Sunday, January 26, 2014

...Bill, Bill, Bill, Bill Nye, the Science Guy...

Here is what Bill Nye has to say about the Millennium Development Goals.

An Update on the Millennium Development Goals

Over the last month, many of us have set out to make a change in our lives. Drink more water, exercise X-days per week, read more books, drink less soda, do more good deeds, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Some succeeded in achieving their goals for 2013 and went into 2014 with more power and motivation. Others faltered halfway through the year, yet are feeling re-energized and hopeful for 2014. And alas, there are others who abandoned all efforts by this time last year and didn't even bother to set a goal for the new year. My goal was to restart this blog--for real. So while we are stranded at home during this arctic blast/polar vortex/frozen world, here are some people who are fighting relentlessly to carry their achievements through 2014, in a fierce attempt to achieve a set of goals many would consider entirely unattainable.

What are the Millennium Development Goals?
In 2000 the UN General Assembly resolved to lessen poverty and starvation, increase gender equality, and save the environment. Sounds pretty lofty, no? They developed a strategic plan and a deadline. The deadline is the year 2015. With one year to go, here’s an update on the progress of each goal. The green text indicates the goal has been achieved; blue indicates that they are on track or that significant progress has been made, and a concerted effort should result in attaining the goal; red indicates progress has been made and with a concerted effort there remains a possibility of achievement; and brown indicates that despite the progress it is unlikely the goal will be met.

      1.       Reduce extreme poverty by half and reduce hunger by half
          a.       Achieved 5 years ahead of schedule! In developing regions, the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day fell from 47% in 1990 to 22% in 2010.
          b.       The proportion of undernourished people in developing regions decreased from 23.2 per cent in 1990–1992 to 14.9 per cent in 2010–2012. Given reinvigorated efforts, the target of halving the percentage of people suffering from hunger by 2015 appears to be within reach.

2.       Achieve universal primary education
          a.       Between 2000 and 2011, the number of children out of school declined by almost half—from 102 million to 57 million.

3.       Promote gender equality and empower women through primary education, paid employment, and representation in national parliaments.
          a.       Whether in the public or private sphere, from the highest levels of government decision-making to households, women continue to be denied equal opportunity with men to participate in decisions that affect their lives.

4.       Reduce mortality of children under 5 by two-thirds and increase measles immunizations
          a.       Worldwide, the mortality rate for children under five dropped by 41 per cent—from 87 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 51 in 2011. Despite this enormous accomplishment, more rapid progress is needed to meet the 2015 target of a two-thirds reduction in child deaths. Increasingly, child deaths are concentrated in the poorest regions, and in the first month of life.
b.       Since 2000, measles vaccines have averted over 10 million deaths.

5.       Reduce maternal mortality by three-fourths
          a.       Globally, the maternal mortality ratio declined by 47% over the past two decades, from 400 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 210 in 2010.

6.       Halt and reverse spread of HIV/AIDS, halt and reverse spread of malaria, halt and reverse spread of tuberculosis.
          a.         Worldwide, the number of people newly infected with HIV continues to fall, dropping 21% from 2001 to 2011. With continued efforts, close to 15 million people may be receiving antiretroviral therapy by the end of 2015.
          b.         Between 2000 and 2010, mortality rates from malaria fell by more than 25% globally, with 1.1 million deaths averted.
c.         TB prevalence rates and associated deaths are falling in most regions, and
                         successful treatment is exceeding global targets.

      7.       Reverse loss of forests, halve proportion without improved drinking water, halve proportion without sanitation, and improve the lives of slum-dwellers.
          a.       The growth in global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) is accelerating, and emissions today are more than 46 per cent higher than their 1990 level. Forests continue to be lost at an alarming rate. Overexploitation of marine fish stocks is resulting in diminished yields. More of the earth’s land and marine areas are under protection, but birds, mammals and other species are heading for extinction at an ever faster rate, with declines in both populations and distribution.
                         b.       Achieved 5 years ahead of schedule, despite population growth! Over 2 billion
                         people gained access to improved sources of drinking water.
                         c.       From 1990 to 2011, 1.9 billion people gained access to a latrine, flush toilet or other
                         improved sanitation facility.
                         d.     Between 2000 and 2010, over 200 million slum dwellers benefitted from improved
                         water sources, sanitation facilities, durable housing or sufficient living space, thereby
                         exceeding the 100 million MDG target. Many countries across all regions have shown
                         remarkable progress in reducing the proportion of urban slum dwellers.

8.       Establishing a global partnership for development through financial aid, debt relief, expanding trade, providing employment for youth, and providing access to disease-fighting drugs.
        a.     In 2012, net aid disbursements from developed to developing countries totalled $126 billion. This represents a 4% drop in real terms compared to 2011, which itself was 2 per cent below 2010 levels. This decline affected least developed countries disproportionately. In 2012, bilateral official development assistance to these countries fell by 13 per cent, to
                           about $26 billion.
                          b.    The debt service to export revenue ratio of all developing countries stood at 3.1% in
                          2011, down from nearly 12 per cent in 2000. Their duty-free market access also improved in
                          2011, reaching 80 per cent of their exports. The exports of least developed countries
                          benefitted the most. Average tariffs are also at an all-time low.

