Week globalizes health insight

AIDS in Africa, medical challenges in Latin America and women’s health issues in the Caribbean are on the lips and minds of Yalies as they participate in the University’s first Global Health Week.

The multidisciplinary effort aims to bring a greater awareness of the world’s health issues to Yale students and faculty. The week’s events range from a dance contest to a forum on Yale’s role in global health. But some administrators said the program highlights the need for the University to focus more on its public health curriculum year-round.

Global Health Week at Yale invites scholars and students from many disciplines to present a varied view of public health.
Esther Quintana
Global Health Week at Yale invites scholars and students from many disciplines to present a varied view of public health.

“The goal of the Global Health Week is to collaborate with various professors and administrators to offer a better understanding of what global health is,” said Gerald McElroy ’09, one of the organizers of the event. “We want to springboard students to initiatives both globally and on campus.”

Michelle Schorn ’09, another organizer, said the week originated from the organizers’ common interest in global health issues and their desire to make a difference. The event, which was modeled after the biannual Sex Week, differs from typical events on its topic in that it does not focus on numbers but rather on faces, she said. For example, Monday’s screening of the newly released Cuban film “!Salud!,” which examines the country’s healthcare system and Latin American medical challenges in general, was an attempt to introduce students to global health issues through visual media rather than statistics.

The week’s global health forum, which took place on Tuesday and was heavily attended by students from the graduate schools, brought together faculty members from Yale’s different programs. The main theme of the discussion was the University’s initiatives on global health and the student’s role in improving them — but participants disagreed on how much remains to be done on the administrative side of the issue.

Michele Barry, director of the Office of International Health at the Yale School of Medicine, said the University could improve its efforts to educate students about global health by offering medical, public health and nursing students more opportunities to study the subject overseas. She also said efforts to create a public health curriculum for Yale College have so far been unsuccessful, and that undergraduate students should take the initiative if they are interested in studying global health.

“I think it has to come from you,” she said at the forum.

But Susan Barringer, associate director of the Center for International Nursing Scholarship and Education, said the nursing school has effective projects in community health that send students overseas.

“There is a standing relationship with China, like with Southern China University,” she said. “The school and faculty are collaborating to offer the nursing education overseas and build sites to establish long-term relationships with the community and care providers.”

Dr. Kaveh Khoshnood, a faculty member at the School of Public Health, said Yale is working on improving its undergraduate health curriculum.

“We are working to create a public health major as a second major, like International Studies, which is interdisciplinary in nature and offers courses on global health,” he said.

Last year, the University implemented a combined bachelor’s of science and MPH five-year program, the first students of which will finish the program in 2009.

The week included an international dinner with food from all over New Haven. In addition, Global Health Week organizers are hosting Dance Off ’07: A Global Movement, on Saturday. Proceeds from these events will be donated to Partners in Health, an international aid organization founded by legendary tuberculosis researcher Dr. Paul Farmer. The Yale Repertory Theatre will also donate half of the profits from its Saturday night show to the organization.

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