School of Public Health faculty and students have actively engaged in research, service and education activities aimed at improving health across the globe and partnering with communities to accomplish these goals since the school's launch in 2007. While the impact of their work has been felt around the world, in countries as diverse as Cuba, Bangladesh, Peru and Tanzania, awareness of these global health activities – and coordination across the UMD campus – will be elevated through a new Global Health Initiative, announced July 2018 by Dean Boris Lushniak. Research Professor Dina L.G. Borzekowski, Ed.D., is serving as the interim director. You may contact her with questions.
Also, you may subscribe to our global health listserv by emailing Dr. Elisabeth Maring, director of global health engagement.
Our Travel Blog - SPH UMD Community Members Report from Around the World
Rhea Gupta's Reflections on Travels to Sierra Leone in June 2019
My trip to Sierra Leone was anything but what I expected it to be. The environment, the people, my peers, everything was something I was so pleasantly surprised with.
Arriving to the airport was an overwhelming and surprising. People surrounded us asking to take our bags and yet I had no idea who I could trust. And when we arrived at the hotel, the heat, bugs, lizards, and changing color of lights in our room definitely took some time to get used to. However, once we got settled and had a few days to ourselves to relax, adapt, and explore, we were ready to get to work.
On our first day, the first thing I remember was pulling up to the school and seeing the bright smiles on everyone’s face. You could feel the excitement in the air as we got ready to get the day started. Our first workshop of the week was the hand-washing workshop. We went into each classroom and talked through all of the steps of properly washing your hands. As time went by, I started to take the lead on this workshop and really get involved with the kids, going through each step and making sure they could understand and follow what I was doing. After a few classrooms, it was lunch time. I definitely did not know what we were about to experience. All of the kids started surrounding us, asking us what our name is, what my mom looks like, what my favorite sport is, and why I’m so tall. At one point, I had two kids holding on to each leg and each arm. They would just come up to me and start holding my hand. The love and excitement that we got everyday was what pushed us to work so hard every day. I was able to see why we spent the last year working on planning workshops and research for the kids and community members.
With all of our work, although we faced some challenges with materials and inquiries from conducting the workshops with the adults, our efforts turned out to be highly successful. We accomplished all of our goals and were able to finally implement and complete post-workshop evaluations. None of this would have been possible without having the amazing team that we did. We all worked together to divide up the work and make sure that we were all on the same page with everything that we did.
Not only were we successful with the work that we set out to accomplish, we were also very successful in getting to explore Freetown when we had some time. We were able to visit the chimpanzee sanctuary, go to river no. 2 beach, and enjoy Mariama’s fries on Lumley beach.
We all had a great time and were able to make great connections with the community and among ourselves. I hope that future travel teams have the same or even better experience.
Undergraduate Public Health Sciences Student Kajal Parikh Reflects on Her Recent Trip to Peru
I’m not going to lie. I had a difficult time writing this post because words and pictures do not give this experience justice. But, I am going to try my best to encapsulate the most amazing two weeks in just a few short paragraphs.
From the minute we met Anibal, Martha, Anibal Jr., Elvis, and Leo, our host family, we were greeted with the warmest welcome. Even though they had just experienced a death in their family that same day, they still came to personally pick us up from our hostel in Cusco and drive us to Compone, which just speaks volumes of their endless kindness.
The kindness emanated from Anibal’s family extended to the entire community. The principals of the primary and secondary schools were so gracious to set aside some of their already planned lessons in order to accommodate our interventions into the schedule. I remember the first time that we had a presentation - all the nervousness and excitement - but the moment that we stepped into the classroom, the students’ friendliness melted the nervousness away. With each subsequent presentation, we were able to strengthen our intervention and meet another new class of students. The best aspect was that the interventions went beyond merely a presentation where the presenter is mostly talking. Through all of the ice-breakers and discussions held, real conversations had transpired, and an exchange of culture happened.
One of my favorite parts of the adolescent development intervention was the “Cross the Line” game. Seeing the students feel comfortable enough to step forward during the game to acknowledge their changes in relationships with family/friends, body changes, and emotional challenges was such a great bonding moment between our team and the students. This connection formed through a sense of commonality, since adolescent development is a process that we all undergo.
After our adolescent development intervention and nutrition workshop, the students at the secondary school asked us to sing the U.S. national anthem, and in exchange, we asked them to sing the Peruvian national anthem. This was so impressive because they sang it in both Spanish and Quechua, the indigenous language in the region. The exchange did not stop there. After the students asked us what the U.S. national dance is, we taught the whole class the Cotton Eye Joe.
The most impactful takeaway was emphasized by our amazing mentor and professor, Dr. Hurtado, who repeatedly stated that these kinds of trips are so powerful because learning occurs bidirectionally. While our interventions were educational, I believe our team learned more from our partner community. Martha, our host mother, eagerly shared her gift for cooking and recipes with us. Local governmental public health workers who hosted nutritional interventions for expecting women and mothers to young children taught us so much about dietetics and Peruvian food culture.
