Category Archives: Health Issues

End Polio Now Campaign Spotlighted

Miranova, Columbus, Ohio © Larry Hamill

As a child, I spent summers visiting my grandmother in New Jersey.  She had a life long companion named Tony, a short stocky man with a pronounced wattle to his walk and an underdeveloped arm that he kept tucked against his body like a broken wing.

In my child’s mind, I likened him to a penguin. My grandmother would enlighten me – Tony had polio as a child.  It would have been the early 1900s.

This past week Columbus – among other cities around the world – joined forces with Rotary International to broadcast their END POLIO NOW message by spotlighting the Miranova Building downtown.  Over the past two years, as part of their fight to eradicate polio worldwide, Rotary has been illuminating landmarks including the Sydney Opera House and Chicago’s Wrigley Building.

Sydney Opera House ( Rotary Down Under Photo)

Polio, a disease that paralyzed many and killed others, was eliminated in the United States and most developed countries decades ago. Thanks to mass mobilizations to administer the polio vaccine, other countries followed suit.

Yet in 2009, 10 of the 15 previously polio-free African countries were re-infected. In early 2010, a type-1 outbreak spread from India to Tajikistan, where it has paralyzed 239 children to date.

The effort to raise awareness and money to end polio once and for all also involves those as diverse as Bill Gates and Jane Goodall, whose research with Gombe chimpanzees was once affected by a polio outbreak among the chimps.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation contributes upward of $200 million each year, yet Gates warned in his 2011 annual letter to the foundation that the campaign is still facing a $720 million funding gap for 2011-2012. We are so close, but we have to finish the last leg of the journey writes Gates.

Rotary initially launched its efforts in 1985, a time when 1,000 children were paralyzed by polio every day across 125 countries.  The organization has since contributed more than $900 million to the cause.

Learn more about Rotary and volunteer opportunities by visiting

To read more about the Gates Foundation visit

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Aging in the Valley of Longevity

Larry Hamill, a Columbus-based photographer, recently traveled to Ecuador and spent time in the famed Vilcabamba Valley. Located in southern Ecuador, the village of Vilcabamba thrives at the foot of the Mandango mountain.  According to a Wikipedia entry, the area has been referred to as the Playground of the Inca having thought to be a retreat for Incan royalty. The presence of Mandango, the Sleeping Inca, is said to protect the area from earthquakes and other natural disasters.

The spirit of the Sleeping Inca isn’t the only thing unique to this valley. Often called the Valley of Longevity, locals claim it’s not uncommon for inhabitants to live past 100 years of age. The claims are not without scientific fact.  Medicinal qualities have been found in the surrounding plant life. Analysis of fruits, roots and herbs in this equatorial region reveals high levels of anti-oxidants.

An article published by the National Geographic in the early 1970’s gave birth to the idea of Blue Zones.  A name given to places where people live longer, healthier lives, the notion of such zones sparked controversy. Yet, elderly people in Blue Zones around the world are more active, youthful and energetic than those in the U.S. Sorry, no Blue Zones here.

In 1981, the Ecuadorian government hired medical journalist Dr. Morton Walker to further study claims of longevity. His research found the area’s mineral rich water was a key to the Vilcabambans prolonged optimum health.

Wikipedia also notes that retinas of 100 year-old residents of the Valley of Longevity are often comparable with those of 45 year-old city dwellers. What they fail to note is the location of the city dwellers – residents of Quito, Ecuador’s capital or those living in New York City. Factor in work related eye strain and medical researchers might not see eye to eye on this study.

In a post on under Longevity Myths and Longevity Legends, Mark Stibich, Ph.D. sights the Vilcabamba Valley’s extreme inaccessibility as a factor, having protected the inhabitants from many modern influences including prepackaged foods and preservatives.

As the Vilcabambans days are spent hiking up slopes to cultivate and harvest fruits and vegetables and eating fresh picked foods, whole grains, seeds and nuts, with little animal products, it’s a safe bet that exercise, a healthy diet and lack of stress have gone a long way in helping them ward off the effects of aging.

Still, the age old debate over Blue Zones continues. The local government plans to convert the Vilcabamba’s Parador Hotel into a senior citizens center in conjunction with INIGER (National Institute of Gerontology Studies) in order to continue researching the benefits of aging under the ageless presence of the Sleeping Inca.

Read more @ Wikipedia and

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MedFlight Calendar Puts Patients First

Ready to serve night or day, rain or shine, a MedFlight Mobile Intensive Care Unit (MICU), pictured above in Columbus’s Short North district, exemplifies the theme of the 2010 MedFlight calendarPatients First.

As a not-for-profit company, MedFlight maintains a fleet of eight helicopters and four MICUs and covers 10 counties within Ohio, providing transport for the critically ill and injured.

Each year photographing for MedFlight’s calendar brings it own unique challenges, whether it be angling a helicopter just right over snow covered Serpent Mound or being mindful of safety issues like the powerful effect of prop wash.

In addition to transporting over 6,000 patients last year, MedFlight made over 250 community visits, including the Prom Promise drug and alcohol accident simulation event  to help educate teens about the perils of DWI.

Here’s to the pilots, drivers and medical crews who have made an impact in the lives of many, as well as the pilots who make these aerial photographs possible.

Photography provided by Larry Hamill Photography.

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