The Art of Translating Science for Policy-Making

As scientists, we want to see the science and data used to help create new programs and policies to better our society. But something, the data, graphs, and the significant numbers get “lost in translation.”

It’s not just about showcasing the science and then let the science speaks for itself; there is an “art” to the speaking the science that captures your audience attention.


Using the 5-stages of the Design Thinking Framework has helped me get my message across: 

  1. Empathy. Who are your stakeholders? Start with the ‘end user’s’ mind”. What are their pain points? What health issues are most important to “them” (and their loved one)?
  2. Observation. Without judgment, observe your users/consumers/communities/policymakers behavior. Are their words matching their action? What are the barriers? What are the facilitators?
  3. Iteration. By stepping into the shoes of your stakeholders and observing their behavior, how might you modify your beginning hypothesis?
  4. Experiment.  Try different interventions and get feedback from your stakeholders.
  5. Test. Test the different experiments with different stakeholders. Do you see similarities and differences in responses, call to action, or no change in behavior?

Use the science to justify your evidence. Use the art of design thinking to get your message across to make a greater impact.

Three Easy Ways to Write Well for Work, your Dissertation, and even during NaNoWriMo

After completing a few writing boot camps and even survived my first NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month in November) with a 50,000+ word count manuscript at the finish line, I was too exhausted to even appreciate and celebrate my accomplishment.  I realized I focused too much at my goal at the expense of my health. I took up a bad eating habit (who has time to cook?), stopped exercising (isn’t exercising my brain to write, enough?), and didn’t sleep well (if only, I can add a few more words…). I realized this pattern has to change.


I must change.  

Does it have to be this way? Yes and No. The choice is yours.

Whether you will be one of the novelists working on the 50,000+ words masterpiece, writing on your dissertation (probably over 50,000 words), or even working on your first blog, the writing process can be transformative beyond the words on the page and into your spirit.  You just need to be healthy enough to reflect and to enjoy it.

1. Change the mindset.

Self-care is not selfish.  Self-care is vital to ending the vicious cycle of love-and-hate of writing and our true nature. The entire writing process can be a retreat within the vicinity of your own body.  Through writing, you can know oneself on a deeper level, be reflective of your own senses and allow your awareness to direct your writing. Neglecting your body’s calling during the writing process is a missed opportunity to familiarize yourself with a healthy self, and the true self.

2. Restructure the writing schedule with self-care.  

Make your own wellness the priority and then assign a block of writing time around that.  I block out “health appointment” for myself.  If we go to our writing fortress with a well-nourished mind, body, and spirit, you will not only finish the writing project with minimally disrupted events but also end with a well-designed body and mind.

3. Create accountability.

As you track your word counts, create a method to keep track of your wellbeing. Join an online writing community as well as meet-up groups with a common interest in health and wellness.  Join an online writing community or meet up with a local writing group. Participate in a class and meet other writers to work on this wellness journey together.

The writing process can be an inspiring journey for self-discovery on and off the page. Writing through the empty spaces is like hiking into new terrains.

Write Strong. Live Well.  

Good Luck Fellow Writers for National Novel Writing Month! 

Goal setting sets up success

Success is not defined by the outcome but by the process.  Use the season of Spring to clear out the clutter blocking you from your goal, success, and destination.  As my students are getting ready to graduate and launch into the new job or apply their new knowledge for a new promotion, I tell my students that goal setting effectively and efficiently is the key.


The three types of goals for goal setting are: 

  1. Determine your “why”.
  2. Discover the “what”
  3. Learn the “how”.

You need to learn the ‘how’ to acheive to get “what you want” so they can acheive your “why”. 

Why is this goal important to you? The value you place on this goal can be related to you personally or to your family. Is the quality time you want to gain, people you want to make an impact on, or improve your own quality of file?

What is important about this ‘particular goal’? Ask yourself if this goal will lead you to your next career, help you get promoted, or transition to new area. Do you want to gain new knowledge, more money, or more time?

What is important about the way this goal is obtain? This is where the strategy is the key.  Make an inventory of the skills and task you must do or master or learn to get “what you want” to reach your ‘why’.

To be succesful at goal setting, you must master all goals : the why, what, and how .


Happy Friendship Day!

Last month February was bombarded with hearts and roses marketing for our loved ones.  In the spirt of this months’ theme, I’d like to declare a Happy Friendship Day. I am in the mood after finishing the book “The 8 Vital Friends” by Tom Roth.

Reviewing my network as described by the author, I am grateful and blessed to have someone or many someones in each categories that I have developed a close bond over time.  community-909149_1920

1. Builders.  They tend to be the motivator, the catalyst, the cheerleader. They are not competitive with you. They stay close to your and help you build your career development.  They pushes you to do more and be great. They have faith in you.

2. Champions.  They are kinda like the builders but they tend to your peers. They cheer for your and are your loyal friend. Count on them. Be their best advocate. When you succeed, they are happy. Say good things in your absence.  Tell your champion about your gratitude and they will be very happy that you acknowledge their loyalty and friendship.  When you make mistake, tell them and they will be nonjudgmental.

