Life expectancy has been increasing over the past two decades across the world with several nations in Sub sub-Saharan Africa rebounding from high death rate due to HIV/AIDS.
In Botswana women have a longer life expectancy than men, living to an average of 68.4 years compared to 63.6 for men. Between 2005 and 2016, death rates from HIV/AIDS decreased by 42% and malaria by 43% while Pre- birth complications and maternal disorders decreased by 30% and 29% respectively. However, this progress is said to be threatened by increasing number of people suffering health challenges related to obesity, high blood sugar, alcohol and drug abuse. This is according to a health research conducted at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).
The study, which examined the Global Burden of Disease (GBD), injuries and risk factors, the years that one lives in good health and those that one lives with an injury or illness, analyzed 300 illnesses and injuries in 195 countries between 1990 and 2016. The results were published on Thursday in the journal, The Lancet.
For most countries, changes in healthy life expectancy for males and females between 1990 and 2016 were positive, but in dozens of others, including Botswana, Belize and Syria, healthy life expectancy in 2016 was not significantly higher than in 1990. Healthy life expectancy takes into account not just death rates but the impact of non-fatal conditions and considers years lived with disability and years lost due to premature mortality.
According to the study, in 2016 Botswana’s disease burden was found to arise from unsafe sex, high fasting plasma glucose, high systolic blood pressure, high body-mass index and alcohol use.
HIV, respiratory infections, diarrhea and tuberculosis were the diseases most prevalent among men. For women, lower respiratory infections (such as pneumonia and bronchitis), and congenital anomalies were the most prevalent illnesses. Congenital illnesses are conditions that one is born with, which can affect one’s development and general well-being.
Maternal and child Deaths
The study has also found that from 1980 to 2016, giving birth has gotten less safe for mothers in Botswana. The ratio of maternal deaths grew from 74 per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 118 in 2016. Globally, the ratio of maternal deaths fell 30% over the same time period, from 282 to 196 per 100,000 live births. One of the co-researchers of the study, Dr Charles Shey Wiysonge, said it was encouraging that Batswana are living longer. However, he lamented that the high number of maternal deaths, “have overshadowed significant gains against HIV/AIDS”.
Dr Wiysonge is a GBD collaborator from South Africa who serves as a Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University. Dr. Nicholas Kassebaum, Assistant Professor, IHME said, “in many nations, improvements in maternal health are accelerating, but in others, women face daunting challenges, including the absence of trained professionals to assist with pregnancy and childbirth, and deal with life-threatening emergencies. As a result, reproductive health care must be a higher priority, including the expansion and improvement of reproductive health and family planning services and, for complications in childbirth, more advanced obstetric care.”
The study says that in 2016,1550 children under the age of 5 died, a ratio of 28.2 deaths per 1,000 live births. This ratio has been falling by 2.6 % each year since 1990. On the global level, 5.8 million children under age 5 died, representing a 52% decline in the number of under-5 deaths since 1990. In 2010 for example, the highest risk factor to good health among children under the age of five was being underweight, while among those aged between 15 and 49, the highest risk factor was alcohol abuse.
The researchers also examined the role that socio-demographic status – a combination of income, age, fertility rates and average years of schooling – plays in determining health. They noted that socio-demographic status is much less responsible for the variations seen for ailments, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
“Factors including income and education have an important impact on health but don’t tell the full story. Looking at healthy life expectancy and health loss at the country level can help guide policies to ensure that people everywhere can have long and healthy lives no matter where they live.” said IHME Director Christopher Murray.
Don’t use garlic for yeast infections
Public Health Specialist, Dr Orapeleng Phuswane-Katse has warned women against using garlic for yeast infections, citing risk for further infections.She explained that while there are a few studies to support the claim that garlic has anti-fungal properties, it is never safe to put anything that is not regulated in the vaginal area.
On Monday, a woman took to social media to seek a remedy describing her symptoms as itchiness and a white discharge from her private area. Out of the 375 comments that she got, almost half advised her to insert garlic into her genital area. The comments indicated that the symptoms would disappear within three days.
“I remember I had the same problem back in 2017, I could not stand the itchiness, a friend of mine advised me to insert garlic, and within two days it was gone,” wrote one commentator. Another one wrote: “Take a clove of fresh garlic and peel off the natural white shell that covers it, leaving the clove intact. At bedtime, put the clove in the private area. “In the morning, remove the garlic clove and throw it in the toilet. I did this one time, if the itchiness goes on, continue for one or two days until all the itchiness is gone.”
However, Dr Phuswane-Katse advised that the only alternative is to see a doctor when one has the symptoms.“The vagina is a fragile moist area that has bacteria that regulates the PH in there. Any foreign objects can cause laceration and even introduce unwanted bacteria that can cause more harm than good”. Furthermore, she added, “There is no regulated size of the garlic to insert and this may pose danger.
Questions like, ‘how many hours do you remove it, in what state should you insert it, crushed or whole’? Since its not regulated medicine, there can be no clear answer”. Dr Tebogo Oleseng, a gynaecologist and obstetrician said women need to be more careful, saying that the birth canal is the ‘perfect’ environment for the botulism bacteria to grow, which can be life-threatening.
Botulism, a condition caused by Clostridium botulinum bacteria, can be offset when someone eats food containing toxins because it has not been properly canned, preserved or cooked.
