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Appropriate technology

September 22, 2010

There is so much win in this, especially when you realize that diarrheal infections are a leading cause of child mortality worldwide:

Great publicity was given to a quotation in Lancet in 1978 that elucidation of the biological mechanisms behind oral rehydration is “potentially the most important medical advance of this century.” Oral rehydration therapy (ORT), getting the salts necessary to correct diarrhea absorbed through the intestinal mucosa by using a sugar or cereal carrier, became a prime example of how sophisticated research can produce simple solutions to problems rather than following the usual tendency to make health care increasingly complex and expensive. It is also an outstanding demonstration of the value of focusing on the massive health problems of developing countries rather than concentrating research funds almost exclusively on the health problems of affluent countries.

Taylor, CE and Greenough WB. Control of diarrheal diseases. Annu. Rev. Public Health. 1989. 10:221-44

[Edit: I know I promised epidemiological statistics. Sorry. May I remind you: good things come to those who wait.]

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Dad permalink
    September 22, 2010 9:42 PM

    I am always glad to see ORS given some attention. Interestingly, the challenge has always been getting kids to actually drink it and parents to actually give it to vomiting kids (parents fear that it “all comes back up” when there is vomiting, which is not the case at all.) When people become convinced that ORS saves lives, more ORS actually gets into the stomachs of the kids who need it. So like everything else in community health, how one gets the ORS message across to communities is as important as the basic concept of ORS itself. Implemenation at the grass roots level depends on buy-in. Buy-in is the complex process that comes about when development work is done in a respectful, sensitive and intellignet way, when development workers adequately understand the issues and concerns in the minds of local people. The true brilliance of ORS in my thinking is the ability to easily make it from scratch in almost any place in the world even where there are no ORS packets available. It even works when there is no money for fuel to boil the contaminated water. I.e, even ORS made from contaminated water saves lives. Now how’s that for low tech?

  2. Tarini permalink
    September 25, 2010 8:10 AM

    I’m used to agreeing with everything you say, but I also agree with everything your father said.

    More info on diarrhea, please.


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