Communications intern position open at GHI

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The Global Health Institute is looking for a communications intern who is savvy in social media and has the skills to perform other communications duties.

The intern works directly with the GHI communications manager and GHI’s administrator on a variety of tasks, including website posts, social media outreach, infographics, news writing, newsletter creation and other tasks as assigned.

Apply by August 18, 2017.

Responsibilities:

  • Take a lead role in the planning and execution of a social media platform (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Vimeo)
  • Assist with website, including posting new content and making existing content more user friendly
  • Take a lead role in producing the weekly Events+ newsletter; assist with e-newsletter and annual report
  • Write and edit content, including news stories, feature articles, news releases and development and website materials
  • Perform administrative services such as word processing, proofreading, fact checking, organizing photo files, preparing information for distribution, creating graphics, etc.
  • Work at GHI events through set-up, cleanup and assistance throughout the event
  • Other ad hoc projects assigned by communications or administration that ensure that GHI communications run smoothly

Qualifications:

  • Excellent communication skills, especially listening, writing, editing and design capabilities
  • Hands on experience with social media, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn
  • Must be graduating no sooner than May 2018
  • Ideally, be able to work starting in late August/ September start date possible
  • Preferred: global health/ environmental health students with experience in Journalism and/or Mass Communications/Life Sciences Communication
  • Hands on experience with a variety of electronic tools including MailChimp, Adobe Creative Suite (InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator), Microsoft Office, WordPress
  • Working knowledge of AP style
  • Demonstrated ability to work independently within deadlines
  • Curiosity and enthusiasm for global health and GHI, and a desire to share the mission and vision to attract support for the Institute

Other Details:

  • Wage: $10.00 per hour
  • 10-12 hours per week depending on workload and class schedule. Most hours will be spent at the Medical Sciences Center office. More hours may be available during the summer.

How to apply:

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Research by GHI Associate Director Tony Goldberg Reveals Relationship Between a Virus, a Parasite and an African Bat.

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If there is anything scientists are certain of when it comes to bats and their supposed role in causing human disease, it is that they still have a lot to learn.

Aside from well-established things like rabies virus, SARS coronavirus (the virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome) and Marburg virus (an extremely dangerous but rare hemorrhagic fever pathogen), bats appear to carry a plethora of other germs with unclear effects, if any, on human health.

And even some commonly believed bat paradigms may be incorrect. For example, some speculate that bats play a role in the transmission of Ebola simply because Ebola and Marburg are related pathogens. But scientific evidence to support such speculation is scant, at best.

A lack of evidence that bats are key reservoirs of human disease has not prevented their vilification or efforts to exterminate bat colonies where threats are presumed to lurk.

“The fact is that they provide important ecosystem services – insect control, pollination and seed dispersal, to name a few – and we want them around,” says Tony Goldberg, a University of Wisconsin-Madison epidemiologist and virus hunter. “But bats are also increasingly acknowledged as hosts of medically significant viruses. I have mixed feelings about that.”

To better understand the dynamics of bats and potential threats to human health, Goldberg and his colleagues explored the relationship of an African forest bat, a novel virus and a parasite. Their work, described in a report published July 13 in Nature Scientific Reports, identifies all three players as potentially new species, at least at the molecular level as determined by their genetic sequences.

Many viral pathogens often have more than one or two hosts or intermediate hosts needed to complete their life cycles. The role of bat parasites in maintaining chains of viral infection is little studied, and the new Wisconsin study serves up some intriguing insights into how viruses co-opt parasites to help do the dirty work of disease transmission.

The parasite in the current study is an eyeless, wingless fly, technically an ectoparasite. It depends on the bat to be both its eyes and wings. And it plays host to a virus, as the current study shows. For the virus, the fly plays the role of chauffeur. “From a virus’s perspective, an ectoparasite is like Uber. It’s a great way to get around – from animal to animal – at minimal expense and effort,” Goldberg explains.

