Category: Uncategorized

Blog Post #4 for LIBR 281: April is Tsunami Awareness Month in Hawaii

Having lived on Kauai for two years as a travel nurse, I am familiar with a lurking anxiousness that results from the constant threat of a tsunami, compounded with the inability to run far, far away from that tsunami…  Kauai is part of the Hawaiian Islands, which record one tsunami per year and one damaging tsunami every seven years (Pacific Disaster Center).  Hawaiian tsunamis have accounted for more lost lives than all other local disasters (e.g., flooding, hurricanes, and earthquakes) combined.  Residents and visitors of the very isolated Hawaiian Islands are tsunami sitting ducks; it is imperative that they know when a tsunami is imminent so that they may evacuate to higher ground and wait for further information.

The last major Hawaiian tsunami threat came on October 27.  Over 100,000 people were forced to evacuate inundation zones after a 7.7-magnitude earthquake off the coast of Canada sent the tsunami warning into effect.  My dear friend Emily was surfing off the coast of Kauai when the warning sirens sounded.  In an attempt to reach higher ground, she became stuck in traffic with hundreds of other evacuees.  She sat in her car for two hours, until the radio announced that the tsunami threat had subsided.  Small tsunami waves were recorded across Hawaii; fortunately, there were no reports of major damage or injuries.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association alerts Hawaiian residents and visitors of impending tsunami waves from its Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) in Ewa Beach, Oahu.  The PTWC was established in 1949, following the 1946 Aleutian Island earthquake and a tsunami that killed 165 people in Hawaii and Alaska.  The Center maintains a Facebook page, Twitter account, and blog.  In the event of a tsunami, these social media sites are updated with warnings.  The PTWC also features multiple lines of alert communications (e.g., SMS, e-mail, fax, radio, texting), enabling emergency messages to be sent to the Emergency Alert System, emergency services, and armed forces.  What’s more, the Center sounds a population-alerting siren in the event of a tsunami warning – the same siren that Emily and all of Hawaii heard on the evening of October 27.

I am less anxious now that I am far away from the Hawaiian coastline… and as long as the PTWC continues to sound its siren to protect my Hawaiian friends.

Blog Post #3 for LIBR 281: FGM and Global Health Informatics

 

HIFA2015 Coordinator and Co-Director of the Global Healthcare Information Network Neil Pakenham-Walsh, and New York Law School professor Molly Lund, recently wrote a blog post in which they state, “Access to information is critical for the protection of a variety of international human rights, particularly the right to health.”  This human rights statement is very dear to my heart, having recently read Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide and becoming interested in the movement to abolish female genital mutilation (FGM).  Edna Edan most inspired me as one of Half the Sky’s key figures: she fights to end the practice of FGM in Somalia and throughout the world.

FGM is commonly called female circumcision or female genital cutting.  The World Health Organization (2013) defines FGM as “any procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”  FGM is practiced largely as a cultural or religious act to preserve a girl’s virginity and to ensure her fidelity during marriage.  It is practiced in more than 20 countries throughout Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.  In those countries, FGM prevalence rates range from 5-99% of the female population.  An estimated 130 million women and girls (most of them between 5 and 10 years-old) have been subjected to some form of FGM; two million more will experience FGM each year (WHO, 2013).

FGM results in many health- and life-threatening complications (e.g. hemorrhage, severe and recurrent infections, hepatitis, HIV, retention of urine, infertility, obstructed birth, etc.).  It can affect the psychological wellbeing of the women and children on which it is performed.  In countries where large numbers of women undergo FGM, the resulting medical complications place a huge strain on health systems.

Activists like Edna Edan are working to enhance individual and population health outcomes by abolishing the harmful act of FGM.  Major actors in the fight against FGM include global organizations like OHCHR, UNAIDS, UNDP, UNECA, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNIFEM, and WHO.  As early as 1979, the WHO recommended that FGM be eradicated.  Since then, the WHO has created several publications to spread health knowledge and to promote the elimination of FGM.

Edna Edan, herself, has employed a Website and Facebook page to spread knowledge of FGM and to encourage its abolition.  Other steps to abolish FGM include sensitizing front line health professionals via One Voice Training and database record keeping to track eradication progress; sensitizing the community through school curriculums and trainings for mothers and influential businesses; and using various forms of media (boards, pamphlets, videos, and CDs, blogs, etc.) to establish permanent informatics.

