Feature Article

Diaspora health meet highlights 'Village University'

[TamilNet, Thursday, 06 September 2007, 05:12 GMT]
Dr Mads Gilbert, a Professor of Emergency Medicine at University of Tromsø in Norway and a co-author of the book titled 'Save Lives, Save Limbs', gave a lecture on the concept of 'Village University', last Saturday when Tamil Diaspora health workers in Europe gathered in the Norwegian city of Bergen for a 2-day conference. The anesthesiologist with experience in training health care workers in many conflict areas of the global South, outrightly criticized the North centric approach to health in conflict areas. His impressive publication on alternatives awaits Tamil translation.

Dr. Mads Gilbert
Dr. Mads Gilbert, sharing his experiences in the Northeast to Tamil diaspora and introducing the concept of 'Village University'
Around one hundred Diaspora health workers from UK, Norway, Sweden and Denmark gathered in the Norwegian city of Bergen on September 01 and 02 to confer and stock take the role of Diaspora health professionals on primary health care, emergency medicine and the treatment of chronic diseases in the war-torn Northeast Sri Lanka.

Dr. Mads Gilbert has special interest in pre-hospital emergency organization and training in remote areas of the conflict zones and experience from Afghanistan, Burma, Cambodia, Kurdistan, Angola and Northeast Sri Lanka. He elucidated to the audience, how the tourniquet, a bandage recommended by the manuals in emergency medicine as well as the guidelines from ICRC and UN to stop the flow of blood from an artery by applying pressure, becomes a limb killer.

Dr. Per Fauchald
Dr. Per Fauchald, a retired professor from the National hospital, University of Oslo, analyzes the primary heath care facilities in the Northeast.
Displaying the uneven distribution of health care workers throughout the world and explaining the connection between the mortality versus number of health workers with statistics, Dr. Gilbert showed a map turned upside down to enable the audience to conceive new perceptions.

The mentality of being dependent on external medical help from NGOs and other agencies needs to be challenged. Often, the outside help comes late and creates a burden, if not a 'Second Disaster', in the local society.

"The Tamils have dedicated, professional and extremely hard working health staff, with dense networks of decentralized, well-equipped primary health stations, but there are still enormous needs," Mads Gilbert described his experience in training advanced life support in the Northeast.

Many deaths could be avoided by empowering the local villagers to provide basic and advanced life support at the right time.

A significant percentage of the local population should learn 6 basic steps: airway control, MTM rescue breathing, and external bleeding control by compression, recovery position, shock position and rescue pull, according to Dr. Gilbert.

Save Lives, Save Limbs
"Save lives save limbs, by Hans Husum and his colleagues is a book that is attractive, full of information, and, although at times it reads like a heart tugging novel, it retains a high educational value. In a concise and well illustrated manner the book describes the total care of the victims of anti-personnel weapons." - J P Beavis, the Emergency Medicine Journal
The book, co-authored by Mads Gilbert and two other Norwegian experts, Hans Husum MD and Torben Wilberg MD, enlightens the readers on basic and advanced life support measures to victims of trauma at village level, where there is no doctor, taking a radical departure from common Western medical doctrines.

The task of translating the book into Tamil was assigned to the Norwegian Tamils Health Organization (NTHO), at the conference.

The translated book would be indispensable for anyone involved in mine victims assistance, relief work in civil disasters, or even first aid in emergencies and accidents as it shows how villagers in Northeast can build support networks to handle victims of mines and other disasters, said Sivakanesan Thilliampalam, the president of the NTHO.

NTHO officials said they were seeking professional translators and other required resources to complete the task.

Dr. Per Fauchald, a retired professor from the National hospital, University of Oslo, analyzed the primary heath care facilities in the Northeast. Dr. Fauchald had visited Sri Lanka four times, up to 3 months, working at primary health centres, hospitals and giving lectures for medical students and paramedics in the Tamil areas, after the February 2002 CFA.

There are 16 primary health care centres, each serving 3,000-20,000 people. Only 9 centres are functioning as the CHC was forced to cease its operation in Batticaloa, Ampaa'rai and Trincomalee districts.

