Kent State Public Health Students’ Trips to Brazil and Switzerland Focus on World Health Issues
Treatments for poisonous snake bites and parasitic diseases were only two of the many unique learning experiences nine graduate and undergraduate students from Kent State University’s College of Public Health experienced on a summer trip to Brazil – Rio de Janeiro and Manaus, capital city of the Amazonas.
Led by Mark James, Ph.D., interim associate dean for global education, the students met indigenous tribes and learned about the economic sustainability unique to each tribe. They learned about diseases not endemic to the United States, such as leprosy and tuberculosis, and were able to analyze data from a 20-year longitudinal study focusing on racial disparities, chronic disease, socioeconomic differences and biomarkers. Students also learned about the people and how culture can influence health.
“Cultural competency is a tool that we all must master especially within the health field because through that, we can understand health behavior and help to improve, as well as restore health,” says Susy Frimpong, Kent State graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in epidemiology.
“Students are offered these rare experiences because connections built and maintained in Brazil through Fiocruz [Oswaldo Cruz Foundation] lead to successful trips each year,” Dr. James says.
At the same time, but on a different continent, 17 public health and nursing students served as delegates to the 70th annual World Health Assembly (WHA) where they learned about emerging public health issues from the “30,000-foot level,” says Tom Brewer, Ph.D., Kent State associate professor of health policy and management. The trip to Geneva, Switzerland, landed Kent State public health students in the center of activity for non-state actors (formerly referred to as NGOs). They not only learned about getting food, vaccines and medications through war-torn countries from the winner of this year’s Florence Nightingale Excellence in Nursing award, but also shared their expertise in strategic planning with the World Council of Churches.
“One of the highlights of the trip was a connection made with the WHA Vaccine Safety Network of the World Health Organization (WHO) that resulted in the College of Public Health being invited to collaborate with it,” Dr. Brewer says. “The College of Public Health and Johns Hopkins University are the only higher education institutions that have partnered with the WHO working on this project. It will be a great experience for our students.”