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KISMET: Opening Pathways to Health

In 2016 ECHO partnered with Kismet: Opening Pathways to Health, a passionate team from Yale University and University of KwaZulu-Natal The Nelson Mandela School of Medicine (UKZN) dedicated to education, research into health disparities, and clinical outreach to populations in need through a bilateral exchange of volunteers, training, and ideas between the United States and South Africa. We aim to promote their work through development and evaluation assistance.   Kismet has made dramatic progress recently, and they are working to expand programs and build on successes in several topic areas, including Child hearing loss and chronic ear infections, cancer prevention, detection, and treatment, and comprehensive HIV care in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), South Africa.


Child Hearing Health and Chronic Ear Infections:

Many children in at-risk communities around the world are losing their hearing as a result of chronic untreated ear infections, a problem rarely seen in the United States today. The costs of acquired deafness are usually devastating and though ear infections are both preventable and treatable, 7.5% of schoolchildren in South Africa have some hearing loss with some studies estimates of hearing loss affecting half of all children in KZN with HIV/AIDS.  Youth in KZN are disproportionately affected by hearing loss, affecting school performance and future employment opportunities. Our goal is to better understand and provide care for this epidemic. We are launching hearing screening campaigns, studying the epidemic to better understand the best way of treating it, and extending the reach of specialists who treat ear infections and address hearing loss.


Enhancing Prevention, Detection, and Treatment of Cancer:

Like unchecked infections, Cancer is an increasing cause of morbidity and mortality that may surpass even HIV, TB, and malaria in endemic parts of the world.  Existing efforts by the South African Ministry of Health target cervical and breast cancer, and Kismet is working to extend this focus to include head and neck cancer.   Many kinds of cancers are preventable, and once cancer develops, early detection and access to treatment saves lives.  We educate about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, and other factors that cause cancer and are committed to enhancing early detection efforts in KZN and bolstering triage pathways to provide care to those in need, especially in rural areas.  As part of our partnership with the Department of Otolaryngology at the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine, and in keeping with the health goals published by the South African Ministries of health, in March 2017 Kismet launched a head and neck cancer awareness and screening campaign centered in four hospitals in KZN and will be expanding to hospitals and clinics across the province. This collaboration brings substantial South African and international expertise together, setting the stage for concerted efforts to better understand and combat these diseases.


Comprehensive HIV Care:

Significant strides have been made in turning the tide on HIV in South Africa and have yielded a population that is HIV positive and on effective treatment regimens.  Now that HIV is essentially a treatable chronic illness, we must now work to also provide comprehensive care. We are promoting ongoing testing and treatment efforts for HIV but are also focused on expanding the health care provided to HIV+ patients. In all of our clinical and research efforts, we are focused on providing better to people living with HIV.


Bilateral Exchange:

Kismet training symposia bring providers together to advance the science and medical and surgical techniques in practice.  Academic program partnerships built between Yale and UKZN benefit medical residents/registrars from both countries; offering the opportunity to gain exposure to advanced presentations of diseases that would not typically be seen in the U.S. and experiences in health systems, research and professional conferences in the U.S.  Collaborative research projects offer opportunities which fulfill a South African graduation requirement relieving a bottleneck for training physicians, who will go on to have a long-term impact in the province.

To learn more about Kismet and their work, please contact

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