Our climate is rapidly changing around us. The global carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration in the atmosphere has recently hit the unprecedented level of 400 parts per million (ppm). Increasing CO2 levels, from anthropogenic activities such as fossil fuel combustion, land use changes and deforestation, result in climatic impacts such as rising temperatures, melting glaciers, sea-level rise and an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events such as droughts and tropical storms. This gives way to dramatic changes which affect our global climate, the global environment as well as our lives and economies around the world. At the same time, a growing world population means that more people live in areas which are affected by climate change, such as by rising sea-levels.
World Radio Day is the 13th February, first proclaimed by UNESCO in 2011 to highlight the importance and promote innovation of the medium. Radio continues to play a unique role in human development communication thanks to its ubiquity, accessibility and low cost.
Radio broadcast signals reach 95% of the global population – more than any other medium- according to the International Telecommunication Union. In the poorest parts of the world where electricity is restricted and newer technologies are expensive, a battery-operated radio set provides information, education and entertainment.
The world is changing rapidly and humans are at the forefront of this change. Not only are people being affected by global alterations, we are contributing to the transition. Some geologists now believe that human activity has irrevocably altered our planet to the extent that we have entered a new geological age – the Anthropocene age. This is more than just about understanding our place in the history of the planet; it is about the future and our involvement in it. There is no part of the Earth now left unaffected by the human footprint and consequential health risks are emerging unevenly all over the world, with a re-emergence of infectious diseases and an increase in life-style related diseases. We face a contradiction: economic and social development is needed to alleviate poverty and improve human lives, but ecosystems are still deteriorating because of past and present patterns of development, with major implications for human health.
EcoHealth as a concept is designed to meet the challenges of the future in this dynamic and complex world.
It’s that time of year again. No, not the festive season – not merry Yuletide lights, perfume ads and mistletoe – but time to mark World AIDS Day once more. With many voices hailing the end of AIDS, there does seem to be cause for celebration or at least optimism on this first of December.
With the high penetration rate of mobile phones and the coming availability of cheap tablet computers across Africa, it is no surprise that there is strong interest in the use of mobile devices for education and learning from the academic and commercial sectors. One of the key drivers of this interest is the perceived geographical reach of connected, low-cost mobile devices (such as phones and tablets). Supporters excitedly talk about bringing “educational opportunities” to marginalised communities neglected by weak formal education systems ridden with poor teachers. Why not bypass this system altogether and “deliver education” to those most in need?
For many years it has been understood that three different factors contribute to malnutrition in poor populations – a lack of nutritious foods, diseases, such as diarrhoeal disease in infants, and a lack of care. While we associate agriculture most closely with the first, agricultural practices may also contribute to disease, as livestock and humans share many similar pathogens, while the role which women play in providing agricultural labour may compete with the care of infants. However, most efforts by agricultural researchers to address malnutrition have focused on improving food production, and specifically the supply of calories to populations, by improving yields of high energy crops like cereals. Meanwhile, in the health sector, nutritionists have been focusing on identifying and delivering the right set of nutrients to malnourished populations, through food supplementation and fortification of staple energy foods with key micronutrients like vitamin A, zinc and iron.
An interdisciplinary research team from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), the Institute of Education (IOE), the Witwatersrand Reproductive Health Institute (WRHI), and Grassroot Soccer (GRS) are conducting a randomised controlled trial (RCT) of a sport-based health promotion intervention with biological outcomes. The trial is taking place in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, South Africa, and is backed up by a detailed qualitative and process evaluation. The trial forms the basis for at least two PhDs, one funded by a Marshall Scholarship, and the other by a Bloomsbury Scholarship.
11 July, according to the UN, is World Population Day. The aim is to ensure universal access for the world’s women to Reproductive Health Services, including, in the fine print, voluntary family planning. In truth, the latter offers what is arguably the most cost-effective means of reducing human misery in the long term. It nicely aligns with the new interest in family planning which the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have been advancing of late. This follows on from the belated UN recognition that population growth is a major factor in the climate change picture – as well as in world poverty. This was reaffirmed in April 2012 by the Royal Society’s People and the Planet report. It was not always thus. Once upon a time, the excesses of India’s brief and tragic sterilisation policy and China’s One Child Policy were used to tar the entire family planning movement as an illiberal, eugenic monstrosity. Some stubbornly stick to this dogma.
In conjunction with the Association for Commonwealth Universities, LIDC recently organized a two-day conference entitled “Measuring impact of higher education for development”. The event aimed to generate critical discussion around assessing the impact of higher education interventions in developing contexts, and it attracted a wide variety of stakeholders, from development professionals to academics to evaluation experts. Although somewhat lacking in Southern perspective, the conference did an excellent job bringing together diverse perspectives and raising a number of significant challenges and opportunities.