An Interview With Myself

Wow!  It has been a minute since I blogged here.   I had to stop writing to focus on school.  Well, the good news is that I graduated in Dec. 2015.  So, I met my goal of not allowing anything make me drop out of school.    I was tempted several times to quit but, as they say, a weakness (a.k.a stubbornness) can be a strength.

So, was it worth it?

I will like to believe that it was.  I had an interest which I had been pursuing on my own for years and now, I have the degree to back it up.  I took the risk, and even though I will be paying for that risk for some years to come, I do not regret it. That risk brought me to Texas.

 

Was your school a good school?

Yes.  It is a good school.  I am very grateful for the scholarship that I received which enabled me accomplish my goal.

Beyond the Educational bits, what else did I learn from grad. school?

So many things, namely:

a) Grad. schools are different.  This was my second sojourn into the world of graduate schools and my first experience was actually nice even though I worked full-time and received some financial support from my organization but there was a greater symbiotic relationship between profs. and students.   My second experience was not as ‘symbiotic’.

b)  Grad schools are influenced by their environments: In New York, where I completed my first graduate program,  there was a level of freedom that I had to ask questions.   In Texas, before you ask your question, you need to wrap it up in pretty paper, place a bow on it, lower your voice, pretend to be meek and then ask.  I did not feel as free in school.  Of course, I had some profs. that were exceptional who wanted us to ask questions and be engaged in class.  These profs. focused on their subject matter.  A couple come to mind.

c) To survive the educational system in Texas (my experience at one school), you need to be psychologically prepared and resilient. There will be times, that you will feel that [the system/some profs.] might be going  out of their way to break you (psychologically, physically and emotionally).  Just be prepared.

d)Favoritism might be the order of the day.  I will just leave this here.

e) There will always be a silver lining.  I had some great profs. who came to class and focused on the subject matter.  No attacks; no, I want to see if I can overwhelm you; just pure subject matter interspersed with stories of their lives.  I will always be grateful  to them because  they helped me maintain my sanity.

 

How did I survive?

a) Stubbornness and persistence.  There were several reasons that made me choose to leave the East Coast.  One was to have a fresh start and the second was to acquire an education in an area of interest.  I was sticking to that goal.  I refused to be a statistic.

b) Avoidance:  I ignored a lot of things and when I knew that I couldn’t ignore any more, I avoided.  There were some classes that I spent more time studying on my own than in the classroom because I felt that the classroom situation was just too distracting.

c) Learn on your own.  There are many tools/tutors online that can get you through a class, particularly a distracting class.

 

What Next?

Well, I am still looking for a masters level opportunity that will provide an opportunity to utilize my educational backgrounds.  But, if I can’t find that for whatever reason, then on to the next.  I will not be returning to the East Coast.

 

Do I regret moving to Texas?

No, I do not.  Texas taught me or is still teaching me that I am tougher than I think.  Surprisingly, I like this very weird state.

Anymore  schooling in my future?

I come from a family (extended and nuclear) of highly educated professionals.  So, if I am not learning anything new via my workplace, then do not be surprised to find me back at school (either online, evenings or over the weekend).

 

PhD, maybe?

If I find an interesting subject matter that brings it all together, I just might.  My mother has one, so why not?  But,  it will not be this year.

 

Any advice?

Keep learning.   You are strong.  Go outside your comfort zone.  Always, have a way to relax.  Pray!

 

 

 

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I Am Back……..

Hello there! I have been silent for a minute….don’t worry, I will soon blog about my first summer in the T State and what has been going on so far….

As you know,  this blog is primarily about Public Health, so here goes:

This is a link to an interview that I did with Stephanie Okereke many years ago when I used to ‘work’ at a radio station in Harlem, New York. In this interview, she talks about her interest in the issue of child marriages and its effect (health effects). She talks about VVF (vesicovaginal fistula) as well in this interview. (http://pamelastitch.com/entertainment/film/376-life-movies-with-stephanie-okereke.html)

So, I was super excited when a friend of mine told me that she finally produced that movie that she was talking about.
Here is the link to the site: http://www.themoviedry.com/

I have decided not to share my thoughts on marriage and the African female or the African female in the diaspora but if you know my alias, you know that I have been pretty clear about where I stand. So, it is hump Wednesday, I will keep it positive and humping.

