alanna-shaikh

Alanna Shaikh, MPH

Alanna Shaikh is a global health professional currently based in Baku, Azerbaijan. She has managed projects all over the world on health, livelihoods, education, and emergency relief. Her technical specialties include health system strengthening, service integration, and behavior change.

http://www.tomorrowglobal.com

Drinking Nescafé: How Strong Is Your Caffeine Addiction?

Today I bought a giant can of Nescafé just to get the free sugar bowl that came with it. We already have a whole set of mugs I acquired the same way. My husband thinks I’m crazy and he keeps hiding the mugs in the deepest recess of the kitchen cupboard. But I like the mugs. I am genuinely thrilled by our new sugar bowl. It’s a cheery red and says Nescafé across the top. I like the stuff and I like Nescafé. You all think I’m crazy now. I mean, it’s not just instant coffee, it’s mediocre instant coffee made by a giant conglomerate. Some people will argue it’s the most disgusting coffee on earth. Why, exactly, would I want it to decorate my kitchen? The thing is, Nescafé is a symbol for me. When I started my aid career, I didn’t drink coffee at all. It was bitter and unpleasant and I usually got enough sleep that I didn’t need the caffeine. Then I moved overseas for my first aid job, and now I don’t just drink coffee. I drink Nescafé. And I LIKE it. It might be the most disgusting coffee on earth, but it’s available everywhere. You’re never without caffeine if you can tolerate Nescafé. Every single time a health official, a nurse, a community member or a colleague breaks out the coffee to welcome their...

What’s the Difference Between Relief and Development Programs?

The simplest breakdown goes like this: Humanitarian relief programs are focused on rapid start-up, and rapid impact. Implementers of humanitarian programs need to gear up as fast as possible, and start providing necessary assistance as fast as possible. Their primary focus is not building local capacity, sustainability, or monitoring and evaluation. Their primary focus is getting help to people in need. They end when the emergency ends. Relief can come from the outside, and it is a response to some kind of breakdown or disaster. Development programs are focused on achieving long-term change of some kind, with the intent of improving people’s lives and the lives of their descendants. They involve rigorous planning and ongoing operational research. They are rooted in local capacity building, because they are aimed at change which continues after the project ends. Even if it has outside support, development in the end has to come from inside. In practice, however, it’s not that simple. (It never is, is it?) Sometimes the emergency doesn’t end. Situations that look like short-term humanitarian emergencies can go on for years, or even decades. Somalia, for example, Afghanistan, or Sudan. Programs designed to provide immediate assistance become a way of life for people in crisis. It would be nice if those programs could be converted into development programs, but it’s very hard to turn a relief program into a development...

Six Things I Know About Medical Training

1.   When you train a doctor, it doesn’t trickle down. It stops, right there, with her. That’s why you need to train nurses and the rest of the clinical team. 2.   If you teach new skills from a book and don’t include hands-on practice, it won’t stick. People will go right back to the old way of doing things. 3.   If you train clinicians and you don’t change the rules that govern their practice, it won’t change their behavior. 4.   Invest in good practice models. Better to break a mannequin than a newborn baby. 5.   Finding – or developing – good trainers isn’t easy, but it is essential. If you don’t make sure local trainers can continue the program after you leave, you are wasting a massive opportunity. 6.   Don’t develop your own training curriculum. Odds are overwhelming that there is already an evidence based curriculum out there that’s been developed by someone else. Spending your time finding, translating, and adapting the curriculum to your local...

Alanna Shaikh: How I’m preparing to get Alzheimer’s

When faced with a parent suffering from Alzheimer’s, most of us respond with denial (“It won’t happen to me”) or extreme efforts at prevention. But global health expert and TED Fellow Alanna Shaikh sees it differently. She’s taking three concrete steps to prepare for the moment — should it arrive — when she herself gets Alzheimer’s...

I Would Suck at Being Poor and So Would You

I was thinking today how bad I would be at being poor. I’m great at being broke. I handle broke like a champion. But broke isn’t poor. Broke is temporary with better things as a possibility. Poor is generally permanent; at the very least it feels that way. Poor has no clear way out. You can’t just hang in there until things get better because probably they won’t. Being poor wouldn’t make me smarter or a better person than I am now. It would give me a different skill set, yes, but less formal education. So if I were poor, I’d most likely make all the same dumb mistakes I make now but there would be much higher stakes. Every bad choice would drive me deeper into a hole instead of merely keeping my retirement account from growing properly. I’d buy my kids toys when they opened their eyes all big and asked nicely, even when they don’t need them. Even if I knew the toys were junk and going to break soon. I’d pay extra for the backpack that will help make my son fit in at school instead of the practical one. I’d probably even get myself the occasional treat I didn’t need. And I would hate being poor. I wouldn’t be poor but happy. I’d be poor and miserable. I’d know there were better things out...