An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. ~ Benjamin Franklin
In no place do those words ring more true than in many of our world’s poorest communities. At epidemic levels, in some cases, people are facing and dying from diseases that haven’t been seen for decades in more developed countries.
PCI’s contributions to disease prevention worldwide are massive, comprehensive, and ever evolving. PCI workers recognize that one size does not fit all when it comes to prevention of disease. A successful approach must be community centered with an initial focus on identifying risk factors of the region affected and, of course, the specific disease at hand. This unique, person-centered model of disease prevention, control, and treatment is a major strength of PCI’s involvement in the most at-risk communities.
What is disease prevention? With so many types and causes of illness, how can such a task be defined? To illustrate the efforts involved, this article will zero in on just a few of the many diseases being prevented and controlled by PCI workers worldwide.
With the help of dedicated PCI workers, India has experienced incredible successes in the past several years in its battle against polio. In most of the world, polio hardly exists as a threat to physical health. But in some areas, it is a completely different story. One such place is the Moradabad district outside Delhi, which has been called the global epicenter of polio. However, with current and effective disease prevention measures in place, this will no longer be true. PCI’s goal, through its involvement with the Core Group Polio Project (CGPP), is no new cases of polio – up to 2014 and beyond. The goal is eradication of this disease.
Since 2002, the CGPP has achieved significant success toward this goal. Consistent efforts by PCI workers – which entail immunizing children, engaging communities, advocating awareness, improving surveillance, and overcoming resistance to participation on the part of Muslim families – has resulted in tremendous achievements, including no new polio cases in over a year in some of the previously most at risk areas.
TB Treatment and Prevention
The prevalence of tuberculosis (TB) cases in some countries is especially upsetting because TB is curable. Its spread is preventable. Nevertheless, in the not too distant past, approximately 1.5 million men, women, and children worldwide have died annually from TB.
In far too many cases, the problem was that people did not have access to proper medication, or did not take the medication properly. Through its SOLUCION TB, PCI assisted in Mexican efforts to significantly reduce the number of people who die of tuberculosis, and increase the number of those struck by the illness to be fully cured.
Through its hands on approach to disease control and prevention, PCI – in partnership with the National TB Program in Mexico – worked with the government health clinics that offered diagnostic services and medication. Multi-faceted support is needed during the course of treatment for an individual to best guarantee a cure of TB. PCI workers provided just that. They trained community health volunteers to make home visits, observed patients’ intake of medicine, and encouraged those with the disease to remain vigilant in their treatment. As a direct result of PCI’s involvement to prevent, treat and cure TB in 13 high risk identified Mexican states, tuberculosis cure rates increased to an average of 90.7 %.
Significant progress has been made in HIV prevention efforts. PCI has been at the forefront of global organizations dedicated to decreasing the number of deaths due to HIV related illnesses, and especially reducing the number of new cases. The numbers reveal the strength of progress. Worldwide, the number of adults and children acquiring HIV in 2011 was a full 20% lower than in 2001.
Such evidence of success has encouraged PCI workers to step up efforts in HIV/AIDS treatment, and especially prevention, with the theme for 2011 through 2015 – Getting to Zero: Zero New HIV Infections, Zero Discrimination. Zero AIDS Related Deaths.
PCI focuses on a holistic approach, assisting those most at risk through community based interventions that are multi-faceted and comprehensive. These interventions include: home-based care and outreach, antiretroviral therapy, access to nutritional food, economic empowerment activities, and support groups, including those for caregivers and orphans.
Sadly, in South Africa, violence against women has become a prevalent and devastating contributor to the increased risk for female HIV infection. PCI’s program, Prevention in Action, seeks to create and sustain a shift in response to violence against women. In 2012, the project focused on promoting actions to stop violence against women; none more powerful than empowering the communities themselves. In ZwaZulu-Natal, as well as local communities in the Western Cape, Prevention in Action crews filmed over 100 authentic stories of actions taken to prevent violence against women. These videos were shared with the communities as a part of PCI’s tireless efforts – through Prevention in Action – to help establish Violence Free Zones that are community owned and led.
Based upon the evidence thus far, PCI and its partners believe that this new social norm, an active intolerance for violence against women, will lead to declines in attacks, and thus a reduction of new HIV infections for female members of these communities.
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