 

opusc

Fungai Chiposi: Addressing Sanitation in Zimbabwe.

What about the highlights, what has been the most memorable event you have done?

  1. 1.We were the first local NGO to clean-up whole CBDs of Harare, Bulawayo and Gweru using volunteers who are not bussed nor coerced. The people came simply because they desired to see a transformation of their cities.
  2. 2.We put bins in Harare CBD in a structured format that demonstrated that a well thought out plan can be implemented to resolve the issues of litter in Harare and in the process we brought 24 corporates together under that program
  3. 3.In a first ever such event in Zimbabwe and possibly Africa, I walked 1000km across Zimbabwe in an effort to bring more attention to litter.

 


How will you describe your walk to raise awareness on litter in Zimbabwe?

It was the most difficult thing I have ever done. It was not easy and I had so many small obstacles that I had to overcome throughout the walk.

 

What made you walk?

The GREEN history of Zimbabwe is dominated by what non- indigenous people have done for this country. Mostly it is about how Charlene Hewat cycled from Europe for rhinos. We did not have indigenous people that have sacrificed to preserve our environment. I believe I changed that with the walk

 

Did you feel that the timing was right?

Maybe not but the correct time would have never arrived. I would have procrastinated ad infinitum waiting for the economic environment to be right.

 

By Eve Parkes For Zimpowerfm

 

For More:  http://www.pamelastitch.com/blog/917-fungai-chiposi-addressing-sanitation-in-zimbabwe.html

 

The Lipstick Danger

 

Lipstick use started more than 5000 years ago, with several cultures using different dyes, gemstones, substances from fish scales, etc. to paint their lips (Schaffer, 2006).  Lipstick use is now part of most women’s cosmetic arsenal with lipstick having a social, cultural and psychological impact on its wearers and viewers.  As much as women enjoy putting on lipstick, the question becomes how healthy is that lipstick?

Liu et al. investigated this question and conducted a study on this issue.  In the report titled ‘Concentrations and potential health risks of metals in lip products’, they measured lead and other metals in lipsticks in  32 lip products used by Asian women in Oakland, California (Liu, 2013).  This metals ingested regularly when reapplied several times a day, have potential health risks.   Some of these metals were lead, aluminum, chromium, and manganese.  In addition, many lipsticks also contain chemicals like phthalates, formaldehyde, methylene chloride, acetone, acetonitrile, methacrylate, toluene, xylene, ethyl ether, and lead.

Metals such as aluminum, chromium, lead can have carcinogenic and neurological effects on the human body.   For example, chromium is known for its carcinogenic effect and its link to lung cancer and stomach tumors; manganese is known for its neurological effects; lead causes learning, language and behavioral problems.  Lead builds up in the body over time. There is no safe level for lead and yet, many of the lipsticks that are purchased have this metal.   Pregnant women are most vulnerable because it affects them and their unborn child/children.

Notably, the campaign for safe cosmetics is addressing this issue by creating awareness about unsafe cosmetics, lobbying and trying to influence policy makers to set up some standards in terms of trials, regulation and information with the end goal of protecting consumers (Lead in Lipstick, n.d.) For example, although the FDA admits there are metals in lipsticks, they refuse to acknowledge the dangers and potential health risks of these metals. The FDA states that the amount of lead in lipstick is so little that it should have no adverse effect but yet, ensures that lead is removed completely from water  (Lipstick and Lead: Questions and Answers, 2011).

On the other hand, the CDC advices that all sources of lead be eradicated because of the dangers that it presents. Consequently, these are the problems that will need to be overcome to have safer lipsticks:  a) safety trials need to be required before it  is sold to consumers b) there has to be regulations on the cosmetic industry with penalties c) More visible labels listing all ingredients, metals and chemicals.

