Category Archives: Japan

#HealthCareHeroes

By Max Antonucci, AmeriCares Social Media Intern
By Max Antonucci, AmeriCares Social Media Intern

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”@AmeriCares” suffix=””]When I first heard #HealthCareHeroes, it took a while for me to understand it.[/inlinetweet] The hashtag’s purpose seemed simple: to help spread the word about the heroes we see providing quality health care to others – people like doctors and other medical professionals. Except it then hit me: how many of these kinds of heroes do we really know that well?  It might not be enough for the idea of a health care hero to ever really catch on. But recently I figured out the true meaning behind #HealthCareHeroes, and how it can apply to a lot of people we know.

I finally understood it when I discovered what AmeriCares was supporting in Japan with our local partner, Hope Worldwide Japan (HWWJ). [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”AmeriCares” suffix=””]This video shows how an unusual approach to healing led to my revelation about #HealthCareHeroes.[/inlinetweet]

#HealthCareHeroes from AmeriCares on Vimeo.

An AmeriCares Sample Pack

After a week of my internship at AmeriCares, I found myself swimming in a pile of papers, project proposals, and pamphlets. I had abandoned taking notes almost entirely—there was too much cool stuff to write down anyway. With 3,000 local partners worldwide in 90 countries, the global reach of Americares is both interesting and complex.

So, for you, I have compiled the “AmeriCares 7-Dose Sample Pack” — small doses from the AmeriCares portfolio that provide a wider insight into the complexity of the work we do.

Dose 1: Constantly Truckin’ Along

AmeriCares sends an average of 10 aid shipments each day by air, sea and road – and each year our warehouse in Stamford, CT turns over 9 times. This means the warehouse, which is 51,800 square feet, is filled with completely new medications and supplies 9 times a year. To give some perspective, this warehouse is larger than an NFL football field, which is only 43,560 square feet!

Dose 2: Affordable Health Care on the Homefront

AmeriCares operates 3 free clinics across the state of Connecticut, and will soon open a fourth – bringing quality, compassionate health care services to the uninsured and underinsured in AmeriCares home state. The clinics have permanent locations in Bridgeport, Norwalk, and Danbury; the new clinic will be located in Stamford, CT. Simple impact math: each DOLLAR given to the clinics provides FOUR DOLLARS worth of medical care.

Dose 3: A Primary Care Hub in India

At 12 locations over 15-day cycles, families living in the congested slums of Mumbai receive a unique opportunity—an opportunity to receive quality health care and free medication from mobile medical clinics run by the AmeriCares India team. In the most recent year of operation, the clinics provided care to 36,000 patients. But, this is only a small fraction of our work in country. Across India AmeriCares serves an estimated 10 million people in 21 Indian states with the help of 55 partner organizations. From the mobile clinics in Mumbai to disaster relief in Uttarakhand, Americares is there ready to support health care in India.

Dose 4: Combating Cancer in Cambodia

Through a partnership with AstraZeneca, AmeriCares is working in Cambodia to combat breast cancer — the leading cancer killer of women worldwide. At the Sihanouk Hospital Center of HOPE in Phnom Penh, breast cancer treatment is coupled with caregiver training and patient education programs. The comprehensive initiative aims to raise awareness, improve early detection, and increase survival rates. In Cambodia, where an alarming number of women die each year as a result of breast cancer, often due to lack of awareness and high cost of treatment – this program makes a lifesaving difference.

Dose 5: Famines, Floods, and Cholera

Disaster—the word is both ambiguous and broad. But, when famine was declared in the Horn of Africa, AmeriCares was there with enough crucial medicines, supplies, and water purification to reach 180,000 people. When catastrophic flooding struck Pakistan, displacing more than 2 million people, we delivered more than $6 million in emergency aid. As cholera outbreaks occur across the globe, we combat the disease, which spreads rapidly in crowded camps after disaster strikes, by delivering treatments and supporting prevention training in Haiti, the Horn of Africa, Sierra Leone and worldwide.

Dose 6: Healthy Steps with TOMS Shoes

Health goes beyond taking the right medications and making the right appointments. For the children coming to the AmeriCares family clinic in El Salvador, good health continues with a new pair of TOMS Shoes. Since 2010, AmeriCares has worked with TOMS to deliver new shoes to impoverished children in several countries around the world — including Uzbekistan, the Philippines, Armenia, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Through its socially conscious One for One® model, the new TOMS Shoes these children receive will be replaced as they grow, to protect them from cuts, infections and soil-transmitted ailments like hookworms. Today, the children can tread softly and more safely toward better health.

Dose 7: When the Pain Doesn’t Wash Away, AmeriCares is There

Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the East Coast —but just because the storm has passed does not mean that the devastation is over in the hearts and minds of survivors.

“Mental health services are often one of the most significant unmet needs after a disaster of this magnitude,” explained Garrett Ingoglia, AmeriCares vice president of Emergency Response. We’ve supported several programs that address this need – including counseling programs run by the YMCA in two-hard hit areas to help children cope with anxiety and trauma. Similar programs continue in Japan, to promote the mental well-being of survivors of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. These programs are a crucial part of the recovery after the initial emergency response.

Supporting Mental Health on a Global Stage

 

While communicable diseases such as cholera and HIV place a substantial burden on global health, these diseases represent just a portion of the need, overshadowing the burden of non-communicable diseases such as mental health. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, the most burdensome disease in the world today is depression — especially in areas affected by disaster or poverty. Yet mental health programs are often underfunded in emergency response and health interventions alike.

AmeriCares has not overlooked this need.

It’s been more than two years since a massive earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan, and the emotional burden still lingers. In the past two years, we have funded more 92 grants totaling $2 million for programs that promote the mental well-being of survivors. A number of these grants support community directed initiatives — smaller scale projects designed to bring residents out and connect them to other survivors through communal activities.

One such initiative, a community gardening project, supported the planting of more than 300 varieties of flowers by residents throughout the grounds of the Ohashi temporary housing complex. Not only did the project enhance the physical environment, it reduced loneliness and isolation and helped establish friendships among residents. Initiatives like this also restore a sense of community to villages and towns that suffered immense physical destruction. This pride and community are an integral aspect of Japanese culture.

Here at home, the need for programs addressing mental health issues was clearly evident in aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. To date, AmeriCares has provided more than $1 million in funding for domestic mental health projects – most recently to benefit Sandy survivors. One grant, to the Pediatric Disaster Coalition in Partnership with Maimonides Hospital, trained 58 providers in pediatric disaster mental health to adequately assess and provide care for children. The grant aims to reduce symptoms related to children’s exposure to the traumatic experience, while enhancing their skills to manage current and future stressors.

Unlike communicable diseases which have clearly recognizable symptoms, mental health issues are more difficult to diagnose and treat. While an MRI or blood test can often quickly reveal physical infection, diagnosing mental health disorders are much more subjective, and require more intensive examination. Treatment is neither a simple distribution of medication or resources, but entails complex and highly individualized care, sometimes spanning longer timeframes.

By funding both community-directed programs and caregiver training programs in Japan and in the U.S., AmeriCares is providing both immediate and lasting mental health support for disaster survivors. These are just two examples of our commitment to deliver help that may not otherwise receive attention or funding — but is desperately needed. Health is not merely the absence of illness. This comprehensive work of AmeriCares will create a truly healthy world for all.