He advised women not to take medical advice from anyone recommending vaginal garlic for yeast or anything else because there are antifungal drugs specifically for yeast infection. He explained that garlic contains allicin, which in the lab has shown to have antifungal properties. “Bacteria from the soil can be pathogenic for the body. That is why we clean wounds. If you actually happen to have an inflamed yeasty vagina, soil bacteria would be more likely to infect it,” he said.
Caroline Gartland speaks on Children and Mental Health
Tell us about yourself and your background
I’m originally from the UK but have been in Botswana for eight years so this is now home! I have a Combined Honours degree in Psychology an MSc in Mental Health and have had a pretty varied career.
I started off working with offenders doing rehabilitation programmes; went on to support the victims of domestic violence then ended up working in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services for the National Health Service.
I’ve done a lot of work, mainly voluntary, in different fields since being in Botswana but my passion is now Early Childhood Mental Health.
What does your work entail?
Early childhood mental health is mainly working with parents, caregivers and teachers to help them understand how children develop and the best ways to support their mental health and brain development as they grow. It’s about providing training and opportunities for families to bond with their children and introducing new ways of playing and interacting.
What sparked your interest in early childhood mental health?
Quite simply, having my own children! My daughter was born five years ago and I was fascinated watching her develop and grow. It occurred to me that the younger you begin to consider mental health and provide tools for resilience against life’s adversities, the better outcomes you are likely to have.
I began reading everything I could get my hands on, and completed a diploma in Infant Mental Health. I’ve worked down the lifespan but I feel I’m now where I belong, working with babies and young children.
What mental health issues have you observed in children in Botswana?
Mental Health is still stigmatised around the world and Botswana is no exception. Most people immediately think of mental illness, but mental health is about so much more; we all have mental health and some days we are fine and able to deal with life’s challenges and some days we need more support and tools under our belt to help us cope.
Young children can experience mental health problems. Anxiety is a common one, but we are more likely to focus on the behaviour we see rather than how the child is feeling. An anxious child who refuses to go to school may be labelled as ‘difficult’ or ‘naughty’ but what they are expressing is a painful emotion that they need help dealing with.
Describe one thing you find fulfilling and challenging about working in this industry.
Working with children and families is a pleasure and a privilege. To make life a little bit easier for someone is all that matters, you don’t have to be out there saving the world to make a difference.
My major challenge is time. I would love to do more, I’d love to do an MSc in play therapy and a couple of other therapeutic techniques I’ve come across in Europe but that gets put on hold as I focus on my own family and business.
Can you share an anecdote about how mental health consultation works?
I think that education, understanding and connection are the three keys to giving a child the best start in life. Led by that, SensoBaby provides classes in the community for parents and caregivers to connect with their infants.
We offer workshops on parenting and play to foster understanding of child development and wellbeing and we are available to troubleshoot specific problems an individual or agency has with the young children in their care or the systems they have in place. When it comes to individual parents, mostly what they need is to feel heard, supported and guided in their parenting choices.
You can read all the baby books in the world but they won’t give you the answers you need for your child, through responsive parenting and connection, you’ll find you have the solutions you need.
What advice do you have for child-care providers or early childhood teachers who are at their wits’ end over a child’s challenging behaviour but don’t have access to a consultant?
Empathy is an important and undervalued skill – the ability to consider another’s viewpoint. What is that child feeling? Their behaviour might be challenging and hard to deal with but often the root cause is an unmet need. There’s a famous quote from an American Clinical Psychologist, “The children who need love the most, will ask for it in the most unloving ways.”
Does a mother’s mental health affect her foetus? How important would you say is paying attention to women’s well being during pregnancy as with their physical well being?
100% yes. It is so important to support a woman’s wellbeing during pregnancy. As an example, if the mother experiences significant stress and rising levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) during pregnancy, the foetus will be affected and in some cases will be more sensitive to stress in childhood or later in life.
Pregnant women and new families (Dads as well!) deserve nurturing care themselves and shouldn’t be afraid to ask for support. SensoBaby run FREE monthly coffee mornings to support pregnant and new mothers because we understand the importance of maternal wellbeing.
Do smart phones and television make our children mentally ill as is often purported?
I don’t think technology is always the villain it’s made out to be. The key is in the relationship with that technology. Moderate use of TV’s and smart phones are fine, as long as they aren’t a substitute for outdoor play, imaginative play and meaningful interactions. If a child is crying or upset and we hand them a device to keep them quiet then we have missed an important opportunity for connection, helping them process what is going on and supporting them to calm down and settle themselves.
Now, I know you are involved in an exciting programme that helps caregivers and children to bond and get the children off to the best start in life through play. Can you say a little bit about that work and just how you are seeing it play out?
SensoBaby is our baby; a project born from passion and a desire to support families in Botswana. We offer play-based classes for children and their caregivers that are underpinned by the principles of child wellness as well as early foundations for learning.
When you provide developmentally appropriate opportunities to play, you learn so much about your child. That understanding and observation builds strong connections, which will form the basis of that child’s future relationships and self esteem. Play is so much more than ‘a fun activity.’
We offer a number of trainings and workshops for parents, nannies and community stakeholders and hope to increase our offerings this year. Our community partnerships and voluntary programmes have been successful so far and we hope to see more impact in 2018.
We currently serve the Gaborone community but would like to expand throughout Botswana as opportunities arise. The response to SensoBaby has been fantastic so far and we can’t wait to see how far we can go with the concept!
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