David Meyers

A New Type of Partnership: Crowdsourcing Data Analysis

Data is a key piece of so many initiatives in global health. It is collected in just about any medical or public health setting in droves, and can be used to better inform the provision of care and to really see what needs to be done to make a difference in a community. Unfortunately, for many organizations that work internationally, there might not be enough human resources to take the time to really dig into the data that is collected in order to make a difference with it. That is where the Globemed at Tufts Data Team comes into play.

Globemed at Tufts this year has launched the network’s first ever data staff team within the chapter. Born out of the chapter’s GROW internship over the summer, the goal of the data team is to dig through Nyaya Health’s data in order to find additional ways to put it to use. Nyaya collects a great deal of information through its robust data collection program. Unfortunately, Nyaya is working on so many different projects that they can only scratch the surface of what the data might hold. The data team at Globemed can help provide the manpower to work through the different sources of information that the Bayalptata hospital collects.

The data team at Globemed is working on several different projects. The first is to put together some statistics from the data for the clinical staff at Bayalpata’s daily continuing medical education lectures. These statistics will help provide the clinical staff with more context surrounding the types of patents that the hospital sees on a regular basis. The second project that the team is working on is to write a number of data briefs for the Nyaya team internationally and in Nepal. These data briefs are documents that analyze Nyaya data in order to answer a specific question in a practical way. For example, the team is currently writing a report on the types of surgical cases that the hospital most often sees in order to help plan for surgical camps to occur in the next few months.

Data is an integral part of Global Health. Through the data team relationship Globemed at Tufts has with Nyaya, the chapter can now do real work that can make a difference in Nyaya’s operations that might not have been possible otherwise.

Putting Global Issues in Perspective

Last night around 59 million people watched the 3rd and final presidential debate on foreign policy. They were treated to an at times civil, at times heated, and at times old fashioned debate on some foreign policy and a surprising (or not too surprising) amount of discussion revolving around the domestic economy. While there were many mentions of terrorism and nuclear war, there was not a single mention on any of the world’s largest killers, namely preventable deaths due to disease and poverty.

Annually around 655,000 people die from malaria each year, between 1.6 and 1.9 million people die from HIV/AIDS, and 1.4 million die from TB each year. It’s also estimated that every day 29,000 children die from preventable causes around the world. To put these numbers in perspective, from 1969 to 2009 there have been a total of 5,586 American fatalities as a result of terrorist attacks and 4,488 servicemen have died in Iraq and 2,012 have been killed in service in Afghanistan. Now, you might say that the president is in charge of US national security and should not be concerned with the deaths of some nameless people in some other country. What would a proponent of that viewpoint say to the fact that on average 36,000 Americans die from the common flu each year? Given the political discourse in the United States, they would probably not say much.

My point in writing is not to belittle the tragic deaths of Americans at home and abroad that were caused by terrorism, nor to dismiss the staggering number of good people that have been lost fighting for the US around the world. What I do want to point out however is that it is utterly ridiculous to completely remove Global Health issues from the discourse. Ten times the number of people who died in World War died in the 1918 influenza pandemic. This is a trend that has continued throughout history, that disease and preventable deaths stand as the top killers compared to those directly affected by conflict. How can you talk about foreign policy without talking about global health policy? Likely because it is an issue that the average American doesn’t care about. As a result, presidential initiatives devoted to Global Health have been decidedly lackluster, ranging from Bush’s PEPFAR which generated a great deal of funding but spent it in a politicized way, to Obama’s creation and later closing of the White House’s Global Health Initiative. Even without a mention of global health as a humanitarian issue, there was also not a single mention of pandemic threat which should play into the American political calculus.

Both candidates attempted to win the favor of voters at the foreign policy debate. The topics they discussed were important in international politics and for the most part should be given attention to by the commander in chief. As a global health advocates however, we need to hold politicians and the media accountable to the fact that global health issues are real and found throughout the world, and deserve at least one mention in the US foreign policy agenda.

Call for Action: Be an advocate! Contact your state representative today and let them know that you care about global health policy.

We are a Network.

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending the 5th meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative University. CGIU, brought together over 1000 student leaders and professionals who are commitment to making a difference in the world.

At the conference, I had the pleasure of connecting with Maya Cohen, the executive director of Globemed as well as a number of other members of the Globemed National Team. I was also able to speak with members of other Globemed chapters such as the GW and Columbia Chapters.

One of the main topics we discussed was how we can really become a network. Globemed has done incredible things since its founding. It has spread to nearly 50 chapters across the country, engaging hundreds of students, and raising tens of thousands of dollars for a wide range of partners around the world. It is amazing how many people care about the fight for global health equity and who are willing to devote so much time to the cause. However, if we are to truly maximize the work that we are doing, we need to find a way to work together.

Right now, all the chapters know of the existence of other chapter. Chapter presidents have phone calls with other chapter presidents in order to learn from one another. Globemedders attend Hilltops, GROW Training’s, and Summit in order to meet each other in person and to learn from experts in the field. While this is a form of networking, many of these connections have not yet resulted in tangible change.

One of the greatest assets that Globemed brings to the global health movement is the potential to be a network. As students, we don’t have all the knowledge about health interventions. We do not have as much experience as experts, or our partner, which is why we don’t presume to know the answer to every problem. Our partners are the best suited to make a difference in their communities, not us. What we can bring however, is a connection to a much larger network. As college students, we have access to a breadth of different connections ranging from school officers and professors to family members.

Lets say that one globemed member has connections to 5 different resources that can be of value both internally and externally (a potential donor, knowledge of sanitation interventions from class, a professor who works with bed nets, experience with web design, etc…). This one person is connected to the 30 members of their chapter, each of whom has another 5 connections. Now lets say that this chapter’s connections are made available to 50 other globemed chapters in the country, all with their own connections.
With some simple multiplication, that means that a single chapter can connect their partner to 7,500 different resources that may be of use to them. We just need to connect with one another.

In order for the movement towards global health equity to become successful, we need to find a way to take advantage of this multitude of connections. We need to go beyond talking about being a network, to actually being a network that can share resources to one another.

The Tufts chapter is committing itself to this end. Check back soon for the start of new initiatives to make this happen.