April 7 marks World Health Day, a themed annual global health awareness day sponsored by the World Health Organization. In the past years, they’ve covered a diverse range of topics from healthy cities, urbanization and health, and road safety, to antimicrobial resistance, food safety, depression, and diabetes.
This year’s theme is Universal Health Coverage, a hot topic that has been debated for decades and most recently has been covered in the media greatly. This addresses SDG3: Good Health and Well-Being. The argument goes that the US is the only major developed nation that still does not guarantee health care to all its people. We’ve had prominent political figures (see President Jimmy Carter, President Barack Obama, and US Senator Bernie Sanders) discuss this during interviews and debates.
To keep this post brief, check out the WHO’s website for more information. I pulled some highlights from their page that I’ve shared below:
Inspire—by highlighting policy-makers’ power to transform the health of their nation, framing the challenge as exciting and ambitious, and inviting them to be part of the change.
Motivate—by sharing examples of how countries are already progressing towards UHC and encourage others to find their own path.
Guide—by providing tools for structured policy dialogue on how to advance UHC domestically or supporting such efforts in other countries (e.g. expanding service coverage, improving quality of services, reducing out-of-pocket payments).
On social media…
The theme of World Health Day is: Universal health coverage: everyone, everywhere.
The slogan is “Health for All”.
The primary hashtag that we are using is #HealthForAll but look out for posts using #WorldHealthDay as well.
This weekend, I took my family to watch Eve Ensler perform her extremely powerful play, In The Body of The World. For those who don’t know her, she is most renowned for The Vagina Monologues and V-Day, a global activist movement to stop violence against women and girls. In the play, she performs a solo monologue of her her activism work surrounding violence against girls and women and her reconnecting to the world after she was diagnosed with uterine cancer.
Her way with words was amazing. She analogized her post-surgery abscess to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, both poisoning the bodies in which they resided. She assumed that she was given the tumor because she now needed to carry the burden of the conflict and stories from the women with whom she spoke in the DRC… She shared the story of the City of Joy, a place that would serve as a community for female survivors of violence; this place was built on a swamp, and this city was the lotus that would rise up against adversity.
I thought this play was raw and pure, and am so grateful to one of my colleagues at Women Deliver for sharing the details. If you’re interested in watching this phenomenal performance, I highly suggest you go before the tickets run out! From my understanding, the last performance will be on March 25th (in NYC).
March 8th marks International Women’s Day, a day in which the world celebrates the progress made for women. This year’s theme is #PressforProgress, because we need to reinforce the importance of achieving gender equality.
I have the privilege of working for one of the global leading advocates for girls’ and women’s health, rights, and wellbeing, Women Deliver. From my personal opinion, this is one of the most rewarding organizations to work in because of my colleagues and the work that we are doing! The Deliver for Good is a global campaign that applies a gender lens to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, putting the focus on girls and women when it comes to the issues affecting them. These can vary from economic empowerment, water and sanitation, access to comprehensive health services and contraceptives, maternal and newborn health, to reducing gender-based violence and harmful practices, addressing climate change and conserving the environment, and more. Girls and women belong at the center of sustainable development because their impact knows no bounds. Check out these resources for why we should invest in girls and women.
It’s October 15th, Global Handwashing Day! This past week, we visited the rural villages in which my NGO, the Cambodian Community Dream Organization, works with. The CCDO started out by building water wells and latrines for rural villages in need, and has expanded to help make a difference in the rural schools in which they work 🙂 (more on this impressive organization at another time!)
Educating children about the importance of handwashing at an early age will ensure that this behavior is practiced as they grow up. “Our hands, our future” is the 2017 theme for this day, as a reminder that “handwashing protects our own health, but also allows us to build our own futures, as well as those of our communities, and the world.”
The zero waste movement has been gaining momentum in recent years. On YouTube, there are so many prominent individuals who blog about their journey towards a Zero Waste lifestyle (some examples below):
There is also the growing trend of tiny homes that help you reduce your carbon footprint and waste less! Many of these homes are made from reclaimed items, such as reclaimed wood, shipping containers, and other scraps that can be used to build a sustainable, sturdy home that relieves people the stress of paying years and years of mortgages, and allowing people the liberty to not worry about making huge amounts of money just to keep the lights on in the home.
Realistically, I think it’s difficult to officially become zero waste, regardless of conscious purchases and buying in bulk with reusable cloth bags and glass containers, especially if you still buy items at stores that get their products from industrial farms and factory food farming (think: greenhouse gas emissions, monocropping, overfishing, society’s desire for aesthetically pleasing food items, just to name a few!) However, I do admire their commitment to staying away from plastic items and dedication to composting and if they buy from their local farmers’ markets and vendors.