The bat in the study belongs to the megabat suborder. It is a fruit bat and was trapped, tested and released by Goldberg’s colleague and study co-author Robert Kityo of Uganda’s Makerere University in Kampala.

The bat fly, according to the new study, was infected with a newly discovered rhabdovirus dubbed Kanyawara virus, a distant relative of the rabies virus. “These things were chock-full of the virus,” says Goldberg, a professor of pathobiological sciences at UW-Madison’s School of Veterinary Medicine. That said, he adds that “we don’t know if this virus is transmitted beyond the ectoparasite. We couldn’t find it in the bat. Maybe it is an insect virus.”

However, it is well known that ectoparasites transmit disease, says the Wisconsin epidemiologist, noting that things like ticks and fleas harbor important pathogens like typhus, bubonic plague, Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

“Bat flies bite people if given the chance,” Goldberg says of the parasite, which he described as “shockingly large, leggy and fast – a parasite from hell.”

The report published this week notes that rare cases of human infection with bat-associated viruses remain enigmatic. The study cites the 1969 case of a British dockworker bitten by an unknown insect while unloading peanuts from Nigeria, and who was subsequently infected by Le Dantec virus, a relative of the virus Goldberg and his colleagues found in abundance in the bat flies they sampled. “Was the dockworker bitten by a bat fly? We’ll never know.”

The subtext of the research, according to Goldberg, is Ebola and the ecology of disease. Scientists are beginning to understand that serious pathogens like Ebola and SARS don’t come out of nowhere. They are already lurking in the environment, and the leap from an animal to a human can be just a matter of time and an organism’s ability to shift from one host to another.

“The big picture relevance of the research is that if we’re going to understand the diversity of viruses in the world, we need to look in unusual places,” Goldberg says. “We have a lot to learn about the basic distribution of species on the planet.”

By Terry Devitt, UW-Madison/ July 13, 2017

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Bringing satellites to users can improve public health and safety

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The newest Earth-observing satellites deployed by NASA and other agencies around the world are streaming back information about air pollution in nearly real time. (NASA Worldview Image courtesy of HAQAST.)

This story appeared first at wisc.edu.

The drumbeat calling scientists to share their work with the public is as loud as ever, and Tracey Holloway is happy to answer. It’s just that education isn’t exactly what she’s offering.

She’s got satellites.

“We have hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of data from satellites that have been up in space for over 10 years,” says Holloway, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and member of the GHI Advisory Committee. “And we know people have problems they want to solve. And we want to know how we can help.”

Holloway leads a group of 13 researchers drawn together as NASA’s Health and Air Quality Applied Sciences Team (HAQAST) who are trying to step outside their community of atmospheric scientists and satellite experts to provide space-based tools to relative laypeople — and to put those new users in a position to shape the way satellite data is collected and used.

“We have hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of data from satellites that have been up in space for over 10 years,” says Tracey Holloway. “And we know people have problems they want to solve. And we want to know how we can help.” (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy.)

Holloway presented HAQAST’s brand of public engagement here Feb. 16 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“The traditional model of science outreach moves in one direction: scientists disseminating information,” says Holloway. “What’s unusual about our experience with HAQAST is that we’re building a two-way dialogue to move the research along and to make sure that the research is addressing questions of social value.”

The newest Earth-observing satellites deployed by NASA and other agencies around the world are streaming back information about the air we breathe in nearly real time, and with coverage that dwarfs ground-based sensors. They can see atmospheric pollutants like nitrogen dioxide — NO2, a lung irritant that also forms the problematic greenhouse gas ozone — and dust and smoke from storms and fires.

“A big question is how air quality is changing in areas where we don’t have ground monitors,” says Holloway. “States in the Western U.S. may only have one or two monitors, and only in major cities. But there are two instruments in space that can see NO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, and they see the whole world once a day.”

