MA International Studies
What aspects of global health most interest you?
What I find to be fascinating about the field of global health is how interdisciplinary it is in nature. To be an effective analyst and practitioner who focuses on the health of an individual, a community, or the global population, one has to engage in rigorous qualitative and quantitative analysis - understanding and practicing methodologies such as demographic and geographic research; being able to taking an anthropological and sociological approach to community engagement when working in the field; and understanding how to place findings into global political, economic, and social contexts. It's being able to think and work on these levels that makes this work interesting to me. However, what makes this work most meaningful to me is that at the end of the day, as global health practitioners we ask ourselves first and foremost what we can do to improve the life of the individual - because people really are at the center of our work.
What global health-related projects or research are you currently working on?
Much of my current work focuses on how information and communication technologies (ICTs) can help us better monitor and evaluate global health challenges. This includes both working to bring about a greater level of efficiency to the social science research process, as well a greater level of accuracy in data collection when studying a region or a given health context. Just to give two examples:
This past summer our team from GHA traveled to India to engage in a maternal and child health project in New Delhi. The challenge was to understand the data collection system being used in a small community that borders the Yamuna river, and to see how ICTs could be used to help analysts better understand the health challenges in the region. Ultimately we worked to create a geographic information system that aimed to track maternal health over time, and to provide a resource map for the local community. The work is still in progress, but we're seeing a lot of potential with this new system.
My second area of focus is on the use of crowdsourced data for monitoring and evaluating humanitarian crises. In the context of global health, this very much has to do with the role that the individual can play in reporting new cases of infectious disease, and how such systems can help inform health practitioners of what specific resources are needed and where. However, this type of work also has implications for conflict and natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and hurricanes - as data management has become increasingly challenging as first responders are hit with an overwhelming amount of information during a crisis.
What are your future plans, and how has GHA helped you prepare for them?
The world of development is moving towards an interdisciplinary model, where practitioners must understand more than one subject in relative depth to be effective in their work. What the GHA program does is just that - allowed me to think creatively about some of these innovative methods for social science research, and to analyze some of the worlds most pressing development challenges on a number of levels.
My time spent here has led to my most recent work with TechChange, a DC-based educational group who is working with both software developers and technology users around the globe to enhance online learning communities who are engaged in best practices for the use of ICTs in these humanitarian contexts. However, my hope is ultimately to return to the conflict management field, as that is largely my background, and to bring the methodologies that I have learned here at GHA, as well as at TechChange, to the area of conflict analysis.