Heroes

These worms get under your skin, literally. The hero fighting them? Jimmy Freaking Carter.

This is shaping up to be one of the biggest public health success stories of our time.

These worms get under your skin, literally. The hero fighting them? Jimmy Freaking Carter.
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Gates Foundation

If you lived in northeastern Uganda 25 years ago and drank from public water sources, there was a pretty high chance that you'd contract a common but excruciating illness.

Guinea worm disease starts with a pain in your leg or foot, then a blister. Eventually, a parasite emerges from the wound. During this time, the pain is often so intense that you might not be able to work, take care of your family, or even walk.

It’s horrifying to even think about. But guinea worm has been a thing of the past for Ugandans since 2009.


Recently, guinea worm disease hit another major milestone: It's almost gone.

This change from full-blown public health crisis to nearly eradicated in only 30 years is a huge, life-changing deal for communities across the globe. And former President Jimmy Carter made it happen.

Carter visited Lojura, Sudan, in 2010 and was struck by how awful guinea worm is. After this visit, he made eradicating the disease his personal mission. Photo by Peter Martell/ AFP Photo/ Getty Images.

Carter’s nonprofit, The Carter Center, launched its guinea worm eradication program 30 years ago, in 1986. When Carter decided to make guinea worm his cause, there were about 3.5 million people suffering from guinea worm infections — and just as daunting, there were no vaccines or medicines to treat it.

In 2015, there were only 22 guinea worm infections in the world — down from 126 in 2014.

How did it happen? Hard work, smart public education campaigns, and lots of clean water.

Guinea worm spreads through water. About a year after someone drinks water infected with guinea worm larvae, they get a blister, and the parasite begins to come out of the body. So the most important step was to keep guinea worm larvae out of drinking water.

The Carter Center built wells, gave water filters to villages, and worked to keep people with infections from bathing in water sources.

The center also relied on community health workers to provide education on preventing guinea worm disease.

“I’ve sometimes had thousands of students from schools lined up outside on the highway when I come into the village. In Nigeria, they had big signs that said, ‘Watch out, Guinea worm, here comes Jimmy Carter!’ That makes you feel good,” Carter said in a recent NPR interview.

There are only four countries left with documented guinea worm cases, which means we could see its end very soon. We went from more than 3 million infections to fewer than 25 in just three decades — solely from effective prevention methods.

This is already shaping up to be one of the biggest public health success stories since, well, the beginning of time.

As it approaches the eradication of guinea worm disease, the Carter Center has expanded its focus to include cultivating peace, protecting human rights, and eliminating other harmful diseases in the same way.

Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images.

“I would like the last guinea worm to die before I do,” Carter said at a news conference last August.

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

When the COVID-19 pandemic socially distanced the world and pushed off the 2020 Olympics, we knew the games weren't going to be the same. The fact that they're even happening this year is a miracle, but without spectators and the usual hustle and bustle surrounding the events, it definitely feels different.

But it's not just the games themselves that have changed. The coverage of the Olympics has changed as well, including the unexpected addition of un-expert, uncensored commentary from comedian Kevin Hart and rapper Snoop Dogg on NBC's Peacock.

In the topsy-turvy world we're currently living in, it's both a refreshing and hilarious addition to the Olympic lineup.

Just watch this clip of them narrating an equestrian event. (Language warning if you've got kiddos nearby. The first video is bleeped, but the others aren't.)

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