Nate Herr (PL2) on Rafting and Brainstorming Implementation Research on the Nile

Posted on behalf of Nate Herr (PL2)

Beth Thielen invited me to try rafting with her this past weekend. (Beth is in the UMN Med-Peds program and is here working on the adult side of Mulago hospital on the ASTRO-CM trial with Dr. Boulware).  

With a few recommendations we decided to go with Nile River Explorers, an established rafting company here in Uganda.  Our raft guides, safety kayakers, etc, were all Ugandan, who have grown up into and thrived in the development of adventure tourism and sports.  Several of them, including our raft guide Juma, have competed at the international level in whitewater kayaking-- representing Uganda and Africa all through the energy of waterfalls and rapids in the backyard of their home village.

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The fun and adventure of rafting with excellent guides

By the end of the day we were exhausted, sun burnt, and winded from the three times our raft flipped in the rapids. But, all-in-all we were glad to be able to experience the thrill of the Nile river rapids.  These rapids have been sequentially disappearing with each installment of hydro-electric dams on the Nile, built to fill the need of reliable electricity in a developing country. A third dam is currently being proposed and depending on the height, additional habitat, communities, rapids, and tourism economies will be displaced or eliminated.  A petition is circulating both in hard copy in communities and online internationally to encourage the building of a smaller hydro-dam that would preserve the remaining falls and rapids on the river.

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Flat stretches of water were time for discussion and brainstorming

On the flat stretches between the rapids, we talked these issues of the Nile and more.  I also found out that it's hard to escape healthcare all together, even on your weekend off.  The two guys in the front of the boat were logisticians with MSF, in Uganda for a 2-week training session.  On the water and in the rafting truck we were discussing the challenges behind ensuring a cold-chain to deliver vaccines and the future promises of mHealth, the later which got me thinking-- a lot. mHealth is a broad term to describe mobile phone technology interfaced with healthcare and I see great potential for it here and elsewhere around the world.  If anyone has any experience or ideas on mHealth, please email me. It's hard to imagine future implementation research without it.

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Getting a bit wet after one of those flat stretches