Taking on a busy day (Sahib Chandi ’20)

Today was jam packed with four incredible sessions across the Durham-Chapel Hill area. After breakfast, we quickly headed over to our first stop: IntraHealth International. The leader of the day, Julia, briefed us all about the mission and work of IntraHealth as an organization focused on addressing the need for health workers around the world. As we started our day, Pape Gaye, the Executive Chief Officer, introduced us to IntraHealth, highlighting that there is an estimated global shortage of 18 million health workers. From there, we dove right into a discussion of HIV/AIDS and its key populations, particularly about the story of an LGBTQ man from Senegal who sought ARV treatment. We also covered IntraHealth’s role in advocacy, especially in Washington. On the national level, they reported that Congress introduced recognition for the global need of health workers. We also learned about their fellowships, which they offer to masters and doctoral students who seek to advocate for health workers in their own ways. Before we left, I had the chance to talk to one of our hostesses about the role of Community Health Workers in Belize, discussing their importance to a fragile and often informal healthcare system.

Our next stop was the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (UNC). Dr. Alice Ammerman welcomed us warmly and we began a discussion into her work in Nutrition, covering food access, GMOs, food deserts, and innovative solutions to break down the socioeconomic barriers to nutritious foods. Particularly, she talked about the initiative Good Bowls, which makes frozen, pre-made meals at an affordable cost. Dr. Ammerman also took a great interest in our projects in Belize. When we asked for advice about behavioral change, she mentioned an idea known as Behavioral Economics. In the simplest way put, she described it as a slight nudge through consumer incentive rather than simply telling those consumers what they should do. As we think about revising our projects, we plan to consider some of Dr. Ammerman’s advice on behavioral change. 

After lunch on UNC’s famed Franklin street, the Global Health Fellows made their way to the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, where we listened to presentations from four Gillings students. Dirk Davis, Director of the LGBTQ Health Disparities Research Collaborative, discussed HIV/AIDS in the context of the LGBTQ community. Specifically, Davis discussed a Guatemalan intervention to combat the hestancies that LGBTQ have when seeking healthcare: a health navigator who connects patients with the healthcare system. It was found that 100% of those who had a navigator received ARV treatment within three months. Next, we heard other presentations that addressed food labeling and taxes against obesity in Chile, research on the Emotional Burden of Type 2 Diabetes, and a career path toward addressing key challenges in clinical quality of care. From these four presentations, I strengthened my knowledge of key Global Health concepts, such as stigma and boundaries, behavioral change, and the poor-resourced setting of care. 

At the final stop of our day, we went back to Durham to an organization called FHI360, a nonprofit seeking to improve health worldwide through a variety of fields such as economics, education, and healthcare solutions. At this point of our day, I can speak for all of us when I say we were tired. But, this visit was perhaps the most engaging we have had. Splitting into focus groups of four, we were visited by five speakers in a “speed dating” sort of fashion. This approach let each group have a meaningful dialogue with each professional. Some ideas that stuck with me from this visit was creative forms of physical, dissolvable contraception, key factors in U.S. health disparities (ie location and income), and the importance of data collection. To conclude our visit, our visit coordinators brought in two students who gave us advice about college and academic pursuits, telling us to keep an open mind to explore topics and to “ always do your lecture readings.” 

Today was the busiest day we have had on this year’s retreat, but it was also my favorite. I learned so much from people who were incredibly passionate and hopeful about their work’s impact on the global community. 

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