I now have 3 extra letters after my name!

22 10 2014

Since June 2014, I can officially sign as: Sarah Topps, MPH

This has been a strange year for me, with a lot of ups and downs. There have been a number of major life changes which have somewhat interrupted the frequency of my online writing. I hope to change this in the coming months, despite still being busy! I have been really fortunate to be working on a number of interesting projects and teams, so let me give you the latest for each one.

1) Working at the University of Calgary on a project called Healthy Child Uganda.

Excitingly, our new website just went up! HCU is an amazing team, and I love my work with them. Check it out here: http://www.healthychilduganda.org/ 

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2) Surprise work trips to South America!

In September, I was also honoured to be offered the opportunity to travel with Dr. Marc Poulin (University of Calgary) to the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) for their Safety Week Conference, focusing on the health impacts of working at high altitude. I would like to share the Impact Report that I wrote for the visit with you – particularly since this one has attracted quite a few compliments from my superiors, and as a Global Health alumnus, I found it so challenging to find good examples of this kind of documentation that we need to learn when I was a student. I hope it helps someone learn:
Impact Report – ALMA Safety Week Conference Sept 23 – 25 – FINAL © Sarah Topps 2014

chile sunset Sept 2014

Having dinner with world-class physicists every night is pretty cool. The sunsets were pretty spectacular too…This was taken literally from outside of my hotel room at ALMA. – Sarah Topps 2014

3) Speaking at Global Health Conferences and Events

We have also been making good progress with the new Student Executive arm of the Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research. I am excited to announce that I will be speaking about Mentorship at the 21st Canadian Conference on Global Health, along with several of my esteemed colleagues from the CCGHR, the CCGHR Student Executive and the CSIH Mentornet program.

You can view the program here:
http://www.ccgh-csih.ca/assets/Programclean_oct10.pdf

CCGH 2014 Partnerships for GH


Workshop #1 – Governor General 1 (< this is where to go if you are hoping to join us!)
Building a toolkit for success in global health: The many faces of mentorship
Sarah Topps, MPH (Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research)
At the end of the session, participants will:

  • Develop a 5-year roadmap for the next steps to take in their careers.
  • Identify pathways to finding a mentor and why this is important.
  • Strengthen their peer networks by connecting with others in global health.

I will also be co-presenting with those teams on the same topic at the now sold out Students and Young Professionals Global Health Summit on November 1st in Ottawa. Hope to see some of you there!

SYP

4) Promoting water workshops and networking events for students and young professionals.

My other appointment with the Canadian Water Network’s Students and Young Professionals Committee. My team has been doing amazing work pulling together several cool workshops across the country, which YOU can attend for free!
Check ’em out here: http://www.cwn-rce.ca/young-professionals/workshops/upcoming/

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We will also be announcing more information about our upcoming bi-annual water conference in March 2015. Stay tuned!
CWR2015-Banner

5) Expanding my horizons and donating to a good cause.

Newly interested in another project at the University of Calgary – Project SHINE – which is working with Maasai pastoralists in Tanzania to empower youth to educate themselves and others about sanitation and hygiene. Most recently I have been promoting their drive to collect used digital cameras or used smart phones to document the World’s First Sanitation Science Fair. I donated one of my old digital cameras, and I am very excited to be receiving a Foldscope (a working origami microscope!) in return for my donation.
 If anyone is interested in donating, Sheri is still looking for donations. See the poster below for details.

SHINE poster for donations

Sarah Topps, MPH © October 2014





A Cheatsheet for the Global Health Funding Players

24 05 2013

This short document was sent to me via the Center for Global Development listserve yesterday. It is basically a 4-page summary of the major players in the Global Health funding arena including key characteristics and their interconnectedness. It is rare to find a summary that is both concise AND useful.
CGD-Global-Health-Family-Cheat-Sheet-Final

– 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!)





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

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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





Avaaz?

26 02 2011

Sleepily browsing the world wide web this morning when a mysterious by-line caught my eye:

“You should message me if you can give me some intelligent feedback on… www.Avaaz.org

My curiousity having been sufficiently aroused by the fact that I had never heard of this website, I cautiously typed it into Google to find out what it could be about. What I discovered was exactly the type of website I have been looking for to write a post about for the past few months, ever since the online conversations sparked ongoing protests across North Africa and the Middle East.

Avaaz – which means “voice” in several major language groups around the world, is an online forum where registered users can take actions including signing petitions, funding media campaigns and direct actions, emailing, and lobbying governments, towards a large range of issues. Their strength comes in numbers, and the fact that they focus on the things they agree on. Avaaz seems to garner strength from individualism, and rather than trying to find consensus about the specifics of any one issue, each member decides individually where to focus their efforts and whether they will participate or not in any given campaign or movement.

The result is phenomenal – for example perhaps not everyone shares the same view points on gay marriage or whether being gay is something you choose or something you are born with, but when almost half a million people sign a petition to stop the passing of a bill which would sentence gay Ugandans to death, suddenly you see that there are over-arching human rights concerns which many agree on.

Some of the descriptions of Avaaz.org listed on the site include:

“Avaaz is closing the gap between the world we have and the world we want, one campaign at a time.”

…and…

A transnational community that is more democratic, and could be more effective, than the United Nations.”

— Suddeutsche Zeitung

…and…

Avaaz is a global web movement to bring people-powered politics to decision-making everywhere.”

