sherilee harper

EcoHealth Research with Indigenous Communities

Postcard from Vietnam: Steven in Hanoi!

Written by Steven Lam, MPH Student

Prior to finishing my MPH degree, I was given the opportunity to come to Hanoi and work on a research project; an experience made possible through the Mitacs Globalink Research Award.

While I felt a bit terrified, just having basic knowledge of Vietnamese, and meeting my Vietnamese supervisors just once last year, I knew I would not let this opportunity pass up. It’s been a whirlwind of new experiences since I arrived in Hanoi just 3 months ago.

I am working on a project titled “health risks of agricultural intensification in Vietnam” with Sherilee Harper at the University of Guelph, Dr. Tran Thi Tuyet Hanh at the Hanoi School of Public Health, and Dr. Nguyen Viet Hung at the International Livestock Research Institute. Our research focuses on animal and human waste management, a growing concern among public and policy makers alike. Increased livestock production, combined with traditional technologies and management practices may present risks to humans and the environment. This international collaboration seeks to better understand what these risks are, explore challenges and solutions, and inform policy. Understanding and addressing waste management issues are needed for sustainable agricultural production while protecting human health and natural resources.

Through my research I have had the pleasure of interviewing key stakeholders and farmers to explore waste management issues, as well as explore traditional and innovative waste treatment systems on farms. Community members were very open in sharing their culture, practices and beliefs. Interactions with stakeholders have been quite motivating – it’s refreshing to hear from individuals passionate about their research/work.

In my free time, I like to explore Hanoi and surrounding cities by motorbike, try different street-food and practice my Vietnamese with locals. The latter has been extremely helpful, as eventually I was able to conduct some interviews partly in Vietnamese (Thank you Ms. Huong for helping with translation!).

The best parts of this experience are working with talented researchers, building long-lasting relationships, and connecting with local farmers and key stakeholders. I can confidently say that my brief stay in Vietnam so far has been one of the most rewarding experiences, to both my personal and professional development. While my stay in Vietnam is almost over, I look forward to focusing on data analysis and reporting, as well as share my experiences with friends, colleagues, and staff back in Canada.

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