Week 6-8: Reflection on What I’ve Learned so far

Hi Everyone,

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“Men and Nature must work hand in hand. The throwing out of balance of the resources of nature throws out of balance also the lives of men.”– FDR
Chillin' wit FDR
Chillin’ wit FDR

It has been some time since my last post and I have plenty to tell. My work and time-off are providing a wealth of information for my research and personal knowledge. From taking a trip to George Washington’s estate, finding new places around the city of D.C., and reviewing more articles for my thesis, the last 3 weeks have been full of new understanding and enlightenment.

During week 6, I was able to take a trip to Mt. Vernon, Virginia to visit the estate of George Washington. Planning how to travel to this location was very challenging and my initial apprehension to use public transportation had prevented me from taking the trip earlier this summer. I was required to take the metro all the way to the end of the line and then take a bus to the estate. It was my first time using the bus system and I had no experience in how they operated. After finding the bus I would need to take and what time it would arrive, I felt much more confidant to make the journey out there.

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G. Washington's
G. Washington’s “Dung Repository”
G. Washington's 16-sided barn
G. Washington’s 16-sided barn

Once at the estate, I was able to spend all day walking around George Washington’s property. There I was able to learn a great deal about the accomplishments of the country’s first president. Aside from the obvious political actions of Mr. Washington that are mentioned in almost every American history book, I was surprised to learn how inventive and influential the founding father was in agriculture. At his estate, I learned that his farm was one of the first of its kind to compost manure and vegetation waste to produce fertilizer. He had designed a 16-sided barn that could dry and separate wheat from the stalk more effectively. Mr. Washington estate had methods of powerless refrigeration by storing ice underground during the summer. The founding father was also very adamant in breeding mules because they were more efficient work animals than horses or donkeys. It was a great learning experience and I was able to better appreciate the full extent of his influence on the culture, business, and politics for United States of America.

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Composting in Columbia Heights
Washington D.C.- Designed by Pierre L'Enfant
Washington D.C.- Designed by Pierre L’Enfant

During week 7, I took a trip to other areas in D.C. and had heard great things about the Columbia Heights Area. While walking around the neighborhood, I managed to find a very organized community garden that was equipped with composting piles and an apiary (where bees are kept). I was amazed to see how well the garden was managed and the variety of it was growing. The plots were either marked as private or shared to show where people could pick fresh produce. The garden was also located near a playground and park, where residents could be active and appreciate nature.

While researching the importance of urban planning and human health, I found that areas such as these are essential for keeping a community connected and healthy. It acts as a “third place” where people can meet, share ideas, reduce stress, stay active, and produce healthy foods locally. My research in urban planning also highlighted other ways in which D.C. is able to promote healthy living through active transportation. The research showed that grid-style street organization, diversity in residential and commercial land use, and the access to safe pathways are just some the factors that encourage the use of active transportation. Unlike recreational activity, active transport is a form of physical activity that the majority of working individuals can perform to reduce the health risks associated with inactivity. It is also important that a city invest in these forms of transportation because they reduce traffic congestions and pollution. All of these factors are found in D.C. and from my experience I can better appreciate the need for urban planning to create built environments that promote happy and healthy habits.

Week 8 was mostly spent celebrating the 4th of July. Through out the whole week, the city had multiple events to entertain those staying and visiting D.C. For the actual celebration, I was able to get access to the stairs of the Capital building from my roommates that intern for the House of Representatives and see the fireworks. It was a surreal experience because with the added security the stairs are only accessible to the public on the fourth and during inaugurations. Having access was a once in a lifetime opportunity and couldn’t ask for a better place to celebrate the birth of my country.

With only a few more weeks left of my internship, I am avidly working on finishing my research and visiting more areas around D.C. Time has passed by quickly and I have yet to have a dull moment while being here, so there has been little time to be home sick or lethargic. With that being said, I am looking forward to coming back to Tampa to share what I have learned but still have much more work to accomplish while I am here. Now that I am in the final stretch of my internship, I am excited to better define the connection between sustainability and public health from the surplus of information and experiences I have gained here.

