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Global Health Symposium 2015: Public Health Education Panel

In case you missed our symposium last week – Global Health Then and Now – we will be covering some of the panels and speakers here. Up first: our panel on Public Health Education.


Martin Edlund, Shaneah Taylor, and Dr. S.D. Shanti at the 2015 Northwestern Interdisciplinary Global Health Symposium.

By Claire Vernon, PhD Candidate at NU

The Global Health Symposium at Northwestern University (NU) brought together established and student minds from many disciplines with stakes in public health: law, business, education, medicine, economics, and social services. In a forum on Public Health Education, panelists underscored that the needs of one’s audience must be central to one’s message if health education interventions are to be successful.

Martin Edlund, CEO of Malaria No More, shared an initiative to reduce malaria in Cameroon. While the campaign is multi-faceted, one component of community education is to send daily text messages to Cameroonian families reminding them of the importance of using bed-nets. By aligning text message arrival with dusk, the bed-net reminder was delivered during the most useful time of day for Cameroonians to apply the knowledge to their daily routine. This educational campaign formulated a message to be both easy to receive and seamless to implement. Learn more about Malaria No More’s programs at


Dr. Leslie Cordes speaks at the 2015 Global Health Symposium.

Dr. Leslie Cordes, a pediatrician at NU, presented a community campaign that reduced neonatal mortality in Haiti through improved umbilical cord care. Importantly, efficacy is only one component of successful health interventions; an equally important component is therapy acceptance. Acknowledging the community’s neonatal care priorities, health workers provided mothers with both chlorhexidine antiseptic for the cord and clean covering cloths to wrap the child’s belly. This approach ensured that new cord care recommendations were consistent with community expectations of quality newborn care. Learn more about healthy newborns and chlorhexidine treatment at

Dr. S.D. Shanti, from A.T. Still University of Health Sciences in Mesa, AZ, showed that eradicating female illiteracy is central to improving physical and mental health worldwide. Literacy empowers women, improving their physical health, emotional health, financial well-being, and self-sufficiency. Literacy’s benefits extend to women’s families and communities, positioning literacy as key to reducing poverty and violence and to improving health outcomes. Eliminating women’s illiteracy will require a focused effort like those put towards more traditional public health challenges, yet Dr. Shanti observed that “we have done it with smallpox; we are nearly there with polio. Why not literacy?” Learn more about the importance of women’s literacy at and

Shaneah Taylor, from the laboratory of Dr. Melissa Simon at NU, discussed the use of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to reach diverse student populations. The Simon laboratory’s MOOC, Career911: Your Future Job in Medicine and Healthcare, provides information about the diversity of careers in healthcare, portfolio preparation strategies, and dialogue-based learning to support people planning their educations, careers, and career transitions. Career911 served a multi-national and multi-lingual student group that was predominantly under 30 and predominantly women, with about half of the students pre-degree or in a career transition. The course has exceeded MOOC benchmarks with a high active-learner rate, perhaps due to alignment of students’ needs and concerns with course objectives and content. Learn more about this course at and about MOOCs at

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Today: Global Health Interdisciplinary Symposium with Jeffrey Sachs


Please join us today and tomorrow at the Northwestern Law School for our symposium on Global Health Then and Now: Equality, Development, and Globalization. We will be featuring several distinguished speakers and panelists discussing global health ideas and solutions from a multidisciplinary perspective. We hope you can join us!

For more information about the symposium, please visit

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Public Health in the News – October 25, 2015




  • A new report indicates which Chicago-area hospitals are safest for Medicare patients, as one out of six Chicago residents on Medicare has visited hospitals with a higher-than-expected mortality or complication rate.


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Spotlight on Recent Research: Number of Moles on Your Right Arm May Help Predict Melanoma Risk

By Mo McNulty

How can you tell if you’re at risk for developing a deadly skin cancer? According to a new study, it may be as simple as counting the number of moles on your right arm.

Why do we need to keep track of numbers of moles?

Moles are groupings of skin cells that are often black or brown and usually appear raised from the rest of the skin. They are linked to melanoma, a deadly skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 74,000 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in 2015, and nearly 10,000 will die from the disease.

So, how exactly do moles relate to melanoma? Melanoma only rarely develops at the site of a mole – more often, it develops at a new spot on the skin. However, many studies have found an association between the number of moles on the body and the risk of developing melanoma. The Skin Cancer Foundation reports that anyone with more than 100 moles has a higher risk, while the Melanoma Education Foundation says that your risk rises if you have at least 50 moles. Either way, doctors have long recommended keeping track of your overall number of moles, as well as their appearance – if a mole changes in shape, size, or color, it may be an early warning sign of cancer.

Why did researchers conduct this study?

It may be difficult for many people, especially those with a large number of moles and freckles, to count all of the moles on their body. Therefore, researchers are interested in coming up with a measure to estimate the total number – can you count the number of moles in one location on your body, and use that number to estimate the total? The answer seems to be yes: past studies have found a link between the number of moles on certain body areas with the overall total mole count.

