, triscupid or pulmonary.
Dr. Allen Alepio of the National Referral Hospital (NRH) said Ms Iro is diagnosed with a valvular heart disease which is secondary to Rheumatic heart disease and only be repaired by heart surgery.
She was admitted at the NRH in July for heart failure and thyrotoxicosis.
On July 24th she was reviewed by cardiologist Dr. David Rose who recommended that she be referred for heart specialist attention in the next one to two years.
She is now fighting against time.
The cheapest hospital for her to undergo heart surgery is MIOT Hospital in Chennai, India.
The total cost for her 18 days admission and treatment at MIOT hospital is USD$12,000 which is around SBD$120,000.
The cost excludes the airfares and the company of a relative during the trip.
Thus, Ms Iro and her family are appealing for financial support to the tune of more than SBD$200,000 that would enable her to cover all expenses including airfares for two and meals whilst she she undergoes heart surgery in India.
Dr. Prithvi Mohandas of MIOT Hospital provides the necessary information about the cost of undergoing heart surgery overseas.
Ms Iro is a widow with only one daughter and is residing at Koa Hill in Central Honiara.
Every day is uncertain for her as she struggles to bear the pain and suffering of her heart disease.
She started to experience breathing difficulties after recovering from Malaria in 2015.
It was only when she checked for her breathing difficulties that doctors found that she has the valvular heart disease.
With much desperation Ms. Iro and her family are appealing to the public, churches, business houses, charitable organizations, NGOs and individuals to come forward and lend a hand to raise funds to meet the cost of her trip and medical bills as she attempts to take another shot at life.
Support in kind or cash is accepted and welcomed.
Ms Iro vows that should she is given a second chance at life, she will devote her time to advocacy and information dissemination by educating people about the dangers of heart diseases and how to keep yourself from contracting one.
Any person or organization who is willing to support and donate funds can contact her sisters on mobile phones (+677) 7680430, (+677) 7494961 or (+677) 7447997.
Source: Solomon Star news – 7 December 2018.
Cooks call for easier climate finance access at COP24
Quoting Radio New Zealand – 7 December 2018
“The head of the Cook Islands climate change office says Pacific countries need better access to adaptation funding.
“Wayne King is in Katowice, Poland for the UN climate summit COP24.
“He's part of a Pacific contingent pushing for political consensus on a climate rule book to agree ways of saving the planet from the worst effects of global warming.
“Mr King said they are also pushing for better access to finance for adaptation to rising “
“He said the people of the Cooks' outlying islands are experiencing crop failures as salt water intrudes.
“Mr King said they need access to adaptation funds in the form of grants not loans.
"For us, in the Cook Islands, whatever we do here we need to translate that back home in how we address these particular issues. So climate finance is a critical component. The more inaction that's taking place, the higher the cost."
Copyright @ 2018, Radio New Zealand.