They make it look so easy, especially if they’ve adopted these lifestyles for months or years; however, how feasible is this lifestyle of zero waste, or at least reducing waste, within cities? It seems difficult to implement a “reduce waste lifestyle” without the help of policy. Many people (not all), in general are more likely to follow the rules that are put in place for them, rather than adopt a new behavior of purchasing non-plastic items and bringing their own cloth bags and containers to their stores to buy in bulk.
There are some cities around the world that have started taking steps towards zero waste, which I wanted to share for those who are interested! 🙂
San Francisco, CA: SF has a very ambitious goal to become a zero waste city by 2020. By focusing on three main principles (preventing waste, reducing and reusing items, and recycling and composting what can be recycled and composted), it is feasible to dramatically decrease the number of items and bags of garbage that end up in the landfills. (BTW, this website also provides a cool video about what they’re doing to become a zero waste city!)
Kamikatsu, Japan: Kamikatsu has an insanely efficient waste collection center that helps eliminate waste in their little town. With less than 2,000 people in their town, they aim to become the first zero waste community in Japan by 2020! It’s pretty amazing to see the steps they are taking and that all of the community members have adopted; check out their video here!
France: France is the first country to ban supermarket food waste. I’m not sure where you live, but there’s a good chance that your local supermarket staff spend time tossing the unattractive fruits and vegetables before they open the doors to consumers, and some produce items that we may find unappealing and choose not to buy eventually end up being thrown away, too! Currently, a whopping 1.3 BILLION TONS of food meant for consumption is thrown away around the world (more stats here), while there are millions around the world who suffer from food insecurity.
So, now that you’ve seen some examples of successful zero waste individuals and cities who are in this movement, are you interested in making small changes to your everyday lives and make a difference? It can be as small as using a stainless steel water bottle or BYOB (bring your own bag!) when you purchase items 🙂
We have ONE planet (for now). If we continue to produce more than 220 MILLION TONS of trash that end up in landfills each year (in the US), eventually we will run out of space to put the trash! Let’s not let it get that far… 🙂
If you love marine animals, the ocean and the beaches, you should watch Chasing Coral and Plastic Paradise on Netflix
Chasing Coral: Humans are single-handedly destroying the place we call home with our dependence on fossil fuels, our greed for red meats (and most food animal meats honestly), our reliance on transportation methods that require gas, and our ability to turn a blind eye because we aren’t THERE watching the coral reefs bleaching and then dying before our eyes, right beneath the water’s surface. We are literally so ignorant to what’s at stake. If you love seafood, you should care about our coral reefs dying. Marine ecosystems are desperately crying out for help because they can’t fix what humans have done in the last century alone. Think about it this way: if our bodies rose 2 degrees C, we’d be running a 102 degree F fever…this is essentially what’s happening to the coral reefs as they’re subject to rising sea level temperatures because our ozone is trapping all the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere that’s released by the fossil fuel industry, large-scale farming and animal production etc.
Plastic Paradise: Our society is addicted to convenience and the ability to use something in the moment and then dispose of it once it’s “unusable”. Instead of investing in or carrying a reusable water bottle, we buy plastic water bottles and refreshments that we either litter, throw in the trash, or (hopefully) recycle. Litter and plastic items that get blown into the oceans ends up floating away somewhere–it doesn’t disappear. Marine animals and birds get trapped in them, they may accidentally eat them (anyone see that photo of the whale with a stomach full of plastic? it starved to death because it didn’t have space to eat what it actually needed. see that video where a sea turtle had to get a plastic straw plied out of its nostril? or birds with those soda can plastic rings stuck around their neck?)
I wish we were more aware of what we’re doing to the environment and where we call home.
The worst thing you can do is read this, say “oh…this is sad” and not do anything about it. Don’t sit around and wait for someone else to take action. YOU have a duty to yourself, your family, your children, grandchildren, etc. to take care of the planet we live on and make efforts to live a better life and to improve our lifestyles so we make a lesser impact on the earth.
Every month, the local health clinic conducts a health education workshop with the community members in Agua Caliente Nueva. This July, I was able to sit in on their workshop. The topic: Feeding Newborn to 2-Year Old Infants. The topic for August seems to be about children of middle-school age, but unfortunately I’ll be leaving before that workshop!
I really liked the materials that were presented at this workshop; I didn’t get to see which organization provided the materials but it reiterated what we learned in school about breastfeeding recommendations. Two key recommendations for breastfeeding mothers:
Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age
Continue breastfeeding infants from 6 months until 2 years of age, along with introducing appropriate complementary foods
It’s been stressed in school how a newborn’s first meal should be breastmilk, at the mother’s breast. If the baby is given a bottle, the baby will have a much harder time taking to the breast and successfully latch on or suckle. So if y’all know a pregnant woman in your life, make sure they know that breast is best!