While Avaaz is only a few years old (2007), it has already had a major impact internationally in forums such as climate change, human rights, the international sex trade, emergency response, state corruption, protecting natural resources, and the list goes on… Some of Avaaz’s concrete achievements are listed below:

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  • a drive for a “million-signature Citizen’s Initiative in the EU” for a moratorium and independent testing and regulation of Genetically Modified crops.
  • almost $700,000 raised for an intensive, long-term campaign to fight the “rape trade”–the sexual enslavement of women and girls around the world
  • strong backing for indigenous communities “petitioning Chevron’s new CEO to clean up his company’s toxic legacy” in the Amazon.
  • support for a democratic resolution to the January 2008 election crisis in Kenya — tens of thousands of Avaaz members asked their foreign ministers to refuse to recognize any President until Kofi Annan’s negations could produce an acceptable compromise.
  • worldwide pressure for democratic rights in Pakistan during the November 2007 crisis, and an ad campaign in Pakistan calling for President Musharraf to end the state of emergency.
  • a global call for a WTO ruling to ban subsidies for dangerous corporate overfishing of the world’s oceans, in which Avaaz members sent tens of thousands of messages to their trade ministers.
  • an effort to increase transparency in the UN’s selection of the next High Commissioner for Human Rights that “made international headlines through a blog” and a fake job advertisement in The Economist.
  • a petition, rally, and protest video supporting efforts to oust Paul Wolfowitz from the World Bank after the May 2007 corruption scandal
  • a call for regional governments to increase aid donations to help Mexico cope with flooding in November 2007
  • co-hosting, with Chatham House, David Miliband’s first speech as UK Foreign Secretary — and bringing him questions from Avaaz members around the world.

*****

I plan to join Avaaz and dig a little deeper into their campaigning process over the next few weeks. I’m sure that the mass appeal of being able to have a real impact on international issues will bring Avaaz.org more and more to the centre stage of how the internet can be used to have a real impact on the real world.

– Sarah Topps

(I’d also like to say thanks to Arteri, who originally directed my interest towards this site.)





CUSO-VSO celebrates 50 years!

10 11 2010

Since 1961, more than 15 000 volunteers have worked overseas for CUSO-VSO, one of the largest international development organizations in North America that works through volunteers. Now 50 years later, they have some major clout in the field.

Suitably impressed, I looked for a way that I could volunteer with them myself, and have just been invited to work at their 50 year celebration event!

The main kickoff event is taking place in Vancouver, Canada at the University of British Columbia on December 4th and 5th. The theme for the event is: “Celebrating the international volunteer – yesterday, today and tomorrow”.

Registration is $50, and there are still spots open if anyone is interested. Hope to see you there!

– Sarah Topps





Space imagery interpretations: for better? or for worse?

1 04 2010

One of my favourite professors, Jon Unruh, has engineered an interesting concept for learning a large amount of material quickly in his graduate level class on the geography of conflict. There are about 10-15 students in the class, and we each read one peer-reviewed article from the suggested list, and then summarize it, critically analyze it and present it to our classmates in ten minutes or less.

Last week’s conference was on applying geography to peacebuilding, and I was lucky enough to be able to review van Wyk’s 2008 overview of the use of space technology to aid human security in Africa.
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Space for peace? The use of space technology to monitor conflict trends and human security in Africa (by van Wyk 2008) – A critical review by Sarah Topps

This article highlights the emerging trend of using space technology and satellite imagery to improve human development in African conflict zones. Jo-Ansie van Wyk describes several ways in which programs such as global positioning systems (GPS), geographic information systems (GIS), Earth observation (EO) and remote sensing can be used by governments and NGOs to track conflict,  illegal activities such as logging, internal displacement, or to identify crimes against humanity.

The article was succinctly written and used satellite images to demonstrate the potential for space science and technology (S&T) in a number of different situations – from identifying human rights abuses in Zimbabwe’s Operation Murambatsvina in 2005 to searching for underground water sources for refugees camps in Eastern Chad.

The article notes that satellite technologies can be costly and therefore inaccessible to some, such as African humanitarian organizations, however it does not indicate how expensive this technology is, or how cost-effective it is in saving time and money that would have been otherwise spent on locating the target aid recipients in other ways. Is it too expensive for every humanitarian organization to use it, or simply the ones which will not benefit enough from it? Could there be cooperation between the groups who own the space S&T and the humanitarian groups?

Another drawback which the author notes is the lack of a scientific support base to interpret the images in order for their governments to respond appropriately and adequately, however, depending on the scenario for which the images are being used, some may only require simple and specific training which might be taught easily enough through internet instructions from scientists elsewhere wishing to help with the conflict resolution etc.

Overall an enjoyable paper, which made no pretense about it’s purpose, which was simply to illustrate “[…]that space S&T can be applied to address conflict trends and human security in Africa” (van Wyk, 2008).

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Interestingly, not two days later, my father sent me a link to a cautionary tale about jumping to conclusions while using space imagery. Recently, Alex Tabarrok from the economics blog: Marginal Revolution wrote an article on tried to examine the large-scale effect of Mugabe’s land redistribution policy on Zimbabwean farmland using “before and after” photographs from Google Earth.

Unfortunately, according to Google Earth expert Stefan Geens, there seems to be a slight problem with his interpretations of the “before and after” shots.

“His before-and-after images are derived from the same original raw Landsat image. They are from the same point in time.” – Stefan Geens

I would suggest reading the article itself for more details, and Tabarrok, to his credit, has since updated his post, retracting some of his previous statements, based on what Geens has pointed out.

Satellite technology has certainly proven useful in a number of situations, and may be vital to the success of many future development initiatives, however, in today’s age of freely available technology, results need to be scrutinized before acting on them as conclusive evidence, as van Wyk also noted.

– Sarah Topps

1. van Wyk, Jo-Ansie. 2008. Space for peace? The use of space technology to monitor conflict trends and human security in Africa. Conflict Trends (4):12-17








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