Sanitation Superheroes

There exists a unique league of heroes we are going to call the ‘Sanitation Superheroes’. These extraordinary individuals don’t wear capes or possess superhuman strength, but they play a vital role in safeguarding our health, our communities, and our environment through their unwavering commitment to sanitation and cleanliness. The Sanitation Superheroes are the dedicated sanitation workers who toil tirelessly to ensure our waste is collected and disposed of safely. They are the janitors and custodians who keep our schools and workplaces clean and hygienic. They are the environmentalists and activists who fight against pollution and promote sustainable sanitation practices. These unsung heroes work quietly and diligently behind the scenes, making the world a healthier and more livable place. Sanitation Superheroes have diverse roles and responsibilities that revolve around the principles of cleanliness, hygiene, and waste management. Some of their key functions include: Waste Collection: Sanitation workers are the backbone of waste collection systems. They pick up trash from homes, streets, and businesses, preventing the spread of disease and maintaining the aesthetics of our neighborhoods. Cleaning and Disinfection: Janitors and custodians play a crucial role in maintaining the cleanliness of public spaces. They sanitize surfaces, and empty trash bins, and ensure that public areas are safe and hygienic. Environmental Stewardship: Environmental activists and organizations work tirelessly to protect natural water sources, reduce pollution, and promote sustainable sanitation practices. They advocate for clean rivers, oceans, and air. Education and Advocacy: Sanitation Superheroes often engage in community education and advocacy efforts to raise awareness about the importance of proper sanitation. They teach people about waste reduction, recycling, and responsible water use. Emergency Response: During natural disasters and public health emergencies, sanitation workers are on the front lines, helping to maintain sanitation and prevent the outbreak of diseases. The work of Sanitation Superheroes is indispensable to our society and the environment for several reasons: Health and Hygiene: Proper sanitation practices are fundamental to public health. Sanitation workers and custodians prevent the spread of diseases by maintaining clean and safe environments. Environmental Protection: Environmental activists and organisations champion the cause of protecting natural resources. Their efforts help ensure clean water, air, and land for future generations. Community Well-being: Clean and well-maintained public spaces contribute to a sense of community pride and well-being. This positively affects the quality of life for all residents. Disaster Resilience: In times of crisis, sanitation workers are essential for maintaining order and preventing secondary disasters related to sanitation breakdowns. Sustainable Future: Advocates for sustainable sanitation practices help mitigate the environmental impact of waste and promote a more sustainable and eco-friendly future. Sanitation Superheroes may not have the glamour of traditional superheroes, but their contributions to society are immeasurable. They safeguard our health, protect our environment, and ensure the cleanliness and hygiene of our communities. Their dedication and selfless service are reminders that heroism comes in many forms, and sometimes, it’s the unsung heroes who make the greatest impact on our lives. We at Shades of Us urge everyone to recognize and celebrate the work of Sanitation Superheroes and strive to support their efforts in creating a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable world for all.

