Archive for the ‘public health’ Tag

Learn to just say no

Tonight I opened Google Reader for the first time in over a month. I hoped that the feed reader had not exploded with the over 100 feeds I subscribe to. The sight of the 1000+ articles sitting there awaiting my perusal inspired me to do something that I don’t do often enough: say no. I have now dumped half of these feeds. It simply was too overwhelming and frankly ridiculous of me to think that I could consume that much information on a daily basis. It is an ongoing negative habit of mine: take on more and more responsibility until I drive myself crazy.

I miss reading and talking about public health now that my brain is constantly occupied with nonprofit management and education due to AmeriCorps. I love what I do everyday but I know that the issues that I really want to explore are in public health and not education. I did not realize how difficult it would be to devote myself to both disciplines this year.

After reading on change.org about the amazing strides that Frontline: SMS has made in advancing mobile health in Malawi, I knew that I wanted to jump back in. Reading and writing about public health will bring back some of the excitement I felt about going to grad school. I have gotten in to Emory and Johns Hopkins so I definitely need to step up my game so that I will be ready next fall.

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.

New Year. New Blogging Habits

I’m not typically a proponent of New Year’s resolutions. They are typically easily made and typically easily broken. Psychologically, the beginning of the year seems like an inspirational time to set lofty goals with little or no accountability for follow through.

And in the case of blogging resolutions, the accountability is there but the temptation to set unreachable goals still remains.

So I am going to make a blogging small steps plan to start a better blogging habit. I blamed by lack of blogging before for not having anything to say, but mostly I think that I just thought what I wanted to say was not worth sharing.

1. Make a blogging schedule.

I joined a gym about a month ago as part of a plan to seriously start being healthy. I may not go to the gym everyday but I have made a conscious effort to do some sort of physical activity everyday so it becomes more of a habit.

I plan on doing the same with my blog by blogging on weekdays even if it is a couple of links to articles that I read. Integrating blogging into my workday routine will make it easier to keep up.

2. Use Twitter as a complement to blogging rather than a substitute.

Twitter can be a novice blogger’s downfall if you don’t watch out. Don’t get me wrong; I love Twitter but it is really easy to focus solely on Twitter and neglect the impact that writing more than 140 characters can have.

Recommendations make me nervous

Recommendations are the one part of the application process where you are truly at the mercy of individual schedules. The control freak part of me panics at having to rely on others until the application process is complete. The best thing that you can do for your peace of mind is to 1) ask early and 2) remind often. Even though I requested mine a month ago, I am still waiting on a few letters because schedules fill up quickly and tend to change at a moment’s notice. Luckily, my earliest deadline is still a month away.

To avoid a midnight dash to the post office, allow at least a month for your references to complete your letters. Also, make sure to have at least one backup reference in mind in case one does not have enough time in their schedules. If your reference says that they are too busy to write a letter, if it is someone you know really well, you might want to think about offering to write the letter and asking them to review and sign it. Terrified about writing your own letter? Not everyone is a self-promotion guru. Check out your recommendations on LinkedIn to get a better feel for the tone of a recommendation.

Do your references a favor and provide them with your personal press kit. Send a draft of your admissions essay, most current resume, and other documents that might me pertinent. If your degree has a research focus, it might be good to send an abstract of a published paper.

I’m trying to take my own advice and remember that most people want to help other people. The logistics of getting recommendations might be troublesome, but people like supporting other’s endeavors.

World AIDS Day 2008

The subject of mobile phones for health is one that I have become increasingly interested in over time. Over half of the people living in developing countries currently have mobile phones, and that percentage is growing rapidly. The rule of thumb concerning Innovation with the use of mobile phones seems to be expect the unexpected. The versatility of mobile phones holds the promise of a dramatic improvement in the overall state of health of the populations.

Africa Aid creates intimate partnerships that take the large-scale issues of extreme poverty and scales them down to a manageable community level. MDNet is Africa Aid’s newest initiative to create free mobile phone physician networks within countries in Africa, helping to advance the transfer of medical knowledge between physicians in Africa. As an MDNet officer, I work remotely to coordinate planning and implementation of programmatic goals and research stakeholders and resources in target countries.

The proliferation of mobile phones is starting to have a real impact on the fight against HIV/AIDS. Project Masiluleke in South Africa is using mobile phones to deliver health information directly to individuals. SMS text messages could increase treatment adherence for patients with HIV, tuberculosis and other diseases that require regular treatment. In the United States, sending a text message with your ZIP code to “KNOWIT” (566948) will allow you to find an HIV testing site near you.

It’s truly refreshing to feel that the possibilities are endless. Much of the general public’s knowledge of HIV focus on the devastating human impact of the epidemic. It is just as important to acknowledge that we do have the will and ability to fight back.

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