Archive for the ‘public health’ Tag

This only a test: Tackling the GRE

Standardized tests may be your forte or your weakest link but they will be part of any application for graduate school. I know after taking the SAT for admission to college that I had hoped to never see another standardized test again. Unfortunately, that simply was not possible.

The GRE, or Graduate Record Examination, is basically a grown up version of the SAT. The test includes the same sections: Verbal, Analytical and Writing. As before, expanding your vocabulary can only help you with the verbal section. I know that many people often use flashcards to learn hundreds of the most frequently used words. For me, it was more useful to learn to recognize word roots because I have a hard time with rote memorization. This test will require you to brush off those rusty math skills that you likely have not used for years. I didn’t find anything too complicated, but preparing for the test will allow you to be comfortable on test day.

I found the biggest adjustment was becoming accustomed to a computer-administered test. You can’t make notes beside the reading passages. Knowing the computer actually increases the difficulty of each test item following every correct answer until you miss an answer. I personally think this is ETS’ way of playing mind games with test takers. The key to avoiding a whirlwind of worry about the correctness of your answers is learning how to pace yourself before taking the real test. While practice tests will not exactly capture the testing experience, you can follow the same rules as the real exam.

Keep in mind that your test scores are valid for five years. Even if you are not sure that you want to go to grad school soon, you can save yourself some trouble by taking the GRE sooner rather than later. Because you can schedule the test on your own schedule, you can choose how much time you will need to prepare even if you are working fulltime. For those still in college, the summer months are perfect for preparing and then taking the GRE since there is more free time. While it’s no picnic, The GRE may be as close as you can get to having a stress-free testing experience.

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A little Twitter experiment

I realize that I have been relatively absent from my blog lately. I would have to say that my grad school applications are the culprit. Frustrated my lack of progress in both activities, I vented via Twitter about my desire to finish my essays so that I would feel like blogging again. Fortuitously, a Twitter friend @RocchiJulia suggested that I crowd source my essay writing. I thought that was a genius idea, so I am asking for your input and constructive criticism. I will be sure to blog about the results as part of the Idealist.org Grad School Project.

Main statement

I would like to study the global health track in the Department of Sociomedical Sciences so that I may learn the theories behind the practice of behavior change communication in developing countries. Behavioral intervention facilitate the power of individual changes to cause collective actions, improving the health of populations and remedying inequalities. I would like to learn about theoretical frameworks and gain greater research experience by pursuing a master of public health to learn about the intersection of global health and social sciences.

While at the Academy for Educational Development, I worked on health communication projects concerning domestic health issues. My principal project involved supporting a community-based childhood obesity prevention program. I provided technical assistance for participating community-based organizations and coordinated community outreach to potential participating organizations. That experience introduced me to implementation of behavioral interventions and health communication. I hope to learn more about planning, designing, and evaluating programs by earning a master of public health at [X University].

I chose to volunteer in Mozambique to become more familiar with the challenges of global health. By volunteering with a capacity building program for Mozambican NGOs working in HIV/AIDS, I learned about how public health functions in the field and how programs have to adapt in resource-limited settings. I contributed to a training to equip participating NGOs with strategies and tactics to counter stigma and discrimination. I drafted a manual in Portuguese to guide NGOs to establish administrative and financial policies. I interned at the Centro de Salud para Referencia de VIH/SIDA, a community health center serving patients living with HIV and other STDs in greater La Plata, Argentina. Through this internship, I coordinated patient outreach, establishing the foundation for the creation of an advisory council of patients.

I look forward to learning about behavior change theories that underlie the practice of global health. I can combine my interests in psychology and public health through studying sociomedical sciences with a focus in global health. Eventually, I would like to lead program development for behavior change communications programming. Behavior change communications focuses on increasing access to information in combination with resources that imbue people with the ability to make changes that improves health in their lives.

I plan to work with marginalized populations, such as ethnic minorities because these populations often have the least access to the information and resources that allow individuals to stay healthy. My primary interest is in resolving the effects of health inequalities that often plague these populations. Earning a master’s of public health from [X University] offers the chance to learn more about audience research and communication strategies through research projects and case studies to better understand how my previous community outreach experience fits in with planning, designing, and evaluating programs.

Listening is essential; so is speaking

I call my grandmother every week and talk about how things are going. Yesterday, we were talking about el crisis de julio. I told her about the meeting that I went to with a group of patients to meet with the authorities from the department of health. The meeting was supposed to be an opportunity for the authorities to explain to the patients rationally why they wanted to pursue the chosen course of action. One official in particular continually lied about the clinic and the staff that worked there. His comments had crossed the line of simple political posturing, so I called them what they were to his face: lies.

