If you, my lovely readers, aren’t aware I am going to Vietnam in September for an 8-month placement as part of my International Development degree at Waterloo, and to say that I’m a little bit excited is an understatement. I am going to be completely integrated into a culture foreign to myself, away from most people I know, and forced to speak a language I barely know; I should be nervous and anxious but I’m not, yet, I’m sure that will happen at some point. That may be because I have yet to experience anything like this before, and culture shock still just seems like a concept then a possibility to me. My only experience of any culture or place outside of Canada and the US was a grad cruise in Caribbean at the end of high school, and, well, nothing more needs to be said about that.
While we are on this topic, why not discuss a few of the things I’m excited for, and some that make me a little more nervous.
Question of the Day: What is your travel experience? What should I do while I’m in Southeast Asia?
What use to take up to 6 months and a trip to the doctor can now be done in less then an hour at home. The first FDA approved take home HIV test is set to be released within a few months in the US. This could have major connotations not only here but in developing countries as well. In the US alone there are 1.2 million people with HIV, with 20% of them completely unaware of the disease. With this test, this could greatly increase the possibility of people to get themselves tested without the humiliation of going to a doctor to do it. The expected cost of this product is around $60 US, which is definitely affordable to ensure the use of this test. With the time between testing and results greatly reduced, transmission should also be more easily controlled by getting the results much quicker.
The benefit for developed countries is evident; simple, convenient, and affordable at home testing should help increase the amount of HIV tests being performed and help reduce future numbers of transmission as well as lower the percentage of people who are unknowingly HIV positive. But what about developing countries?
While there has been HIV testing in developing countries already, affordability has been an issue as well as safety and reliability of the test. The fact that this test is performed with no blood test and is FDA approved helps to ensure greater affordability and reliability. Another concern that is rarely considered is accessibility in developing countries. This would allow for a portable, nearly instant testing and results for rural and remote areas. These communities don’t have the technology, access, or funds available to them to get to a clinic to get tested. This test could help increase the amount of those who get tested and decrease transmission.
At this time, $60 US is still too expensive for this product to be widely used in developing countries as a standard method, however this is the beginning to allow this to be a possibility. As well, this could be the start of similar take home tests for other STD’s
Question of the Day: Will this test have a significant effect on HIV rates in the US and other developed countries? Could it also help developing countries in the future?
This blog was intended to take a closer look at the current student strike that is happening in Quebec. I was going to look at the proposed tuition hike of $1,775 over 7 years which is roughly an 80% increase over the current tuition average of $2,168, and how negotiations have gone so far, and lets face it, if that was proposed for Ontario we would be protesting too. But then I stumbled upon an article of the organizers for the Quebec student protests traveling across Southern Ontario and talking to groups of students about their experiences during the protests and share their knowledge. This tour occurs mostly this week, ending on July 20th and hits every major university city this side of Toronto, except for Waterloo of course. And this got me thinking, why haven’t we done the same?
Tuitions in Ontario have steadily been rising since 2006 and our current average is $6,640, which even with the proposed increase in Quebec, Ontario’s tuition is still much higher. Even with this we haven’t done anything about it. We have quietly taken the tuition increase, and smiled as we sign off thousands of dollars to these institutions. But why is this? We have by far the highest tuition in Canada yet we have done nothing to change this. Is protesting the best way to go about this?
Following the Quebec method would more then likely be an utter failure. Attempting to organize a majority of students across all universities in Ontario would near be impossible, and without this a protest would fail. The sheer number difference between enrolled students would in Ontario and Quebec would make organizing anything incredibly difficult. As well, Ontario students don’t have a history of protesting like Quebec students do. Quebec saw similar protests in 1996 and 2005.
Well if protesting is not an option what is? Asking nicely to not raise tuition obviously isn’t working so what’s next? Smaller grassroots movements could have better results then a mass provincial protest. Separate, smaller groups to organize students at each university, with a more peaceful and less in-your-face method could help open negotiations for a tuition freeze rather then just capping the yearly increase like we are currently seeing. But in order for this to occur we would need to first realize how much we over pay for tuition and be willing to do something about it.
