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Every year on April 7, people around the world celebrate World Health Day. On this day the world community recognizes the importance of health for people to help them live happy and productive lives. It also marks the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1948.
The WHO promotes and supports the highest level of health possible for all people around the world. This year, World Health Day focuses on urbanization and health. Cities have specific health concerns given the dense population and pockets of extreme poverty.
“On World Health Day, AmeriCares is proud to join our partners in the public health community in honor of people we endeavor to protect from illness related to urbanization,” said Dr. Frank Bia, AmeriCares medical director. “The extreme poverty and over-crowded conditions common in many cities around the world and here in the United States contribute to a whole host of medical problems. In response, AmeriCares supports strategic efforts to combat the most serious health risks around urbanization including infectious diseases, respiratory illness and lack of access to basic health care.”
That’s why AmeriCares supports programs in cities such as New Orleans, Louisiana; Kumasi, Ghana; Mumbai, India; and Mexico City, Mexico. From the Millennium Cities Initiative in Africa to outreach programs for urban street children in India’s worst slums, AmeriCares works to expand access to health care and infection control in high-risk urban areas,including our relief efforts in Haiti.
Read more about our work in urban areas throughout the world:
New Orleans, Louisiana
In New Orleans’ neighborhoods still struggling to recover from Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, AmeriCares donated a mobile clinic to the city’s Children’s Hospital, allowing the hospital to continue a highly successful immunization program. In the last 11 years, more than 55,000 have been vaccinated against dangerous childhood diseases through this free program.
The program was in jeopardy because its old mobile clinic had fallen into disrepair and repairs were too costly. AmeriCares has been working with the Children’s Hospital since Hurricane Katrina as part of a comprehensive program to help restore health services throughout the Gulf Coast.
AmeriCares delivers regular shipments of lifesaving medicines and medical supplies to Kumasi, Ghana in order to help local hospitals and clinics through a partnership with the Millennium Cities Initiative (MCI), a project of The Earth Institute at Columbia University.
AmeriCares partnership with MCI enabled the successful delivery of safe and improved syringes specially engineered to prevent needle-stick injuries and other related hazards to health workers. The syringes help health care workers protect themselves while they care for patients.
In addition to health worker safety, AmeriCares supports health care in Kumasi, Ghana with deliveries of basic lifesaving medicines and supplies. Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, which sees over 460,000 patients each year and serves as a teaching hospital for many of Ghana’s new doctors, has received deliveries of essential medicines and medical supplies from AmeriCares.
AmeriCares has been working to improve the lives of street children by supporting targeted health efforts in the slums of Mumbai. Even on the most scorching days, children were lined up out the door and around the corner from one of the busiest clinics. On one day alone, AmeriCares conducted physical checkups, treated worm infestations and provided nutritional supplements to nearly 100 malnourished children. For many, it was the very first time they had ever seen a doctor.
Parasitic infections, commonly known as worms, are among the biggest health problems for children who live and work on the streets. Such children rarely have shoes and feet are the main entry point for these parasites. The children are often exposed to unsanitary living conditions and many pick through garbage to find salvageable items or work in slums. Here, they are exposed to open sewers, rats and the diseases they transmit such as typhusand urban leptosiprosis, a serious infection of the liver, kidneys and the central nervous system.
Mexico City, Mexico
When Mexico City was in the midst of an H1N1 outbreak, commonly known as swine flu, AmeriCares quickly responded with critical medicines and infection control items. The illness sickened thousands and was linked to hundreds of deaths.
The outbreak in Mexico City was particularly alarming because the dense population, combined with a lack of access to basic medicines, led to a serious spike in the numbers of infections.
“The urban environment favors the spread of respiratory diseases such as influenza and tuberculosis,” added Bia.
AmeriCares medical aid to Mexico included medicines, face masks for infection control and nutritional support for people who had been infected. Medicines included antibiotics and other treatments to help fight the flu, fever and pain reducers to control symptoms, and an inhalant to help people with breathing problems.