Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Skinny Malawi

The tiny country of Malawi stretches a little over 900 miles from north to south and about 100 miles from east to west.   It has a small geographic area that hosts over 17 million people.

Landlocked with Lake Malawi on the East and Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania on surrounding sides, Malawi is dependent on its neighbors for many of its staples.  Just as the country is 'skinny' many of its people are also thin due to recurrent droughts, crop failures, and chronic health problems.

The Sinkhani health workers recently cared for Chisomo, a boy four years old weighing 17 pounds.  The Sinkhani began teaching the mother how to boost the child's diet with soya and reported "his mother worked very hard for this child."  He soon began gaining weight and now weighs 26 pounds. Another of many success stories from the Sinkhani.

The little dots on the map represent 14 sites where the Sinkhani health workers provide educational classes for the moms and monitoring for the babies.  

Monday, July 23, 2018

Good News/Bad News on Stunting


The bad news: Thirty-six percent of all Nepalese children under five are "stunted", or underdeveloped due to long-term malnutrition.  This shocking statistic is not just a number, but represents precious little lives that are affected by cognitive delays, small stature, and immature physical development and who are at much greater risk for contracting other diseases. 


The good news: The stunting rate is falling!! Not as rapidly as we would like, but it is much lower than it was in 2001 (57%.) This is largely due to education and early detection.


What we're doing to help: HealthEd Connect volunteers are a crucial part of the solution through teaching nutrition and sanitation, and encouraging long-term breast feeding. Weighing babies and children regularly is a critically important step toward catching problems early and providing opportunities to teach mothers about nutrition. The Nepalese government is working to bring the stunting rate down to 1% before 2030!! We can do it!

​This precious little one is getting weighed by a caring volunteer. 
Regular weight check-ups catch early signs of stunting and offer an opportunity
​to educate ​
mothers on nutrition.​

Wednesday, July 18, 2018


Emily crossing the Luapula  River (2007)
from Zambia to DR Congo

Fantastic news!  We are doing a happy dance at HealthEd Connect as we announce our new Executive Director, Emily Penrose-McLaughlin!  It is difficult to imagine anyone coming better qualified for the job.  See what you think:
  • Deep compassion for people
  • Lived in Zambia for a year with husband, Jeff
  • Traveled to Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Directed World Service Corps: Coordinated volunteers in 16 countries
  • Coordinated top-tier donor relations at University of Pittsburgh
  • Project officer for new monthly donors in international NGO
  • Mother to:  Avery (age 6) and Noah (age 3)
  • Bachelor of Arts: International Studies
  • Master of Public Policy and Management:  Emphasis nonprofits
  • Former HealthEd Connect board member
We're thrilled and know you will be too when you meet Emily!  Feel free to drop her an email to welcome her aboard.

We're wishing Lauren Hall the very best in her new career adventure.  We'll miss her but look forward to her continuing as one of HealthEd Connect's most ardent supporters! 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Knowledge is Infectious!

Any salesperson knows that if you can create a little spark of interest in a great product the idea can take hold and spread like wildfire. HealthEd Connect inspires longterm change in the same way. We believe that sharing a simple idea or bit of information can change the world! An idea may begin small, but it can be passed from woman to woman, and then from community to community, and ultimately spread around the world. One such idea has begun with this group of ladies in Kathmandu. They are learning how to make homemade sanitary pads with the hope that this knowledge will be infectious and spread to many, many communities, making life easier for lots of women who cannot afford purchased products. Knowledge is contagious...pass it around!


Thursday, July 12, 2018

Nepal Update: Hyper-compassionate Care for Hypertension

Curious villagers wait in line as our volunteer, Sangeeta, checks blood pressure in a small village in southern Nepal.

Volunteers for HealthEd Connect provide an essential "connection"  between villagers and the medical professionals at hospitals and clinics. Our community health workers are provided with a blood pressure cuff along with the training needed to identify high blood pressure (hypertension) and to assist people in getting medical help before serious problems ensue. Without their caring concern and assistance, many cases would go undiagnosed and untreated. 


Studies show that the prevalence of high blood pressure in urban areas like Kathmandu has tripled in the past thirty years! Many studies suggest that this escalation is due to the changes in lifestyle brought about by global interrelations, which has increased the availability of cigarettes and alcohol and increased salt intake. Furthermore, lack of physical activity created by the congested and highly dense population in the city contributes to this dangerous health issue. Interestingly, some studies show that the most remote, high altitude villages of Nepal show decreased likelihood of high blood pressure. Perhaps there are some health benefits to daily trekking up a mountainside to get home!