Furthermore, the call for safety has to start on the policy level and then implementation. Unfortunately, many are unaware of how much power they have to create change via policy. Policy makers want to be in the know; they want to be seen as people protecting citizens and they want to remain in the good graces of voters.  Change on this issue, can occur when people start speaking up, sending emails, and creating awareness which puts pressure on policy makers. Additionally, as consumers, one can choose to create ones products, purchase cosmetics from industries that have concerns about public health and investigate the product company before purchasing.

In conclusion, the following three-pronged recommendation will be the best approach:   a) setting up a standard of what should be in lipsticks and setting a deadline for the complete removal of dangerous chemicals from lipsticks (this will include safety trials before marketing and selling to consumers); b) Requiring cosmetics to be subjected to premarket approval by the FDA; and, c) ensuring all ingredients are listed on the labels.

 

 

 

References

Lead in Lipstick. (n.d.). Retrieved from Campaign for safe cosmetics: http://www.safecosmetics.org/

Lipstick and Lead: Questions and Answers. (2011, Dec 5). Retrieved from U.S. Food and Drug Administration: http://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/productsingredients/products/ucm137224.htm

Liu, S. S.-C. (2013). “Concentrations and potential health risks of metals in lip products.” Environmental Health Perspectives 121.6, 705.

Schaffer, S. (2006). Reading Our Lips: The History of Lipstick Regulation in Western Seats of Power. Retrieved from http://dash.harvard.edu/handle/1/10018966.

 

 

opusc

In An Ideal World: What Should Have Happened Was….?

 

Why is the abduction of these girls a Public Health Issue?

The reason that this is a Public Health issue is because it affects a population (country’s) mental, physical, emotional and even territorial health. It is also an issue of terrorism which is an area of concern for Public Health officials. Terrorism is when force is used to coerce a group of people, government, population into a mode of thinking or action. In this case, Boko Haram is pushing the populace into the arena of fear without any real clear aim. People are not sure what the course of action should be.

 

Public Health should be playing a pivotal role in this issue, in the area of surveillance, risk communication, intervention, planning and community wide response. It is unfortunate that because of the political structure (more historical than anything else) of Nigeria, there has been a lack of concerted effort to control this group. Controlling Boko Haram and bringing back those girls will take collaborations between Nigerian government, academicians, strategists, military and the international community.

 

Issues arising:

 

A couple of years when Boko Haram started their attacks, it was labeled as a religious and location issue, and as such anyone that got caught in the bloody fray was blamed for choosing to live in the Northern part of the country amongst Muslims. But Boko Haram is not about Islam but rather about fear mongering. Once Boko Haram made that first attack, there should have been a plan to ensure that was the last attack. An earlier post on this site, relays some preventative measures that should have been taken in the past and that should be taken now to forestall, the further growth of such an organization.

 

What is Nigeria’s response to terrorist attacks from within? Nigeria has a big brother role in conflict resolution around the continent but it is interesting that the Nigerian military seems to be dragging its feet in controlling these renegades.

 

These are steps that ideally should have been taken concurrently after the abductions:

1) The president should have performed risk communication immediately. The purpose of risk communication is to ensure that a) your authority is felt and that your people feel safe, heard and that you are in control. b) it controls misinformation c) It also provides guidance.

 

2) Get the Media involved. The Media is your ally. You want clean, clear and relevant information dispersed. Information that should have been relayed immediately were the names of the girls, their pictures and the media should have made the stories of these girls, via a blurb, more personal. The media and the dept. of information should have worked together to disperse this information using several media tools.

 

Set up a hotline that is easily remembered. E.G ‘Call Boko, if you have any information that could lead to the arrest of members or could lead to finding the girls’. Of course, if the information is good and works, those informants will need to be rewarded financially. The media should also be involved in putting together the hotline or dispersing the information about the hotline -jingle creation, information placement, information dispersion etc. The media and dept. of information should work closely during this time.

 

c)Gain the support of Northern leaders particularly states that these terrorists are working in. Ensure that it is clear, that this is now a federal government issue, they either step up , collaborate to clean up the reputation of their states or step away and let the federal government do what needs to be done.

 

d)Work with community leaders because they are your influencers. Let the message be spread in religious as well as community meetings that these individuals are working against religious tenets and the community since they were willing to kidnap individuals who are of the same faith.

