Your little plastic pill bottles can make a major difference to the world.

If you took every prescription pill bottle you've ever used and laid them in a single line, how far would they stretch?

Maybe you've been picking up the same two medications every month at CVS for the last 10 years. That's 240 little orange pill bottles right there. And once you start counting all those Motrin and Claritin and whatever other over-the-counter bottles you've gone through in your life, it starts to add it up.

It might not seem like much to you. But it's enough to reach a million lives in the east African country of Malawi.

A landlocked African country near Mozambique with a population of more than 16 million people, Malawi is one of the least developed countries in the world — which means, among other things, that Malawians must contend with a broken health care system plagued by a lack of training, resources, and general infrastructure, making it difficult for people to get the help they need when they need it.

Children in Matanda, Malawai. Photo by khym/Flickr.

And even when the right medicines are available, most patients don't have a way to bring them home.

Resources in Malawi are so scarce that most doctors just wrap prescription pills in the nearest piece of scrap paper or drop them in the patient's hand before they send them on their way. 

\n\n

But more than half of Malawians live more than three miles away from the nearest health clinic — a long way to walk with a handful of loose pills.

\n\n

If you lose 'em on the way? Guess you're outta luck.

Think about that the next time you're crawling on the bathroom floor looking for that one pill you dropped. Photo by Luigi Guarino/Flickr.

"A safe storage container that protects the medication from the elements is important," explained Dr. Sallie Permar, associate professor of pediatrics, molecular genetics and microbiology, and immunology at the Human Vaccine Institute at Duke University Medical Center. "There have been recent major public health achievements in increasing the access to these life-saving medications in low- and middle-income countries such as Malawi. Yet one of the biggest challenges in clinical medicine in any setting is patient adherence to daily medications."

That's why the Malawi Project put out a call for donations of prescription pill bottles to send to those who need them most.

Founded by Dick and Suzi Stephens, a couple with a history of bringing aid to Malawi, this charitable organization was formed as a conduit to implement humanitarian aid and community projects in the country that can then be handed over to the people themselves.

\n\n

"Our whole idea is to empower the Malawians to empower themselves," Suzi said in an interview with NPR, referring to the fact that "teach a man to fish" is one of their guiding principles.

The medicine bottle recycling program is just one of many initiatives that the Stephens helped to facilitate.

\n\n

When it was first announced on Facebook in March 2015, the post was shared more than 80,000 times, reaching an audience of more than 5 million people.

\nWithin eight months, they'd received more than 2 million prescription pill bottles to send to the people of Malawi.

In fact, the project was so successful that they had to stop accepting donations because they received more than they could possibly handle.

\n\n

Not bad for a little charity run out of the couple's home, huh?

Though the Malawi Project's initiative has ended, there are plenty of other ways that you can clear out your collection of orange containers and still help people in the process.

  1. Peel the labels off and send your pill bottles to an international outreach program, such as Matthew 25: Ministries or Samaritan's Purse (the latter of whom are looking for everything from hospital gowns to lightly used defibrillators, in addition to medicine bottles).
  2. Contact an animal hospital or ASPCA near you to see if they could use some pill bottles stock for pet medicines. (And remind me to tell you that story sometime about my chinchilla's morphine addiction.) 
  3. Reach out to your local community health center or homeless shelter to find out if they're accepting donations. Because as cool as it is to think of your used medicine bottles making a difference all the way across the world, you might have neighbors who could use the help as well.

It's a simple way to clear out clutter and make a major impact on the world. When we work together, everybody wins.

True

Temwa Mzumara knows firsthand what it feels like to watch helplessly as a loved one fights to stay alive. In fact, experiencing that level of fear and vulnerability is what inspired her to become a nurse anesthetist. She wanted to be involved in the process of not only keeping critically ill people alive, but offering them peace in the midst of the unknown.

"I want to, in the minutes before taking the patient into surgery, develop a trusting and therapeutic relationship and help instill hope," said Mzumara. Especially now, with Covid restrictions, loved ones are unable to be at the side of a patient heading to surgery which makes the ability to understand and quiet her patients' fears such an important part of what she does.

Temwa | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com

Dedicated to making a difference in the lives of her patients, Nurse Mzumara is one of the four nurses featured in Heroes Behind the Masks, a digital content series by CeraVe® that honors nurses who go above and beyond to provide safe and quality care to their patients and communities.

Keep Reading Show less
Canva

As millions of Americans have raced to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, millions of others have held back. Vaccine hesitancy is nothing new, of course, especially with new vaccines, but the information people use to weigh their decisions matters greatly. When choices based on flat-out wrong information can literally kill people, it's vital that we fight disinformation every which way we can.

Researchers at the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a not-for-profit non-governmental organization dedicated to disrupting online hate and misinformation, and the group Anti-Vax Watch performed an analysis of social media posts that included false claims about the COVID-19 vaccines between February 1 and March 16, 2021. Of the disinformation content posted or shared more than 800,000 times, nearly two-thirds could be traced back to just 12 individuals. On Facebook alone, 73% of the false vaccine claims originated from those 12 people.

Dubbed the "Disinformation Dozen," these 12 anti-vaxxers have an outsized influence on social media. According to the CCDH, anti-vaccine accounts have a reach of more than 59 million people. And most of them have been spreading disinformation with impunity.

Keep Reading Show less
True

Nicole Abate, a Registered Medical-Surgical Nurse living in New Mexico, starts her workday around 5:00 a.m. During her 20-minute drive to work, she gets to watch the sun rise over the Sandia Mountains as she sips her coffee.

"It's one of my favorite things to do," said Nurse Abate. "A lot of us need a little calm before the storm."

Nicole | Heroes Behind the Masks Presented by CeraVe youtu.be

In March 2020, after a fairly quiet start to the year, Nurse Abate's unit became the official COVID unit for her hospital. "It went full force after that," she says. Abate was afraid, overwhelmed with uncertainty, never knowing what was next on the wild roller coaster in this new territory, "just when you think ...we know exactly what we're doing, boom, something else hits so you adapt… that's part of nursing too." Abate faced her responsibilities courageously and with grace, as she always does, making life a little better for patients and their families "Thank you for taking care of my father," reads one recent letter from a patient's family. "You were kind, attentive and strong and we are truly grateful."

Keep Reading Show less