Lessons from the 2022 World Health Summit

General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director, World Health Organization by Adetayo Adetokun We attended the World Health Summit from October 16 – 18, 2022, and had insightful takeaways, especially from the sessions curated for African healthcare and food systems. The World Health Summit (WHS) 2022, organized jointly with the World Health Organization (WHO) for the first time, is considered the world’s leading meeting on global health. Held under the patronage of German Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, Senegal’s President Macky Sall, and WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHS 2022 aimed to stimulate innovative solutions to health challenges, foster global health as a critical political issue and promote a global health conversation in the spirit of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The health systems in many communities in Africa are vastly inadequate today. Since the pandemic began, it has become increasingly obvious that our health systems have further disintegrated, with barely any systems in place to check this rot. The COVID-19 pandemic, which claimed the lives of nearly 80 million people worldwide, further showed how vulnerable our healthcare systems are. Our governments have yet to make the investments in our healthcare systems that would provide the requisite knowledge to improve or even manage the sector. As a result, millions of people who got the COVID-19 virus could not be saved, worsening the social contract between governments and their citizens. Almost all funds we received – whether for research, vaccination, or other health service delivery components – came from nations and organizations who have made these investments in their health systems and could afford to share their excess.   We believe every neighbourhood, state, and nation across Africa should have effective and efficient healthcare systems. As more advocates begin to hold the government accountable, we are starting to witness a gradual transformation of the healthcare systems in Africa.  At the summit, we attended two main sessions organized for Africa: The Road to 2023: Are we Achieving Universal Health Coverage? Transforming Food Systems for Healthy and Sustainable Diets  Here are some of the excellent lessons we learned from these sessions. First Panel Session: The Road to 2023: Are we Achieving Universal Health Coverage? The speakers in this session included: Sandrine Bouttier-Stref, Global Head of Corporate Social Responsibility Sanoli; Alison Cox, Policy and Advocacy Director, Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance; Gabriela Cuevas Barrón, Universal Healthcare Coverage 2030, Co-Chair of the Steering Committee; Loyce Pace, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Assistant Secretary for Global Public Affairs; Dr. Luis Pizarro, Executive Director at Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi); and Dr. Peter Kwame Yeboah, Executive Director, Christian Health Association of Ghana.  In this session, we learned that global health, numerous collaborations between product development partnerships and the pharmaceutical industry multilateral partnerships have already demonstrated the important role in driving access to healthcare in multiple low- to middle-income countries and across the most affected vulnerable populations. While it is clear that partnerships can result in significant benefits, challenging questions remain open. It showed us a clear road map to foster robust and sustainable collaborations that must be urgently developed to close the access gap and put us on the path to a world where equal access to quality health care is ensured for everybody. According to Gabriella Cuevas Barron, it took a pandemic that claimed the lives of more than six million people to realize how shaky the global healthcare system was. Although it may seem challenging, achieving universal healthcare coverage would be much simpler if monies were properly financed and monitored as they were used to develop the healthcare system. To ensure that nobody is left behind, we must include women and girls in these decisions. Peter Kwame Yeboah discussed the situation in Ghana and how they dealt with the recent healthcare crisis. In the last few years, religious and humanitarian organizations have assumed control of healthcare to improve coverage. In contrast to government-owned hospitals, they are nonetheless marginalized and subjected to extremely high standards, making them unable to perform as they should. To stop this, they must make sure that these partnerships are restructured. These selective regulations have made it difficult for these hospitals to operate. According to Luis Pizarro, it is crucial for every nation to be aware of the number of neglected diseases it has, particularly those in Africa. It is clear that several diseases impact millions of individuals, but because they reside in underprivileged areas, little attention is paid to them, and no solutions are explored. Ideas are excellent, but they need great finance to take flight. Thus nations seeking to attain universal healthcare coverage by 2030 must start providing funds for outstanding ideas. In her address, Alison Cox stated that 80% of current fatalities are brought on by Non-Communicable diseases (NCDs) and that this number might increase to 52 million in the upcoming year. Only 1% of individuals with NCDs have access to effective therapies. Since millions of people worldwide suffer from numerous chronic and lifelong diseases, most of which are chronic and lifelong, partnerships are crucial to addressing the NCD problem. We require funding from a variety of sources, including private organizations and individual donors to NCD funds. Regarding equity, she emphasized its significance. To eradicate NCDs, we must begin with the most disadvantaged populations. The significance of the pharmaceutical industry in assisting with the attainment of universal healthcare coverage was discussed by Sandrine Boutlier-Stref. The importance of understanding how these sectors contribute to making pharmaceuticals more accessible to people all around the world cannot be overstated. To reach a compromise where innovations are produced to address urgent problems, the government and the business sector must cooperate.  Loyce Pace spoke on empowering healthcare professionals. Everyone who works in the healthcare industry needs to be given a chance to express themselves and complete their tasks in a calm setting that supports them. When we accomplish this, we’ll be able to gauge our readiness to meet the 2030 goal of universal healthcare coverage. Second Panel Session: Transforming Food Systems