3. Collaborator. You are friends, belonging to the same group with common ground.  They have similar passions with you. They collaborate in action and share experience.  Brainstorm new ideas for discussion. Form a group that you enjoy. Share events and ideas. Think of them when the topics arises.

4. Companion. They are your first person you call. Take pride and sacrifice for you. A friendship for a lifetime.  Trust them with your life. Do something and no question asked.  Allow them to be in themselves. Be a good listener. Boost spirit by dignity and respect. Work through conflict.

5.  Connector.  Get to know and introduce you to others to get new people.  They are someone who introduce you to other and run a social life network.  Let friends know that they can use you as connector. Help them and reach out to them.

6. Energizer.  They are the booster who make any sour situation fun and happy. They are laughing and happy and have lots of energy.  They are cheerful.  They are always smiling, tell a joke, make you laugh, and have fun together.

7. Mind-openeder. They embrace new ideas. They challenge innovate idea and ask good questions, express new ideas, conversely.  Challaenge the conventional and status quo.  Mind opened to the challenge presented to you.

8.  Navigator, They are people you talk with when you are stuck. They talk with the pro and con about the situation and allow you to see the big overall picture.  They help you see positive while keeping you grounded.  Thye help your reach your goals. They are kinda like your mentors.

Thank you to my 8 vital friends. You have made me to whom I am today.    


Brain Booster Ideas

What are your resolutions?  I want to lose weight, save more money, and be happy.  All of these are great resolutions, but why is it that we can continue to wish for the same resolution at the strike of midnight on Dec 31st every year?

  • 50% Americans who begins an exercise program but quit with the first 6 months
  • 88% Americans who make a New Year’s Resolution.
  • 60% Resolutions are health related
  • 10% People who keep their resolutions

Where do you and your New Year’s Resolutions want to be in 6 months? 

Learning new habits and making changes are new processes that require your body be in tune with your brain.  Can we change our brain to accommodate these new changes in our body.


Old Science

    • The structure of brain doesn’t change.
    • We are born with a set number of brain cells at birth.
    • Cells are lost over time when we age. Cells deleted due to stress, toxins, and risky behavior.

New Science

    • Brain is plastic and is always growing and evolving.
    • Brain changes based on what we think, feel, eat, act (not act such as meditate), and react.
    • Brain changes in function and structure where new synapses (new neural connections are formed and connected in different region of the brain)

Our brain can adapt and be flexible to new learning with a growth mindset.  We just a strategy and understand how our brain works, function (under normal and stressed condition), and how to boost brain boost to decrease neurological disorders development, reduce depression and loss of memory.



The Art of Financial Management: Sensitivity Analysis

Financial management is both an art and science. In my previous post, the financial management tools, Return on Investment (ROI) and Sensitivity Return on Investment (SROI), illustrated the science of projecting cost and benefits for a program.  We must be aware of the level of uncertainty and unknown when we make thees project. This comes the ‘art of financial management’ – sensitivity analysis, which is a process used to discover which assumptions are critical (or sensitive) to the analysis.


This is done by testing a number of plausible values for each important variable

For example:

  • vary the discount rate
  • vary the probabilities
  • vary the cost parameter (if possible)
  • vary the benefits parameters (if possible)

Any problem, alternative, value, variable, or assumption can be subjected to sensitivity analysis.


  1. list all the variables relevant to the policy problem
  2. establish a range of likely values for each
  3. holding all others constant, test the range of values for one variable to see if any one (or all) decision criteria are affected. This establishes the sensitive variables.
  4. test the sensitive variables
  5. contingency analysis
  6. cost overrun calculation
  7. feasibility of the project

The Science of Financial Management: Return on Investment (ROI)

Return on investment (ROI) is a financial tool to measure and communicate public health effectiveness for policymakers, funders, administrators and the general public. Often time, the ROI is conducted as an afterthought, after a project is completed and the funder/stakeholders/executive board needs a report that the money that they invested were justified.  What happens if the ROI is lower than expected? We can turn back time. Instead of using the ROI as a ‘back-end’ financial tool, use ROI as a ‘front-end’ as a forecasting tool to assess the ‘potential benefits’ (in monetary terms) given the ‘cost of the program’.


Questions to Ask:

  1. Are we making the right investments?
  2. Are we becoming more efficient?
  3. What outcome/benefits are we getting for our buck?
  4. What is our budget accomplishing?
  5. Are we being resourceful?

The purpose of measuring the ROI is to analyze Investment effective to generate profit or benefits and is often expressed in percentage (%).

ROI = [ (cost of the benefits) – (cost of program) ] / (cost of program) * 100% 

When the ROI is greater than what your rate of return, expected value, or threshold of acceptability, then this project/program/policy is probably worth investing.  However, we cannot predict the future (financial tool) is a crystal ball. However, we can conduct a ‘sensitivity analysis’ to assess a range of unknown variables, uncertainly, and unpredictability that may impact our risk tolerance.

