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/

Moncton-banner_SYP-workshop

Calgary-Networking-banner_SYP-workshop_final-for-homepage

Great-Lakes-banner_SYP-workshop2

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

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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





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

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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





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:

*****

  • 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





What can kill you in less than 3 hours, and be treated with salt and clean water?

9 11 2010

No, it’s not a jellyfish sting, or lethal poison – the surprising answer is Cholera.

According to the CBC, over 7000 people have been infected in Haiti over the last week, resulting in the deaths of 500 individuals, many of whom could have easily been saved if Haiti had the proper infrastructure in place to treat them. There has been no cholera outbreak in Haiti for around 50 years, and the initial reaction was one of confusion as many Haitians just did not know how to avoid the disease (BBC News).

Directly from the World Health Organization website: “Cholera is an easily treatable disease. Up to 80% of people can be treated successfully through prompt administration of oral rehydration salts (WHO/UNICEF ORS standard sachet). Very severely dehydrated patients require administration of intravenous fluids. Such patients also require appropriate antibiotics to diminish the duration of diarrhoea, reduce the volume of rehydration fluids needed, and shorten the duration of V. cholerae excretion. Mass administration of antibiotics is not recommended, as it has no effect on the spread of cholera and contributes to increasing antimicrobial resistance. In order to ensure timely access to treatment, cholera treatment centres (CTCs) should be set up among the affected populations. With proper treatment, the case fatality rate should remain below 1%.”

Cholera is a disease which is believed to have originated in India, and which thrives in disaster-type situations like this one, such as floods, hurricanes or earthquakes which disrupt normal water treatment routines. The original outbreak is believed to have started approximately three weeks ago, but the number of cases have drastically increased since Hurricane Tomas struck last Friday, causing flooding across western Haiti. Unfortunately the bad news continues to grow, as one of the rivers which has been identified as a source of the epidemic is soon expected to overflow with excess water.

The best intervention strategy for reducing cholera deaths is through a combination of  controlling the disease spread through provisions of safe water, proper sanitation and immediate education about the disease to the affected population group. Infected individuals can be difficult to identify since most are asymptomatic, but insuring access to quick treatment to those persons who do show signs of the illness helps to prevent further spread and save many lives. Providing safe water and sanitation is a major challenge, particularly in emergency situations, however it has been shown to be the critical factor in reducing the number and spread of infections.

Perhaps this is another opportunity for the use of SODIS (solar disinfection of drinking water) to be taught and used as a weapon against the further spread of this deadly disease. This simple method of disinfecting drinking water can be readily achieved by filling a clear plastic bottle with collected water (which has low turbidity) and leaving it out in the sun for more than 6 hours. (Stay tuned for a more in-depth follow-up post about SODIS, how and when it works, and benefits of using it to disinfect water.)

Written by Sarah Topps – 2010

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2010/11/07/haiti-cholera-toll-rises.html?ref=rss#ixzz14l2qWRgI








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