The first speaker, Ilaria Camplone from the Centre for International Health at the University of Bologna spoke about her experience both as a student and now as a lecturer in improving the health of the population of Italy through education. But she came up against many obstacles, many of which are still to be overcome, such as the conservatism of the Italian universities, the lack of consensus and the scarcity of trainers. She concluded that whilst changes are being made, there is still a long way to go in Italy, as there is in many countries.
The second speaker, Mustafa Abbas, a student at University College London spoke about his belief that, even in a country with a strong health service such as the UK, there is still a lack of attention paid to the prevention of disease. In order to combat this issue, education is a key component. Abbas argued for a multidisciplinary approach that would see public health classes taught not just in medical faculties, but also for students of social science, who would be able to bring their own experience and views to the table. He also spoke about how the classes need to be functional and empowering, not just number driven data, so that student wouldnâ€™t be reluctant to learn about such a critical topic.
He then went on to talk about how barriers such as costs and resources are preventing many people from learning about this field, especially in developing countries who are crying out for people with this knowledge.
Abbas is currently part of a team who are donating their time to create an online course, which can be taken for free and from which credit can be earned. The course will provide the student with all they need to learn about global health, no matter what their educational background, location or socioeconomic status are.
After these talks, the participants were encouraged to break away into groups for a few minutes to discuss how we should â€˜empower both medical and non-medical students around the world to take a broader view on global healthâ€™ which resulted in a lively debate, so lively in fact that this session didnâ€™t have time for the fishbowl portion of this session.
The other fishbowl sessions I attended this week were Innovators in Practice parts I &II.
These talks covered a wide range of new technology and innovation in the medical, with 8 speakers on varying innovations. Over these two sessions, and in other sessions, there seemed to be a recurring theme, failure breeds innovation. All of the speakers had had a problem, whether their own, or somebody elseâ€™s, and they had courage to find a solution.
One of my favourite solutions came from Dr Jordi Serrano. Working as a GP, he often had refugee patients coming to his surgery with different languages. He had created a translation system within his surgery. But he wanted to make the system easier and scale it up, allowing other hospitals and surgeries to avail of the technology. The technology called UniversalDoctor, a multilingual mobile communication system is now available for free as an app, and hospitals can use the system online for a relatively small fee. But this isnâ€™t the end, Dr Serrano noticed that there is also a need for sign language translators, especially amongst refugee children who lost their hearing because of bombs and are being moved for treatment regularly.
In the first session, we also heard from Oscar Lopez who directs the eHealth company C2C. His company have come up with an automated screening system for diabetic retinopathy. The system allows opticians to take photos of patientâ€™s retinas; these can then be sent directly to specialists at the eye hospital for diagnosis. Only if the patient requires further treatment would they need to travel to the eye hospital. This process will save time and money, both for the patient and the health system in general. It is now Lopezâ€™s ambition to scale this project out across Europe, or even beyond.
In the second session, the first speaker was Adam Hager who works for SEAL in Bromma Sweden. The problem he recognised was in surgical skills teaching. Many different schools in Sweden manufactured different models in order to teach surgical skills. But there was no standardisation and people were unwilling to share their ideas, even within the same hospital. Hagerâ€™s solution was a set of reusable surgical training equipment comes in a small box with enough material to teach a 3 day surgical skills class. The system is now being used widely throughout Sweden and Hager and his team have been able to take the system out to Africa where they teach surgical skills to people who often come from remote areas to learn these essential skills.
Finally, we heard from Hamidu Oluyedun from the Oyo State Hospital in Ibadan, Nigeria. One of the biggest problems facing the Nigerian Health system is the prolific use of counterfeit drugs. The system they have come up with to combat this problem is text message verification. All over the counter drugs will have a panel which needs to be scratched in order to reveal a code. This code can be sent to the text verification line who will respond as to whether the drugs are real or counterfeit. This seems like a great programme to run in Nigeria as mobile phone ownership in the country is high, in fact there are more mobile phones than people! But Mr Oluyedun was unfortunately unable to go into the specifics of the programme because of corruption within the country, should people involved be identified, they could be in danger with the counterfeit drug producers.
The Innovators in Practice sessions were an excellent insight into the varied work being done around the world to make global health practices better for everybody! I hope that the sessions at the GHF14 will be just as fascinating!