Question of the Day: I think I need better names for my blog titles. Should Ontario students protest tuition cost? Are their better methods to use, or are you fine with the price of tuition currently?
Yup, that’s the question here, pretty simple right? Where do you get your news from and why? I have always had a problem trying to find a legitimate news outlet that wasn’t filled with bias (whether its left or right), fear tactics, ignoring international news, trivial local news, or informing us on whatever the hell Justin Bieber ate last Wednesday for dinner (thank god someone found out because I’ve been up all night wondering what it was).
Now before I go any further, I know asking for completely unbiased news is like asking for Justin Bieber to just go away (so much Bieber hate today apparently), but when the Tea Party movement is cited by a certain national news corporation (*cough* FOX News cough*) as a legitimate political entity that isn’t based on hate, while they declare Obama to be a communist and the reincarnation of Hitler himself at the same time (don’t try and make sense of that, you’ll just hurt yourself trying), something isn’t right. Anyways, here is my run down of the news outlets I deem useless or just straight up bad.
Seems like I’ve eliminated the most well known sources. Well then, where do I get my news?
Well those are my choices, and non-choices, so what are yours?
Question of the Day: Did you miss it in the title? Where do you get your news from and tell me why.
Edit (July 16, 2012, 8:42pm): This is almost too funny not to mention. An article from the Globe and Mail was release today (July 16th) less then 24 hours after this blog post about how Youtube is becoming a legitimate source for news. The title of the article is really the best part - More than just cat videos: viewers now turning to Youtube for news. Well not only was I right about Youtube as a news source, but print really is too slow to keep up with current news sources. Not that I am a legitimate news source, but its pretty obvious they must have copied me for a reason. Also here is the article in question: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/technology/more-than-just-cat-videos-viewers-now-turning-to-youtube-for-news/article4420112/
Currently, we are going through a modern day civil rights movement. Unlike previous movements, which were met with violent resistance throughout the 1960’s, today’s Gay Rights movement has been fortunate enough to not reach that point. Until now it has been a back and forth battle, largely in the US, between the legalization and illegalization of same sex marriages. Even in Canada, while there is no discrepancy across provinces like there is across states in the US, the question of whether to illegalize it and overturn the current Civil Marriage Act is brought up consistently in Parliament.
Over the last couple of weeks, large support has been established for the LGBT communities by multinational corporations. Oreo, a Nabisco product that is a division of Kraft, displayed an ad supporting gay pride, depicting an Oreo with a rainbow cream filling (sadly its not for sale because that cookie looks delicious). Subsequently, Oreo received immediate backlash in social media, even causing the creation of a boycott campaign over Facebook. Kraft, instead of publicly apologizing on behalf of Oreo and insisting they simply went rogue, they did the right thing and surprisingly stood by Oreo, stating that values of diversity and inclusiveness are more important. As well, Google has started a similar campaign, focusing on international gay rights rather than same sex marriage. Google’s ‘Legalise Love’ campaign focuses on countries where homosexual activities are criminalized. It began to support those working in countries where homosexuality is illegal and to begin the open discussion of equality
Such strong and transparent support is unprecedented and unheard of by such large companies who have much to lose by publicly siding on such a polarized topic. And it is about damn time someone has done so. It’s pathetic that in this day and age that someone is defined by their sexuality, and persecuted as a result. There is no doubt in my mind that this is a civil rights issue and it pains me to see it continually be an issue. Since the ‘It Gets Better’ campaign that began nearly two years ago against gay teen suicide, gay rights has been a hot topic and such has become more polarized.
This became an even greater issue with the recent GOP race last year with the brilliant minds of Michelle Bachman, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum throwing their opinions to the public masses (I really cant stress the sarcasm in that statement enough), before leading to the current American election race. The worse that resulted from this was Rick Perry’s 30-second ad against gays in the military. Luckily Perry soon dropped out from the race shortly after. Thankfully, some sanity has prevailed during this election race with Barrack Obama publicly backing gay marriage and equal rights.
