Learning in Lusaka

Mia standing in front of SUN-LE banner
Mia at the Scaling Up Nutrition – Learning & Evaluation Office

Hello! It’s hard to believe that its already time to share a final update on my practicum experience. This summer I’ve been working with Scaling Up Nutrition – Learning and Evaluation (SUN-LE) and Dr. Stephanie Martin as a communications intern through the Gillings Zambia Hub. While I spent the first 7 weeks of my practicum working virtually, I also had the opportunity to spend the last 3 weeks in Lusaka, Zambia collaborating with colleagues in-person and sharing more about the projects I was working on.

When I checked in last, I had been making exciting progress on an evidence gap map of maternal and child nutrition research in Zambia and was looking forward to getting feedback from the team at SUN-LE. The process of editing and finalizing the evidence gap map has proven to be one that is both deeply iterative and sometimes challenging. Over the past two months we have worked as a team to significantly refine the information presented in the map. At times, as with many global and public health endeavors, this process required a degree of patience and flexibility. It was often an important reminder that the practicum experience provides opportunities to learn and grow beyond tangible skills. While this data visualization remains a work in progress, I was grateful to be a part of a team that was thinking so critically about the utility of this tool and am excited to continue being a part of finalizing the map.

Mia giving a presentation in a classroom setting.
Giving a presentation on the Evidence Gap Mapping process at the University of Zambia

In addition to working on the scoping review and data visualization components of the evidence gap map, being in Lusaka also provided the opportunity to share more about the tool and the process of generating the visualization. As a part of disseminating information about the map, I was able to deliver a presentation for students and staff at the University of Zambia (UNZA). It was a great opportunity to share my passion for this project and engage with an audience who was not only interested in the final product, but was also interested in learning more about the process of creating this type of data visualization. While much of the technical work may have been able to be completed virtually, being in-person at SUN-LE and UNZA was a welcome reminder of not only the importance of, but also the joy in, relationship building in global and public health collaborations. I hope that I can bring some additional intention to personal relationship building with mentors and colleagues as we continue to navigate a mix of in-person and virtual learning and collaboration.

Group of people standing outside during sunset.
Visiting Lower Zambezi National Park

I am so grateful to my preceptors Dr. Martin and Tulani Matenga as well as the team at SUN-LE and the Zambia Hub for facilitating opportunities for me to be involved in this project and offering their support and mentorship throughout the process!


Mapping the Gaps of Nutrition Research in Zambia

Mia kayaking on Jordan Lake
Mia kayaking on Jordan Lake

Hello! My name is Mia Haller, I’m an MPH student in the Global Health concentration here at Gillings. For my practicum, I am working with Dr. Stephanie Martin as a communications intern for Scaling Up Nutrition – Learning and Evaluation (SUN-LE) through the Gillings Zambia Hub.  SUN-LE is a USAID project tasked with providing survey, research, evaluation, and data-dissemination services to the Zambian government with the goal of improving nutrition outcomes in Zambia, primarily decreasing rates of under-five stunting.

Prior to coming to UNC, I spent two years working as the Global and Public Health Fellow at Cornell University, primarily helping to run two global health partnerships, one based in Moshi, Tanzania and other in Lusaka, Zambia. In searching for a practicum, I grappled with how to best utilize my academic background and experiences while also seeking an opportunity that would allow me to explore emerging topic area interests and push me to develop new skills. With this practicum position, I was thrilled by the chance to continue working with colleagues in Lusaka and further pursuing my interests in maternal and child nutrition all in the context of communicating and disseminating public health research.

Using Tableau to design an early draft of our evidence gap map
Using Tableau to design an early draft of our evidence gap map

My first practicum project is the development of an evidence gap map of multisectoral nutrition research in Zambia in support of the National Food and Nutrition Commission (NFNC). An evidence gap map is an interactive data visualization that provides a visual overview of the existing evidence on a particular topic, with the hope of identifying gaps in the current evidence base. While I wasn’t familiar with evidence gap maps prior to beginning this project, I have come to appreciate them as such an incredible tool to consolidate a high volume of information into an intuitive and accessible format. So far, I have had the opportunity to work with a team of folks from SUN-LE and the University of Zambia to finalize a scoping review of maternal and child nutrition research in Zambia, that serves as the foundation for the evidence gap map. We already have over 400 articles! Since finishing up the scoping review of maternal and child nutrition, I have been working with the wonderful librarians at UNC to learn how to use Tableau to turn our data into a useable map. While learning how to use Tableau to create data visualizations wasn’t necessarily something I was searching for in a practicum, I am already thinking about all the other ways I can continue building upon this skillset. I have even enrolled in a data visualization class for the fall! Our evidence gap map is still very much a work in progress, but I’ve already had the opportunity to lead a training session with some of my colleagues who were interested in learning more about the process of developing the map. I am looking forward to getting feedback from the SUN-LE and NFNC teams and continuing to work on other communication and dissemination products throughout the summer.

Enjoying finding new places to work remotely, even from my hammock!
Enjoying finding new places to work remotely, even from my hammock!

I have been enjoying the flexibility to work remotely thus far and enjoy summer in Chapel Hill but am thrilled to have the opportunity to spend a few weeks in Lusaka at the end of my practicum. Looking forward to checking back in from Lusaka in July!