 

e) Since Boko Haram has shown a penchant for the use of technology to spread fear. Technology use is an Achilles heel that can be used because most information on technological tools are traceable. By creating a map of where these terrorists are posting from, tracking their cell use,what they use, asking the right questions – it is possible to get a pattern that makes it easier to find them.

 

f) Create a technology strategy which might involve using traces, tracking systems, bugs and maps in areas in which terrorists are likely to use to disperse their information, particularly if they are using public computer systems for their work. They must have a reason for choosing particular business centers. Is it because it is isolated or closest to the center of the town? Figure it out.
Find out who has the user name that they are using to post their threats/demands on social networking sites – can that be traced? That is if they are not hacking into regular citizens accounts to place their threats. If they are using the telephone, the question becomes what numbers are they using? Are they using one cell phone or is it a disposable phone? How are they paying for these items? Is the credit card/phone /phone number traceable? There are always patterns, it is just having the right individuals who are trained to look for those patterns. If these individuals are not in Nigeria, maybe that’s where the collaboration with international sources might come in.

 

g)Follow up on information. There are many rumors flying all over the internet that the girls are in Sambisa forest. If that is true, then there is a need to get those who know the forest involved in working with the military in coming up with a plan of where these girls are likely to be kept. These individuals, probably grew up around the forest and know its nooks and crannies, caves and the caveats and these are the best guides. Also, it will not hurt, to get some helicopters involved in flying over and checking if they see anything that looks strange. Nigeria can afford it.

h) Get other West African countries involved, particularly the border countries. An easy way for these militants to sneak these girls to other countries to be trafficked as sex or labor workers is via the borders. Make it clear that any suspicious activity from Nigeria into their country via their borders should be checked and rechecked until those girls are found.

i)If the media, technology, community, checking the forest, checking the surrounding localities as well as across the border does not work – then there is going to be a need to have a discussion with other countries that might have stronger military and better surveillance and tracking techniques. Many Nigerians are opposed to getting help from better countries who are well versed in handling terrorism because they feel that this puts the country at a disadvantage. But, people do not disappear into the skies. They have to be somewhere. These are young girls and not adults, they are a cause for international concern and international action.
OPUSC
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using Social Marketing To Curtail Boko Haram.

 

General Overview

 

On April 14th 2014, more than 200 students from a school in Borno state, Nigeria were abducted by Boko Haram Islamist Militants. As of May 20th 2014, some of these girls are still with these militants, there has been a lot of social media fervor about the abductions with the #bringbackourgirls hashtag trending on social media sites, a lot of misinformation about the abduction and generally lack of clarity about the happenings. This post is to analyze this event and bring about a more preventative approach to forestall future happenings.

 

What is Social Marketing?

 

Social marketing, for the purpose of this post is about getting a population or a target audience to choose to implement a change in their behavior of their own volition. It borrows heavily from marketing. Interestingly, promotion (which is the blitz /shiny glitz that is seen) is just one aspect of marketing. Marketing involves understanding the needs of the community (end user needs), understanding why your idea /product is the best fit(positioning), choosing how to spread your message (channel selection) and of course, evaluating if what you posited or implemented actually worked (evaluation). Social marketing implements all four with the purpose of creating a behavioral change.

 

Social Marketing:

 

Intervention to curtail the growth of terrorist groups in the country by creating awareness, information promotion education and safety promotion. 

 

Behavioral changes expected:

  • Awareness of the dangers of Boko Haram to community health.
  • Collaboration with the government to arrest Boko Haram members.
  • Refusal to support, join, implement strategies of destruction of members of the community and citizens of the nation.
  • Reporting Boko Haram or suspected Boko Haram members.

These are behavioral changes because rather than cover up individuals who are bent on destruction, it pushes the community to uncover these individuals and curtail their growth. 

 

End Users:

Citizens of Northern states in Nigeria, Citizens of Nigeria and Border countries. These citizens want to feel safe. Boko Haram has shown a lack of respect for lives and this is their Achilles heel because it shows their agenda to be fear based rather than religious or against westernization based. Boko Haram is not about a philosophy.

 

Positioning:

An intervention to create awareness, educate and promote safety is the best strategy because it ensures that individuals are informed, and they know how to relay information about suspected terrorists.