Jared Huffman

Week 4&5- Getting Work Done, Meeting Old Friends, and Making New Ones

Hi Everyone,

I usually try to sit down on Wednesdays to write my blog posts, but these last two weeks have been very busy. I just finished creating fact-sheet brochures for PAHO’s NCD Caribbean meeting last week (Week 4). It was very time intensive to create over 20 different files for each country, so I had to stay past 8pm for the few days that week. I don’t really mind staying at the office later though, because I get to go home after rush hour and really enjoyed in helping finish these important projects.

While working on this project, I was also able to meet people from other offices within the PAHO/WHO building. I found out that the offices near mine, on the opposite side of the building, actually deal with sustainability issues. From what I have gathered, there are at least two different sub-departments within these offices that deal with environmental issues and consumer’s health. It is amazing to find out that people are actually working on topics that pertain to my thesis and that they work on the same floor as me. I have gotten in contact with a few of the supervisors from these offices and hope to gain more information on how PAHO/WHO are participating in sustainability efforts.

Aside from work, I have been able to explore a bit more of the city. I found out that there is an indoor community pool close to where I live and that I’ve been walking past it almost every day without knowing. The pool is free and is a great, cheap way to stay active and I plan to be there often. I am also looking forward to exploring areas outside DC by taking the Metro to the furthest stops and plan to visit Mount Vernon in Virginia sometime soon.

Community Pool
Community Pool

Last weekend I was able to meet up with Adit Patel, who was in DC with other interns from the Department of Energy to visit its headquarters. I had an opportunity to show him around the city and had a great time meeting all of his fellow co-workers. If anyone else plans to visit DC this summer please feel free to contact me, so we can catch up and preserve our community at PCGS.

PCGS--Unstoppable
PCGS–Unstoppable

This week (Week 5) I was given a new project in assisting PAHO/WHO in organizing and updating its STEPwise survey methods, which are used to measure specific NCD risk factors for each country. My objective is to convert the .pdf survey into an excel file that can then be transferred to a pivot table in Access. Access provided the means of obtaining large amounts of information digitally, which will make the process of updating and distributing the surveys easier. During this project I was also able to find articles in how other countries have used the WHO’s STEPwise methodology to collect and analyze statistical data on various NCD. Although I had to brush up on my statistic knowledge, the information is very critical in finding correlation between NCDs and other factors, such as level of income, rural vs. urban residents, and other demographic information.

Another reason why I have been unable to post this week is because of Jazz Festival this month. DC holds free jazz concerts at the Kennedy Center every other day. The center is only a few block from where I work, so I’ve been attending every concert possible. The city also hold other jazz event in other neighborhoods and have been able to explore more places within the city. I have been able to go with other interns that live within my apartment building that work for various Representatives and Senators, other public health organization, and even a few interns that work in the art museums. Its a great way to network with other future professionals and have been able to make very good friend along the way.

Kennedy Center- Jazz Concert
Kennedy Center- Jazz Concert

Jared Huffman

Week 3 in DC: Sustainability in the City

Hi everyone,

So another week has gone by at my internship and beside receiving a few more projects to help work on for this Caribbean Public Health meeting, everything has been relatively the same. Which is good because I’ve been able to finally look around a notice other things going on in the city besides my internship.

Looking around the city for the past three weeks, I have noticed some ways in which the area has tried to improve its “green” image. If you go shopping in DC, besides expecting to pay 3 dollars more than what you should for things, there is also a 10 cent charge for each plastic bag you use. Make sure you remember those reusable bags. The bike sharing program is also a great addition to the city’s transportation system and makes things really easy to get around. The bike sharing system also reduces traffic congestion, increases public activity, and reduces emissions. There are apps that will point you to the nearest bike port and you can see how many bikes are there. It is a simple and cost effective way to get around and commute.