That could be a boon for lawyers, urban planners and doctors tasked with air pollution management and public health decisions trying to track air quality shifts in rural and even suburban areas. But while the satellites take in all the Earth in 24 hours, it can be tough for potential data customers to keep track of cutting-edge science.

“What’s unusual about our experience with HAQAST is that we’re building a two-way dialogue to move the research along and to make sure that the research is addressing questions of social value.”

“The mission for these folks is to do their job — to keep the air clean, to develop good policies, to protect public health, to understand the problem so they can solve it,” says Holloway. “We don’t want to expect them to read our scientific journals, trying to figure out how to use novel data sources in new ways.”

HAQAST is. And their brand of public outreach involves special issues of industry magazines, visits to meetings of professional organizations and state consortiums, social media, and visits with individual agencies and small groups in an effort to remove any and all barriers.

“A lot of people have no idea where the front door is: ‘Can you just call up a scientist?’“ says Holloway. “And they really don’t know if you can ask a scientist to get something you need. We want those questions.”

Planning a new satellite and shooting it into orbit is not a casual enterprise. It takes years, presents hard decisions about which capabilities are worth adding or subtracting, and requires a commitment from researchers like Holloway to interpret — and find new ways to use — the resulting data. NASA’s HAQAST effort helps identify data that users will value, and how to make the best use of the instruments that are already up in space.

“I’m promoting super high-value data that’s readily available online, but I also want those users to help guide our next research questions,” Holloway says. “It takes time to go from a good idea to a published research study — or another instrument in space. Nobody should have to wait 10 years to know how to use data from new-generation satellites.”

“Science is about having good ideas and fresh perspectives to solve problems. It’s hard to do that if you don’t expose yourself to new people and different viewpoints.”

Input from fire chiefs may help NASA provide real-time tracking of smoke plumes from wildfires, and meetings with air quality workers in Maricopa County, Arizona, sparked work by one of Holloway’s graduate students to sharpen the way satellite measurements of formaldehyde in the air are used to track pollutants that can cause smog, make people sick and contribute to climate change.

Stepping outside their usual scientific circles puts the HAQAST members in touch with people who may know plenty about air quality, but from the perspective of a business or policy-maker or doctor or community group, according to Holloway.

“Those members of the public deserve more credit for what their expertise can contribute to the scientific enterprise,” she says. “Science is about having good ideas and fresh perspectives to solve problems. It’s hard to do that if you don’t expose yourself to new people and different viewpoints.”

By Chris Barncard, University Communications/ February 16, 2017

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UW students lead comprehensive study on poverty in southern Wisconsin

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This story was posted first on the Morgridge Center for Public Service website.

Swetha Saseedhar spent a large part of the last year talking with dozens of people in southern Wisconsin struggling against poverty. And as she listened intently, her mind also went to her own family’s story half a world away.

The UW-Madison senior is an immigrant from India. Before coming to America, Saseedhar says her parents and grandparents all lived in a one-bedroom home as they worked to make ends meet—which sounded like many stories she was now hearing in southern Wisconsin.

Over the last 18 months, Saseedhar has been part of a team of UW-Madison students assembling a Community Needs Assessment for the Community Action Coalition (CAC) of Southern Wisconsin — a community action agency serving Dane, Jefferson and Waukesha counties. The team met with over 275 people in communities across the three counties to better understand economic struggles and what policy solutions might help.

But despite the many layers of difficulty Saseedhar and her team uncovered, she says just like her own family, she found that people refuse to give up.

“A lot of them talked about their stories of resilience,” said Saseedhar, a Biology, French and Global Health sudent. “That really sticks with me, because I’m an immigrant from India. And my family had been struggling economically until a few years ago, so that was a connection I have with them.”

Community action agencies are organizations established under the Economic Opportunity Act of of 1964 to fight America’s “War on Poverty.” Every three years, these organizations (about 1,000 across the country) are required to complete a community needs assessment.