Now, obviously Perry and Obama’s stance is to appease their conservative and liberal audiences respectfully, but what about Oreo and Google? Are their stances purely for doing the right thing, or are they profit driving like every other campaign done by large companies? While Oreo is targeting a market that is rarely a focus while marketing products, is it worth it to them to alienate a strong-minded community that apposes the topic enough to boycott a specific product; profit speaking of course? And for Google, is it purely profit driven to potential damage relations with countries that appose homosexuality so much to go as far as to criminalize it?
Personally, the base of these statements is more then just profit driven and what we are experiencing is the beginning of a trend for larger companies to publicly support gay rights and other important issues. But there lies the problem, it’s just that, a trend, and not genuine support for an important topic.
Question of the Day: Are Oreo and Google’s stances genuine or profit driven or both? And more importantly, if this trend starts, is the trade off worth it by gaining their‘ support’ for a cause while they gain an extra buck in exchange for our own morality as we support these companies?
Whoa, we just got more serious here didn’t we. We all knew this day would come; I would have to bring up the issue of health and development. You knew it; I knew it, so here it is. Lets get started shall we?
Now, I can talk about health and development for days. But don’t worry good friends; I will keep my rant brief. Well, this one at least, I am bound to bring up the topic again I’m sure.
I have a BIG problem with how health and development, supposedly, work together. In my view, there is a huge divide between the two, when they should be so intertwined you can’t tell them apart. When you bring up health in Canada what kind of topics do you get? We hear about our universal health care system, the attempt of the U.S. to implement their universal health care system, OHIP coverage, health benefits from your work, and anything else that is local. And what about when you bring up the term development, from an international standpoint? You hear poverty, slums, gender issues, access to clean water, and the UN; even the environment and micro financing are brought up in these conversations. Now what is discussed when you hear health and development brought up in the same conversation? HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and maybe Tuberculosis. That’s it. How and when did health in the international context get narrowed done to 3 diseases?
When did this divide happen? When did these become 2 separate issues? I think my official realization to this came shortly after my 2 year in International Development. After 2 years in this program, where every other topic of development had been brought up, whether as a weekly topic or a 5 minute discussion during a class, I couldn’t for the life of me think of when health had ever been brought up as an issue, or even as a part of development.
Now, if you don’t know this about me already, I was in Applied Health Sciences program at Waterloo for 2 years before making the switch to International Development. While I was disappointed with the program, I never lost my passion for health. My thinking that health in the developing world would be a big issue coming into this program, since it was my main focus in health to begin with, suddenly got shattered from this realization; it was disturbing to say the least.
As I researched the issue further, I realized that it was not simply an oversight of the International Development program at Waterloo, but a prevalent problem worldwide. Health organizations and development organizations had become two separate entities, but why?
My only explanations for this at the moment is that since we have gone to a grassroots focused approach, small organizations have failed to adapt to the large cost and responsibility that is associated with dealing with health related issues. If this is true, why aren’t larger organizations who have the proper resources at hand not doing something to lessen the divide between health and development, and the divide between large and grassroots organizations?
Again I leave you with more questions then answers, but isn’t that how it usually is with development? This rant is far from done; let’s make this Part 1 shall we, and return to this issue when I have more insight into what can be done. Anyways, it has become much longer then I had originally hoped and only hit the tip of the iceberg of my issue with health and development.
Question of the Day: Do you think health and development have become two separate entities?
Alright, look. I think awareness is very important to development. Hell, awareness is the first step to solving any problem really. It’s a very important stage to making a problem well known and getting people involved in an important issue; it’s how most small issues get national or even worldwide recognition. I’m not trying to downplay its importance at all. But, if I get invited, one more time, to join another group, or like another Facebook page in order to stop/save blah-blah-blah from yada-yada-yada, I’m going to snap.
I don’t hate awareness; in fact I love the concept and how well it works, I just hate when people try to spread ‘awareness’ (and I hate to have to use it in this context), about an ‘issue’ that they have no other knowledge about besides a video they saw on YouTube (Kony 2012 anyone?), or people who think but that these groups accomplish anything by simply getting people to join them. When did activism become so lazy? Making a Facebook group, and inviting all your friends to join it doesn’t accomplish a damn thing. You want to accomplish something? I’ll give you 3 simple steps to being a real activist:
Step 1: Learn Something.
Step 2: Find an Organization or Create Your Own.
