February 4, 2022No Comments

Barbara Tommassini on the New Biomedical Technologies and Healthcare System in Tanzania

Barbara Tomassini [Barbara Tommassini is a Biomedical Engineer, CTO at BIOVERSE srl, currently volunteering in the Civil Service program in Tanzania.

Interviewing Team: Alessandra Gramolini, Rebecca Pedemonte, and Michele Tallarini.

What is the health situation in Tanzania? What impact did COVID-19 have?
Tanzania is making major progress in the health sector leading to a continued increase in life expectancy for Tanzanians at birth. Despite this, there are still several issues such as the lack of adequate infrastructures and human resources. The impact of HIV/AIDS represents one of the most dramatic realities.
The management of COVID-19 in Tanzania has gone hand in hand with politics. After a long period of official denial that coronavirus exists in Tanzania, the government has completely changed course in early 2021, after the death of the previous president. The country, however, is still facing major challenges to obtain vaccines and to overcome hesitancy amongst the population, which has only got more confused by these several changes. Now the situation is quite stable: there are no restrictive measures even if the epidemic is still going on, but, at the same time, hospitals are not overcrowded. In similar contexts, the situation and the decisions to be taken are even more delicate, and it’s necessary to find a balance between the containment of the epidemic and the maintenance of a stable social situation.

What are the opportunities for the development and application of new biomedical technologies in Tanzania? Why did you choose to bring your project to Tanzania? 

In Tanzania, there are a lot of needs but few resources and infrastructures available in the country. The healthcare sector is full of opportunities for the development and application of new biomedical technologies, but we should always keep in mind the specific contexts and needs, to design more appropriate and useful technologies.

Indeed, the biggest mistake made so far with these countries has been to give them technologies that are unsuitable for the context, not economically sustainable, without staff training and spare parts available locally.

The new medical device I’m developing together with a colleague of mine (we are both biomedical engineers), is about the treatment of severely burned patients (TBSA> 20%) up to 5 years of age, and it is specifically designed for low-middle income countries. We chose to bring our project to Tanzania for epidemiological and personal reasons: every year 11 million severe burns occur from open flames and boiling liquids alone. 95% of the victims occur in low-middle-income countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, and 70% are children less than 5 years of age. Furthermore, the idea was born during a past trip in Tanzania, during a visit to a rural hospital.

In your opinion/based on your experience on the field,what is the role of Italian ONGs in Tanzania?
Since Tanzania is a peaceful and not high-priority country, Italian NGOs in the country play a role in supporting government institutions for the creation of developed systems adaptable to local contexts for improving the existing ones. This support takes place, supporting the activities and training the local staff, to achieve long-term sustainability and local autonomy, with no need of foreign help anymore.

How do you think Italy-Tanzania cooperation in the healthcare system will develop in the future? Which are the most important fields that need external support to be developed?
I think healthcare system in Tanzania in the coming years will need external support in the area of Emergency management, with in-depth analysis of national and international guidelines, for improving the knowledges of local staff and training it, as well as the management and purchase of appropriate medical devices in terms of accessibility, availability of spare parts, ease of use and training of personnel on use and maintenance. There should be a strong cooperation between NGOs themselves and manufacturing companies, to have more appropriate and effective devices.

May 31, 20212 Comments

Give a little yelp for our vets: the hidden pandemic

By: Sofia Staderini, Leigh Dawson, and Julia Hodgins.

‘Death row dogs’ is not a headline that would be warmly welcomed at any time of the year, let alone in the midst of a global pandemic. With over 164 million virus cases and nearly 3.5 million deaths worldwide, it is hard to argue against the fact that COVID-19 has shaken the foundations of humanity to its core. Cases of rapidly deteriorating public mental health have skyrocketed, caused by excessive lockdowns, the closure of businesses, disconnection from loved ones and lack of time outdoors. The Australian Government has invested more than $5.7 billion (AUD) in mental health services and support in the past 12 months alone - and Australia has had very little COVID-19 spread since the virus’s inception. To cure our boredom pangs, the world turned to pet adoption creating a boom for the pet sector.  

However, as lockdown restrictions eased, people grew tired of their four-legged friends and began handing them into shelters, putting them up for further adoption and treating them with neglect. With many rescue centres at capacity due to ‘buyer’s remorse’, many pets are being euthanised - as they had not been adequately socialised with humans during the pandemic. Unsurprisingly, this began to overwhelm the vet services market worldwide - especially women veterinarians. Unfolding from that, and considering the safety protocols, a main consequence of this boom is the stress amongst vets, a factor powerful enough to impact human security and community health. 

This month, the team Culture Society and Security discusses stress within vets reviewing the VetsSurvey 2020,conducted by CM Research Ltd., a multi-method study that collected data from 5000 veterinary professionals (veterinarians, veterinary nurses, and veterinary technicians) in 91 countries spread across the planet, contrasting with other perspectives.

The veterinary industry as a mirror of the effect of pandemic management 

With an approximate 25% rise in pet adoptions during the first pandemic months, the stress level of new owners had a positive effect, inversely proportional to the psychophysical pressure felt by veterinarians. Indeed, to overcome the stress of anti-contagion measures, many people considered the possibility of adopting an animal.  Workers in the healthcare industry covered one of the areas that had been most challenged and jeopardized by the pandemic. According to the findings of “VetsSurvey” conducted by CM Research LTD, 66% of vets feel they have too much work and not enough time. 