Several characteristics distinguish this most recent study from these past studies. Ribero and colleagues used a cohort of volunteers that was larger than previous studies, consisting of 3694 women. An additional key difference was that study participants were not recruited specifically for a skin cancer study – many past studies have recruited people when they came in to the dermatologist’s office to be screened for melanoma. Because the women in this study were already a part of a larger cohort which aimed to study a number of different health measures, the authors eliminated possible bias by not selecting women already worried about melanoma. This means that this study may be more generalizable to the whole population.

How did the study authors end up focusing on moles on the right arm?

The researchers measured the number of moles on 17 different body sites for each woman. The table below shows the mean number of moles found on each body site, the standard deviation, and the Spearman’s correlation coefficients, which measured the association between moles at that body site and total number of moles on the body. The higher the correlation coefficient, which here is adjusted for age, height, and skin type, the closer the link between number of moles at a site and total number of moles.


Both arms and legs were the sites with the highest amount of correlation. Ribero and colleagues repeated this study in a different group of people that consisted of both men and women, and found that in this cohort, the right arm had the highest correlation coefficient. They concluded that this body site was the most predictive of total number of moles. Specifically, people with at least 11 moles on their right arm are likely to have at least 100 moles on their whole body.

Why is this study important?

Counting the number of moles on one arm is much easier than counting all of the moles on the body. This could be a quick and easy way for doctors to estimate a patient’s melanoma risk. However, it is important to note that this study did not actually look at whether each patient developed melanoma. While it is likely that there is a link between number of moles on the arm and melanoma risk, since both are associated with high numbers of moles on the body, it is possible that this link is not that strong. This may be a good direction for future studies.

Ribero S, Zugna D, Osella-Abate S, Glass D, Nathan P, Spector T, Bataille V. Prediction of high naevus count in a healthy UK population to estimate melanoma risk. Br J Dermatol 173, 3 (2015). PMID: 26479165

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Public Health in the News – October 18, 2015





  • Lysosomal acid lipase deficiency is a disease with no effective treatments – until recently. Northwestern researchers led a recently-published phase three trial that had promising results in reducing symptoms of the disease.
  • New research from Northwestern grad students sheds light on the ways in which cardiac cells are repaired following injury such as heart attack.
  • Northwestern physician and geneticist Dr. Elizabeth McNally is developing a technique that helps treat a severe form of muscular dystrophy. Some of her work has been supported by Scott Frewing, who created a foundation to fund researchers working on the disease, which his two young sons have.

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Chronic Kidney Disease: Explaining the Facts and Keeping Kidneys Healthy

Untitled-1Art by Tetzlaff. UIC BVIS

Anne Black, CEO
National Kidney Foundation of Illinois


Anne Black

After nearly 14 years of being on staff at the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois, I still wake up every day excited and eager to go in to work. It’s easy to do when you work to educate, prevent and empower people affected by or at-risk for a life-altering or even deadly disease.Chronic kidney disease (CKD), also known as the ‘silent killer,’ affects more than 26 million American adults, over 1.1 million in Illinois alone, and most don’t know about it. By definition, CKD is the slow loss of kidney function over a period of months or even years. However, most people do not have any symptoms until their kidney disease is advanced.

Let me take a step back and explain the importance of kidneys. The kidneys are the body’s natural filtration system, which means they clean your body’s blood and remove waste and excess fluid in the form of urine. Every day kidneys pump more than 400 gallons of recycled blood. Kidneys also play a crucial role in regulating blood pressure, producing a hormone that promotes the formation of red blood cells, making vitamin D to help keep your blood, heart, bones and teeth healthy; regulating levels of electrolytes in the body, such as sodium and potassium; and modifying levels of chemicals in the body, such as calcium, magnesium and phosphate.

In the early stages of losing kidney function, symptoms may arise such as having less energy, trouble concentrating, a poor appetite, issues sleeping, dry and itchy skin, and an increased need to urinate especially at night. During more advanced stages of CKD, symptoms include a creatinine blood test result greater than 1.4 for men and greater than 1.2 for women, blood urea nitrogen (BUN) blood test outside the normal range, and an estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) of less than 60.

Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, accounting for 44 percent of new cases.

Nearly 215,000 people are living with kidney failure resulting from diabetes. Other risk factors include high blood pressure, family history of kidney disease, being age 60 or older, or belonging to a minority group.

CKD is diagnosed by a series of blood tests examining kidney function. The results of these blood tests reveal which stage a person is in of the five stages of CKD. Once a person reaches the fifth and final stage, their kidneys no longer work and they find themselves with end-stage renal disease.

Treatment for end-stage renal disease involves undergoing dialysis or kidney transplantation. Dialysis is a treatment that replaces kidney function by removing excess waste and build-up in the body and can be done via hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis. Hemodialysis (HD) is a medical treatment where blood is removed from the body and filtered through a machine to remove waste, toxins and fluids. Peritoneal dialysis (PD) is a treatment where the inside lining of the belly acts as a filter to remove waste from the body. A fluid called dialysate is put into the belly through a permanent catheter. The fluid is left inside the body for a period of time, pulling waste through the belly lining. Through an exchange process, the fluid is removed through the catheter again and discarded.

