The School of Medicine’s Office of Global Health held its eighth annual Global Health Day on Thursday, featuring speakers and poster presenters from within and outside the University.
Centering on the theme of “Health Consequences of Environmental Change,” the conference — which kicked off at 8:30 a.m. and concluded at 8:30 p.m. — ran several discussions about personal and institutional responses to phenomena caused by climate change. The event, held throughout the School of Medicine, also marked the third consecutive year that the Office of Global Health has hosted a conference on refugee health in conjunction with Global Health Day.
“Global health approaches need a planetary perspective,” said Jonathan Patz, the director of the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in the afternoon panel. “We can’t have a healthy population if the planet is sick.”
Patz began the symposium by giving a talk on global health in the anthropocene — the current period, during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate — and the risks and opportunities of climate change. The discussion, which served as a Medical Grand Rounds lecture, raised concerns about the impacts of climate change and its implications on human health.
Treating diseases now requires an integrated approach, Patz said. He added that public health researchers and physicians must consider genetic and biological factors; physical and environmental factors; social, political and economic factors; and ecological factors.
In the afternoon, Ann Kurth, dean of the School of Nursing, moderated a conversation about specific initiatives against climate change.
“The things that we could do to mitigate climate health — especially in the energy, food and transportation sectors — would immediately have an enormous public health benefit,” said Patz, who also participated in the afternoon panel. For example, he added, 7 million premature deaths from air pollution and 5.3 million premature deaths from physical inactivity could be prevented.
Next, Gary Desir SOM ’80, the chair of medicine at the medi- cal school, discussed his efforts to expand sustainable development in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Working with about 20 students at the School of Forestry & Environmental Science, he developed a project to most effectively reshape forestation and combat crop loss after environmental disasters such as the devastating earthquake in 2010.
Finally, Robert Dubrow, a professor at the School of Public Health and the faculty director of the Yale Climate Change and Health Initiative, explained his motivations and goals in creating the Initiative. It is currently
focused on providing educational programs, he said, by offering two courses, funding summer intern- ships and speakers, and now, launching a new certificate pro- gram.
A poster session followed the speaker panel in which researchers shared their work in global health. Sarah Christie, program manager of the School of Public Health’s Global Health Leadership Initiative and one of the poster presenters, said she envisioned the event as a day of recognizing possible interventions against climate change.
“I hope the impact of the con- ference is that we will start to gain more accountability and formu- late structured responses in the public health sector for climate change,” Christie said.
The day ended with a mini-conference focused on the physical and mental health of refugees, particularly highlighting local innovations in care. Maya Prabhu, a psychiatry professor at the School of Medicine, kicked off the conference by reviewing current events relevant to refugees, such as President Donald Trump’s travel ban, and defining a refugee — an annual tradition.
Next, Mayesha Alam GRD ’16, a Global Health Justice fellow at the Yale Law School, spoke about the Rohingya refugee crisis — the mass migration of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people, a stateless Muslim minority in Myanmar being targeted in a campaign of ethnic cleansing.
“The current situation [of the Rohingya people] is extremely precarious, and humanitarian aid providers are scrambling to deal with the immediate, emergency situation as well as are increasingly recognizing that this is going to be a protracted situation to deal with,” Alam said.
Marietta Vazquez ’90, a professor at the medical school and director of the Yale Children’s Hispanic Clinic, then discussed the repercussions of Hurricane Maria on residents of Puerto Rico — particularly emphasizing the impact on the mental health of Puerto Rican refugees.
Next, leaders of the Yale Adult Refugee Clinic Medical Student Navigator Program shared their work in helping refugee patients navigate the healthcare system, including understanding their medical diagnoses, receiving proper medications from pharmacies and arranging transportation.
These efforts have shown initial success, with patients having fewer emergency department visits, fewer no-shows and more immunizations, according to Paul Bourdillon MED ’19.
Now, the program hopes to expand its multidisciplinary collaborations with social workers, continue to evolve toward long-term sustainability and adapt to changing national trends involving refugees, said Bryan Brown, a resident at the School of Medicine.
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