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Tackling Children's Health Problems With Technology And Collaboration

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Children's health care is a growing concern on a domestic and global scale among parents, specialists, and policymakers. Treating this special population, particularly among those living in rural communities, ignites continual challenges including insurance concerns, limited transportation, and the low number and availability of pediatric specialists. In addition, child mortality remains a global concern. According to a recent study by The Lancet, only 15 countries are projected to meet targets to reduce child deaths by 2035. Working to overcome these challenges can help ensure that every child reaches his or her full potential.

Through ongoing work with health care organizations around the world, Cisco recognized that collaborative telehealth and video technology solutions could help curb the strain on resources within the children's population by encouraging "virtual" treatments -- a trend becoming more prevalent as doctors and providers recognize its significance. Across the world, the company has a series of programs to help children get the best medical care possible. These programs fall under the recently launched "Connected Healthy Children" initiative, a new program designed to promote a future of happier families, stronger communities, and healthier kids around the world.

This initiative addresses social challenges and mental health, cancers, heart disease, hearing impairments, and diseases that impact the development of each child by helping doctors collaborate to better serve their patients with access to high-quality video. Telehealth solutions, such as those used in the programs, combine Cisco's network, mobile, cloud, and video technologies. Each solution can link medical providers with patients and colleagues, multiplying their impact.

To date, more than eight programs have launched in China, the UK, Kenya, Brazil, and the U.S. -- including via partnership with institutions such as the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital -- to address a variety of childhood diseases and conditions. Each addresses an issue of particular concern in that local community and involves public and private partnerships in developed and developing countries.

As an example, the growing number of children diagnosed with autism led to the most recent partnership between Cisco and the Marcus Autism Center, part of Georgia's Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. In this facility, doctors have early evidence that treatment through video interaction can increase response in patients with autism over in-person interaction. Evidence, based on its treatment thus far of over 1,000 children, shows that early diagnosis and treatment helps to improve the patient's condition. Our hope is that more patients begin video treatment early after diagnosis for a positive difference.

In China, Cisco and the United Foundation for Children's Health (UFCH) launched the "Connected Healthy Children China Program." Through the use of collaboration and Cisco WebEx® technology solutions, this program helps provide remote diagnosis, training for special education teachers, and health information exchange to children working and living in the social welfare system -- a special group that includes more than 90 percent of the children in this region.

In Brazil, where 70 percent of the population relies on public health care, we started building Connected Healthy Children -- Brazil in the Spring of 2013 to help reduce the disparity of access to specialized care between urban and rural areas. In the northeastern state of Sergipe, we are partnering with the state's only University Hospital in Aracuju to use telehealth systems to provide remote consultations. Advanced TelePresence and collaboration systems will connect Family Health Clinics in Tobias Barreto and Lagarto with pediatric specialists at the Federal Medical University campus in Lagarto and the University Hospital in Aracuju, while a team enabled with mobile technology will provide specialist access to even more remote areas.

Another important area of focus centers on genomics and big data. Harnessing genetic sequencing to establish targeted treatment plans for children and patients with cancer is essential to personalized medicine. Collaborative technologies have the potential to connect multi-disciplinary teams in support of this growing trend.

These are only two examples of the number of programs that fall within Cisco's "Connected Healthy Children" initiative. As part of this program, and in everything we do, our business aims to also benefit the people, communities, and the planet. As the world continues to transform into a more connected network of people, processes, data, and things, we will work to extend the reach of pediatricians and specialists to treat children with groundbreaking tools and resources on a national and global scale.

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