Dr. Neil Pakenham-Walsh’s HIFA2015 Website states, “Governments have a legal obligation to make healthcare knowledge available to health workers and citizens.”  I agree that the responsibility to eradicate FGM lies with many players and informatics platforms.  Accountability, however, rests with government.  Might we consider better implementation of health informatics to sway the governments of countries where FGM is still practiced?

Bibliography:

Edna Edan Maternity Hospital (2013). Female genital mutilation. Retrieved from http://www.ednahospital.org/hospital-mission/female-genital-mutilation.

World Health Organization (2013). Female genital mutilation (FGM). Retrieved from http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/fgm/en/index.html

Blog Post #2 for LIBR 281

MY BOUT WITH NOROVIRUS

I came down with an embarrassing and debilitating case of gastroenteritis last weekend thanks (most likely) to norovirus, “the perfect human pathogen”.  I was sitting in the cinema, watching Zero Dark Thirty, when a wave of nausea swept over me.  I just barely made it to the hallway garbage can… then proceeded to puke up dinner.  Onlookers gawked in disgust.  One kind old woman yelled, “Yuck!  I’ll get a janitor.”  I spent the rest of the evening sitting on/huddling over the toilet.

It wasn’t until yesterday –FIVE DAYS after my movie theater episode– that I finally began to feel alive again.  I became conscious of our LIBR 281 course and became particularly interested in the dissemination of health information as it may help those afflicted with norovirus.

PUBLIC INFORMATION NEEDS AND NOROVIRUS ILLNESS SURVEILLANCE

It is no secret that norovirus is sweeping through the U.S. and the world; many people learn about the epidemic through conversations with friends/family, posts and tweets on social media sites, or stories in the news.  As I found, however, the information disseminated through those actors and agencies is not as detailed as one actually needs once the virus strikes…  For instance, some of the questions I needed answered included:

  1. What are the norovirus symptoms?  How severe are they?  How long do they last?
  2. How does the virus spread?  How might contamination be prevented?
  3. Is there treatment for norovirus?  Symptom relief?
  4. What steps should one take to avoid infecting others?  For how long should those steps be followed?

I googled “norovirus” and linked to the resulting WebMD and CDC sites to find answers to my questions.  I was most surprised to read CDC’s Reporting and Surveillance for Norovirus page.  I learned that, despite existing electronic laboratory surveillance and reporting systems (NORS and CaliciNet), state and local health departments rarely report individual cases of norovirus illness.  This is just one of many factors contributing to the inexact estimates of norovirus incidence.  Also, most hospitals and health clinics do not have capability to test for norovirus, even if patients do seek medical treatment.

Blog Post #1 for LIBR 281

 

Last week, as President Obama was sworn into his second term, he spoke to the nation and the world.  His inaugural address was laden with concern: quite specifically, the president is preoccupied with global warming.  He may have been alerted to our overcrowded, polluted, and baking world, from Al Gore’s 2006 horror film documentary, An Inconvenient TruthPerhaps he has known of the global warming crisis since it was reported by scientists in the 1980s.  Nevertheless, the related natural disaster events of 2012 (e.g., Hurricane Sandy, dried-up Midwest corn fields, raging Colorado wildfires, etc.) assuredly fueled his eminent concern.

Within this first month of 2013, NASA satellites over Australia have already detected the hottest temperatures on record.  And a recent report from World Bank warns of the drastic outcomes from a four-degree (Celsius) increase in worldwide temperatures –an increase that is projected by 2060, unless carbon emissions are radically reduced:

The 4°C scenarios are devastating: the inundation of coastal cities; increasing risks for food production potentially leading to higher malnutrition rates; many dry regions becoming dryer, wet regions wetter; unprecedented heat waves in many regions, especially in the tropics; substantially exacerbated water scarcity in many regions; increased frequency of high-intensity tropical cyclones; and irreversible loss of biodiversity, including coral reef systems.

 

Current and future global warming scenarios seem to be glorified and compounded by diverse and abundant reporting agencies.  Which agencies are right?  Which agencies offer the most up-to-date, helpful information?  I, for one, feel besieged by global warming information overload.  But I agree with Obama, that the time to act is NOW; failing to confront global warming immediately and aggressively would be a “betrayal of future generations.”