My grandmother told me that it’s best to be diplomatic in situations like the one I found myself in.  I told her that diplomacy is great but sometimes you need to point out that the emperor has no clothes on. No amount of euphemisms does anyone good. For a current example, look at how mainstream media is struggling to deal with the blatant and continued lies of the McCain/Palin campaign.

Any article or author that addresses social media almost certainly emphasizes the importance of listening, which is a really critical skill for taking advantage of the power of social media. There are countless tools to use to stay involved in conversations that concern your personal and organizational interests.

There does come a point where you should speak up. The circumstances may create that perfect storm of awareness, dedication, and resources that enable major changes. It may be a question of addressing injustice or moving the general public from complacency to action. You could put a spotlight on global poverty as an election year issue or highlight the human impact of living on one dollar a day. Knowing when and how to make yourself heard is a critical skill for moving from ideas to action.

Universal Health Care Series: The Inevitability Argument

This post is Part V in a series exploring reasons to support universal health care.

It would be nice if we could wave a bureaucratic magic wand to make problems go away. It would be even nicer if the antidote to the health care crisis was strengthening the freedom of choice that the market affords and if this actually led to greater equality. Unfortunately, freedom and equality are a bit like oil and vinegar; they don’t mix especially well.

I know that I am not old enough to remember Hillary Clinton’s campaign to reform the health care system. But the video below brings back some characters familiar to many of you.

Harry and Louise fought to hold on to the health care system in 1993. Fifteen years later, those same characters lament their short-sightedness. Do we want to be in Harry and Louise’s shoes 15 years from now? The current system is on a collision course for failure; it is just a matter of when.

Growth in health care costs consistently outpace the rate of inflation, yet consumers have little to show for the money spent. Health insurance companies continue to find technicalities and other superficial reasons to deny care to consumers who pay the high premiums. People are being left behind with little or no coverage. God forbid you have a preexisting condition, especially a chronic one. The safety net for children’s health and safety has almost disappeared. With the current administration’s implicit blessing for increased privatization, doctors are dropping off the Medicare rolls. Even supposedly non-for-profit health systems are wolves in sheep’s clothing, often driving up the costs of care.

While individuals fare progressive worse under the private health care system, pharmaceutical companies have never been better. For all the supposed motivation the free market give them to engage in research and development, it appears that plastering their logos from here to Timbuktu is more of a financial priority. When you consider the human cost of these lopsided priorities (high drug costs, overprescription, and decreased medical research in the private sector), you have to wonder why people are fighting so hard to keep privatized health care. Who do you think the consumer will want to clean up the mess?

Universal Health Care Series: The Consumerist Argument

photo courtesy of snappybex

photo courtesy of snappybex

This post is Part IV in a series exploring reasons to support universal health care. You can find the other parts of the series here.

If you have ever tried to closely read your health insurance policy, it is fairly complex and confusing even for the well-educated. The fine print is disadvantageous to consumer knowledge and influence. After all entities such as Consumer Reports, The Consumerist and Ralph Nader exist for a reason; safeguards and information sharing are necessary to protect the consumer from industry sometimes.

That fine print in your policy may bear part of the blame for the estimated 25 million people are underinsured, individuals who have private insurance coverage but still have problems with access to care. Universal health care empowers the consumers not only in increasing access, but also in other ways that allow information decisions about one’s health.

Greater transparency and clarity in policy

Universal coverage favors patients’ rights; a single policy will clearly explain procedures and services. A single policy also mean less general administration and bureaucracy which promotes clearer lines of accountability.

Greater continuity in quality of care

Universal coverage gives consumers more freedom because they do not have to worry about gaps in coverage due to life changes: changing jobs, moving, etc. It also gives consumers who have preexisting conditions the freedom to leave their jobs without fear of not getting coverage with a new insurance company. Universal coverage ends the paradoxical phenomenon of the underinsured. Right now, millions are paying insurance premiums to receive nothing in return in benefits despite on paper having benefits.

Greater incentive for changes in system infrastructure

Implementing universal health coverage has some indirect effects on the infrastructure of the health system over time. The most important potential change is making health care more convenient for the consumer. Generally, area public hospitals that act as the sole safety net are few and far between for the consumers that need access to them. The geographic obstacle is one of many that prevents consumers from taking advantage of care that is free currently. Increasing equality of the distribution of points of access to care helps to improve the health of the consumer. Ensuring access also gives an incentive for a growth in the number of primary care specialists in comparison to the number of specialists due to the increase in demand.