According to the World Health Organization, 80% of blindness is preventable or treatable — but it remains a severe health concern across the globe, even in industrialized countries.
Now hope is on the horizon — especially if countries are willing to emulate Israel’s approach to eye health, says Prof.Michael Belkin of the Goldschleger Eye Research Institute at Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Sheba Medical Center in a new study published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology. In the last decade, rates of preventable blindness in Israel have been cut by more than half — from 33.8 cases of blindness per 100,000 residents in 1999 to 14.8 in 2010. This improvement, found across all four main causes of avoidable blindness — age-related deterioration, glaucoma, diabetes, and cataract — is unmatched anywhere else in the world, he says.
The secret is not only the innovative methods of treatment that were added to the Israeli medical system, but their universal availability and accessibility, as well as good patient compliance with treatment regimens, including the correct use of prescribed medications.
Israel also offers community-based programs, such as dedicated diabetes clinics, which promote early prevention and timely treatment for diabetes-related complications that can lead to blindness. Prof. Belkin notes that such programs save public and private health care money in the long term.
Women giving birth by Caesarean section could be the first to benefit from a revolutionary Israeli invention for closing surgical incisions without stitches or staples. The technique also promises to leave patients less prone to infection and scarring. BioWeld1, a unique trademarked product from Israeli startup IonMed, welds surgical incisions using cold plasma.
Plasma is a gas in which a certain proportion of the particles are ionized. It has been shown to offer manifold benefits including tissue welding, control of bleeding, enhancement of tissue repair, disinfection and destruction of cancer cells. However, plasma has enjoyed a limited role in surgery due to the high temperatures it creates and resulting harmful effects on body tissue. IonMed’s scientists found a way to make use of cold plasma as the power behind the BioWeld1.
The procedure takes a few minutes, seals the area completely, leaves minimal scarring or painful stitches, and does not require complex training.
“No one has done this before — and more than that, the platform of cold plasma is a technology that is not available in medicine yet,” says Ronen Lam, IonMed’s co-founder and vice president for business development. “We will probably be the first,” he tells ISRAEL21c.
The company anticipates receiving the CE mark of approval in Europe by the end of the year. After closing its next financial round, IonMed would then look into beginning trials in Europe and in the United States toward getting approval of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and launching its next cold plasma-based product.
The parents of a Jewish boy who was declared brain dead after falling from a fourth floor window have donated his kidney to a 10-year-old Palestinian boy thus saving his life.
Three-year-old Noam Naor fell from the fourth floor of his parents’ apartment building and was rushed at critical condition to the Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer. His injuries were so extensive they had caused him irreparable brain damage forcing doctors to declare him brain dead.
After consulting the matter with rabbis, Noam’s parents, both religious, decided to donate their son’s kidneys.
Given Noam’s young age there was no choice but to donate the kidney to a child as the organ could not be transplanted in anyone weighing over 30 kilograms.
A tissue test run through the national waiting list found only one match – a 10-year-old Palestinian boy.
Yakoub Ibhisad had been treated at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem for the past seven years for kidney failure. None of his family members were a match.
The transplant center asked Noam’s parents’ permission to give the kidney to a non-Israeli, and was given their consent.
“I thought about Shimon Peres’ efforts for peace with our neighbors and realized I was making the right decision,” Noam’s mother Sarit said.
“Knowing I saved a life gives me great comfort and the power to go on,” she added. “It was not an easy choice, but I today I am happy I made it. It doesn’t matter that it’s a Palestinian boy, I wish it would bring us peace.”
Having been made aware of the mother’s wish to speak to President Peres, the transplant center arranged a call between with the president who conveyed his condolences and expressed his support for the family’s decision.
“It’s one of the most moving contributions to peace,” Peres told the mother. “It shatters all prejudices.”
The transplant was performed at the Schneider Children’s Medical Center in Petah Tikva, where Yakoub is still hospitalized. He is scheduled to be discharged soon.
Samir Ibhisad, Yakoub’s father said, “I haven’t the words to thank the family that saved my son’s life. We’ve been through many years of suffering when my son was on dialysis and his life was in danger.
“We are grateful for the donation and hope that God willing the couple will be blessed enough to have another child.”
Health Minister Yael German said, “Noam’s parents are noble and inspiring people. Their donation is a source of pride and an example of humanity and kindness. ”
Academy Award-winner Morgan Freeman was honored this month with the Jake Eberts Key of Knowledge Award at a gala reception hosted by Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (CFHU).
The award celebrates Freeman’s dedication to combating racism and promoting knowledge and education worldwide. The gala was held at the Toronto Center for the Arts and was attended by more than 700 guests.
The event raised $2 million for the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada (IMRIC), Canada’s premier institute in Israel and a symbol of the scientific cooperation and friendship between both countries.
Through IMRIC, Israeli and Canadian scientists are working together to find solutions and better treatments for diseases such as cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and heart- and brain-related disorders.
Funds raised will also establish a scholarship fund for international students participating in the Public Health and Community Medicine Program at the Hebrew University.
Hebrew University President Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson presented the award to Morgan Freeman.
“In presenting this Award, the Hebrew University and its Canadian Friends association pay tribute to your long-standing commitment to humanitarian relief the world over, your affirmation of the dignity and autonomy of every human being, and your commitment to advancing education — values that we share in common,” Prof. Ben-Sasson said.