Subscribe and stay tune for the next post on “Sensitivity Analysis.” 

Social Return on Investment (SROI): The New Money Mindset in Public Health

Why is financial management important to everyone in your organization, in your personal and professional development?

In the field of public health, we not only work in solo of expertise, but also share our findings across different realms aiming to improve population health locally, domestically and internationally. To drive change and sustain change, financial management is an essential key to understand ‘whether program/policies/projects’ are worth investing in before we start discussing  on how to ‘finance them.’ In a tight economy with constraint resources, it is not uncommon that the stakeholder’s decision-making is influenced by finances (or the lack of finances).

However, using the ‘financing reason’ as the first financial management tool is not usually the most effective approach.  Instead, using the return on investment (ROI) as a financial management tool to assess whether or which project(s) are worth investing based on common metric that bring benefits and social value can help stir effort, time, and resources to support these programs, which is the new money mindset:  Social Return on Investment (SROI).  



Social Return on Investment (SROI) is a framework for measuring and accounting value, rather than money. There are two types of SROI: (1) Evaluative, which is conducted retrospectively and based on actual outcomes that have already taken place, and (2) Forecast, which predicts how much social value will be created if the activities meet their intended outcomes.

Why Use SROI? Assessing the SROI prior to implementation of polices/programs/project, can help your organization improve services by:

  • facilitating strategic planning to maximize the social value an activity creates.
  • helping you target appropriate resources at managing unexpected outcomes.
  • identifying common ground between what an organization wants to achieve and what its stakeholders want to achieve, helping to maximize social value.

Instead of focusing on only the money (or the lack of money), assess the ‘benefits and social value’ in your decision-making. Will this make a difference? and to whom? 


Is your brain under attack from stress?

Your brain is under attack by your choices you made from what you eat, think and move.  Everything that you do in your life, from your sleep habits to your eating routine can either  stop or fast-forward this brain stress.  

When we under too much stress,  our brain cells are less efficient and effective, and over the life span, we contribute to our memory loss, inability to stay focused, difficulty to learn new skills, and brain fatigue

ache-19005_1920The same forces that are aging your body is affecting your brain too.  Stress, unhealthy food, and your environment can contribute 1) the generation free radicals in the brain, and 2) the decline in the ability of the brain cells to make energy.

The brain is the most metabolically active organ of the body and it uses 20% of your oxygen for your physical, mental, and emotional function.   Every time you stress, you create an excess of free radical that roaming around in the body to bind to healthy cells.  This process of oxidation damages the  the brain membrane, and thus, the brain becomes less efficient, produce less energy, and increase free radical production. You become fatigue, you can’t concentrated, and you become even more vulnerable to stress.


What you can do to win the stress attack?  

1.  Eat less trans-fatty acid (baked goods, processed food). Sluggish fat, sluggish brain.
2.  Consumer less artificial sweeteners and eat more fruits to feed your sweet tooth.
3.  Eat less meat and more veggie
4. Get more than 8 Horus of sleep
5.  Exercise regularly.
6. Get into a habit of drinking water throughout the day before you feel thristy.
7. Add play time to your work routine.

Money Karma 50-30-20


One of the most common resolutions is “save money”, “learn to budget”, and “invest in retirement”.

There is more than hundreds of books on the topic of financial planning, excel spreadsheet, and different mobile apps that can help you budget, save, and invest.

We all know why it is important to budget, save, and invest in our retirement, but in the US, more than 50% of the American have less than $1000 in their emergency funds.  So, if we are one of the most educated countries in the world, how come we don’t know that $1000 is just not enough.  We should aim at incurring an emergency fund that is worth 9 months of monthly payments in case of medical care, layout, or anything that is consider ’emergency’. But going on vacation, buying gifts for holidays, and shopping for the 10th pair of shoes do not constitute as ’emergency’.

It is the mindset and the framing.  We all know that ‘what to do’, but we don’t now the ‘how to’.

I believe in the KISS Method (KISS stands for Keep it simple, stupid) BUT I am going to think positive and call my KISS method as Keep it simple and sane !


It is based on Elizabeth Warren’s work  50/30/20 Rule.  

Where 50% of your monthly salary go to ‘MUST HAVE’ that are essential for your basic survival (rent/mortgage, food, transportation, basic clothing, reasonable living condition).

Where 30% goes toward your “WANTS” such as the entertainment, shopping, dining out, and your desire.

Where 20% goes toward your “SAVING” – where 10% goes to your emergency fund and 10% goes to your investment fund.


Here is my own twist to the 50-30-20 rule:

I believe we can reduce our ‘wants’ from 30% to 20% by being creative in how we use our money and see buy things we want.  To help growth our nest eggs, it is important to add more to your investment and emergency funds from 20% to 30%, especially for folks who are starting late in their investments.

As long as you remember to KISS your budgeting,  saving, and investing, you are on your way in bringing money karma toward yourself.  When you take care of your money, the universe will take care of you.