EcoHealth is…‘the elephant’. The reason every one of you is telling it differently is because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all these features, we must stop talking, start listening and collaborate to ‘see’ the full elephant. (from the Kunming 2012 conference)

EcoHealth is…‘the elephant’. The reason every one of you is telling it differently is because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all these features, we must stop talking, start listening and collaborate to ‘see’ the full elephant. (from the Kunming 2012 conference)

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.

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Posted by: lidcblog | November 30, 2012

As December Dawns… (World AIDS Day 2012)

Keeping girls in schools STRIVEIt’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.

 

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Zambian school children, Photo credit: mLearning Africa

Photo credit: mLearning Africa

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?

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Prime Minister's Olympic hunger summit

Prime Minister David Cameron with Michel Temer, Vice-President of Brazil, Football legend Pele and Olympic double gold medallist Mo Farah at the Olympic hunger summit in Downing Street, 12 August 2012

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.

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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.

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population_boom Image Credit: Arenamontanus11 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.

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Vaccination of a puppy in Sri Lanka, by Barbara HaesslerA few days ago a British woman died in a London hospital after contracting rabies while on holiday in South Asia (Woman with rabies dies at London hospital, BBC News England). Does it mean rabies is back? How worried should we be?

 

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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.

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Posted by: lidcblog | March 23, 2012

Tackling undernutrition – everyone’s responsibility

Nutrition is crucial for meeting the Millennium Development Goal 1 (fighting extreme poverty and hunger), and most of the other MDGs. Undernutrition increases morbidity and mortality, impairs cognitive development in children and work productivity in adults, and negatively impacts household and national economies. However, it is subject to multi-sector influences and suffers from a chronic lack of funding, which has resulted in nutrition being ‘everyone’s problem but no one’s responsibility.’

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Posted by: lidcblog | March 2, 2012

Impact Evaluation in Development – a crash course

What is impact evaluation?
In impact evaluation (IE), the term ‘impact’ is synonymous with attribution, or ‘what difference’ was made by a development project, intervention, programme, or policy. An impact evaluation measures the difference in outcomes with the programme compared to outcomes without the programme, and tells us whether the programme worked or not. One way to understand impact evaluation is to contrast it with ‘outcome monitoring’ a famous example being the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). As important as the MDGs have been in helping set a more common agenda in development, monitoring targets within this framework just tells us if outcomes are being achieved or not, but not the extent to which these can be attributed to the activities of development stakeholders. What if conditions – weather, conflict, recession, pandemics etc. – are making it harder to tackle poverty and disease, or reduce malnutrition, or prevent mothers dying during labour and children dying before their first birthday, and without development programmes these indicators would be worse? We can’t tell this simply by looking at outcomes data.

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