Kidney transplantation is another option when someone’s kidneys have failed. A kidney can be donated from a deceased organ donor or a living donor, who may be a friend, family member or stranger. After transplantation, recipients feel the benefits right away and go on to live a better quality of life that allows more freedom and energy as well as less dietary restrictions.

Prior to reaching end-stage renal disease, there are several ways to maintain healthy kidneys, and most of these tips are easy to incorporate into an everyday routine. By drinking 8-10 glasses of water and exercising 30 minutes every day, people can reduce their risk of developing CKD. Additionally, people should maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure, limit their consumption of alcohol, avoid the overuse of unnecessary drug use and quit smoking.

While kidney disease can develop into a serious condition that affects a large portion of the American population, there are simple precautionary methods to prevent its onset. The National Kidney Foundation of Illinois has a mobile screening program, the KidneyMobile, which travels through the entire state providing free screenings for kidney disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. The test results are received on site and screening participants have the opportunity to speak with our staff nurse or a physician. If an individual has an abnormal test result, they are encouraged to schedule an appointment with their primary care physician (PCP). If they do not have a PCP or are uninsured or undocumented, they are given a referral to a clinic where they can receive the care they need. The staff of the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois then follows up with those individuals to ensure they are taking the proper steps to manage their health. In addition to the KidneyMobile, we offer educational programs to people with kidney disease, those on dialysis and people who have already received a transplant and their caregivers. Our office has a wealth of educational materials and a full time nurse who is available for telephone consultations.

We know that chronic kidney disease is preventable in many cases, which is why we are working every day to increase the awareness of it. If detected early enough, we can slow and sometimes stop the progression of the disease, saving lives along the way.

Who wouldn’t feel great about being a part of that process?

For more information about kidney disease, dialysis or kidney transplantation, please visit or email with any questions.

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Public Health in the News – August 30, 2015




  • Several Chicago residents are at the end of their second week of hunger striking in an attempt to save a Bronzeville high school as well as call attention to modern educational policies that are unfair to students in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
  • An emergency response drill led by the Illinois Department of Public Health was recently conducted. Although the Illinois State Police and the Illinois Department of Transportation did not participate, Governor Rauner says he is confident the state will be able to handle disasters such as a terrorist attack or pandemic.
  • Two residents in a Quincy, Illinois veterans’ home have died from Legionnaires’ Disease.


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Public Health in the News – August 23, 2015





  • Northwestern scientists have identified genes that are linked to Polycystic Ovary Syndrome in women of European descent.
  • NU recently announced the new director of its Center for Heart Failure, Dr. Duc Thinh Pham.
  • The Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (NUCATS) just received a $27.2 million grant to fund new clinical trials.

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Northwestern Announces Michael and Mary Schuette Fellows in Health and Human Rights

Northwestern Law School has recently announced its inaugural Michael and Mary Schuette Fellows in Health and Human Rights.


Najd Almuhaythif IHR-LLM ’15, the Schuette Global Fellow, will work with the Near East Foundation, the oldest non-sectarian non-governmental organization in the United States, in Amman, Jordan on issues related to women’s rights, health access and economic development.


Anna Maitland, the Schuette Clinical Fellow, will join us here in the Bluhm Legal Clinic’s Center for International Human Rights to work with students and faculty on existing and new partnerships with the Northwestern Access to Health Project. Anna comes to Northwestern Law School from Lagos, Nigeria, where she co-founded an NGO that focuses on advocacy in the area of social and economic rights.

The Schuette fellowships are made possible by long-time Northwestern benefactors Chris Combe, a Northwestern University Trustee, and his wife Courtney Combe. The Combes’ gift also provides programmatic support for the Access to Health Project, a unique interdisciplinary initiative in which students and faculty from the Law School, Feinberg School of Medicine and the Kellogg School of Management work collaboratively to conduct needs assessments and implement sustainable, capacity-building interventions with communities around the world. “This is a tremendous opportunity for young attorneys interested in pursuing careers in health and human rights law,” said Juliet Sorensen, Clinical Associate Professor of Law with the Center for International Human Rights, who oversees the Access to Health Project.

Our previous post about the announcement of the Combes’ gift can be found here.

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Public Health in the News – August 9, 2015


  • Christian Bréchot, President of the Pasteur Institute in Paris, writes in a Nature World View piece about lessons we can learn from Ebola responses and measures we should take for future outbreaks.
  • Protests erupted in Russia following the destruction of 350 tons of food – all imported products from Europe and the U.S. that had been banned.




  • Check out our post about recent public health stories from the NU community! A Social Justice News Nexus fellow uncovered a phenomenon where Puerto Rican men are abandoned on Chicago’s streets, Northwestern students bring health resources to Evanston and Skokie libraries, and an NU professor integrates health technology into peoples’ lifestyles.
  • Scientists at Northwestern have received a 5-year, $17 million grant to develop a drug delivery system for people at high risk of contracting HIV.
  • Northwestern’s Evanston campus recently hosted practice drills for emergency responders that simulated possible laboratory accidents.

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