It is important to remember that the goals highlighted in red or brown do not indicate failure, but that greater advocacy is needed. With strengthened international collaboration, further progress can continue to be made beyond 2015.

Thank you for reading,


Friday, June 24, 2011

Hello bloggers! Yes, it is me again, if any of you [readers] are still out there!

I am still alive, and have not completely forgotten about this blog.

First, I would like to make a public statement that I am going to attempt to pick this blog back up.

Second, I read an interesting article this morning that I would like to share. Although, it is probably old news on here, as I have been out of touch for so long.

This article presents an efficient way to purify contaminated water in the developing world.

I hope to follow-up with some science-based articles soon...

Monday, March 22, 2010

My favorite part of summer is sitting by the poolside with a cold glass of pink lemonade

5:30pm, time to take another pool count, before the next birthday swim party comes in. On Saturday I worked at my local recreation center, where I am an aquatic supervisor and instruct learn-to-swim classes. As I watched the 67 people stand in line patiently for the water slide, relax in the lazy river, dive (ahhh—no diving!) and jump in from the side, or sit peacefully in the spa/whirlpool, I began to think about the frivolous uses we find for clean water here in the Developed world (primarily the US), in comparison to the dire need for clean water in the rest of the Globe. This pool, which is only one of the 14 public pools (that I can think of) within a 5mile radius of my home, can probably hold approximately 150 “bathers” comfortably at one time… not to mention the fact that we are only talking about the indoor pool here, there is also an outdoor pool open during the summer season!… can you imagine what a Malagasy or Ethiopian village could do with all of that water??? Although I don’t as often as I should, every day I must remind myself how blessed I am to live in this Country.

15 – the time, in minutes, I use to take a shower each day

4 – average number of times I flush the toilet every day

3.5 – the average amount of water, in gallons, used every time someone flushes a Standard American toilet

150,000 – the approximate number of gallons held in the pool where I teach swim lessons twice a week

4 – due to our standard filtration system in the indoor pool, the entire volume of water is “changed out” or filtered out in an estimated period of four hours (yeah, that’s an average of 900,000 gallons each day)

884 – the number of people, in millions, who lack access to safe water

3.575 – the number of people, in millions, who die every year from water related diseases (according to the WHO) such as scabies, dracunculiasis (guinea-worm), ringworm, and diarrhea.

15 – according to the UN Human Development Report, an estimated every 15 seconds a child dies from a water related disease

8 – the average economic return in US dollars, for every US dollar invested in bringing clean water and sanitation to the underdeveloped world

For more information on World Water Day/Week and the global impact of water and sanitation: WHO,, CDC

Photo Credits: image 1 is not of my pool, though I so wish it was. image 2 acquired from water encyclopedia

Friday, February 12, 2010

New hope for a malaria vaccine!

Last week’s edition of Nature published some exciting advancements towards Malaria research. A laboratory in Australia, the Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, identified an essential protein needed by the malaria parasite for survival. Additionally, the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis identified the same protein as being a potential vaccine target, which only further confirmed the findings in Australia.

Background While malaria can be caused from several different species of the protist Plasmodium, the most virulent form is caused by Plasmodium falciparum. When an individual is bitten by a malaria infected mosquito, the parasites are transmitted into the blood. The parasites enter the red blood cells (RBC) and immediately begin exporting hundreds of effector proteins (effectors bind to another protein thereby activating or inhibiting activity) into the RBC’s cytoplasm, in so doing the parasite alters their intracellular environment so as to evade an immune response, permitting their replication and spread of infection, thus ensuring survival.

Current Research The published research identifies a protein, Plasmepsin V, directly essential to the export of effector proteins into the cell. Plasmepsin V is a membrane-bound aspartic protease, which primes the effector proteins prior to export. It recognizes a particular “tag” on the proteins to be secreted and cleaves it off. The cleaved/primed protein is believed to bind to a chaperone protein which carries it to the membrane channel, where it is exported to the RBC’s intracellular space. In vitro assays demonstrated that by interfering with Plasmepsin V activity effector protein export is inhibited, thus preventing the spread of infection. Plasmepsin V makes for an excellent drug target for two reasons: its closest equivalent in humans is the very distantly related Beta Secretase, which would hopefully minimize any potential adverse side effects, and because this protein does not vary widely across the four different Plasmodium species.

Why is this significant?

Following information obtained from WHO World Malaria Report 2009

- half of the world’s population is at risk for malaria - an estimated 243 million cases occurred worldwide in 2008 - an estimated 863 thousand deaths occurred worldwide in 2008 - the damages of this disease continue to cripple any hope for economic development in Africa

Photo credit: WHO