For infants between 6 months and 1 year of age, the solid foods should be chopped up or pureed. They recommended 3 “main” meals a day and 2 “snacks” of one type of vegetable and one type of fruit. I really liked the way she explained this part because this town doesn’t have much access to a big supermarket or a year-round offering of assorted fruit or vegetables; she explained that it’s alright to just get whatever’s in season (which honestly makes sense!) such as mangoes, bananas, chayote, etc.
I have seen so many children pop into the tiendas around town to buy dulces (sweets) or comida chatarra (junk food). I’m glad that this page was presented to inform the mothers. Can you believe some women give their little kids coffee?! I can’t believe it!
I realllllly liked this page because I’ve always been interested in WASH. To me, it was always intuitive, but that is probably since I grew up in the US. When I was in Ecuador volunteering as an English teacher, I finally realized the luxurious life that I lived. Granted, I’ve gone to the countryside in Taiwan before when I was much younger, but didn’t really understand WASH or the privilege we have in New York (and the majority of the US) to have constant access to clean, drinkable water. While I lived with my host family in Tumbaco, my host mother always boiled many vats of water for the family to use. I also bought a 6L water jug to keep in my room to wash my contact case and when I brushed my teeth.
During the health workshop, the healthcare worker explained the importance of washing hands with soap and water:
before preparing food
before and after feeding your child
after changing a baby’s diaper (apparently she knows some mothers who don’t wash their hands after changing the diapers)
after using the restroom
In many parts of the world outside of the US, water scarcity is a real issue, so washing hands may not be a priority since water is needed for “more important” household events, such as bathing, washing dishes, washing clothes, preparing meals, drinking, etc. There are some parts of the US who do not use water to flush waste, or wash hands after using the bathroom. Take a moment and imagine that. This is why I wanted to study Public Health. People around the world should not have to live without WASH and experience the many stresses that are attached to water scarcity.
Here in Mexico, some people I know do wash their hands after using the restroom, although they may not use soap. Honestly, I give them props to wash their hands after using the restroom when there are quite a few people in developed countries with steady access to water who don’t wash their hands after handling their junk or wiping themselves. Again, think about this for a minute. Your urine or feces (AKA poop) is not sanitary and is filled with bacteria. By not washing your hands with water or soap, you are doing a disservice (and quite frankly, being inconsiderate) to the people around you by letting them touch your germs when they grab the handles of the doors you touched, when they shake your hand, when you prepare food for your friends and family, when they touch items on the restaurant tables such as the salt/pepper shakers or ketchup bottle, etc. Get the picture?
Do us all a favor and make an effort to wash your hands with soap and water!!
No one wants to touch your urine or fecal bacteria and get sick as a result! 😦
YOU are capable of engaging in public health and helping to prevent the spread of bacteria and diseases by doing something as simple as washing your hands with soap and water after using the restroom!
If you are moved by and want to make a difference by using less water, check out one of my posts listing different things you can do to save water at home 🙂
As many of you know, I’m currently in Mexico for the summer! My friends who follow my Instagram or Snapchat can see that I’ve been having a ball of a time with my host family in the little ejido Agua Caliente Nueva. The people in the community are just so friendly and welcoming and have embraced my presence as the only Chinese woman in the town haha! I promise you though, that I actually did come here to do fieldwork for a project for a professor, thanks to the grant I received from the Center for Global Health at Johns Hopkins University (try to find me!).
My project includes two main things:
brewing fresh Moringa leaves to make tea samples to be analyzed by my professors
assessing the acceptability and feasibility of incorporating Moringa leaves as a vegetable in households in Agua Caliente Nueva through Trials of Improved Practice (TIPs) with community members
It’s Week 4 and I finally am able to begin one of my projects (the brewing the tea leaves) now that I have all the necessary supplies. I didn’t believe my professors when they told me that things in the field may not go as planned or as scheduled, and now I understand!
My first mistake (and hopefully the only one) was grabbing too few leaves the first time 😦 I thought I only needed 15 leaves but turned out I needed 15 grams of leaves! And walking around in the daytime is SUPER hot so it was quite the struggle to go back twice and carry whole branches. I haven’t worked out since maybe April (I KNOW, it’s sad) so my arms are feeling a little bit frail and weak haha. My second mistake was burning my fingers while handling the pots 😩 For some reason, their cookware retains heat for a long time, hence my fingertip burns sigh…
Here are some pictures showing the process of brewing fresh Moringa leaves in the field 🙂
Hi everyone! In my last post on magnetically aesthetic, I shared the fact that I’ll be living in Mexico for the next two months to do some fieldwork to put into practice what I’ve learned in graduate school.
It’s Day 4, and I’m adjusting to the slower pace in Agua Caliente Nueva. My host family has taken me to eat at a couple of seafood restaurants since I arrived, and I got to meet their extended family over the weekend when we spent the day at the beach for el Día del Padre (Father’s Day)!
