The Big Secret of Effective Policy-Making

4 04 2013

Scott Morris, from the Center for Global Development, has decided to let us in on a little secret…

Here it is: you need to keep it simple for them.

No matter the country or political system, the ability to move policy forward on a national stage depends critically on the policymaker’s ability to forge a consensus among an array of actors (other agency heads, members of parliament, civil society, the media).

And while you can block virtually anything in the policy arena with a blizzard of detail, forging consensus requires just the opposite. Driving policy consensus often depends critically on boiling the issue down to its essence and saying it again and again and again.”

This is the number one lesson that I have taken away from any course or discussion on policy and influencing policy at my (now) two year Master of Public Health degree at Simon Fraser University. I find it very fitting that Scott Morris has so eloquently summed up my sentiment on affecting policy change just as I round out my final weeks of classes at a masters’ level. I will write more on this after the end of term!

– Sarah Topps 2013

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Allison Lee on How Climate Change is Destroying the Earth

6 03 2013

Speaking of infographics… 

Recently I was flattered to receive an email from Allison Lee asking if I would be interested in reviewing and posting something on my blog: an infographic on climate change that she helped to create along with a team of designers and researchers.

I feel that international development, climate change and global health are intrinsically linked subjects, and while I have not directly addressed climate change on my blog, I feel the need to publicly acknowledge that I believe it is real, and humans have played a substantial role in causing it. I have been meaning to write a post about my time in Iceland in December and how shocked I was at how warm it was. I distinctly remember standing comfortably outside in jeans and a sweater while a local told me stories about riding a snowmobile through meters of snow to visit his neighbours in the capital city on Christmas morning only 20 years ago. I remember looking down… there was no snow on the ground.

Embarrassingly, in 2011 Canada became the ONLY country EVER to actually drop out of the Kyoto Protocol (a global agreement among nations to reduce their 1990 emission levels by 18% by 2020).

On LearnStuff.com where Allison and her team have posted their infographic, they give some helpful suggestions that people can do every day to reduce climate change:

  • Driving a car with good gas mileage, or investing in a hybrid or electric car
  • (Or switching to car pooling, bicycles or public transit! – my addition)
  • Switching from incandescent light bulbs to CFL or LED
  • Insulating your home and stocking it with energy efficient appliances
  • Recycling
  • Using green power available in your area

This week I finally had enough time to review their infographic and check their sources, so without further delay, I am sharing it with all of you. [My apologies to Allison and her team for not posting it sooner!]

Climate-Change

 

What did you think of the above infographic? Was there anything that you liked? Disagreed with? Put it in the comments below.

– Sarah Topps 2013





Infographics and Vaccines: Information Contagion and Infection Control

20 02 2013

I recently came across a new infographic that I love, and it reminded me to post on here about the importance of data visualization, especially when it comes to getting big messages across very quickly and in very few words. Our brains are visual. We only began reading and writing in the last few thousand years, and even then, it has been a rare gift and privilege for most of that time. However we have been visually absorbing information for as long as we, and our predecessors, have had eyes.

The infographic I mentioned (posted below) also reminded me that we, as health promoters are trying to s-p-r-e-a-d information and stop the spread of disease and poor health.

Print

Source: http://blogs-images.forbes.com/matthewherper/files/2013/02/c6fb5feb7f1ee71b7e725277d3099916.jpg 

The above infographic was created by Leon Farrant, a graphic designer in Purchase, N.Y., using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

– Sarah Topps 2013

Note: I am also currently a contributing author and moderator of a blog about health promotion, communication and advocacy for a class that I am taking. This post was originally written for that purpose, and since I wrote it, I have re-purposed it to bring over here. (Just so no one thinks I’m stealing!)





aea365

19 02 2013

I am currently taking a program planning and evaluation course and one of our assignments is to read the American Evaluators Association daily blog (aea365) and find 3 useful posts that describe “a hot tip, a cool trick or a rad resource” and then share it with our classmates. This week it was my turn, and I have decided to also share them on this blog.

Here are the three useful things I found on the aea365 blog:

Chelsea Heaven on Why Graduate Students Interested in Evaluation Should Consider Volunteering Aug 13, 2012 Link: http://aea365.org/blog/?p=6954

Rad Resource: Volunteering with Statistics Without Borders

Everyone’s heard of Doctors Without Borders right? Or even Engineers Without Borders… but what about Statistics Without Borders? Chelsea Heaven, fellow public health graduate, posted last year about her great experience with volunteering with them, and recommending it to other grad students as a way to work with real ‘messy’ data and evaluation professionals in collaborative teams of 4-5 people on real world problems such as health policy in East Africa. She recommended joining Idealist.org and then checking out SWB.

