Health Portal, WebMD, announced Tuesday the winners of their 2021 Health Heroes Award, with recipients ranging from frontline health workers, the well-known infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, a Native American fashion executive and a teen entrepreneur.
For the WebMD editorial team, these persons, and more represent individuals working “tirelessly on the frontlines on the pandemic.”
Now in its 14th year, this year the awards honor the everyday heroes who risk their own health and safety to make a difference in communities impacted by COVID-19.
WebMD’s editorial team, composed of board-certified health care professionals and award-winning journalists, selects the recipients. The winners are featured in a special edition of the April/May/June issue of WebMD Magazine, the organization said in a release.
The WebMD 2021 Health Heroes Awards are:
Frontline Champions Award: Essential workers nationwide
WebMD recognized the contributions of the nation’s essential workers with a grant to the CDC Foundation, a non-profit organization supporting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s health protection work.
The CDC Foundation, through their donors provided personal protective equipment (PPE), surge staff and other critical supplies to frontline workers throughout the pandemic.
These essential workers are “the backbone of our society,” says Judy Monroe, MD, president, and CEO of the CDC Foundation. “They’re called essential workers because honestly, society doesn’t function without them.”
Lifetime Achievement: Anthony Fauci, MD, Director, National Institute of Allergy, and Infectious Diseases
As the U.S.’s top infectious disease expert, Fauci, who joined President Joe Biden’s administration this year as chief medical adviser, has led efforts to combat HIV/AIDS, Ebola, and Zika as Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Still, he says he is never seen anything quite like the novel coronavirus.
That the outbreak hit right in the middle of a divisive election year only added to the difficulty of containing it. As unimaginably dark as the pandemic has been, there have also been bright spots. Three vaccines have been developed, approved, and rolled out and into millions of arms within a matter of months—an effort that would have previously taken 7 to 10 years.
According to Fauci, the combination of vaccines and widespread adherence to public health measures such as mask wearing, and social distancing will finally “end the outbreak as we know it.” However, he knows that the threat of infectious disease outbreaks will continue.
“The better prepared we are to address a pandemic,” he says, “the less likelihood that we will get an outbreak of the magnitude that we’re seeing now.”
Fauci’s modest and businesslike manner have made him a nationally recognized figure, dispensing fact, and science amid a flood of misinformation.
Trailblazer Award: Amy Denet Deal (formerly Amy Yeung), Founder, Orenda Tribe clothing company, Navajo Nation Diné Tribe, New Mexico
A highly sought-after fashion executive in Los Angeles, Denet Deal moved to New Mexico to reintegrate with her Navajo Nation tribe (Diné) after her daughter graduated high school, and she was shocked by the lack of basic infrastructure and access to food (nearly one-third of Navajo homes are without running water, 15,000 lack electricity, and there are only 13 supermarkets serving an area of 27,000 square miles.)
When COVID-19 hit, Denet Deal realized she had the skills to fill some of her community’s critical needs. She transitioned her upcycled clothing company, Orenda Tribe, to manufacturing face masks, and called in connections at companies like Patagonia and Outdoor Voices for fabric.
To finance her efforts, Denet Deal solicited donations and held fundraisers, including one with the Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Jewel, raising enough to fund 42,000 care boxes for the children of the Diné community and their families.
Over the last eight months, Denet Deal and the group of female volunteers who make up her Dzil Asdzáán (Mountain Woman) Command Center have raised more than $835,000 and have distributed more than 1 million PPE units and 1 million servings of food.
Innovator Award: Taft Foley III, Entrepreneur and High School Student, Houston
In the summer of 2020, 17-year-old Taft Foley III became the youngest EMT in Texas, caring for many desperately sick COVID-19 patients in the back of an ambulance. But before starting his work as an EMT, he had to get a COVID-19 test, which typically demanded a three- to four-hour wait at one of the state’s testing centers, and then two weeks to get results. During his quarantine, he decided there had to be a better way.
Foley went on to raise $60,000 (by selling his vintage comic books and video game collection and doing yard work in the neighborhood, among other things), which his father matched, and used the money to buy a van and testing supplies.
While finishing his senior year of high school, he spends 20 hours a week working in his Texas Mobile Medical Labs vehicle, bringing 15-minute COVID-19 tests to anyone in the Houston area who needs one. He charges a $150 fee to those who can pay.
A portion of that fee goes to fund free tests for the elderly, homeless, and veterans in the community. To date, the business has provided more than 4,000 free tests.
EU throws weight behind Pfizer-BioNTech and new technology
In a stinging rebuke to pharma giant AstraZeneca Wednesday, the European Union announced plans to negotiate a massive contract extension for Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine insisting the 27-nation bloc had to go with companies that had shown their value in the pandemic.
“We need to focus on technologies that have proven their worth,” said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. She also announced that America’s Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech would provide the EU with an extra 50 million doses in the 2nd quarter of this year, making up for faltering deliveries of AstraZeneca.
In contrast to the oft-criticized Anglo-Swedish company, von der Leyen said Pfizer-BioNTech “has proven to be a reliable partner. It has delivered on its commitments, and it is responsive to our needs. This is to the immediate benefit of EU citizens.”
Exacerbating the problems for AstraZeneca, Denmark decided Wednesday not to resume use of its vaccine, after putting it on hold last month following reports of rare blood clots in some recipients. The bulk of the shots given in the Scandinavian country so far have been the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
The Johnson & Johnson jab, which uses the same base technology as AstraZeneca, hit a snag this week when U.S. regulators recommended a “pause” in administering Johnson & Johnson shots. Deliveries in the EU have been suspended.
