Professor David Morley: Saving childrens' lives

PUBLISHED: 14:06 24 July 2010 | UPDATED: 08:57 21 February 2013

Professor Morley with his plastic bottle fly trap

Professor Morley with his plastic bottle fly trap

Professor David Morley's inventions have made him a vital link in the war against child killer diseases, as Dick Dawson explains

THOUSANDS of children all over the developing world are alive today thanks to the work of a Harpenden professor whose inventions and ideas have made him one of the world's top experts in the fight against child killer diseases.
He is Professor David Morley CBE MD, FRCP, who in1965, while he was a lecturer at the Institute of Child Health, founded the St Albans-based charity, Teaching-aids At Low Cost (TALC).
He got the idea from his students who kept telling him that they urgently needed medical teaching aids and books when they returned to their own countries.
Since it started, TALC has distributed more than ten million books, slides and accessories relating to health and community workers, throughout the developing world.

Helping health workers
Use of these has enabled doctors and health workers to make the right diagnosis resulting in the saving of thousands of lives and the alleviation of an enormous amount of pain and suffering. One of Professor Morley's specifications for the TALC books is that they should be written so that people whose second language is English can understand them.
A popular book is Where There is No Doctor, which shows people without, or with limited, medical experience how to deal with injuries such as treating broken arms, and how to diagnose illnesses and decide when it is vital for serious cases to be sent for medical attention.
Professor Morley was responsible for recommending another book, Clinical Tuberculosis, to be written which has been translated into 28 languages, after he foresaw an increase in tuberculosis because of the HIV/AIDS outbreak.

Protecting against disease
Another of his interests is campaigning against powdered milk for babies, because he learned while working in West Africa that powdered milk could spread sickness when mixed with unclean water or through being used with dirty equipment, whereas breast milk offered protection against disease and was a natural contraceptive.
Another important step forward took place in the 1970s when it was discovered that a mixture of sugar and salt could cure diarrhoea, which at that time was killing one child in ten in the developing world.
The only problem was that if the proportions of sugar and salt were even the slightest bit wrong it could cause death for the dehydrated patient.
TALC distributes a two-ended spoon, with one end for salt and the other for sugar. The patients found the coloured spoons attractive and they became prized possessions and, much to the professor's surprise, parents hung some at the foot of their children's beds to ward off evil spirits.

Invention successes
Professor Morley often gets ideas for inventions and uses a shed in his garden as a workshop. One of his developments was a fly trap made from plastic bottles which uses a mixture of goat droppings and urine as a bait.
This has been tested by a research team working among the Masai in Kenya and they found that the trap cut down the fly population substantially.
An additional bonus for the Masai was that they could feed the dead flies to their chickens!
Two other major achievements were his founding of an organisation called Child-to-Child, which shows children how to teach each other health care and has spread throughout the world, and the important role he played in the formation of GOBI, a UNICEF survival strategy which has resulted in a massive cut in child deaths in many developing countries.

Gathering achievements
Professor Morley was awarded the CBE for services to child health in developing countries and for initiating TALC and Child-to-Child.
He is also the recipient of the first King Faisal International Prize for Medicine which was made of solid gold and which, characteristically, he later sold to fund his charity.
A more recent award was the Beacon Prize which aims to raise the profile of giving in the UK, by awarding exceptional philanthropic acts by individuals.
The professor, who is a very active 85-year-old and is married with three children, keeps himself very busy on health matters and takes part in medical affairs and writing.
Looking to the future of the developing world he says, 'My hope comes largely in political change, greater democracy and bringing together disciplines such as education, health and agriculture to work together at all levels, but particularly at slum and community levels.'

TALC has changed much since 1965. Today it is a highly regarded, specialised charity. It is small and run at low-cost distributing materials, many free of charge, throughout the developing world. The charity's website fully describes its range of materials and provides donors with an opportunity to support its work.

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