Susan Kistler on Great Professional Development and a Great Blog May 19, 2012 Link: http://aea365.org/blog/?p=6466

Hot Tip: Consider subscribing to Karen Anderson’s blog: On Top of the Box Evaluation.

According to Susan (the American Evaluation Association’s Executive Director and aea365 Saturday contributor): “Karen is a (relatively) new professional, a graduate of AEA’s GEDI program, and an all around wonder woman”. Some of Karen’s posts that I enjoyed were “What Evaluation Hat Are You Wearing” and “What Evaluators Can Learn From Politics” – which talks about making your information ‘sexy’ and appealing to policy-makers.

Susan Kistler on 25 Low-cost/no-cost Tech Tools for Data Visualization and Reporting Nov 3, 2012 Link: http://aea365.org/blog/?p=7491

Rad Resource(s): The slide notes for a presentation on 25 low-cost/no-cost tech tools for Data Visualization and Reporting

Susan Kistler provides her viewpoint on some of the many data visualization tools available online, or as Susan so aptly put it in her post: “tools that hopefully help us to merge truth and beauty”. These tools include both paid and free ones and range from the aea365 blog itself, to prezi, to storify, pinterest and lovelycharts. You can download the full slidedeck from the AEA public eLibrary. Susan also suggests downloading the pdf version (posted below) with the notes that include the URL links for each item, cost information, and tips.

Data Visualization Tools PPT overview review

**This one was my personal favourite – it is always a challenge to find resources which are both comprehensive AND concise!





The Global Health Hub (.org)

3 02 2013

As a master of public health student, I often find it difficult to try and learn about everything that is going on in the world of public health, although one of the major reasons that I love my field of global health in particular, is that it is continuously and rapidly evolving. I’ve recently discovered a new information platform for keeping up with this busy and ever-changing field: GlobalHealthHub.org

Screen Shot 2013-02-03 at 8.31.24 PM

I learned of this website through their twitter feed, which someone suggested that I follow. I decided to go and check out their actual site and found an amazing array of useful tools and information stored there. [I was also thrilled to discover that I have a master in public health degree in common with the founding editor Sarah Arnquist (@sarnquist), who has her degree from Johns Hopkins University.]

GlobalHealthHub.org is 100% volunteer driven, and provides news updates, guest editorials, links to other global health blogs, job postings, resources, and my personal favourite feature, an open-source global health and development timeline! Be sure to check it out.

– Sarah Topps 2013





New Innovation: Gravity Lights!

18 01 2013

Happy 2013! We made it past the end of the Mayan calendar cycle.

One of my biggest passions in development work is low-cost technology. There are so many amazing small ideas out there with BIG impact potential. Here is my latest favourite:

The Gravity Light

Image

 

Imagine how many ways this technology can have an impact… evening classes, reduced lung cancers from inhaling kerosene or smoke, an endless supply of energy, reading after a long day, being able to continue to work after it gets dark, finding your way back to your home from the toilet, a couple could give kids a safe space to play outside at night…

They have already beat their original funding goal of $55,000 by ~800%, having raised almost $400,000! They are currently working on the second model.

Keep up the great work Martin Riddiford and Jim Reeves!
– Sarah Topps 2013





Free Global Health Courses!

19 12 2012

Phew! Finally finished my crazy semester… to put things in perspective, a full time graduate studies course load is 2 classes (3-4 credits each), and 3 classes is considered to be a 100% course load. Most of my fellow students took between 2 and 3 classes this term, with a few hard workers doing 4 (not counting not-for-credit seminars and lectures). Since I was working full time for the first year of my MPH degree, I was somewhat behind my cohort, leaving me with the option to either graduate later than most, or take on an insane course load this year. Of course, being a go-getter, I chose the latter and nearly killed myself with work this term doing… not 5… but SIX classes! (i.e. a 200% courseload, but hey… who’s counting?)

The grades are still coming back, but so far I’ve still got a pretty solid GPA. It looks good…

As a result of this crazy workload, I have become used to spending several hours a day just learning new things, and it seems that after 4 months of this, my brain actually can’t deal with just doing nothing. I took several weeks off to travel (I’m still travelling, in Reykjavik currently – more updates on that soon!) and after about 5 days, I needed to leeaarrnnnn (picture this in a zombie accent), and thus I discovered the incredible Global Health eLearning Center. I am now completely addicted.

The Global Health eLearning Center is a completely free online resource put together by USAID Bureau of Global Health that allows you to take free online courses and receive a certificate of completion for each one from USAID and John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health! There are even certificate programs in certain areas such as Child Health and Health Systems.

Certificate example

The courses are free to access and straightforward to use, not to mention a great way to update your skills and knowledge in a variety of global health areas – go check it out!

– Sarah Topps 2012








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