AstraZeneca was supposed to be the workhorse of the EU’s vaccine drive this year — a cheap and easy-to-transport shot to break the pandemic’s back. Yet, the EU said that out of 120 million doses promised for the 1st quarter, only 30 million were delivered, and, of the 180 million expected, now there are only 70 million set for delivery in the 2nd quarter.
Because of that shortfall, the EU has come under crushing pressure as, even though it it is a major producer and exporter of vaccines, it cannot get its vaccinations even close to the levels of the United Kingdom and the United States.
The Our World in Data site said 47.5% of people in the U.K. have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, compared to 36.6% in the U.S. and 16.4% in the EU.
Now, Pfizer-BioNTech could well become the key to beat the pandemic on the continent.
With 200 million doses already earmarked for the bloc this quarter from Pfizer-BioNTech. the 50 million additional deliveries will be especially welcomed by EU nations dealing with supply delays and concerns over rare blood clots potentially linked to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
Von der Leyen said the EU will start negotiating to buy 1.8 billion doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine through 2023.
“It will entail that not only the production of the vaccines, but also all essential components, will be based in the EU,” von der Leyen said.
The European Commission currently has a portfolio of 2.3 billion doses from half a dozen companies and is negotiating more contracts.
Von der Leyen expressed full confidence in the technology used for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is different from that behind the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
The active ingredient in the Pfizer-BioNTech shot is messenger RNA, or mRNA, which contains the instructions for human cells to construct a harmless piece of the coronavirus called the spike protein. The human immune system recognizes the spike protein as foreign, allowing it to mount a response against the virus upon infection.
Astra Zeneca’s is made with a cold virus that sneaks the spike protein gene into the body. It’s a very different form of manufacturing: Living cells in giant bioreactors grow that cold virus, which is extracted and purified.
Von der Leyen said Europe needs to have a technology that can boost immunity, tackle new variants and produce shots quickly and massively. “mRNA vaccines are a clear case in point,” she said.
The planned negotiations with Pfizer left in the middle what the EU would do about any new contracts with AstraZeneca. “Other contracts, with other companies, may follow,” said von der Leyen.
BRUSSELS (AP) — By RAF CASERT Associated Press
Jan M. Olsen contributed from Copenhagen.
UK NHS Cancer backlog treated by digital tools, says report
A report from ORCHA (The Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Apps), an NHS partner and a leading authority on health app trends and usage, says that MedTech digital tools can be part of the solution to the backlog in cancer services.
The report adds that patients must be supported by healthcare staff in their choice of apps and be extremely wary of poor-quality tools which could damage their health.
“There are excellent apps or digital tools supporting cancer patients. These have been developed with clinicians, rigorously reviewed and frequently updated. Apps such as these can be embedded into cancer services to provide tremendous support to patients and ease the healthcare system at a time of tremendous backlog,” former NHS clinician and founding CEO of ORCHA, Liz Ashall-Payne, said.
“For example, BELONG, Beating Cancer Together gives users access to oncologists, radiologists and doctors to answer questions and notifies users of available clinical trials around the world. Vinehealth Cancer Companion helps patients monitor their symptoms and track their medication,” he noted.
Around 40,000 fewer people started cancer treatment in 2020 due to COVID-19, putting potential pressure on services for years to come.
“We believe there is massive potential for intelligent apps such as these both to help patients and provide excellent returns on investment to the NHS,” Liz added.
According to ORCHA research, 3,603 digital tools in forms of apps to support cancer can be found in app stores. Worryingly, 74 percent of these have not been updated in the last 18 months. This means the vast majority have not kept pace with medical, data or usability guidelines.
Amongst the apps updated within 18 months, ORCHA reviewed 190 of the most downloaded, testing them against more than 350 health standards and measures including elements of the NICE framework. This diligence revealed that only 24.7 percent of the apps reviewed meet minimum quality thresholds.
Liz Ashall-Payne, said: “These statistics are deeply concerning, given how easy it is for vulnerable patients and care providers to search app stores and stumble across apps which may give poor or outdated advice or blatantly misuse their private data.”
Wearable tech start-up aims to tackle head injuries in sport
An Edinburgh-based business recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help move into production of a technology to safeguard athletes against head injuries.
Based at the Edinburgh Business School (EBS) Incubator within Heriot-Watt University, the technology has been developed by start-up company HIT. The concept is wearable tech which measures and tracks head impact force in sport and recreational activities and is set to aid research and support informed decisions on the risk of brain injury.
Founder Euan Bowen, an avid rugby player, was inspired to develop the technology a teammate was injured. With brain injuries rarely reported, Bowen spotted a gap in the market for sportspeople to track brain health.
Bowen explained: “I found little technology available to monitor head impact, despite the severity of the issue across different sports.
“As a member of a rugby club in Edinburgh, I began researching and developing a project, working closely with the team to develop an initial prototype.”
Featuring a unique impact sensor, wearable across multiple sporting and activity applications, the device universally clips onto any helmet or halo headband, detecting g-force and recording impact via a companion app.
Using a traffic light system, the app records data and acts as an early warning notification for the user regarding the level of impact force recorded – highlighting the caution required in continued exercise.
“High impact sports are focusing increasingly on concussion mitigation with the Field – ‘Football’s Influence on Lifelong Health and Dementia Risk’ – study recently finding that former professionals are three and a half times more likely to die of dementia than the general population,” Bowen noted.
Kallum Russell, manager of the EBS Incubator said: “HIT Impact is a much-needed technology to track and support the current efforts to increase sports safety at a time when governing bodies across high impact sports are increasingly focused on minimizing head trauma.”
The current parliamentary inquiry into concussion recently heard evidence about the long-term implications of repetitive head trauma on sports people with MPs asking how sports could be made safer.
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