Dr. Fauchald described the operation of Primary Health Care Centres where there is at least one paramedic and 4-8 nurse assistants in each centre.

4th International Health Conference
4th International Health Conference
A section of the audience attending the 4th International Health Conference by the Tamil Diaspora held in Bergen
More than 30% of the diseases were viral fever RTI, according to the statistics provided by the CHC. 8% of the patients had worm infections, 8% wounds and 7% back-pain.

There were obvious logistic problems and lack of equipment in the health care centres. In addition to that, Dir Fauchald identified following challenges: There were insufficient documentation, lack of continuity in patient care, too liberal use of medication, especially antibiotics and NSAID, and lack of time and resources to deal with psychosocial and chronic disorders.

Dr. Trishan Panch, a physician and international health consultant of Med Act, from UK, gave a lecture on 'War and Conflict: Effects on Health'. He shared his experience from his study of the effects of the 2003 war in Iraq and the ensuing period of insecurity on health, the health system and its reconstruction.

Krishnapriya from Denmark, a choreographer and leading instructor at Geethalayam Art Institute, who was diagnosed leukemia when she was 20, and went through a powerful chemotherapy during the past 2 years, has initiated a fund raising programme in collaboration with the NTHO, to support cancer affected patients in the Northeast. She presented her case in the conference.

Opening speech was delivered by Dr. P. Kandiah, Project Co-ordinator of the NTHO, Presentations were given in various topics by Dr. M. Chandrakumar, Tamil Health Organisation (THO) UK, Dr. Nallaiyah Sivanathan and Dr. Sl Poologanathan, Medical Institute of Tamils (MIOT) UK, Prof. Vairavapillai Rajayogeswaran from UK, Dr. Murali Vallipuranathan from UK, Dr. Kristine Mørch from Haukeland university hospital in Norway, Britt Oppedal, a PhD from Norwegian Institute of Public Health and Sarvendra Tharmalingam, a PhD fellow at the University of Oslo, Norway.

The conference was held at the conference centre of SAS Radisson Hotel Norge at the heart of the city of Bergen.

4th International Health Conference
Jai Shankar and Rohini Shajpal. Jai Shankar, who played his first Tabla concert when he was seven years old, has performed along with several popular musicians of Norway, Egypt and Zimbabwe. his first solo-CD, "Jai Shankar of Norway" came out in 2000. Rohini Sahajpal is a leading second generation musicians of the Nordic countries.

A cultural event was organized by the NTHO in Bergen's Grieg Hall, a national centre for international congresses, with the performance by Jai Shankar, a Tabla artist born in India and brought up in Norway and his sister Rohini Sahajpal, Bharata Natya performance by 'Nattiya Visaratha' Kaviatha Sivakanesan and disciples and South Indian musical performance by Danja Sathiyamoorthi from Denmark with Dhanushan Dhayalan from Norway, and a flute concert by Venganamani Shri P. Gnanavarathan and Mirudangam mastro Karikudi Shri R. Krishnamoorthy, both reputed musicians. Around 400 people attended the cultural event with dinner.

4th International Health Conference
Bharatha Natya performance by Kavitha Sivakanesan [centre] and her students at the Grieg Hall, Bergen

4th International Health Conference
Miridangam Mastro Karaikkudi Shir R. Krishnamoorthy and Venganamani Shri P. Gnanavarathan who plays flute.
This was the first time, a professionally arranged Tamil Diaspora seminar and cultural event were held in high value venues, according to the participants.

Tamil health workers in Diaspora form an elite society, with more than 3000 doctors in UK. In Norway, there are more than 50 Norwegian Tamil doctors and around 400 health workers in active service.

The conference also focused on the Diaspora Health issues and was a venue for Norwegian health officials to interact with the Norwegian Tamil health workers.

External Links:
Physicians for Human Rights: Review: Save Lives, Save Limbs
NTHO: Norwegian Tamils Health Organisation
The Emergency Medical Journal: Book Review: Save Lives, Save Limbs
Third World Network: Save Lives Save Limbs: Life support for victims of mines, wars, and accidents
TamilHealth: TamilHealth


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