 

Channel Selection:

The channels that will be used are social media, real media and influencers.

Social media will be used because a lot of younger members of society use social media tools; moreover, social media tools are used by Boko Haram members to spread fear. Additionally, social media is a very adaptive tool that can be used to spread any message using different formats. Social media tools are twitter, facebook, tumblr, google, youtube, instagram and the list goes on.

 

Real Time Media: This is not really as adaptable as social media. But, its reach is generally older members of society. Real time media includes community newspapers, gazettes etc

 

Influencers: This involves collaboration with religious leaders and community influencers to spread information and educate.

 

Message selection:

 

  • To choose the right message/image and be culturally sensitive, there has to be collaboration between community leaders and those who will be working on creation and placement of the message. Community members have to be involved in message selection.
  • The message and image should impart the importance of curtailing and controlling the growth of this terrorist group for the purpose of community mental/emotional and physical health.
  • The message should also include an educational component because when people are informed, they often choose to make the right decision. This information should clearly state that Boko Haram is not for any religious group or any religious person or even about westernization but rather is a group of people who enjoy spreading fear and everyone is a target.
  • Ensure that the message contains an easily remembered number for those that might have information about Boko Haram and (or) suspected Boko Haram members.

 

 

Placement:

 

Create an access map to find out where young and older people gather and place informational products in those places and this could also be  virtual places as well. Informational products could be educational brochures created from information received from community leaders and community influencers.Informational products could also come in other forms. Virtual space could be websites or online meeting places that attracts younger citizens.

 

Beyond using technology, other media tools should be used like: radio, tv , community newspaper. Informational products should be placed in community centers like market places, hospitals, clinics, religious organizations etc.

 

Evaluation:

 

There are different ways to evaluate and they include:

  • charting how often messages are received before an attack occurs.
  • surveying to see how much information is known about Boko Haram and their message from the lay individual in the community.
  • Running focus groups
  • Comparing to see if there has been a reduction in attacks and abductions in the Northern area since the implementation of this intervention.

 

Special Note On #Bringbackourgirls campaign.

The #Bringbackourgirls campaign has been quite effective in creating awareness about the abduction of these young girls internationally. A lot of global celebrities have been seen with their placards and the words #bringbackourgirls. #Bringbackourgirls has created awareness and ensured that this atrocity remains in the fickle minds of the global populace. But Nigeria’s governmental media strategists/information center have to ensure that Nigerian citizens have information that is relevant, clear and on time. It is important that the federal government of Nigeria be seen to be physically doing something to get these girls home. This is not the time to shift responsibilities to the state government but rather a time to collaborate if need be. Some have argued that Boko Haram’s reason for operation is to destabilize the Nigerian government but if the Nigerian government does not take some strong actions. Boko Haram might win.

 

OPUSC

 

 

 

Mental Health – Public Health Perspective

General Overview:

Mental illness affects one in every four people. Surprised? Mental illness cuts across socioeconomic status, professions , countries and cultures. Of course, in certain countries, cultures, and socioeconomic levels, mental illness is accepted and resources are allocated for individuals who fall into the category of the mentally ill.

Unfortunately, the public perception of the mentally ill is often one tied to the unkempt individual that is out of touch with reality or society. Many are often so caught up in their idea of what the mentally ill looks like, that they refuse to acknowledge that mentally ill individuals might have ‘normal’ faces and be quite hidden within society. Because, mental health issues are not as in your face as physical disabilities, it has been a struggle getting attention on the issues of mental health  in terms of funding.

How is  mental illness defined?

There are several definitions out there for mental illness but the definition preferred on this blog is that mental illness is a chemical imbalance that causes an individual to produce behavioral changes (feels, acts, behaves, thinks) that might be considered as being outside the scope of normality for an extended duration of time.

Now, one will assume that with mental illness being a common occurrence in every society that there will be more acceptance ; unfortunately, because many societies are not fully equipped or ready to handle this issue, many of the mentally ill either fall through the cracks, hide in shadows (particularly if they can pass off as being ‘normal’ ) or are abandoned.

