Utah Valley Global Health Group

A blog about global health for those living in Utah Valley and their friends.

Archive for the ‘Practical Advice’ Category

Perspective: BYU’s MPH Program

Posted by ryanlindsay on July 4, 2009

Two months ago I finished the Master of Public Health (MPH) program at Brigham Young University (BYU). This is a reflection on the general aspects of the program that hopefully will help those wanting personal perspective on the program or those considering affiliating with the MPH program, as a student or partner.

BYU’s MPH program just accepted its 8th cohort of students and received continuing accreditation from CEPH; it is hardly a new program anymore. The way I see it, the future of public health at BYU is bright but growth will be slow. I am very satisfied with the education that I received at BYU as a student. Here is my take on the program (and since I’ve finished I can say whatever I want right?)…
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Posted in Global Health, monitoring and evaluation, Practical Advice | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Best websites: Resources for teaching, presenting or learning global health

Posted by ryanlindsay on March 11, 2009

Chad’s previous post of Hans Rosling’s TED talk reminded me of a list that I have been wanting to post for a while. Below are some of my favorite resources that I have used to help explain or present global health issues. These websites have been passed on to me from past professors and friends. If you have something to add then please share in the comments!

Be your own Hans Rosling and create bubble plots with all sorts of variables.

World Clock
Brings numbers down to a level we can more easily comprehend.

Rx for survival
Great PBS series, with clips and other interactive material.

BBC Survival TV
Nice documentaries on global health shown in their entirety.

Johns Hopkins Free Courseware
The trend in open courseware should make us all happy!

Google trends
Not a perfect model, but an exciting idea on how to track disease outbreaks (obviously wouldn’t work in countries with low access to the web).

Spy on the world’s various outbreaks.

Answers the general question “What is public health?” pretty well for a general audience.

A great resource for speeches on a range of subjects. Be sure to check outy Hans Rosling’s and Bill Gates’ speeches.

Harvard World Health News
Weekly updates from various news sources on global (and domestic) health issues.

Great for demonstrations as you can capture what is going on on your computer screen. Also great for capturing Youtube videos to replay them at BYU!

NPR – Global Health
General global health news from a trusty source.

A repository of lectures on global health.

Facing the Future
Another list of resources (some geared towards teenagers).

Posted in Child Survival, Global Health, Global Health Topics, Links, News, Practical Advice | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

EpiInfo, SAS, Stata, SPSS

Posted by chads on June 4, 2008

We recently had the following discussion via email, and thought it might be useful to post it for everyone:

I’m fairly new to data management and analysis. I’m currently learning Epi Info for a project, and I know that I’ll be using STATA for BioStats this fall. I just wanted to get a “real-life” feel for which programs have been most useful and/or which are used the most. How often do you use Epi Info? STATA? SPSS? Which, would you say, is most useful? Which should I spend the most time learning? Any other advice?

Kirk Dearden: “I’d avoid EpiInfo. It has some advantages (e.g., it’s free and you can use it to calculate sample size and calculate Z scores for nutritional status) but I find it very cumbersome all around–even for data entry. For data entry I’ve switched to Excel–at least that’s the program I’ve used in my training of aid workers. It too has problems. Better options for more serious data analysis are epihandy (if you’ve got a PDA) and CSPro–both free of charge and much more manageable.

Which software package is best for data analysis is the subject of debate the world over! Of course the big three are SPSS, Stata and SAS. SPSS is great for graphics but I find it too easy to use the menus to conduct analyses. Using menus limits what you can do and–in my mind–is a crutch. SAS is the most powerful of the three though for what any of us is doing, these differences are really negligible. I like Stata because it is very interactive and intuitive. So, I’d say SAS or Stata.”

Ben Crookston: “As for data management and analysis, I think Kirk summed it up quite well. I use SAS a majority of the time, but do use Stata on occasion. If you only plan to do general analyses and don’t intend to do a lot of data management (cleaning, shaping, restructuring, etc.) then I would learn Stata and stick with it. Because I do a lot of data management, I prefer SAS.”

Posted in Evidence-based Global Health, Practical Advice | 11 Comments »

What is an Odds Ratio?

Posted by ryanlindsay on June 3, 2008

Reliable data and correct interpretations thereof will help move global health interventions in the right direction. Interventions need to be evidence-based. Hunches, gut feelings, premonitions, and even guesses about health issues need to be proven before we make incorrect conclusions resulting in wasted time, effort and money on techniques that are not scientifically sound. Odds ratios are a surprisingly simple, yet powerful way to show statistical associations in health.

