The Dean Blog: Notes from the Philippines…

06th Dec 2013 Philippines

Half a century after its development, little girls who grow up to be mothers are not being vaccinated and a preventable disease like the rubella or germen measles is still destroying the hearing of newborns all over the world.

As in so many areas – and since the beginning of time — the greatest challenge to doctors has been finding cures for their patients afflicted with disease. The tremendous frustration today is that so many modern day medical innovations have advanced the lives of millions of people. But there is still a huge disconnect.

My experience in the Philippines has shown me that disconnect in vivid colors.

My Starkey Hearing Foundation group has spent the last three days in general Santos City, seeing hundreds of patients with hearing loss. I was completely taken when a mother of five children explained to me that her ten year old son had been deaf since birth because she was infected with German measles or Rubella during her pregnancy. The teratogenic effects of this virus include damage to the hearing system. What is most shocking is that it should have been prevented if she were properly vaccinated with mmr a vaccine that has been available for more than 50 years.

Mankind must realize that even with the most advanced technologies, in many places we are not delivering the cheap, basic medical innovations of the last century.

When a child is born with hearing loss they become isolated, never developing the speech that is so important for their social and intellectual growth. Eventually they become isolated and often discarded in a world that doesn’t have the time to pay attention to them.

The gift of hearing can change the course of child’s life by allowing them to simply hear the words of people around them. But it only works if there is access to care.

I am proud to working with The Starkey Hearing Foundation, which travels the world to provide access to care for these forgotten children. Since 1973, Bill and Taney Austin have dedicated their lives to giving people the gift of hearing, everywhere on the planet no matter how poor or remote the region.

Ravaged by typhoon Haiyan, this particular Starkey mission to the Philippines could not have been more timely. We are screening over five thousand people… and restoring some measure of hope. But the work will go on, and the needs will persist here and in other developing parts of the world.