It is particularly saddening that in many developed countries those that seem to fall through the cracks tend to be those from lower socioeconomic levels. Often, because they cannot afford to pay for help, or therapy is not supported in their communities.

Who are the Mentally ill?

The mentally ill ranges from the professional who seems to have it all together to the homeless individual that you see having an interesting conversation with an invincible person. There is a broad spectrum for what could be termed mental illness and this ranges from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, OCD etc.

A Special Note on Substance Abuse:

In many cases substance abuse is grouped with mental illness because substance abuse can be the doorway into mental illness or could be the way that individuals cope with their mental illness. Substance abuse could be a coping strategy. For example, that person that is addicted to prescription pills might be dealing with depression. Another example, could be that person that abuses alcohol could be using alcohol to lessen the sound of voices talking to him/her.

What are the issues for many with mental illness?

a) Lack of awareness: Many do not know about mental illness or they are stuck on their perception of mental illness.

b)Lack of acceptance: Many have learned how to hide their struggles to fit in.

c)Lack of inclusion: Many are scared that they will lose their loved ones if they admit to struggling with mental illness and many have lost their loved ones because of mental illness.

d)Lack of facilities and trained mental health professionals: There is a dearth of professionals trained to work within this field and in some parts of the world, facilities are lacking to handle this population.  In addition, there are countries that prefer not to take care of this population for cultural reasons.

e)Isolation: The mentally ill is often isolated from the rest of society. Often, there are no programs in place to include them into society during and after treatment.

f)Lack of understanding: There are societies in which religion is often the way used on the mentally ill but it is imperative that there is a balance between religion and other initiatives. After the religious process, the individual will still need to see a therapist, will still need to be trained on how to behave in society/work in society, will still need to be supported through the inclusion process. It is very important that all those who played a supportive role in the healing process get some therapy. In developing countries, caregiver burden is seen as normative, but no one asks about support for the caregiver.   There is a need for supportive networks in developing countries for the mentally ill and their loved ones.

g) Lack of training: Those who educate and those who hire need to be trained in ways of creating special accommodations for these individuals. They also need to be trained on how to communicate with these individuals. In the United States, a lot of work is being done in this area by training those who work in the field of education.

What should the lay person do?

a) Provide support:  Many of those who struggle with mental illness beyond needing a therapist or professional that can provide psychological or psychiatric support,  also need a friend that will see them through the dark times.

b) Many need to be included. The idea of excluding individuals who struggle with mental illness in certain countries/cultures need to be abolished. Those who struggle with mental illness are still members of society and as such special accommodations should be created to include these individuals. Many of these individuals with mental illness are skilled workers or people who have the potential to be trained in special skills, so it becomes worrisome when one wonders, how many highly skilled individuals in high employment need based areas  have been abandoned  because of this special circumstance. Further more, it is interesting to note that many in our prison systems around the world, are individuals who struggle with mental illness. It makes one wonder, if the reason they got themselves into certain ‘situations/scenarios’ was because of this condition.

Fortunately, United States Of America provides for inmates who struggle with mental illness. It has been noted, that there are cases of family members /loved ones calling for the apprehension of their  mentally ill  because they cannot provide the kind of care needed and the prison system is set up to provide the best care.  But, this is in the United States, and is probably not the case in developing countries.

c)Support government and community led initiatives that will create programs that help these individuals. If you can vote – then vote the right individuals who show concern about the invincible in society and have a workable plan in place to help/support these individuals.  If you can not vote, get involved in outreach programs. Get involved in promoting mental health. Educate individuals on mental health and its impact on community health.

d)Encourage these individuals to get diagnosed. Get them to understand that getting diagnosed is the first step towards healing. Do not self-diagnose.

Why is this a Public Health Issue?

a) This is  a global health issue that affects individual, organizational and population health around the world.  Every country is affected.

b) It includes socioeconomic disparities and affects the powerless and the voiceless.

c)It has far-reaching impact.

d)It involves health care reforms.

e) It involves collaborating with different communities , religious institutions and health systems to take care of a particular population.

For those in the United States, please check out www.samhsa.gov.

 

FYI:  May is Mental Health Month in the United States.