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Entries in health (17)


The Dawn of the Genetics Revolution | 2001 - 2003


The Human Genome Project (HGP) was officially declared complete in 2003. A rough draft of the human genome sequencing carried out by the HGP was formally announced in 2000 and the completed sequence was announced in 2003. This breakthrough spawned many initiatives, including Iceland's deCode (below), and was reflected in the work I was called upon to undertake for the GOSH Child Health Portal at the time, such as designing websites for the London IDEAS Genetics Knowledge Park and the UK Newborn Screening Programme Centre (at bottom). I photographed the author of Our Genes, Steindor Erlingsson, in Reykjavik, Iceland for The Associated Press in 2002.

"Frenzy fades over ambitious genetics mapping project" by Jill Lawless, Associated Press, December 1, 2002.

UK Newborn Screening Programme Centre website screen grab.Read a story I did for the UNDP e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions here: China Pushing Frontiers of Medical Research 

© David South Consulting 2017 

Stories @ David South Consulting | 1991 - 2017

I worked as a journalist for magazines and newspapers from 1991 to 1997 in Canada and the United Kingdom and as a radio host for a weekly spoken word interview programme, Word of Mouth (CKLN-FM). This included working as an investigative journalist for Now Magazine, “Toronto’s alternative news and entertainment source”, as a Medical and Health Correspondent for Today’s Seniors, and as an investigative journalist and reporter for two Financial Times newsletters, New Media Markets and Screen Finance.  

From 2007, I researched and wrote stories for two United Nations publications: e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions and magazine Southern Innovator. Links to a small sample of published stories by theme are below: 



Health and Medical

African Health Data Revolution

African Technology Tackles Health Needs

Changing Health Care Careers a Sign of the Times

Feds Call for AIDS, Blood System Inquiry: Some Seniors Infected

Health Care in Danger

Health Care on the Cutting Block: Ministry Hopes for Efficiency with Search and Destroy Tactics

Mobile Phone Microscopes to Revolutionize Health Diagnostics

Safe Healthcare is Good Business and Good Health

Take Two Big Doses of Humanity and Call Me in the Morning

Taking Medicine to the People: Four Innovators in Community Health

Thai Organic Supermarkets Seek to Improve Health

US Health Care Businesses Chasing Profits into Canada

Innovation and Innovators

Frugal Innovation Trend Meets Global South's Innovation Culture

Innovation from the Global South

Innovation Villages Tackling MDGs

Innovations in Green Economy: Top Three Agenda

Innovative Stoves to Help the Poor

Kenyan Mobile Phone Innovations

Next Generation of Innovation for the Grassroots

Technological Innovation Alive in Brazil

International Development

Aid Organization Gives Overseas Hungry Diet Food: Diet Giant Slim-Fast Gets Tax Write-Off for Donating Products

Philippine Conference Tackles Asia's AIDS Crisis

Starting from Scratch: the Challenge of Transition

State of Decay: Haiti Turns to Free-Market Economics and the UN to Save Itself

Traffic Signs Bring Safety to the Streets

Investigative Journalism

Counter Accusations Split Bathurst Quay Complex: Issues of Sexual Assault, Racism at Centre of Local Dispute

False Data Makes Border Screening Corruptible

New Student Group Seeks 30 Percent Tuition Hike

Somali Killings Reveal Ugly Side of Elite Regiment

Study Says Jetliner Air Quality Poses Health Risks: CUPE Takes on Airline Industry with Findings

Top Reporters Offer Military Media Handling Tips


Affordable Space Programmes Becoming Part of South's Development

African Botanicals to be Used to Fight Against Parasites

African Digital Laser Breakthrough Promises Future Innovation

African Farming Wisdom Now Scientifically Proven

An Innovator's 'Big Chicken Agenda' for Africa

China Pushing Frontiers of Medical Research

New 3D Technology Makes Innovation Breakthough and Puts Mind Over Matter

Putting Worms to Work


The front page of the David South Consulting website.
Bottom banner of the David South Consulting website.
© David South Consulting 2017

New seniors’ group boosts ‘grey power’: Grey Panthers chapter opens with a Canadian touch


By David South

Today’s Seniors (Canada), April 1993

Check your prejudices at the door, look beyond your self-interest, and open your mind, because the Grey Panthers are here in Canada.

Joe Moniz, the 26-year-old founder of the Canadian Grey Panthers, is confident that his ambitious plans for a new national seniors’ organization are just what Canadian seniors need. 