We are in the throws of the global warming response stage and, thus, our information needs are changed: we need overarching global warming solutions rather than hyped disaster stories.  Agencies must emphasize reactive and proactive steps: encourage people to calculate their carbon footprints, and then teach them ways to reduce those footprints; encourage them to sign the Climate Reality Pledge and to otherwise get involved with private, state, and government efforts.  I ask that the news and media stop overloading.  Recognize changing information needs.  Stop scaring and start caring!

Online Learning and Teamwork: Keys to SLIS Success

 

Virtual learning fits me.  I do not, however, discount the reflections from SLIS students that forewarn of the copious readings required for online classes.  Moreover, the lack of “human” communication online – the misunderstandings, hurt feelings, or competing agendas that may result from delayed/asynchronous feedback or missing physical cues like body language and tone of voice – is somewhat worrying to me.

The Working in Teams presentation by SLIS colloquium speaker Dr. Ken Haycock, analyzes the progressive stages of online teamwork; the Storming Stage includes misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and competing agendas as mentioned above.  Dr. Haycock teaches that a team leader and team members must progress through the Storming Stage, and through each of three other stages, in order to produce a winning product.  I will remember to apply these stages to SLIS teamwork:

  1. Forming Stage – establish ground rules and team roles
  2. Storming Stage – bear unavoidable conflict, blame, and disillusionment
  3. Norming Stage – overcome the Storming Stage with positive behaviors and constructive criticisms
  4. Performing Stage – produce the final product

The Monster Inside Library School: Student Teams is an apt presentation by Enid Irwin.  At the beginning of the presentation, Enid suggests that our careers begin when we start our first SLIS class.  Our studies – and predominantly, our teamwork – will prepare us for the rest of our professional lives!

Portland is for Book Lovers

Portland, Oregon has too many curl-up-with-a-good-book rainy days and it is home to a deep pool of oddballs.  Accordingly, the city has a unique bibliophilistic awesomeness.  Here are some of its best attributes:

Multnomah County Library

Roughly 35,000 patrons utilize the Multnomah County Library each day.  It is one of the busiest library systems in the nation.  It ranks second in terms of circulation — only the New York Public Library circulates more items!

Portlanders value their libraries.  This is further evidenced by the whopping 82 percent of voters who upheld the Multnomah County Library levy last May; their votes afford ongoing funding in these times of economic struggle and public library endangerment.

Washington County Cooperative Library Services

Washington County encompasses the West side of Portland and has an amazing library system of its own vein.  Its library branches serve several outlying neighborhoods and towns, like Bethany and North Plains.

The North Plains Public Library, where I volunteer each week, outgrew a gym closet eight years ago and has become the hub of its tiny farm community.  Here, your library card is rarely scanned because everyone knows your name; the town sheriff leads storytime; and bake sale profits and donations from little old Library Craft Club ladies provide the lion’s share of funding.

Independent Book Stores

Portland boasts over 140 independent and one-of-a-kind book stores.  Powell’s is the most famous of these.  It is larger, both in breadth and scope, than any other independent book store in the world.

Conversely, the feminist book store, In Other Words, is rather infamous for its role as Women & Women First on the indie show Portlandia.

Original Literary Happenings

The metropolitan area is loaded with book events, book groups, and a Wordstock Festival.  Portlanders have a particularly strong appreciation for readings by local authors*.

*Shameless plug: check out this upcoming Preschool Gems Reading by my former high school classmate, Leslie McCollom.

Even Portland’s most upscale downtown hotel is in the spirit of liteRACY!  As a setting for some X-rated passages in E.L. James’ book, Fifty Shades of Grey, the Heathman Hotel now profits from guests who reserve book-themed room packages.  Fox 12 News reports these juicy details.

 

So, do you want to hear Leslie poke fun at preschoolers?  Would you like to experience the lavish Fifty Shades lifestyle?  Are you looking for a store that sells new age spirituality books, political zines, or alternative comics?  Perhaps you prefer to browse the collection at your quaint neighborhood library…  Whatever your quirks and desires, you will find your literary niche in Portland.