Step 3: Get Out From Behind Your Computer and Do Something.
Question of the Day: Have my blogs gotten progressively angrier? Wait, don’t answer that. Is Facebook ‘activism’ useful at all?
As we have seen and learned over the years, the idea of development has changed a lot. From globalization to state controlled initiatives, the way we view development is an ever-changing question that garners new answers every few years. Our choice for development today is focused on grassroots movements, and working at the local level rather than large initiatives. We’ve finally figured out that not every country and cultural is the same, and that a universal plan for development is foolish and simply not possible. But is this enough?
Our ‘flavour of the week’ for development has been successful thus far but is it sustainable, or even efficient enough for today? I realize these questions are mostly rhetorical and they are meant to be. I guess the point of this is to ask yourself, are you happy with the current state of development? There, that seems much easier to answer. It’s only taken me 2 paragraphs to get there, but this blog finally has a point.
I guess I should ask myself this question first before I ask the rest of you, my hypothetical readers. My short answer? No. The long answer? Well it’s a little more complicated then that. I do think that the direction that development has gone is a good one, but it’s a half-assed attempt at best at this point. The grassroots approach has been very effective, but it has come at a cost. From my perspective, we have created a divide between local grassroots movements, and large international organizations. The focus and responsibility has been put on these smaller organizations while working with a fraction of the resources that larger initiatives have at their disposal. And how have these large organizations acted as a result of this? They have helped to facilitate smaller organizations, but they have taken a back seat in development.
So how do we close this divide between grassroots organizations and international ones? Well your guess is as good as mine. Responsibility has to be divided equally in this aspect. Is awareness of this issue enough? I don’t think so. In our Indev classes or even in personal conversations we discuss how irrelevant international organizations have become then agree that grassroots is better. All this is doing is letting them off the hook. I guess this blog finishes with just an opinion and a rant rather then an answer, but if there were an answer then there really wouldn’t be a need for this blog in the first place, right? Or am I simply looking for a universal answer when I know there isn’t one? Man, this just got depressing. I’ve asked more questions then I have answers for, but isn’t that fitting in this regard?
Question of the Day: What’s your favorite kind of ice cream? Wait, no, that’s not what I want to ask. Are you happy with how development is done today?
Currently in Vietnam, a disease that is typically a non-issue has become fatal. A new strain of the Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease (HFMD), called EV71, has been infecting young children across Vietnam, mostly under the age of 5. HFMD is typically benign and most of its strains are non lethal, but with the development of EV71, HFMD has suddenly become a big issue. With no specific treatment available to treat HFMD, dealing with it is difficult to manage.
On a positive note, HMFD is easily preventable. With basic good hygiene routines, this disease can be easily avoided. If this is the case, then why has HFMD because such a big problem? Especially for a country like Vietnam, which is considered to be a more ‘developed’ developing country, this questions their basic health care availability and personal health and hygiene education. This also shows the importance of something that we take for granted here in the developed world.
Question of the Day: Has hygiene been overlooked as a basic need?
I stumbled upon an article through the WHO website about the Mexico International Forum on Universal Health Coverage that occurred April 1st and 2nd of this year. It was basically an open forum to discuss the possibility, challenges and supportive action of introducing universal health coverage.
I think that open discussion about universal health coverage is long over due. However, the scale to which this forum was relegated to is nowhere near large or open enough to make it effective on an international level. This meeting focused only on the possibility of universal health coverage in Mexico City, and included members of the Director General’s office and Regional Directors. While these representatives are part of the highest rankings within the WHO, the opportunity is there to make this a much larger issue.
With the current state of development and the availability of basic health coverage in developing nations, I think universal health coverage is a far off idea to become available in all countries, but should be in the realm of possibility. If greater focus was placed upon this idea, and expanded to include the cooperation of the UN and other international health organizations, this idea could gain greater support. Obviously developing nations that are further along in their developing have a greater possibility of introducing universal health coverage or at least providing basic health care at an affordable price for a majority of its population then more impoverished nations, but this could create greater awareness to the lack of health care in most countries.
Question of the Day: Do you think Universal Health Coverage worldwide could ever be a possibility or are the actions of the WHO sufficient enough as is?