Many cabs in the DC area are electric hybrids (Usually priuses), which is an excellent way to reduce emissions as well as cab fares, which aren’t too horrible surprisingly. I have seen a few signs that are sponsored by a DC water management organization that is very similar to SFWMD. They are helping in the construction of improved stormwater systems along the city to help reduce the amount of stormwater pollution. I also managed to spot a huge community garden located a few blocks from where I live. In the garden are separate plots that each individual of the community is responsible for. I saw a variety of vegetables and fruits within each plot, providing fresh produce.

I wish I had pictures but it is non-stop here.

Jared Huffman

Week 2 in DC- Time to Start Working

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Well after a week of confusions and not really knowing what I was doing, I finally settled in and began working on multiple projects for the PAHO/WHO. As a native English speaker, I was given the responsibility of proofreading documents that will be presented to the Caribbean Coalition in June. I also helped in formatting graphs that will be presented during these meetings and created a long list of publication links that will allow each representative to reference PAHO/WHO information before the discussions. I am currently reading over the economic impact of Noncommunicable Diseases (NCD) in the hopes to convince representatives of the importance of funding more NCD mitigation efforts. After I prepare those slides I will then be using my Adobe Indesign skills I obtained from a random computer classes in Highschool to create pamphlets that will provide quick statistical references of NCD mortality for each Caribbean country.

With all of these projects piling-up, there is no longer time to be bored at the office and ask if there is anything I could help with, which makes the work day go by alot faster. To cope with a busy and stressful day, I decided to be productive and bought a gym membership near my apartment. I am also constantly walking wherever I go and the bike sharing system in DC is really convenient, so I’ve been staying on the move. Which is essential, since I am studying ways to prevent NCDs and convince people to live a healthier lifestyle. (Got to practice what you preach.)

All my food for the week.
All my food for the week.

During the weekend I was also able to stop by the local farmers market during their last hours when they sell off their produce at a discount so they don’t have to transport unsold perishables back. I managed to pick up bags of vegetables and fruits for a steal. Sinces things like meat, milk, and cheeses are so expensive here in the city, I’ve actually been following a “not-so-strict” vegan diet. I still can’t resist getting a cheap hotdog at a street vendor on my way back from work, but my general diet has been slowly improving.

Thats pretty much it for this week. Got to get back and read through public health material for my presentation deadline tomorrow. Cheers!

Week 1 in DC- Living in the City

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—-Being a tourist with all the crazy, middle-school, field-trip kids.

After a week of walking around Washington D.C. and getting constantly lost, I think I have finally got my bearings in this city. Growing up in the suburbs of Florida, the city life is certain something else. Fortunately I was able to arrive a few days before my internship to get accustomed to everything and of course enjoying all the sights of the capitol. My apartment is located near the Capitol Building, which is a really nice-old part of town. I live near the Eastern Marketplace, where “local” farmers from West Virginia and Amish communities, sell fresh produce on Tuesdays and weekends. Having these vendors are crucial to my diet because eating out in D.C. really adds up, so its good to get some fresh and cheap produce.

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PAHO/WHO Building (A.K.A- My home from 9-5)

My internship is the typical 9 to 5 schedule in a cubicle and in front of a computer. Not the most glamorous or romantic work but working for a public health organization does have its perks. The atmosphere is very laid back to reduce stress and hypertension. My office also has a great cafeteria that serves the best Latin American food for a fraction of the price. My commute isn’t too bad either once I figured out how the metro train works.

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First day of work…

I work for the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/ World Health Organization (WHO) in the department of Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs). The organization is responsible for assisting developing countries in improving its health care infrastructure and collect important health information. I am currently helping my department with re-organizing multiple documents into one coherent report. Later, I will be assisting in drafting another NCD report for 2015. Organizing this information is critical for creating future strategic plan, political policy, and of course taking action. The progress of these actions need to be measured and analyzed so that further plans can be funded.

Taking the Metro
Taking the Metro

With all that, it has been a really awesome but busy week. Im looking forward to what next week has to offer and will hopefully settle into everything.