That’s right: 26-years-old. Modelled on the U.S. Gray Panthers, the Canadian Grey Panthers believe in harnessing the power of all age groups, making the connection that everybody will eventually be a senior and that seniors benefit from a better society for everyone. 

“The major difference between us and any other organization is our slogan, “Age and Youth Working Together,” he says. “Look at our pension fund. It’s depleting. I’m concerned about my future as a senior citizen - will there be a pension fund? We want to act now, to bring youth and age together to improve the situation of seniors today and improve our situation in the future. 

“Membership is open to all age groups. We want to bring seniors into day care to interact with children. We want to deal with the universities, give people the opportunity to discuss and unite. It’s a different approach, but it can make a huge difference.”

Moniz has already organized the group’s first chapter, in Hamilton, complete with a board of retired university professors and doctors. The group has put together insurance packages that will “blow the others out of the water.”

“All seniors’ attempts at lobbying in the past have been short term,” says a blunt Moniz. “We are the organization that will make the difference. We will lobby provincially, federally, and municipally, and we are non-partisan.

“The reason I’m introducing the Grey Panthers is to keep grey power alive in Canada, and to provide the necessary channels to do so through lobbying efforts. If anyone has problems with local politicians, they can call us, and we in turn let them know the channels they should use. There are a lot of seniors out there being cheated, and it is up to us to help them.”

The Canadian Grey Panthers (which uses the British spelling, as opposed to its American counterpart) will initially concentrate on four issues: pensions, drug plans, affordable housing and long-term care, and will communicate information through newsletters, surveys and meetings. 

Moniz promises to make the Panthers accessible to all, no matter what their income. He plans to hit the streets and visit institutions to inform seniors of the group’s presence. As if to prove the group’s potential for excitement, an enthusiastic gentleman from a local retirement home interrupts Moniz during a coffee shop interview. “That’s the best thing I’ve heard from a young person in Toronto,” he says. 

The U.S. Panthers were formed by political activist Maggie Kuhn and five friends in 1970. Back then, their name wasn’t as exciting. It was the convoluted and unsexy “Consultation of Older and Younger Adults for Social Change.” In 1972, they adopted the media’s pet name - a grey twist on radical African-American rights organization the Black Panthers. 

The radical milieu of political activism was contagious - and the Panthers symbolized its jump from the youth of America to other generations. 

“When we formed, we were an intergenerational group,” says Panthers’ U.S. national chair, Charlotte Flynn. “The first issue the group addressed was mandatory retirement. We combat the stigma of ageism, which is making decisions about people based on chronological age. Ageism isn’t just confined to the elderly - ageism exists for young people as well.”

The agenda of the Panthers is just as radical today. Flynn, who is candid about the group’s failures as well as its successes, admits that it isn’t the easiest route to popularity. With membership at about 45,000, the U.S. Panthers have spoken out on now-popular issues like health care, the environment, affordable housing - and taken brave stands against mainstream opinion when it came to the Gulf War and the invasion of Panama. 

And they think big. Not content with just influencing the American political scene, the Panthers have taken on the world, gaining official advisor status at the United Nations. 

Although involved in a broad range of issues, Flynn says the Panthers are primarily seen as a strong voice for the rights of American seniors. 

“We have tried very hard to let people know we are not a special interest group for the elderly,” says Flynn. “But we are always getting called upon to highlight what any legislation is doing to older people.” 

With Panther groups sprouting in Europe and now in Canada, the important issue of maintaining the integrity of the Panther name has arisen, says Flynn. She points to the flip side of having a reputation for action: people want to start branches without being interested in the full agenda of the Panthers, using the name for shock value. At the last convention in November 1992, the Panthers formed a committee to act as quality control monitors for the name. 

One thing is clear from the ambitious agenda of the Grey Panthers - they aren’t for everyone. 

But Moniz’s pragmatic approach seems distinct from the American Panthers. He shies away from some of the American group’s positions, emphasizing a balance between insurance policies and political policies. 

“If you read the American Panthers’ position sheet, it’s anti-this and anti-that,” he says. “We aren’t going to take that approach. It would be suicide.”

But he is quick in his praise of the group and its founder Maggie Kuhn. “People may consider her actions to be radical, but they’re not. Look at the achievements. She is one of the top 25 active women in the U.S.

“The Gray Panthers are achievers. They have proven the effectiveness of intergenerational attempts at social justice.”

A quick call to seniors’ groups drew many surpised faces. 

“I can’t say anything about them - I don’t know who they are,” responded Murray Morgenthau, executive director of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP). 