I have tried to share in simple words, how to calculate and use odds ratio. This is a stab at something I just learned about as a first year MPH student, and not something I profess to be an expert at. This post is undeniably more practical than entertaining…

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Posted in Practical Advice | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 39 Comments »

Rethinking HIV/AIDS Prevention

Posted by ryanlindsay on May 22, 2008

In a recent article published in science magazine, HIV/AIDS prevention is reconsidered. I thought this was fascinating, but if you want the quick version:

  • Condom distribution works for certain demographics: particularly high risk groups such as sex workers and men who have sex with men (MSMs).
  • Abstinence is efficacious but not effective. This means that abstinence prevents transmission of HIV/AIDS, but as a prevention technique has only been shown effective at times with youth under 20. Most new cases of HIV/AIDS are from already sexually active individuals in their 20’s and 30’s.

These two aspects of HIV/AIDS prevention have their place, but in order to have a widespread epidemiological impact on heterosexual adults (the vast majority of HIV/AIDS cases in the world) two less-known, but proven prevention strategies should be considered:

  • Male circumcision – Over 45 observational, biological, and other studies from the last 20 years have shown that MC significantly reduces the risk of heterosexual HIV infection.
  • Reducing multiple sexual partnerships – Another preventive measure that has had a powerful impact and that could have even greater effect, if it were more widely and assertively promoted, is partner reduction.

The largest investments in AIDS prevention targeted to the general population are being made in interventions where the evidence for large-scale impact is uncertain.

The following graph shows that funding for proven, effective measures like promoting and provision of male circumcision is very disproportionate.

Current AIDS Funding


Malcolm Potts, Daniel T. Halperin, Douglas Kirby, Ann Swidler, Elliot Marseille, Jeffrey D. Klausner, Norman Hearst, Richard G. Wamai, James G. Kahn, and Julia Walsh. .
Science 9 May 2008: 749-750.

Posted in Global Health Topics, HIV/AIDS, Practical Advice | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Monitoring and Evaluating Development Projects

Posted by kdearden on April 24, 2008

Some possible steps to carrying out monitoring and evaluation

1. Agree upon a rationale for conducting monitoring and evaluation
2. Secure funding (should have already been budgeted)
3. Identify stakeholders
4. Decide on a target audience
5. Involve stakeholders in decisions about the evaluation including the 7 steps of planning
6. Use 7 steps framework for planning evaluation
7. Finalize target audience for results and determine how findings will be used
8. Hire a consultant if necessary
9. Review detailed action plans (DAPs) and determine what you said you’d do and how you’d do it
10. Review the literature (both in country and globally) to find out what has already been done with respect to innovative evaluation methods and to the topic you are evaluating
11. Identify standard “tools”
12. Establish a conceptual framework
13. Design study (type as well as methods to be used)
14. Secure community permission to carry out the study
15. Secure institutional support as needed (IRB, agency itself)
16. Reach conclusions about sampling (methods, universe, sample size, selection of clusters, households, respondents, etc.)
17. Secure lists for sampling universe
18. Develop data collection instruments
19. Identify interviewers and supervisors
20. Develop interviewer and supervisor manuals
21. Train interviewers and supervisors including lots of field practice
22. Prepare for data collection
23. Carry out data collection
24. Supervise data collection, monitor quality of data collected
25. Enter, clean and manage data
26. Analyze data
27. Write reports
28. Disseminate and use results

Posted in monitoring and evaluation, Practical Advice, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Excellent resources on M&E

Posted by kdearden on April 24, 2008





The last one includes M&E but also lots of other theme-specific and cross-cutting issues, for example, behavior change. These materials represent the latest thinking on a variety of topics.

Posted in Links, monitoring and evaluation, Practical Advice | Leave a Comment »

Obtaining meaningful work in international health and development

Posted by kdearden on April 21, 2008

Financing for not-for-profit work is filled with lots of ups and downs. Sometimes there is a lot of funding available for child survival work (for example, malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS) and sometimes it dries up. As a consequence, those wishing to work in international health and development need to be able to market themselves well and, ultimately, get jobs when funding is scarce. Here are 10 tips to getting started with your first (or second or third) internship (or job) in international health:

Strategies for Securing Meaningful Work in International Health:

1. Pursue a graduate degree (immediately after a bachelor’s degree in most cases)
• usually an MPH or a degree in a social science discipline
• clinical degree (MD, RN, CNM) with an MPH is also very good
• you may want to consider a doctorate in public health

2. Obtain practical experience in the field of international health
• Volunteer opportunities, paid internships, missionary service, full-time employment
• The more overseas experience you have, the better
• The greater the geographic coverage the better (Asia/Africa: high demand)

