Archive for January, 2009|Monthly archive page

Wading out of my comfort zone

I have a confession to make to those of you who have not met me personally. I have a competitive streak in me that runs a mile wide. I love playing board games and card games.  If being an overachiever were a crime, I would be a convicted felon. Forgive me; it is probably one of the most stereotypical traits of Millennials. Considering the alternative, I think that it my drive to succeed has been a real asset.

Returning this work has knocked a little wind out of my sails because everything that I am doing to prepare for this semester’s activities for PAIR is new to me. I am drafting a volunteer training and writing a curriculum. It has made me rethink my typical full speed ahead approach. I spend more time explaining my thought process to my supervisor on an unfinished product rather than a complete one. My goal is completing a phase rather than finishing which requires me to concretely develop a plan of action. My thinking tends to be a little on the scattered side so thinking linearly has been difficult.

The biggest change has been the level of collaboration. During my work at AED, each project had a team but the tasks were assigned and completed as though each one was an independent project. My work responsibilities typically did not require the input or insight of others until they were complete. Even then, my draft was returned to me in the same way that a teacher returns a graded paper. You make all the corrections they tell you and then return the paper. Really working collaboratively is something that I have not done in a professional setting before.

I never thought that I would admit it, but I really like working this way. Coming from a former lab nerd, I think that should count for something…an achievement of sorts?

Make health and wellness a resolution that you can keep

20090106-fekgdrqs9hn4117s1w57mmgsgmNew Year’s resolutions are easier said than done. A partnership of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications aims to ease the pressure with Healthy Monday. Healthy Monday will be a weekly series of national health observances on – you guessed it – each Monday of this year designed to deliver evidence-based health campaign to reduce factors related to leading causes of death for Americans: poor diet and inactivity, smoking, and alcohol misuse.

I really like how this campaign has incorporated ways for individuals to take action as well as organizations to coordinate events and meetings. Activities such as the Monday Mile encourage participants to increase physical activity and you can get some support (and incorporate social persuasion to promote adherence) by starting and/or joining a Move It Monday club. My major criticism is that they seemed to have missed an opportunity to include elements of social networking. It would be great even if they had pointed out tools such as Google Calendar, Meetup and others to help groups coordinate better at the community level or encourage individuals not associated with the community to take on the responsibility of starting a group.

In My Name: End Poverty

I saw this cool video on @zakblogs‘s blog Schizofrenetic. If you haven’t checked out her blog yet, you should; it’s one of my favorite Brazen Careerist reads.

In My Name is the newest campaign led by YouTube dedicated to motivating people to do their part in helping to end poverty. You can upload your video to the In My Name channel asking the government to do its part to end poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

How not to express disagreement with an issue

I have not come across many causes that stir up so many fervent emotions as some of the issues in public health: reproductive rights, vaccines, and HIV/AIDS among those. When I tell people that I plan to study public health, they speak about the need to help sick people in the world in an abstract manner with little consideration for the nuts and bolts of public health. Speaking about health can be just as controversial as the typically taboo topics of politics, religion and sex because you find all three have a role to play in communication and interventions.

Alanna Shaikh highlighted five of the more contentious issues in public health. I have had a couple incidents involving opposing viewpoints regarding vaccine safety and efficacy and the cause of AIDS. My previous post about my change.org idea prompted an anonymous  comment that attacked me personally and included no scientific evidence to support claims that vaccines do more harm than good. I will repeat again that controversy over vaccine safety is largely a product of faulty communication, NOT faulty science. The development of vaccines represents one of the greatest successes of 20th-century medicine, making immunization of its own success.

My encounter with AIDS denialists that participated in the change.org Ideas competition echoed some of the vehement reactions seen on change.org’s Global Health blog regarding the recent tragic death of Christine Maggiore. As a person living with HIV who publicly questioned the link between HIV and AIDS, Maggiore was a controversial figure who helped to perpetuate misconceptions about HIV and ARV therapy. I had an exchange with the author of the idea aiming to question the link between HIV and AIDS after he left a comment on my idea that questioned my intentions and motivation. I left a response on my wall and have copied it below just in case you are curious to read it.

I would like to let any future commenters know that disagreement is appreciated and encouraged. Just don’t resort to attacking me personally and then to proceed to not back up your argument with some valid, factual pointers.

I Get By with a Little Help from My Friends

I received a nice surprise when I checked email today. Ben Rattray of change.org fame sent me an email saying that my idea made it to the final round of voting for the “Ideas for Change in America” competition.  The final round of voting begins at 8am ET on Monday, January 5th and ends at 5pm ET on Thursday, January 15th.

I have a favor to ask of you dear readers. Please vote for my idea, “Save Children from Preventable Diseases.” I can’t really provide any incentives other than the promise of good karma. C’mon, you want to do it. It’s for the kids. Vote here please!

Save Children from Preventable Diseases

Estimates show that approximately 11 million children die needlessly, primarily from preventable diseases such as measles, malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia. Most of the medical interventions cost pennies per child.

While no one would say fighting major epidemics such as HIV and tuberculosis are very important, these preventable diseases kill hundreds everyday needlessly.

Vaccines are one of modern history’s most important medical innovations yet they remain out of reach for millions of children. Generally rough conditions without necessary refridgeration and proper storage keep health professionals from delivering vaccines to those who need them most. Supporting research for affordable, portable and electricity-free refridgeration will help to keep the doses sufficiently chilled as they are delivered to communities.

Water-borne diseases like diarrhea can be treated with oral rehydration salts. The administration can take a lesson from The Coca Cola project which aims to include oral rehydration salts with every distribution of Coca Cola in developing countries. There are also countless filters to purify the water sources that people are able to find. All that remains is educating about the need for clean water.

Looking outside of the major three diseases of HIV, TB, and malaria could be a cost effective way to save millions of lives.

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