Unsurprisingly, the countries with the highest stress levels among vets are in line with Bloomberg's "Covid Resilience Ranking," which analyzes both the Covid-status and the quality of life, based on government actions and the consequences at the societal, political, economic, and health levels.  The increased adoption of puppies is closely linked to lockdown interventions and the need for psycho-physical comfort. The policies of the respective governments, which have resulted in high levels of stress on the part of the vets, show a managerial incompatibility between the interests of different citizens. 

The study, on the other hand, points to a larger problem.  As we find great similarities between the data concerning the veterinary industry and global dynamics, we can only emphasize that the stress experienced by veterinarians is a drop in the bucket of the psychophysical consequences caused by the pandemic and its management.

Gender equality and stress

The “industry gender domination” argument turns into a fallacy with intoxicating ‘alpha-male-ish’ aftertaste, to say the least, when females are numerically superior. Gender distribution in the vet industry, unusually, looks as 68% women and 31% men, explained by an 8% increase of women entering the trade since 2016 based on comparisons of earlier data with survey findings. Despite women outnumbering men two-to-one, CM Research observes that this industry is, simply, as unequal as others.

While figures might suggest female domination, a juicy catch to dispute inequality at least in STEM, female superiority is not the equivalent of equality. The study found that women seem “more likely to want to remain an employee”, speaking volumes about career expectations and a supportive environment. Furthermore, female vets report being suggested to interrupt a pregnancy as it harms their careers, and being “the wrong sex” as reason for not being promoted or offered a partnership.

Figure: Vets' Career Prospects by Gender. CM Research - VetsSuvey 2020

Consequently, the levels of stress are more pronounced in women vets, who likely are the main caregivers at home while coping with higher workloads due to the COVID ‘Pet Boom’. According to the researchers, stress levels decrease over age but gender patterns prevail, proving to be structural. Interestingly, the gender difference in the “compassion fatigue score” is smaller than in other categories, suggesting that despite increasing demands women still find ways to exercise compassion. 

In the business of caring for animals, non-dimmable compassion added to consistent resilience do not mean drivers for women’s career advancement. Topping this with the peculiarity that women’s socialisation unfolds into greater empathy, seeking protection, and nurturing the group in the midst of crises, as analysts observed. Why is this happening amid numeric superiority? Why are we not surprised?

Figure: Levels of Stress, Burnout and compassion fatigue. By CM Research VetsSurvey 2020

The overwhelming surge of workload for vets worldwide disproportionately affects women despite gender outnumbering, suggesting that global trends, pre-COVID and COVID-driven, are profoundly underpinned in society; here is a call for policy support at local governments and professional unions levels. A larger and more urgent task is to explore new avenues to reach gender equality, as numeric superiority - let alone parity - do not work. Rather, those exacerbate the stress in female vets who exercise high levels of resilience, holding compassion up at the expense of their own sanity while enduring ferocious competition from their male colleagues.

As COVID-19 edges the planet into a multifaceted security crisis, its ripple effects on human and non-human beings are still to be spotted and understood. Amongst those taking the hardest toll, furry buddies and their female Vets should be counted.

May 31, 20211 Comment

China and the Belt and Road Initiative: An Interview with Alice Politi

Alice Politi from the Lau China Institute at King's College London answers some fundamental questions on the implications of the Belt and Road Initiative in a post-pandemic world.

Interviewer: Carlotta Rinaudo.

May 24, 20211 Comment

Lucia Gennari on the Immigration Policies in the Mediterranean Sea

The ITSS Human Rights team interviews Lucia Gennari, lawyer of ASGI and member of Inlimine project within the association. This podcast provides an explanation about immigration practices and the phenomenon of outsourcing border control related to the Mediterranean route. In particular, new practices have arisen due to the impact of Covid-19 in the Mediterranean context; consequences of these practices on migrants have been discussed in the final part of the podcast.

Interviewing Team: Luca Mattei and Diletta Cosco.

May 17, 20211 Comment

Cybersecurity talks with Andrea Rigoni

Andrea Rigoni talks about the most important trends and challenges in the world of cybersecurity. This is ITSS Verona Member Series on International Systems, section on Artificial Intelligence Cybersecurity and Space. Andrea Rigoni has been working in the Information Security Sector for more than 25 years, he serves as an advisor to NATO and the UN, he also served as advisor to the Italian Prime Minister, and is now Partner at Deloitte Risk Advisory, focusing on cybersecurity. 

Interviewing Team: Tommaso Baiocco, Zrinka Borić, Renata Safina and Arnaud Sobrero.

April 4, 2021No Comments

(IT) Breve Policy Forum su Europa e Recovery Fund: trionfo o sconfitta per l’Italia?

Breve dibattito su Europa e Recovery Fund post-Covid con tre illustri esperti al fine di esplorare vantaggi e svantaggi dell'accordo europeo a fronte all'emergenza COVID-19. Prendono parte al podcast di ITSS-Verona Prof. Leila Talani, docente di economia politica, King's College London, Prof. Germano Dottori, docente di studi strategici, LUISS Guido Carli, e Dott. Giangiacomo Calavoni, ricercatore Geopolitica.info e docente presso 24 Ore Business School.

April 4, 2021No Comments

Dr Oleg Goldshmidt on Cyber Security, Its Principles, & Challenges

Dr Oleg Goldshmidt on what cyber security is and the latter can be conceptualised and strategised vis-à-vis current and future major challenges to international security, including restrictive measures and Covid-19.

April 4, 2021No Comments

Dr Maltby on Energy Security, EU Politics, Climate Change, and Covid-19

Dr Tomas Maltby, KCL, explores definitions and concepts of "Energy Security" and how these affect strategies and approaches within the EU context. Particular emphasis is also allocated on how energy security relates to climate change and pandemics/Covid-19.