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Community Story

Common River is a US-based nongovernmental organization (NGO) implementing a community development program in Aleta Wondo, Ethiopia. This NGO is founded on the principle of positive deviance, in which local best practices are identified and replicated to maximize agricultural production (organically grown coffee is produced in this region), as well as to improve the nutritional status, health, and education of orphaned and vulnerable children. Since 2009, a group from the University of Texas School of Medicine has travelled annually to Aleta Wondo to provide school health screening and free health care, including treatment of endemic helminth infections, trachoma, and skin diseases, while collaborating with and supporting the local government-sponsored health clinic (Figures 7-1A and B). In Figure 7-1C, the schoolchildren of Common River are looking at the new group of American medical students that have just arrived in Africa. In the coming week, these children will receive oral albendazole to treat intestinal parasites and have complete physical exams to detect and treat other common conditions, such as head lice, tinea capitis, trachoma, and foot infections. Note that many of the children are barefoot. In Figure 7-1D, a group of women have just completed their woman’s literacy class for the day. Improving women’s literacy can improve the health of the entire community.


A. Many people still live in extreme poverty with no running water and electricity. This is a typical hut in Ethiopia. This one is inhabited by a grandmother, her grandchild, and a cow. The photograph was taken after a home visit to provide IM ceftriaxone to the child after her release from the local hospital where she was treated for a neck abscess and cellulitis. The medical team was staying at Common River and originated from the University of Texas. B. A University of Texas medical student is bandaging the hand of a 2-year-old girl in Aleta Wondo. The medical team had just drained an abscess of her hand. C. The schoolchildren of Common River in rural Ethiopia greet the new group of American medical students that have just arrived in Africa. D. Smiling women that have just completed their woman’s literacy class for the day. Improving woman’s literacy is a great way to raise the health status of the community. (Used with permission from Richard P. Usatine, MD.)

What is Global Health?

For years, the term international health has described health work in resource-limited settings with an emphasis on tropical diseases, communicable diseases, and illness caused by poor nutrition and inadequate access to water, sanitation, and maternal care.1 More recently, global health is commonly used to emphasize mutual sharing of experience and knowledge, in a bilateral exchange between industrialized nations and resource-limited countries, and the emphasis is expanding to include noncommunicable diseases and chronic illness.2 One definition ...

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