Transcript of WHO podcast - 10 May 2007
World Health Assembly; goodwill ambassador Liya Kebede; 10th anniversary of vaccine vial monitor
Iain Simpson: You’re listening to the WHO podcast for the week of May 10 2007. I'm Iain Simpson.
In this episode:
- World Health Assembly opens as new Director-General sets out her vision;
- supermodel Liya Kebede talks about being a WHO goodwill ambassador; and
- keeping vaccines at the right temperature - a simple technology celebrates its 10th birthday.
This year's World Health Assembly opens on Monday, May 14. The Assembly is the top decision-making body of WHO. Representatives from all 193 WHO Member States will be coming to Geneva for 10 days of discussions on the key health issues facing the world. The new Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan, who took office in January, will set out her detailed vision to the Assembly. Other issues on the agenda include avian and pandemic influenza and the application of the International Health Regulations, malaria, tuberculosis, prevention and control of chronic diseases, alcohol, better medicines for children, and progress in the rational use of medicines. We'll have more on the progress of the Assembly in next week's podcast.
Iain Simpson: Liya Kebede is an international supermodel who spends much of her time at the world's top fashion shows. But she's also a mother and a WHO goodwill ambassador who has chosen to use her time and her fame to highlight the health problems faced by mothers and children in developing countries. Liya has been a WHO goodwill ambassador since March 2005. When she came into the WHO studio recently, she told us about her impressions of the past two years.
Liya Kebede: For me, there has been such an education, first of all, of the kinds of things that go on in the world that I am not aware of, in terms of maternal and childhood mortality.
I think it is really difficult for me to understand that we know what to do, we have the skills, we know how to prevent [diseases] and we know how to treat them, why we are not doing that. It is not something we don't know how to do or how to solve. These are things we know how to solve, we know how to treat. What is that thing that is stopping us? Why are countries not doing the things that are known to be effective? How can we help them, what is that thing that we need to do to put everything in place? I think that has been really difficult to understand.
I think in terms of things that could be done, I really feel that at the community level there are a lot of things that can be done that are not that expensive to do. I think we should be training health workers and having them give health education to women so that women know what to do during pregnancy, while giving birth or afterwards making sure that children are vaccinated, that they have hygiene, understand what hygiene means, make sure that kids are educated, girls are educated and they stay in school.
Iain Simpson: You couldn't have chosen two more contrasting worlds, could you, the glamorous world of fashion and then getting involved in maternal and child health. What do your colleagues in the world of fashion think of it?
Liya Kebede: You know, it is interesting, because more and more women now, even in the fashion industry, are having children. I think it is a new phenomenon. I think it is, even now as a working mother, that more women that are working are having children. So, I think they really see it differently than maybe they would have 10 years ago. They are very supportive. I have gotten really, really good response. The minute we have something, we spread it out to everyone. We say: "This is what is happening, this is what we have done and can you do something to help?" There are a lot of them who are really reaching out to me. I think that is really wonderful.
Iain Simpson: Now, the story of a simple technology that has saved thousands of lives and millions of dollars.
Voice from documentary: Imagine the challenge of getting vaccines from a manufacturing facility to the remote settlements in Viet Nam, Indonesia or Niger. The vaccines leave the production site in temperature-controlled trucks. They are flown as cargo to the country's capital for storage, stored in the capital city, then transported deeper into the country, stored again and finally, delivered to the location where they will be administered. Storage facilities often have sporadic electricity or no electricity at all. Transport might be between islands, on dirt roads or across rivers and swamps. Health workers carry the vaccines using trucks, motorbikes, boats, canoes, bicycles, and, in many cases, on foot. With all these steps, the journey might take a year with the most challenging leg at the end where the vaccinators struggle to reach the populations dispersed by difficult geography, famine or war.
Iain Simpson: That's why WHO and PATH developed the vaccine vial monitor (VVM). This simple piece of heat-sensitive technology allows health workers, warehouse managers and anyone else involved in vaccine delivery to check if a vaccine has been damaged by heat. It's a simple circular indicator which clearly and quickly shows any damage from heat.
This week marks the 10th anniversary of this simple technology, which has made it possible for many more children in remote areas to be protected from diseases that could otherwise sicken or kill them.
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