“The Hebrew University, Israel’s first and leading institution of higher education, is a meeting place for peoples of all beliefs and backgrounds, and an institution whose goals to seek truth and serve humanity are pursued in a spirit of openness, pluralism and tolerance.
“In the words of Albert Einstein, one of the Hebrew University’s visionary founders: ‘A university is a place where the universality of the human spirit manifests itself.’”
Among the guest present at the event were Dr. Amir Amedi, renowned IMRIC brain scientist, and Dr. Josephine Ojiambo, Kenya’s ambassador to the United Nations and Hebrew University alumna.
Elan Divon, executive director of CFHU Toronto, said following the event: “Last night was a tribute to an extraordinary actor and humanitarian, Morgan Freeman. But it was also a tribute to all the educators, teachers, and change makers of this world; people who get up every morning and believe they can make a difference.
“Yes we raised a significant amount of money towards scientific and medical research at the Hebrew University, but our impact goes well beyond that. By bringing together a Hollywood icon, a Kenyan ambassador, and an Israeli scientist, we were able to demonstrate the universality of education, and what we can achieve when we invest in human capital and young minds.”
A special question-and-answer session with Morgan Freeman was moderated by two-time Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, Paul Saltzman and hosted by Jian Ghomeshi. Guests also enjoyed a tribute video featuring Shirley Douglas, actress and political activist; Marc and Craig Kielburger, co-founders of Free the Children; Piers Handling, director and CEO of TIFF; and Robert Lantos, founder of Serendipity Point Films.
The Jake Eberts Key of Knowledge Award is named in honor of the late film producer Jake Eberts, who in 2011 received the first-ever Key of Knowledge Award in recognition of his dissemination of knowledge through film and his significant philanthropic contributions.
Throughout his 35-year film career, Eberts helped create many Academy Award-winning films, including Chariots of Fire, Gandhi, Driving Miss Daisy and Dances with Wolves, and such notable documentaries as Prisoner of Paradise, Journey to Mecca and Oceans. His final project, “Jerusalem,” is an Imax 3D production due for worldwide release later this year.
About half of all people at risk of death from heart attacks could gain the chance to live, once Israeli entrepreneur Leon Eisen’s new Oxitone device goes to market in about 18 months.
Using two optical sensors, and another special high-tech tool, he’s developed the world’s first “watch” that can just about tell when your time may be up.
It’s no joke: Oxitone was developed to cheat fate.
Eisen tells ISRAEL21c that about half of the people who die from cardiac or pulmonary arrest would be alive if someone had been there to get them to the hospital in time. Oxitone is made to be worn on the wrist to provide a heads-up for someone to get medical assistance on their own, before it’s too late.
With all the technology out there — personal monitoring devices, crocodile clips for your finger, even those panic buttons — nothing helps if the user is not able to mobilize these devices in time. And many patients may not be able to read the signs that cardiac arrest is imminent.
That’s why Eisen developed a wearable watch-like mobile device –– synched with Bluetooth, Android or iPhone devices –– that takes minute-by-minute readings of heart rate and oxygen levels in the blood.
So potentially “disruptive” is this advance that Oxitone recently was chosen from 400 applicants to be among 13 companies – and the only Israeli one — in GE Healthcare’s Start-Up Health Academy Entrepreneurship Program. The three-year program provides healthcare entrepreneurs the tools to propel their product into the healthcare market.
A delegation from the Jordanian Red Cross came to Jerusalem on Wednesday to tour Bishvilaych, a nonprofit medical clinic for haredi and Modern Orthodox Jewish women in the capital’s Givat Shaul neighborhood.
Many traditionally religious women feel uncomfortable about being examined by male doctors and discussing intimate matters with them – and according to the heads of the clinic, haredi and Israeli Arab women are known to have relatively high mortality rates of breast cancer because they are hesitant to go for a mammography. Bishvilaych sees Muslim women as well as observant Jewish women.
The Jordanian visitors told Bishvilaych founder and CEO Sara Siemiatycki and medical director Dr. Diana Flescher that they were planning to open a similar clinic for women in the Hashemite kingdom soon.
At the facility – which moved some time ago from the capital’s Geula neighborhood – the head of the Jordanian team, Leila Toucan Abu al- Ouda learned how the women medical staffers daily diagnose and treat observant patients of all faiths.
The Bishvilaych heads said that one of their challenges was increasing awareness of breast cancer and other diseases among religious women, and of the need for early detection.
Siemiatycki told her guests that she was glad to be hosting them, as they and her clinic shared the problems of dealing with modesty and medical care for observant women.
“We will be happy to help you during the establishment of your center to advance the field of women’s health in the whole world,” she said.
Bishvilaych, which translates to the feminine form of “For You,” claims to be the only holistic wellness facility for religious women in Israel.
In 2008, Flescher told The Jerusalem Post that the model of the Jerusalem center “could easily serve other populations such as Arab Israeli women who have large families, tend to give their own health low priority and – for reasons of modesty – prefer women doctors to examine them and discuss intimate matters.”
She stressed then that Bishvilaych was not a replacement for the public health fund services to which every Israeli is entitled.
“We are not affiliated [with] any health fund, but our female physicians refer patients for tests and visits to specialists,” she said. The clinic offers personal attention, a holistic view of the patient and a focus on health education and disease prevention.
Siemiatycki noted in that same interview that “haredi women generally give higher priority to the needs of their husbands and many children, and put themselves at the bottom of the totem pole. As a result, breast cancer, for example, is diagnosed much later in haredi women than in their secular counterparts.”