World’s Deadliest Catastrophe

On May 14th, the UN sought to remind peo­ple that the Con­go remains world’s dead­liest cat­a­stro­phe. The prob­lem is, who in the world even knows that 1,200 peo­ple are dying there every day, or that three months ago the Unit­ed Nations launched an appeal for $682 mil­lion to pro­vide the need­ed water, food, med­ical assis­tance, shel­ter and pro­tec­tion? Yes, we’re all dis­tract­ed. Yes, there are oth­er crises to tend to in Africa and else­where around the world. But let’s face it, there are coun­tries in the world who can, and should, step up. The peo­ple of the Con­go have suf­fered long enough.

Hot topic — bed sharing

I enjoy doing these Deci­sion Digest columns for BabyMap because I get to explore both sides of a con­tro­ver­sial top­ic and then try to present an unbi­ased sum­ma­ry of all the pros and cons. So many of the ques­tions we encounter as par­ents don’t have a “right” answer. We gath­er all the (often con­flict­ing) infor­ma­tion we can, and then we have to just make the deci­sion that feels like the best fit for us. I hope this arti­cle will help par­ents feel good about their choice and their rea­sons for mak­ing it, what­ev­er they decide.

Should you share a bed with your baby?”, BabyMap, Spring/Summer 2006

Reducing birth defects benefits the entire population

Emmanuel Ofo­su Yeboah was born in Ghana with­out the tib­ia in his right leg, leav­ing it deformed and use­less. His father aban­doned him. His moth­er was told to kill him. That is just what it means to be dis­abled in Ghana.

For­tu­nate­ly, his moth­er was strong, and raised Yeboah to have high expec­ta­tions for him­self, even if nobody else did. In 2002, at the age of 25, he rode a donat­ed bicy­cle 360 miles across Ghana – with one leg – and showed his entire coun­try that the dis­abled could be very able indeed. His sto­ry became a movie that con­tin­ues to inspire.

When I heard Emmanuel’s sto­ry, I too was inspired by his incred­i­ble tri­umph. I was enraged by the plight of the dis­abled in Ghana. But even more, I won­dered what caus­es all those dis­abil­i­ties in the first place? Could they be pre­vent­ed, and if so, what effects would that have on Ghana­ian society?

The March of Dimes Glob­al Report on Birth Defects might offer some answers, and will hope­ful­ly spark some pos­i­tive change. Accord­ing to a March of Dimes press release about the report:

“…it is a com­mon mis­con­cep­tion that atten­tion to birth defects will draw fund­ing from oth­er pri­or­i­ty pub­lic health efforts — when, in fact, increased efforts to reduce birth defects in chil­dren con­tributes to the health of the entire population.

Expe­ri­ence from high-income coun­tries shows that over­all mor­tal­i­ty and dis­abil­i­ty from birth defects could be reduced by up to 70 per­cent if the rec­om­men­da­tions in this report were broad­ly implemented…

Among the inter­ven­tions that would have imme­di­ate impact are:

  1. folic acid sup­ple­men­ta­tion to pre­vent neur­al tube defects; 
  2. iod­i­na­tion of salt to pre­vent severe con­gen­i­tal hypothy­roidism; and 
  3. rubel­la immu­niza­tion to pre­vent con­gen­i­tal rubel­la syndrome.”

I think it’s a great place to start. If you agree, go to

Mountains Beyond Mountains

If you ever find your­self search­ing for inspi­ra­tion about the fea­si­bil­i­ty of attempt­ing to change the world, then you must read Moun­tains Beyond Moun­tains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World, by Tra­cy Kid­der. It is about the efforts of Dr. Farmer to bring health care to the poor­est of the poor, most­ly in Haiti, through his orga­ni­za­tion Part­ners in Health. While he focus­es on the needs of his indi­vid­ual patients, Dr. Farmer has achieved and con­tin­ues to work for true glob­al change. Tra­cy Kid­der shows that Dr. Farmer is an extra­or­di­nary human being, but is nonethe­less extra­or­di­nar­i­ly human.

Integrated preschools, for kids with and without disabilities

This was one of those top­ics that I def­i­nite­ly had an opin­ion on before I even start­ed. For­tu­nate­ly, that always makes me even more care­ful to research thor­ough­ly. It’s always fun to do an arti­cle where the research and inter­views force me to com­plete­ly change my pre­vi­ous­ly unin­formed opin­ions. This one will stand out in my mind for a long time, and I’m thank­ful I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to write it.

Inte­grat­ed preschools pro­vide ben­e­fits, lessons for all”, EveryChild Spe­cial Sup­ple­ment, Spring/Summer 2006

They’re only baby teeth… Why bother?

Here’s a top­ic I am all too famil­iar with. Despite my best attempts, which admit­ted­ly are nei­ther thor­ough nor con­sis­tent, both my chil­dren had cav­i­ties by age three. I thought I’d done all the research, asked all the right ques­tions, and made all the right deci­sions to pre­vent it from hap­pen­ing again, so I was sure I knew exact­ly what would go into this arti­cle. Research is my favorite part of writ­ing, though, so I dug into it any­way. I found out there’s always more to learn. That’s what I love about research.

Tak­ing care of your preschool­er’s teeth”, Par­entMap, Feb­ru­ary 2006

Simply elegant

I first learned about the Rid­ers for Health orga­ni­za­tion on PBS’ Rx for Sur­vival tele­vi­sion series. The con­cept is sim­ple: give motor­cy­cles to Africa’s health work­ers and train them to ride and repair them them­selves. With this trans­porta­tion, they can effec­tive­ly dis­trib­ute aid and admin­is­ter basic health care to remote vil­lages. The impact is noth­ing short of revolutionary.