Jane Leitch at the United Senior Citizens of Ontario had heard something was happening but wonders why a new group is forming “with so many groups out there.”

One Voice spokesperson Andrew Aitkens says his group is closer to the American Association of Retired Persons than the Panthers in their approach, and that they “have found that there are much more effective ways for advocacy. We don’t march on the Hill at the drop of the hat.”

But Flynn says the Panthers embody a philosophy distinct from all other seniors’ groups. “As Maggie Kuhn said, ‘those of us who are older are the elders of the tribe and should be concerned about survival.’ We look at all issues that deny people the ability to realize their full potential, whether young or old. We are really interested in empowering people rather than being a special interest for the elderly.” 

Note: In the early 1990s, I was an Investigative Medical and Health Correspondent for Today's Seniors. This involved contributing the lead story for each issue of the paper. Concerns around the state of the health system during a time of austerity and government cuts (Ontario was experiencing what has been later called an economic crisis akin to a depresssion) and re-organizations, meant the stories always had a high profile with readers. I regularly covered Health Ministry announcements from the Ontario Legislature, interviewed ministers, and travelled to the US to cover developments down there. I drew on my experience working in the health system, my knowledge of medical history from my degree studies at the University of Toronto, my communications work at the Hannah Institute for the History of Medicine, and my routine trawling through journals at the University of Toronto (this was before easy access to the Internet!) to break news stories on medical and scientific developments. This experience proved extremely useful when I later had to respond to the unfolding crises (austerity, economic crash, Asian Financial Crisis, HIV/AIDS/STDs etc.) in Mongolia while working for the United Nations (1997-1999). I also learned about many innovations that were being deployed in Ontario to respond to the crisis in the health system, something I also found very useful for my work with the UK's NHS in the early 2000s.   

Read more stories from Today's Seniors here: 

Critics Blast Government Long-Term Care Reforms

Cut Services to Elderly, Says Doctors' Survey ... But Leave Our Salaries Alone! 

Feds Call for AIDS, Blood System Inquiry: Some Seniors Infected

Government Urged to Limit Free Drugs for Seniors

Health Care on the Cutting Block: Ministry Hopes for Efficiency with Search and Destroy Tactics

Private Firms Thrive as NDP 'Reinvents' Medicare 

Psychiatric Care Lacking for Institutionalized Seniors

Seniors Falling Though the Health Care Cost Cracks

Specialists Want Cancer Treatments Universally Available 


Government urged to limit free drugs for seniors


By David South

Today’s Seniors (Canada), May 1993

Another blow may be coming to seniors on top of last August’s cuts to the Ontario Drug Benefit Plan (ODBP). Health minister Ruth Grier has been advised to terminate the policy offering free drugs for Ontario residents over 65. 

Assistant deputy health minister Mary Catherine Lindberg says the 13-page report from the Ontario Drug Reform Secretariat urges the government to replace universal coverage with a system based on income. 

The government argues that fiscal problems, a desire to make wealthy seniors pay, and a need to extend the program to the working poor has driven them to consider the move, while critics argue it will hurt modest-to-lower-income seniors. They say costs could be better contained by keeping universal coverage and attacking the source of escalating costs: pharmaceutical manufacturers and doctors who over-prescribe or misprescribe. 


If implemented, the cuts will represent a concession by the NDP on the once-sacred principle of universality. Just last year, former health minister Francis Lankin said, “I believe strongly in universality, and we’re not looking at ending it for drug coverage of seniors.”

The proposed plan calls for single people, regardless of age, who earn over $20,000 a year, and families earning over $40,000, to pay a premium of up to $300 for drug coverage. 

Those earning less than that amount will have to pay for their own drugs until they reach a limit tied to their income to become eligible for free drugs. 

The government says this changes qualifying for coverage from age to income-based. 

In a recent interview, health minister Ruth Grier wouldn’t be specific about what plan she would go for. But she agrees with the report’s authors that the drug plan needs reform. 

“While the drug plan makes drugs available in an open-ended way to everybody over 65,” says Grier. “In many cases it doesn’t help the low-income family with parents in minimum wage jobs and has a child needing constant drugs. And when we reform the system we aren’t just looking at how we can contain costs, but also how we can make it fairer. The underlying principle of all that we are doing is equity and fairness.”

The drug benefit plan, which also covers welfare recipients, hit $1.2 billion last year out of an almost $17 billion health budget. That was an increase of 13.8 per cent from 1991, but lower than the 18.1 per cent average for the last 10 years. 

