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Taking Time to Refresh and Renew at the Global Health Mini-University
Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the Annual Global Health Mini-University in Washington, DC. I attended to learn more about programs involving adolescent girls and gain knowledge about a number of current global health issues.
Sponsored by USAID and the George Washington University Center for Global Health, the Mini-University is a daylong forum geared toward people working in international health-related fields. The workshops explore recent developments on issues like family planning, HIV/AIDS, health systems, and reproductive health. The event provided me with the opportunity to learn about the most up-to-date research and best practices, as well as meet and learn from my colleagues in the field.
Attending the Mini-University was an invaluable experience. It was great to hear honest accounts of the challenges and successes that people are experiencing in various projects and programs. Their stories reminded me of the reasons I got involved in this work.
While I enjoy reading journal articles and stories in the news, I feel that receiving information about the more personal experiences people have in the field better reflects the immediate realities of the places in which I work. The field changes so quickly and sometimes in ways we can't anticipate, like the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Talking to practitioners, advocates, and policymakers at the Mini-University helped to bring together different strands of my work to have a positive impact on the lives of vulnerable girls in Haiti.
One of the presentations I enjoyed the most was an overview of Emergency Contraception that was given by Elizabeth Westley, the Coordinator of the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception. I left the panel discussion with a more comprehensive understanding and a more informed perspective about emergency contraception. Westley and the other panelists also provided helpful tools to assist with further exploration of the topic.
The Mini-University is also valuable because it focuses on evidence-based practice. Evidence–based practice involves making decisions about the best approach to take in by integrating research about the impact of an intervention with practitioner expertise and the values and preferences of the people who will be affected. This was a major recurring theme throughout the event and was a featured part of every panel I attended. I left the conference with a feeling of refreshment and renewal, and no less than a million ideas about how to push forward the work that IPPF/WHR is doing in Haiti.