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ABC News Global Health Series Launches Friday

In a New York Daily News article, ABC News medical correspondent Richard Besser discussed the network’s new “Be the Change: Save a Life” series ahead of its Friday launch, which will be the “first installment in a multimillion-dollar partnership between ABC News and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to cover global health issues.”

ABC News plans “to report on the topic across all platforms for the next year, culminating with another prime-time special next December,” according to the New York Daily News. “It’s not a show that’s focusing on how dire the situation is, it’s framing problems with a solution,” Besser said, adding, “My hope is this will inspire people to take some action.” 

The series will feature reports “on the spread of tuberculosis in Cambodia … [and] malnutrition in Guatemala,” while another segment, reported by Besser, examines water issues in Bangladesh. “It was quite a moving experience,” Besser said. “That’s where I started my career in public health,” he noted. “I think what people are going to find are really interesting stories, really compelling stories about people who are impacted by these diseases, who are characters people can relate to,” Besser said of the series (Huff, 12/15). 

Besser also discussed the series on Mediabistro’s Morning Media Menu (Boog/Weprin, 12/15).

Program Examines Global Health Technological Innovations  

The series debut on ABC News’ 20/20 on Friday will look at “three technological inventions” – the Camel Caravan in Kenya, GeneXpert in Cambodia and Embrace Infant Warmers in India – that aim to improve health. “Camels make the perfect mobile medical unit because they can go great distances without food or water,” according to the piece on 20/20, which describes retired Boeing engineer Donna Thorson’s efforts to develop a refrigeration system “that fits onto a camel saddle.”

“Last October, the WHO upgraded the standards for proper vaccine storage conditions, which made the previous refrigeration units unacceptable for sanctioned use. After a year of research and field testing, Thorson developed her refrigeration system, which had to be proven to work before it could get WHO approval. She said she purposefully tried to ‘keep it simple,’ and was very conscious of the rigors of travel in a desert environment,” 20/20 writes.  

The program also looks at how the GeneXpert MTB/RIF is being used to quickly diagnose drug-sensitive and drug-resistant TB in Cambodia. “GeneXpert was originally developed with input from the Pentagon to test for Anthrax. It resembles a coffee machine, and costs around $20,000. After the WHO endorsed the use of GeneXpert, Cepheid said it would offer a 75 percent price cut to countries with the highest number of TB cases. The public can also donate to the cause,” 20/20 reports.

Another segment reports on the Embrace Infant Warmer that was developed by students at Stanford’s Institute of Design. “The product is an inexpensive, low-tech device that looks like a small sleeping bag. It regulates a baby’s body temperature using a wax insert that can be safely reheated. Incubators are vital to premature babies’ survival because their internal organs are not fully developed at birth,” according to 20/20. The story includes accompanying video segments (Effron, 12/15). Information on other segments to air in there series is available on 20/20’s website.

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.