UW-Madison senior Jarjeh Fang led the student team completing the CAC’s Community Needs Assessment. His junior year, he had sent an email to the CAC’s executive director asking if there were any volunteer opportunities. Fang, who’s studying Neurobiology and Political Science, got a response back that they had a needs assessment that needed to get done.

“And I said, that sounds gruesome and grueling,” said Fang. “I don’t have any background in community-based research, and this is really not something I have expertise in.” But he couldn’t shake the idea.

“A week later I came back and said, no, I’d really like I think to do this.”

Fang, Saseedhar, three other undergraduate students and two graduate students formed the assessment team. They set out to learn more about poverty in Dane, Jefferson and Waukesha counties. But they also knew they wanted the assessment to be more than a document on a shelf.

“We wanted to sort of push that a little bit,” said Fan. “Try to do something with it.”

So Fang and Saseedhar applied for and were awarded a Wisconsin Idea Fellowshipby the Morgridge Center for Public Service to support the development of an action plan based on the assessment’s findings.

“People share their stories with you with the expectation that things will change and that you’ll do something with it,” Fang said. “And when that doesn’t happen, the relationship becomes exploitative, and we wanted to avoid that.”

Before they could develop solutions though, they had to better understand the issues. The team drove across the three counties, holding 20 focus groups and asking people to share deeply personal stories about economic struggles.

“A lot of these people were really willing to help, and they cared a lot about their communities,” said Saseedhar. “And they shared these very personal stories with us and trusted us to use these stories to actually create change.”

Although poverty is down overall in Wisconsin since the end of the Great Recession, the poverty rate in Dane County still stands at 11.4%, in Jefferson County: 9.3% and in Waukesha County: 4.5%. And those numbers all represent thousands of real stories.

“They have a preconceived idea of who I am. They judge me with one glance… it holds you back,” a woman experiencing homelessness in Waukesha County told the group.

Many shared how poverty impacted their children and the time they were able to give to their children.

“All I do is work, but if I don’t work, we don’t make it. And there isn’t enough time for them,” confided one Dane County mother, through tears.

One man had recently found permanent housing, but now said her felt isolated from the community he had when homeless. His isolation, a common thread for many in the focus groups, had led to despair. The man said his dog was his only companion and once his dog died, he didn’t think he would have the will to keep living.

“On the car ride back, all of us sort of sat in silence because we didn’t really know what to do with that information,” said Fang, reflecting.

Findings

When focus group interviews concluded, the team used the qualitative data as well as additional quantitative data to put together a list of seven key findings on poverty in Dane, Jefferson and Waukesha Counties:

  1. Housing system favors landlords and tenants with higher incomes
  2. Participants face difficulty reaching jobs and community resources because of limited transportation options
  3. Those facing hardship are socially isolated and excluded from the broader community
  4. There’s a Lack of awareness or access to programs and services for which they are eligible
  5. Hardship has led to mental illness and substance abuse
  6. Low wages and insufficient work hours prevented people from making ends meet
  7. Children became the focus of nearly every conversation

But gathering information wasn’t enough. Fang says many participants let them know they felt like they only ever saw people asking about their lives once every three years; Many said they never saw solutions to their problems.

The team published a 62-page Community Needs Assessment that included a list of recommendations, a foundation for Fang and Saseedhar’s action plan. Recommended programs and policies include:

  • Peer-navigator groups
  • Establish year-round outreach efforts
  • Strengthen coordination and data-sharing between partners
  • Update CAC’s internal data collection
  • Continue CAC Clothing Center
  • Continue providing housing-related service

Using funding from their Wisconsin Idea Fellowship, Fang and Saseedhar are particularly interested in working with groups of community leaders to develop a model for peer navigator groups.

The cohort-based model supports people who have themselves experienced poverty to act as navigators for others facing similar difficulties. The navigators guide others through the often complicated systems, identify available programs and create a community of support.

Fang and Saseedhar also recently presented the assessment to US Senator Tammy Baldwin’s office.

