IHP Health and Community: Globalization, Culture, and Care (Fall)

Washington, DC Letter Home

Hi everyone,

Greetings from the fall 2012 Health & Community program! We’ve recently completed a ten day stint in Washington, DC where we started with program orientation activities and dove into the four program classes led by faculty members Karen Straight and Sara Ardila. Our students, faculty, and fellow were inspired and challenged by a complementary program of speakers, site visits, and panels put together by the DC coordinator, Jeremy Ogusky.

Our perspective on national and local healthcare has been shaped in myriad ways, including by a number of guest lecturers who were kind enough to impart what they have learned in the fields of health policy and social service. We were visited by Sonya Schwartz of the National Academy for State Health Policy, who educated us on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and by Metro Teen Aids, a group engaging in HIV/AIDS prevention through peer education, which involves meeting teens where they are and explaining HIV prevention in language familiar to them. In addition to educating teens, Metro Teen AIDS engages in online outreach via social networks and operates a text messaging hotline for teens to discreetly ask any questions they may have about sexual health. We had several other lecturers; the two mentioned here is a small sample! This complementary material helped inform our understanding of how communities work to improve their own health status, be it through advocating for policy change or direct service at the local level.

On “NGO Day,” students split into small groups and visited a number of organizations throughout the city. It was particularly interesting to see how these organizations influence policies on all levels. The two most well-known organizations were the Brookings Institution and the Heritage Foundation, considered “rival” think tanks that strive to influence policy on local, national, and international levels. These organizations conduct research in a variety of areas and, based on their results, make recommendations to implement, modify, or otherwise change current policies. This happens chiefly through journal articles and book publications. Smaller NGOs like DC Appleseed gave perspective on much of the advocacy that is being done in DC. NGO day, along with the guest lecturers, illustrated how embedded politics are in DC culture. Even outside of program activities, we could not go a day without overhearing passing conversations about elections, policies, laws, or the Affordable Care Act.

In our research methods class, we learned ways of observing and absorbing the greatest amount of information via the method most relevant to the context in which we’re working. For our first field exercise we split into groups and explored different neighborhoods of DC. One group explored Logan Circle where we spoke with locals at an elementary school, church, and mission center. Exploring the “real” DC and engaging with locals in conversations about the ACA, the state of their neighborhoods, and their personal stories allowed for a greater understanding of our environment, of methods for conducting research, and of the human side of DC. Most of us would agree that the neighborhood day was special because it allowed us to gain a view of DC that tourists rarely receive. We all walked away with an understanding that health is multi-faceted and how elements of a neighborhood that may seem small can actually play a huge role in the health of a community.

Since we were staying in Eastern Market, right by the National Mall, we were lucky enough to be able to visit many museums in our free time. Some students went to the Natural History museum and others visited the Air and Space Museum, the Museum of the American Indian, the National Portrait Gallery, the Botanical Gardens, and more. In addition to launching our Health and Community program, Washington, DC proved to be an excellent place for us to deepen our knowledge and understanding of US history.

Our stay in DC also included an alumni dinner, giving us the opportunity to interact with students who had participated on a program in the past. Members of the class of 2012 attended as well as alumni going back as far as 1968-69. It was such a pleasure hearing personal stories from many different programs. Alumni flooded us with tips and tricks for surviving the next four months but, most importantly, they got us even more excited for our study abroad adventures. What made the night a smashing success was a surprise belly dancer who showed off her moves as we finished our meal. She even pulled up a few willing (and some not so willing) students, staff, and alumni to dance with her. The night was a great success and we can’t wait for the opportunity to share our ongoing experiences at future alumni events.

Until next time,
Health and Community, Fall 2012

Written by the USA Country Group: Stephanie Agu, Echi Anoruo, Asha Ayub, Molly Bachmann, Sheyda Bautista-Saeyan, Sidney Bell, Carly Carlin, Ines Castro, and Tricia Cavanaugh

Compiled and edited by the Trustees’ Fellow: Ben Smith

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Credits: 16

Duration: Fall, 16 weeks

Program Sites:
USA, India, South Africa, Brazil

Prerequisites: None. Coursework in public health, anthropology, biology, or related field recommended.

Human Rights: Foundations, Challenges, and Advocacy Itinerary

Fall or Spring Itinerary

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