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Friday, October 07, 2011

Week in Review, Part 3--the Big Picture

If you've persevered through all the family happenings and medical crises of the last week, bless you for reading. The last thread of the week though was a national level meeting of the Kenya Health Task Force, convened by our American Ambassador Scott Gration, in order to cut mortality in Kenya by HALF. By the end of NEXT YEAR. Which does not sound very possible, but I have to say his opening speech was both inspiring and impressive. This ambassador grew up in Kenya with missionary parents and even went to RVA for a while, and his wife spent most of her childhood at Kijabe. They are ideally placed as Americans who know Kenya, the language, the people, the issues, the dreams, and can connect Kenya's community with both the American government (i.e. money and power and influence) and with outside charitable organizations (i.e. skills and dedication). This is the same effective triangle of action that our famous Hopkins public health professor, Carl Taylor, wrote and taught about. A cooperation between local communities, government, and NGO's, driven by actual data and need, taking advantage of the unique gifts of all three.
So in the middle of this wild week of intubating babies and baking birthday cakes, I found myself as Kijabe Hospital's Paediatrics representative to the Let's Live campaign, sitting around a table with Kenyan professors and ministers brainstorming on how to improve immunization coverage, or new ideas for training doctors, or innovations in the treatment of malnutrition. We focused a good bit on the neonatal (birth to age 1 month) mortality rate which has barely budged in the last decade (33 to 31 per thousand births) and accounts for almost half of under-five deaths. It was stimulating to sit in lectures once again, to ask questions, to meet interesting people at tea and lunch from all areas of Kenya's health system. And in a week in which one of those 31 per thousand was not a mere number but a gut-churning reality, it was also a relief to look at the big picture view of where this country is going in health, and feel encouraged that bright and ambitious and capable people are dedicating their lives to see change.

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