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Soapboxer Sandra Virgo reports on her recent US trip to North Carolina…

From October 16th-20th I attended a conference at the University of North Carolina: ‘Water & Health: Where Science Meets Policy’. As Soapbox is based on a fusion of research and action, this was right up our street, and we had been invited to appear at two side events.

North Carolina is the site of the “Research Triangle”, an area between the cities of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill where several universities and hi-tech companies sit. From the airport, our cab driver managed to drop a fellow conference-goer and me at the wrong hotel. However, the hotel manager (one Amelia Shaw) generously offered to give us a lift to the right hotel “as I live just up the road”.

The next morning at the conference I presented at an event convened by Save the Children entitled “WaSH for Maternal & Neonatal Health: Behaviors, Birth Kits, and Indicators”. I described the work done by fellow Soapboxers Giorgia Gon and Susannah Woodd on the feasibility of using pre-prepared birth kits in labour wards to improve hygiene and workflow. It was good to network afterwards with others doing related work.

As the conference proceeded, we were incessantly given vast amounts of food. I also befriended an Indian sanitation researcher at the hotel who like me, thanks to jetlag, could only sleep from 7pm-2am. During the days there were many interesting talks, particularly those on behaviour change interventions; and on climate change and WaSH.

On Thursday I was then a “special guest” at another side event, this time organised by Emory University: “Moving WaSH in Healthcare Facilities from Assessment to Action: What are the Solutions?” A packed schedule meant there was just time to slip in a few words on the importance of Continuous Quality Improvement in facilities. The next morning, after a quick walk around the leafy UNC campus, it was time to catch a flight home, but not without having made many valuable WaSH contacts with whom Soapbox will be staying in touch.