3. Learn at least one other language (Spanish, French, Portuguese, Arabic)

4. Develop and refine skills that are in demand in international health
• Behavior Change Communications (including social marketing)
• Epidemiology, biostatistics, demography
• Qualitative research methods
• Expertise in monitoring, evaluation and applied research
• Training of Trainers
• Community mobilization/community-based development
• Others

6. Publish peer-reviewed articles, manuals, etc.

7. Write proposals and secure funding

8. Be concise about your professional objectives

9. Don’t limit your hands-on work experience to local LDS-based not-for profits

10. Secure strong references

11. Network using open-ended questions (who else is working in X?)

12. Follow your bliss!

“But if a person has had the sense of the call—the feeling that there’s an adventure for him—and if he doesn’t follow that, but remains in the society because it’s safe and secure, then life dries up. And then he comes to that condition in late middle age: he’s gotten to the top of the ladder, and found that it’s against the wrong wall.”
–Joseph Campbell, An Open Life

Posted in Practical Advice, Uncategorized | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

Brief Report from CORE Meeting

Posted by chads on April 17, 2008

I’ve spent the past 3 days at the CORE Spring Meeting.

Outstanding. I’ve had a great time and learned a ton. Here are a few random thoughts:

  • I am convinced that anyone involved in global health with an NGO should at least be aware of the CORE group. CORE’s opportunities for networking and mentoring, on-line manuals and resources, bi-annual conferences, working groups with active list serves, and emphasis on evidence-based practice are, in my opinion, crucial.
  • Presentations by USAID and others gave an idea where global health will be heading in the coming years.
  • Jim Ricca of CSTS gave a fascinating presentation on the Lives Saved Calculator, the same methodology used by the 2003 CS Lancet folks. It essentially allows one to predict how many lives would be saved with certain interventions.
  • Sarah Kambou of the International Center for Research on Women gave the keynote presentation. She outlined 3 principles to global health/development:
  1. Base all action on evidence
  2. Trust in the power of partnership
  3. Monitor progress and evaluate results

All of the presentations from the conference will (soon?) be found on the CORE website.

Posted in Links, Practical Advice | 1 Comment »

Osteopathic Medicine and Global Health

Posted by chads on February 16, 2008

I was asked the following questions by a student recently:

1. Is there a limitation to what I can do in international medicine with an Osteopathic degree? That depends on what you want to do. If you are interested in clinical medicine, then there may be a problem in some countries. If I remember correctly, for example, in England, osteopaths do not have the same practice scope as they do in the United States. It seems to me that most developing countries don’t have a specific policy regarding osteopathic practitioners, and it would depend more on the organization that you are working with than anything else. If you are interested in public health, on the other hand, there shouldn’t be a problem. Having said all of that, my own personal bias is that there is not much of a role for clinicians volunteering or working short-term in developing countries, and that they can usually do much more good in other capacities (public health, advocacy, public awareness, health systems development, etc.).

2. In your experience, is it realistic for me to plan to spend most of my time abroad (outside of the US) practicing medicine? Again, it depends what you want to do. It probably isn’t realistic if you have a family or live a typical American life style.  1-2 years might be more realistic.

3. What would you recommend as the best route to getting involved with quality organizations abroad (residency selection, specialty choice, etc.)? It seems to me that the best way to answer all of these questions is to try to imagine where you picture yourself in 5 years? 10 years? 30 years? Do you want to become proficient at practicing medicine in developing countries? Do you want to help people who need a doctor? Do you want to see different cultures and exotic places? Do you want to make an impact on the global health situation? Different answers to these questions will, in my opinion, likely take you down VERY different paths. (Realistically, I realize that most have motives that are a combination of these!) In any case, if you are interested in a long-term academic career tropical medicine, I’d recommend a fellowship in infectious diseases. On the other hand, if you’re interested in fulfilling a personal need or desire to help people, I’d follow your heart (or your Spiritual or moral compass).

Finally, if you are interested in making a significant dent in the global health situation, I’m not sure I can help you much, but I’ll try. I would recommend a long-term, consistent, evidence-based approach (along with following your Spiritual or moral compass!) I would also specialize in something OUTSIDE of clinical medicine (epidemiology? community advocacy and change? health systems? journalism? economics? anthropology? behavior change?). Then I’d recommend meeting and collaborating with people in that same field that have much more experience than you. I think you’ll find that much (even most!) of the effective work you’ll do will be INSIDE the United States through communication, research, evaluation, awareness campaigns, fund raising, teaching/mentoring, etc. I am also convinced that the third path (making a significant dent in the global health situation) would be the most challenging (and worthwhile), and the one I definitely recommend…

4. Have you had any experience of repaying med school loans through serving in underserved/rural areas? I don’t have any personal experience, but I know that there are programs out there. Maybe someone else can chime in?

Posted in Practical Advice | 2 Comments »