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Tips for Getting the Most Out of Field Visits

By Alanna Shaikh Flickr | ILRI Here’s how to get the most out of your field visits: 1) Don’t call them missions. That’s just offensive. It’s a field visit, a site visit, or a trip out to see your programs. Unless you are trying to convert people to the one true faith of your choice, it’s not a mission. Calling it one implies that you’re heading out there to teach the locals what’s what. You are heading out there so the locals can teach you. Don’t forget it. 2) Always keep this in mind: your two primary goals in any trip are to learn more about your programs, and more about the context they operate in. You may have specific tasks to achieve on your trip, but if you fail at those your trip still has value as long as you learn. Flickr | highersights 3) Listen. Talk to people. Talk to your staff. Talk to your beneficiaries. Talk to government officials and community leaders, and taxi drivers. It doesn’t take probing questions, or special insight on your part, just a willingness to sit down and hear what people have to say. Pack your schedule with as many meetings as you can humanly stand. By listening, you learn how your project and organization is perceived, what your community thinks of you, and what your own staff is thinking. You...

What’s in a Name: Consequences of Haphazard Disease Naming

In 2009, Egypt wiped out its entire pig population in response to the fear of swine flu alone, as the disease hadn’t affected anyone in the country yet. In the following months after the major ecosystem disruption evidenced by hazardous trash accumulation in the streets (formerly consumed by the pigs), severe economic consequences, and the newfound presence of swine flu in the country, Egypt acknowledged the misguided move, but the damage was already done.     Another case, which illustrates the lasting effects of such haphazard naming, is the fate of Old Lyme, Connecticut, the namesake of the tick-borne disease, which is still suffering the repercussions of the disease first discovered in children there in the 1970s, as the New York Times explains. The accumulation of various unnecessary misunderstandings with drastic consequences around the world has sparked a new initiative by the World Health Organization to combat unintended negative and often destructive impacts towards populations, communities, and economic sectors.   As of May 8th, the WHO announced a new set of guidelines for naming infectious diseases in light of recent epidemics with strongly stigmatized names. According to Dr. Keiji Fukuda, the assistant director-general for Health Security, WHO, while this may seem like a trivial issue, “we’ve seen certain disease names provoke a backlash against members of particular religious or ethnic communities, create unjustified barriers to travel, commerce and trade, and...

TED Talks For Food Lovers #10: What’s Wrong With What We Eat

There’s no better way to bring it all home with a talk that reviews some of the basic facts behind what we eat, why it’s bad, and the need to change. TED speaker Mark Bittman brings his wealth of knowledge from years of experience as a New York Times food writer, pointing to the necessary changes that need to be implemented in order to save human society from itself.     Diet and health are highly interdependent. The food people eat over the course of a lifetime often plays a huge role in determining many of the ailments they incur. Referring to some recent exploration into the field of microbiomics, the large quantity and variety of bacteria in our body may likewise be acutely as well as chronically transforming due to the food we eat and the changes we make to our diets. Lastly, for aspiring medical personnel, quick food sources such as cold pizzas, Chipotle veggie bowls, and espresso shots often make up our daily sustenance. What effect do these have on our health?   Over the course of the next several articles, I would like to take you all on a run through some of the most interesting TED talks on food, some quite interesting and others downright genius. As you watch these videos, reflect on the close ties between nutrition and medicine, and what we can...

TED Talks For Food Lovers #8: Teach Every Child About Food

Ignorance is one of the first concerns in encountering a global issue. According to the TED prize winner Jamie Oliver, obesity needs to be targeted with this very angle in mind, going even further by incorporating childhood learning and understanding in order to help prevent the issue from precipitating in the first place.     Diet and health are highly interdependent. The food people eat over the course of a lifetime often plays a huge role in determining many of the ailments they incur. Referring to some recent exploration into the field of microbiomics, the large quantity and variety of bacteria in our body may likewise be acutely as well as chronically transforming due to the food we eat and the changes we make to our diets. Lastly, for aspiring medical personnel, quick food sources such as cold pizzas, Chipotle veggie bowls, and espresso shots often make up our daily sustenance. What effect do these have on our health?   Over the course of the next several articles, I would like to take you all on a run through some of the most interesting TED talks on food, some quite interesting and others downright genius. As you watch these videos, reflect on the close ties between nutrition and medicine, and what we can due as future clinicians to best counsel our patients in the face of changing food consumption...

This Isn’t Your Average Toy – The Mine Kafon

Inspired by the makeshift wind-powered toys of his Afghan childhood, Massoud Hassani is on the verge of something special.   The Mine Kafon is a low-cost wind-powered mine detonator with the appearance of a giant, spiky-armed tumbleweed. Check out his Kickstarter campaign. As a child living in war-torn Afghanistan, Massoud Hassani was well acquainted with the devastating nature of war and the long, perhaps endless road to recovery. Landmines concealed underground are a ubiquitous threat to countless communities in Afghanistan. A report from the Electronic Mine Information Network states that “over one million Afghans (3.7% of the total population) live within 500 meters of landmine contaminated areas.” Growing up, Hassani was a tinkerer; of particular interest to him was the creation of wind-powered toys, which he would race with other children in the windy, desert outskirts of Kabul. His interest in engineering led him to pursue a degree at the Design Academy Eindhoven.   Out of this tumultuous past sprung the idea for the Mine Kafon, a wind-powered mobile constructed from biodegradable plastic and bamboo. Hassani’s creation has caught the eyes and imaginations of many, and the prototype has been exhibited all across the globe. It was exhibited by The Museum of Modern Art in March of 2013.   Featured image is a screenshot from the video...

TED Talks For Food Lovers #3: Aquaculture

Well, I promised you something offbeat, so here it is. In this TED Talk by Chef Dan Barber, listen to his discovery of a delicious fish that he could bring and keep on the menu for those salivating mouths, incorporating the novelty of a revolutionary farming method in Spain. In the future, this new aquaculture could give us a sustainable way to keep fish in our diets, as well as our future patients’ diets.     Diet and health are highly interdependent. The food people eat over the course of a lifetime often plays a huge role in determining many of the ailments they incur. Referring to some recent exploration into the field of microbiomics, the large quantity and variety of bacteria in our body may likewise be acutely as well as chronically transforming due to the food we eat and the changes we make to our diets. Lastly, for aspiring medical personnel, quick food sources such as cold pizzas, Chipotle veggie bowls, and espresso shots often make up our daily sustenance. What effect do these have on our health?   Over the course of the next several articles, I would like to take you all on a run through some of the most interesting TED talks on food, some quite interesting and others downright genius. As you watch these videos, reflect on the close ties between nutrition and...

Healthcare Around The World #10: Brazil

Finally, we end our series of healthcare around the world with Brazil. Though I can’t believe the summer Olympics have already come and gone, I remember leading up to the event there was a lot of controversy surrounding how the country’s healthcare system would be able to support a huge influx of people from all over the world. After the fact, it seems that there was no problem. How exactly did they handle it? Still, that doesn’t mean the system is perfect.     To at least some degree, we are all aware of the dynamics around healthcare in the United States, centering around the struggles to make services affordable, ensuring equal access to care, and juggling the politics of party-line views between private and federally-sponsored healthcare (with everything along the middle of that spectrum). But how do other countries around the world offer healthcare to its people? Can their models provide us with some insight into how to modify our system to make it better?   Over the course of the next several articles, we will be viewing some interesting clips on the general model of healthcare in select countries across the globe. While this sampling is in no way representative of all possible models out there, it undoubtedly provides us with intriguing information to ponder.   Also, a disclaimer before we start. Some of the videos may...

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