BMI, Beauty Standards and Fat Shaming

Girl working Out.Image: Health Magazine I have a problem with Body Mass Index (BMI) as a measurement of health. Almost everyone has heard the acronym; BMI. And while many have an idea what it is, let me start my arguments – and yes, they are arguments – with the definition of the term. ‘BMI is a person’s weight in kilograms (kg) divided by his or her height in meters squared.’ This is one way to define it. Simple, huh? But don’t be fooled. This seemingly simple definition is anything but. However, this isn’t the time to jump the gun. So let me layer on the science of it. BMI can also be calculated using other variables like pounds (instead of kilogram) and with some calculators, it can be computed using feet and inches instead of meters. The main components are weight and height. For the purposes of this article, I will use kilogram to meters (or feet and inches) for my measurements. Let us get into it, shall we? For a little over a hundred years, BMI has been used as the standard of body measurement since Adolphe Quetelet, the Belgian Mathematician, Astronomer and Statistician, developed the unit of measurement. It seeks to measure whether a person is underweight, normal, overweight or obese. Right now, the formula for calculating BMI is; BMI = weight (kg) / height (m2) And generally, it is accepted that:          A BMI of 18.49 or below means a person is underweight;          A BMI of 18.5 to 24.99 means they are of normal weight;          A BMI of 25 to 29.99 means they are overweight;          A BMI of 30 or more means they are obese. Until sometime last year, I accepted this measurement as truth. I studied Biochemistry and I remember thoroughly enjoying the nutrition classes because we dealt with things like BMI. I was especially happy about it after I learned how to help malnourished babies get back to ‘normal’ weight. Those were the aspects of Biochemistry that made me love the course. But recently, I had a run in with a loud-mouthed doctor when I went to the hospital with my mum. She had suffered a heart attack. The doctor stabilized her and after she had taken the drugs he gave her, she stood up and went into the restroom. As soon as my mum was out of earshot and we were alone, the doctor said something to the tune of, ‘if you don’t want to suffer what your mother is suffering, you need to lose weight quickly. Can’t you see that you are too fat?!’ (And yes…that was almost verbatim). At first, I feigned laughter because he was a much older man and I was worried about my mum. And then I wondered why he was making the comparison because my mum is way slimmer than I am. He persisted. ‘Climb the scale there. I am sure your BMI will confirm what I am telling you. You are too overweight!’This time, I didn’t laugh. And because I am not one to suffer a fool gladly, I made sure I spoke pointedly at him so that he would get the message. ‘I am not your patient. Your job here is to get my mum better; nothing more. Can you KINDLY focus on that?’ I am sure he hadn’t been spoken to like that in a while. He kept quiet and waited for my mum to return. When he was done with his duties, my mum and I left. It wasn’t until later that I heard he told my mum I was a rude child. It gave me so much pleasure to have put him in his place. But… I digress. That day, I was so mad at the doctor. I saw what he did for exactly what it was; fat shaming. The man didn’t really care about my health. He didn’t have my medical history nor had he engaged me in a conversation to find out about my lifestyle. All he saw was a fat girl that he thought he could talk to in whatever way he felt he could. I wished I hadn’t been so ‘respectful’ of him and had given him a proper tongue lashing. And the more I thought about it, the angrier I became. But then, the anger passed. I looked at myself and admitted what I already knew; I am fat. My BMI says I am obese. But the question I asked myself after reacceptingthis fact was…am I healthy? This question prompted another. ‘If BMI used just weight and height to classify people into normal (which is translated to mean ‘healthy’) and obese (which is translated to mean ‘unhealthy’), could the unit of measurement be more about aesthetics than it was about health?’ I decided to pursue the thought. With almost 8 billion people in the world ranging from the shortest person – Chandra Bahadur Dangi who is just 54.64 cm – to Robert Wadlow who is said to have been the tallest person in the world (standing at 8 ft 11.1 in), there couldn’t possibly be a ‘normal’ height for people. This also meant that there couldn’t possibly be a ‘normal’ weight for people. As I processed these thoughts, I wondered: if you can’t have a normal height or weight, how can we have a ‘normal’ BMI? Because, what may be normal to a 5’9 man weighing 70kg may be underweight for a 7’1 person of the same weight, and overweight for a 5’4 woman of the same weight. So…if there was no constant in all this, how could the BMI be accepted as the appropriate unit of measuring ‘normal’ health? To process this thought further, I started doing some basic mathematics in my head. It was too stressful for me, so I found a BMI calculator that used the kilogram to feet and inches ratio. I started to calculate BMIs for a

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