I share this background information with you because somewhere within the first three days of arriving, I ate what I suspect was contaminated, or unclean food, because I was sick for a day! I woke up in the middle of the night with intense stomach cramping and pain, and had to take it easy on Monday while relying on Pepto Bismol to keep my stomach neutral. I read somewhere that taking activated charcoal can help with upset stomach as well, so I decided to take a spoon of it as well (FYI- it doesn’t have a taste! I just mixed it in potable water and added some honey and it just tasted like honey water).
Today, I’m feeling much better with occasional cramping, but overall I’m getting back to my normal function haha. I wanted to share some tips for food safety when traveling abroad (ironic since I’m a public health student, too, and I should know better!)
Do your research when you travel to another country. Is the tap water potable for consumption?
If yes, great! In the US for example, most states (see Flint Water Crisis) have perfectly potable water that you can drink directly from the tap.
If no, here are some options:
buy only bottled water or the big jugs of water, and make sure you check that the seal hasn’t been broken before you purchase them
when you go to restaurants, ask for bottled water or if the cups of water are purified
when you get drinks with ice cubes in them, you typically want to have the ice cubes that look like hollow cylinders since those are made with purified water
buy 1oz of iodine that you can drop into the water to purify it before drinking **NOTE: I have yet to find a store in Manzanillo that sells iodine that you can put in water for drinking, so make sure you look this up and purchase it before you travel**
When you order salads, ask if they use purified water (agua purificado in Spanish) to wash their vegetables. I have a feeling I may have eaten some veggies that were cleaned with their unsafe tap water.
You can also order cooked vegetables or ask if they serve any cooked veggies (vegetales cocidos)
If you’re going to prepare vegetables at home prior to cooking, you can use the tap water, but make sure you cook them well to kill off any bacteria.
When you order or purchase prepared fruit, ask if they use purified water.
It’s better for you to get fruit that still have the skin on them, so you can wash it yourself with purified water when you get home 🙂
WASH YOUR HANDS BEFORE YOU EAT! I really should have known betterwhen I was at the beach.
The family members forgot to pack utensils for eating, so all of the tortillas and toppings were handled with our hands. Wanting to fit in and not act pretentious with my Bath and Body Works hand sanitizer, I went into the water, brushed off the sand from my body with my hands, wiped down my hands with a measly paper towel, and chowed down! In hindsight, I ask myself, what were you thinking?! If it wasn’t the washed uncooked veggies, it was DEFINITELY from not washing my hands before I ate at the beach.
(unrelated to food, but still very important) The water is usually safe enough for you to brush your teeth with and shower with, but if you wear contacts, I’d recommend rinsing out the case with purified water so you don’t get any bacteria in your eyes.
This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending the March for Science in Washington, D.C. with my fellow Johns Hopkins classmates. This demonstration sends a clear message to the Republican Administration that science plays a role in everyone’s lives and has given us so much as a society and in the world. Without science, we wouldn’t have life-saving medicines or vaccines. Without science, we would not be able to discover new cures and treatments for diseases.
Hundreds of thousands of people around the world gathered on April 22, 2017, Earth Day, to celebrate science! There were scientists, researchers, doctors of different disciplines, supporters of science (young and old) that came together for the purpose of advocating for science. The March for Science page states:
Science protects the health of our communities, the safety of our families, the education of our children, the foundation of our economy and jobs, and the future we all want to live in and preserve for coming generations.
We speak up now because all of these values are currently at risk. When science is threatened, so is the society that scientists uphold and protect.
When I was growing up, I watched Bill Nye the Science Guy and ZOOM, and had the chance to create that ever cliche paper mache volcanos that erupts with baking soda and vinegar. I knew I wanted to be involved in helping other people, and ended up in Public Health. It was evident that science and research is paramount to making advances towards innovations that would lead to better health outcomes, even when I was a little girl and to this day.
I hope we continue this open dialogue about science and that my fellow colleagues will continue to fight the fight to promote science and support organizations such as the NIH and EPA to protect our planet and our populations’ health. I hope that PBS continues to get funded so the programs can continue to inspire the younger generation to be inquisitive, eager to learn, and get involved in STEM.
Here are some of great posters that I was able to take photos of this past weekend!
“Information, not disinformation”
“Fund EPA for me”
“Doctor for Science”
“There is no Planet B”
“Science Trumps Alternative Facts”
“More Solar, More Wind, Less Oil, Save our Planet”
“Make Science Great Again”
“Change the politics, not the climate”
“Smallpox eradicated worldwide by science”
“Science, it’s like magic but real!”
“Policy follows science, not vice versa”
“I speak for the trees” – The Lorax
“Make America Smart Again”
“Make America Think Again”
“When you are a pathogen and you hear the NIH is losing $6 billion from the budget (laughs microscopically)”