Binu, an urban volunteer in Kathmandu, tenderly checks blood pressure at a recent women's health group.



Raja Ram Dhungana, Achyut Raj Pandey, Bihungum Bista, Suira Joshi, and Surya Devkota, "Prevalence and Associated Factors of Hypertension: A Community-Based Cross-Sectional Study in Municipalities of Kathmandu, Nepal," International Journal of Hypertension, vol. 2016. 


Vaidya A, Pathak RP, Pandey MR. Prevalence of hypertension in Nepalese community triples in 25 years: a repeat cross-sectional study in rural Kathmandu. Indian Heart Journal. 2012;64(2):128-131.


Living at High Altitudes is Associated with Decrease in Blood Pressure

Neupane Dinesh; Pradhan, Kiran Shrestha; McLachlan, Craig S; Stock, Christiane; Kallestrup, 

Journal of Hypertension: September 2016. 

Monday, July 9, 2018

Family "Planning" Means Family "Caring"

This thoughtful young woman, named Sita, lives alone with her husband and makes a living selling a snack called chatpate on the streets of Kathmandu. Pregnant for the first time, 18-year-old Sita is a participant in the ongoing women's group held by our volunteers. In this group, women learn valuable information about pregnancy, safe childbirth, nutrition, menstruation, and family planning. Equally valuable is the gentle openness of our volunteers, who create a safe atmosphere in which delicate questions and concerns can be raised by shy participants. Our Nepali Representative, Pinkey Malla, tells us, ""Women are happy from information about family planning...Many women hesitate to talk about that, but we create a friendly situation and many women sharing their experience, asking questions." 

"Family Planning" means making intentional, responsible choices about the size and spacing of children and protecting the health of the mother.  Training in family planning has made a radical difference in the fertility rates of Nepal, which have been gradually dropping in recent years.  According to the World Health Organization, the fertility rate in Nepal has dropped from  5.8 children per woman in the 1970s, to the current rate of 2.6 children per woman! As in every developing country, fertility rates are much higher for the lower economic classes, making women's groups like this one invaluable. Fewer children per family means improved health for women and greater ability for parents to feed, educate, and take CARE of each precious child. Family planning means family caring.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

A Step Toward Freedom!

This adorable fabric might not look like a freedom-flag for women's empowerment, but it is! For women and girls in the slum areas of Kathmandu, Nepal who cannot afford American-style feminine products, this waterproof cloth can provide the freedom to attend school or work and to avoid isolation and missed opportunities for income and education. For the past several months, our colleagues in Nepal have been gathering a group of 38 village women together to teach a wide range of topics that affect women's health. Their most recent endeavor is to teach the group how to make homemade, reusable sanitary pads. They plan to expand the program to the remote Himalayan villages very soon! Our amazing volunteers are the true freedom-fighters for women!


Simple, reusable, discreet, and sanitary pads!

Michelle Mahlik
BOD, HealthEd Connect

Monday, July 2, 2018

How to Build a Latrine in 8 Not-so-simple Steps (in a remote Himalayan village):

Step 1: Survey 75 families to determine the need for latrines to improve health.

Step 2: Wallow in paperwork for a year in order to obtain government permission to build.

Step 3: Walk 6-8 hours from your mountain village to the nearest town to order materials and have them transported by pickup truck to your village.

Step 4: Educate your village on the need for sanitation and how to safely create and care for latrines.

Step 5: Dig a deep, deep hole. Avoid the monsoon season!

Step 6: Install simple but efficient pan and pipes to create a safe and functional system.

Step 7: Coordinate each family in supplying the products and labor to build their own unique structure out of stone, brick, or tin. 

Step 8: Celebrate the great teamwork of Ramprasad, Pinkey, Binod, Ram, the villagers, and our donors!

Latrines have been built and our pilot program is up and running in Nepal! The families in this remote Himalayan village were devastated by the 2015 earthquake. They are excitedly participating in the effort to improve village sanitation. Our Nepalese team will assess the function of the latrines for a few months before continuing to build more...stay tuned for further developments! This project will dramatically improve the health of the members of this community by preventing illness and the spread of disease. This has been a long journey, and we celebrate the efforts of our friends who have worked so hard to make this happen!

Ramprasad educates villagers on the need for sanitation.

​Stones are readily available in this mountainous region.

​Each family provides building products as they are able, giving each latrine a unique appearance.

​Simple yet efficient! In the absence of running water, a pot of water is kept handy to keep things clean and sanitized!