The pair, who will both graduate this spring, say the assessment was both challenging and rewarding. And their hope is the effort of their team and the hundreds who shared their stories in focus groups can catalyze new solutions and policies.

“It was important for us to show that this wasn’t going to be just a one-time thing,” said Saseedhar. “That this research project was actually going to hopefully turn into a bigger project that would involve these communities.”

By Mark Bennett, Morgridge Center for Public Service/ February 15, 2017

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Livestream Climate & Health Meeting

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Join the conversation at #ClimateChangesHealth

Audiences in Wisconsin will be able to listen in when world experts explore the science, consequences and health opportunities of climate change at Thursday’s Climate & Health Meeting in Atlanta.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Global Health Institute (GHI) joins former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, the American Public Health Association (APHA), the Climate Reality Project, global health programs at the University of Washington and Harvard, and Howard Frumkin, former director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Environmental Health, to host the meeting that will be livestreamed beginning at 7 a.m. (CT), Thursday, February 16 with Gore’s opening keynote at 8:30.

 

The meeting provides a platform for the public health and climate communities to come together to find solutions. GHI Director Jonathan Patz, who has called climate change the biggest challenge – and opportunity — for human and planetary health, welcomes the conversation, and after Gore’s opening keynote, will moderate the opening panel, “Connecting Climate Change and Public Health: State of the Science.”

“Global climate change is one of the most pressing health crises of our time,” says Patz, the John Holton Chair in Health and the Environment with appointments in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and the Department of Population Health Sciences. “And it threatens to undermine many substantial health gains across the world. The APHA has declared 2017 the year of climate change and health, and this meeting marks the first in a series of events that will culminate at the annual APHA conference in November, which is anticipated to be a truly defining moment,” Patz says.

Gore, who is founder and chairman of the Climate Reality Project, was a prime mover in organizing the meeting at the nonprofit Carter Center in Atlanta. “Health professionals urgently need the very best science in order to protect the public, and climate science has increasingly critical implications for their day-to-day work,” he said in a press release. “With more and more hot days, which exacerbate the proliferation of the Zika virus and other public health threats, we cannot afford to waste any more time.” The one-day meeting replaces a three-day conference that was cancelled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The meeting comes as 2016, for the third consecutive year, set a heat record, and 16 of the 17 hottest years have occurred since 2001. Ninety-seven percent of the world’s climate scientists agree that climate change is linked to human activity, including the burning of fossil fuels and emission of greenhouse gases. Increasing temperatures, extreme weather and rising sea levels – all connected to climate change – are accelerating global health problems, from malnutrition to the transmission of disease.

For Patz, addressing climate change offers an unprecedented opportunity to benefit human health.  “Global health and the global climate are inseparable,” he says. “Moving toward greenhouse gas emissions policies can yield some of our greatest public health benefits, especially related to chronic diseases.” Patz’s research team at UW-Madison continues to build this evidence.

Brief schedule (CT):

8:30 a.m. Keynote Presentation: Vice President Al Gore, founder and chairman, The Climate Reality Project

9:15 a.m. Panel: Connecting Climate Change and Public Health: State of the Science, Moderator GHI Director Jonathan Patz

10:30 a.m. Special Keynote: Sir Andy Haines, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

11:05 a.m. Special Keynote: Laura Turner Seydel, The Turner Foundation, Mothers and Others for Clean Air

11:15 a.m. Special Keynote: Stephanie Benfield, Office of Sustainability, City of Atlanta

11:50 a.m. Panel: Protecting Public Health from Climate-Related Threats: Lessons From Across the Globe

1:15 p.m. Panel: Protecting Public Health From Climate Related threats: From Science to Practice in the United States

2:45 p.m. Panel: Communicating the Climate-Health Connection

3:45 p.m. Closing Remarks: Al Gore

Find full agenda details here.

By Ann Grauvogl/ February 14, 2017

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