David Kelly at Toronto’s multi-service agency Senior Link suggests the government go after the drug industry for wasting money promoting drugs and duplicating research projects. 

According to the industry advocate Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of Canada’s own statistics, drug companies spent $186 million on “marketing” in 1990 while $286 million actually went to research and development. 

The federal government’s own Patent Medicine Prices Review Board, in an internal study leaked to The Globe and Mail, found Canada to have some of the highest drug prices among the seven industrialized nations. 


Seniors organizations and agencies almost overwhelmingly expressed anger over the report, seeing it as another attack on universality of medicare. They feel the government isn’t being creative enough solving fiscal problems. 

“I strongly disapprove,” says Sara Wayman, chairperson of the Ontario board of Canadian Pensioners Concerned. “The concept of universality when it comes to services is a basic democratic principle we support strongly. People who earn $20,000 a year are still struggling to make ends meet. This would represent a real hardship. 

“We also feel strongly that the high medical costs that everybody is talking about aren’t really due to universality. They are really due to the high cost of drugs, and because there has been a restraint of generic drugs by our legislature.

“They are tip toeing around the medical profession. I hope people will speak out.”

Kelly feels savings could be reaped by taxing back any benefits given to wealthy seniors, while maintaining the universality of programs. 

“The group they are talking about is very tiny,” says Kelly. “And so the cost savings to the government are going to be really minimal. A whole process will have to be set up to decide who gets free drugs, and what you get is another layer of bureaucracy everyone has to go through. Studies have shown this adds to the net costs of government in the long run.”


Changing health care careers a sign of the times


By David South

Hospital News (Canada), June 1992

Ontario’s health care system is in the midst of a big change. But where are the new jobs going to be and how can health care workers prepare for the coming crunch?

“Anybody who thought they could progress through the health care system until retirement is in for a shock,” said Ruth Robinson, a national health care consultant for Peat Marwick Stevenson and Kellogg management consultants. 

Radical changes are taking place in the health care system and it looks like traditionally safe occupations are in for a shake-up. 

“Hospitals are being pressured to change fundamentally,” said Ms. Robinson. “The net effect is fewer jobs. A lot of people will have to think about new careers.”

In the Ministry of Health working document entitled Goals and Strategic Priorities, released in January, the fundamental shift from treatment to disease prevention and health promotion is laid out in generalities. 

The goals range from health equity for aboriginals, women, children and AIDS patients to better management of costs to development of a stronger health care industry that will jump start the economy. And they range from the reorganization of professional responsibilities to promotion of services outside institutions with the goal of keeping people out of hospitals. 

One thing is clear, the talk is about big changes. But talk is cheap to laid-off health care workers looking for new jobs. 

The provincial government’s recently passed, but yet to be proclaimed, Regulated Health Professions Act will have serious repercusions for all health care providers. 

“Traditionally, doctors have an exclusive domain over a wide area,” said Charlie Bigenwald, executive director of health human resources planning at the Ministry of Health. “Even though other people could do things, they had to be delegated by a doctor. With the legislation, we have pushed back what doctors can do. This means there will be more opportunity for a wider variety of health care workers to get into those areas.”

Midwifery is one of the benefactors of changes in regulations. The Ministry of Health is looking into having a university-based program for midwives. 

Ms. Robinson predicted nurses and middle management will suffer the most in the change to community-based health care. 

“Nurses will need to get a bachelor degree if they hope to compete for jobs,” she said. 

As for middle managers, who often have clinical skills, they will have to reconsider staying in health care, she said. “They will disappear significantly. They can advance themselves by getting back to clinical skills or consider management positions in non-health care areas.

“There is nothing to be ashamed of about career changes these days,” she added. 

In the shift towards community-based care, opportunities will arise for health care workers who can offer creative solutions to improve service delivery. 

“For nurses, we currently have something called the Nursing Innovation Fund where individuals can apply for a wide variety of developmental things like attending workshops, conferences and training programs. We process 2,500 applications a year,” said Mr. Bigenwald. 

The Ministry of Health hopes the future sees a health care system that adds to the province’s economy rather than drains it. 

“We spend $17 billion a year on health care. We never looked a the health care system as an economic motor in the past. The question we are asking right now is ‘why can’t an Ontario firm make the carpets, beds, sutures etc?’, said Mr. Bigenwald. 

Ms. Robinson said “Governments are running out of money and can’t increase funding. They will be looking for more partnerships in the private sector. In this climate, creative solutions to health care delivery have a great opportunity.”