The time outside of the clinic and schools was just as memorable. From playing soccer with our host family’s nephew to traveling via a combi, a local bus, with other town members to buy local pastries to walking to a picturesque river that was staged by the Andes in the background, it was all just unbelievable to experience in person.
Master of Public Health Student Nicole Haggerty Reflects on Her Recent Trip to Sierra Leone
In June 2018, I had the opportunity to travel with the Public Health Without Borders (PHWB) team to Sierra Leone. We visited Calaba Town, a community located near the capital city, Freetown, to strengthen the partnership between the Abigail D. Butcher School and the University of Maryland that was formed in 2014. The initial goal of this trip was to conduct public health education workshops for the community, focusing on nutrition, water sanitation and chronic diseases. Two undergraduate students led each topic, while the rest of the team was there to support and lead small breakout discussion groups. The workbooks we used were designed and created by undergraduate PHWB members. While these workshops were incredibly valuable and a great experience--I learned just as much, if not more, from the community.
After hearing more from the community about their public health needs and desire for a community clinic and access to hospitals, our team shifted our focus to health advocacy.
We were able to meet with community members and discuss strategies to possibly build and staff a clinic. By drawing comparisons to the establishment of the school and empowering community members, our team helped identify future goals and objectives to building a community-based health clinic establishing transportation options.
As a public health student who has studied community health systems, nongovernmental organizations and global health work, it was fascinating to learn more about the local public health resources in Freetown first-hand. We visited the offices of Partners in Health, an organization that is working with local and national officials to strengthen the health systems in Sierra Leone. Partners in Health was founded by Paul Farmer, who has dedicated his life to improving global health and poverty. It was inspiring to hear about real work and projects being done around the world, and the different employment opportunities within the broad field of global health.
We were also able to walk through the local market and tour a clinic whose services include HIV testing and counseling, labor; delivery, malaria treatment and immunizations. They have about 10 births and see about 100 malaria patients a week, and offer all of these services at no cost to patients. They are government funded but also receive support from several NGOs. Unfortunately, the clinic is not always accessible to many people near the school, as roads can be difficult to walk, especially in more urgent situations. Meeting with the clinic staff made the health care system issues much more tangible for me, and helped me understand just how far and difficult the walk could be for some individuals.
Photo of the UMD team with Jon Lascher after a visit to the Partners in Health Offices in Freetown.
Undergraduate Public Health Major Zill Parikh Reflects on Her Time in Dar es Salaam, Working at the Ubongo Production Studios.
Ubongo, which means “brain” in Swahili, is Africa’s number one producer of kids’ edutainment cartoon television shows. Their mission is to foster learning in children ages 3-13 through fun and unique characters and storylines. Based in Tanzania, Ubongo produces two hit shows: Akili and Me, tailored for ages 3-6, and Ubongo Kids for ages 7-13. Akili and Me focuses on teaching younger audiences the basics like letters, numbers, and shapes through games and catchy songs that will forever remain engraved in your memory. Ubongo Kids teaches a variety of STEM topics and important life skills for this age group.
This summer, I had the opportunity to travel to Tanzania and work on pre-production material for next year’s season of Akili and Me. My work mainly focused on researching the causes of under 5 mortality in East Africa (specifically in Tanzania) and formatting that information into prototypes to test with small groups young kids. Based on the feedback received from the kids, we created informational and entertaining ways that the content could be written into the script as 2-3 minute segments and taught through the show’s beloved cartoon characters.
Nutrition, handwashing, and road safety were the three topics we settled on after reading many studies about malnutrition and road traffic related deaths. Akili and Me already had a handwashing song created, so we tailored the segments around discussing the different times children should absolutely wash their hands. We did the same for road safety and created situations in which the cartoon characters could cross the road safely. For nutrition, we decided to focus on characterizing foods as good and bad, explaining that there are many different types of foods that make us “big and strong.”
I had a few smaller projects on the side which included writing grants and gathering research on topics that Ubongo Kids plans to tackle in the future such as female genital mutilation, female empowerment, consent, gender rights, dengue fever, schistosomiasis, and tuberculosis. Researching these topics and creating possible storylines for the show was pretty neat because I already had some background knowledge thanks to my public health classes. It’s refreshing to see that the things we learn in school are actually applicable in the real world!
I’ll say that this was certainly an interesting experience because I didn’t realize the amount of work that goes into something as seemingly simple as a cartoon TV show. I’ve had previous experience working with young kids in Sierra Leone through an on campus student organization called Public Health Without Borders. I taught health education workshops through hands-on activities, so this time around I found it difficult to approach teaching through a media platform. Tapping into the creative side of my brain was something I’m not used to doing. Needless to say, I still enjoyed working on that project because it challenged me to step outside of my comfort zone and try new things in the world of health education.
Sitting behind a computer and researching major health concerns weren’t the only things I did during my time in country. Each weekend, a few interns and I would travel around the country and see as much as we possibly could in 48 hours. I've included a few of my favorite pictures from those trips that give me happiness each time I look at them.
Golden hour mealtime at the end of day one on our safari - Mikumi National Park
Donor Support for the Global Health Initiative
Global Public Health Scholars
The Global Public Health (GPH) program, sponsored by the School of Public Health, offers an interdisciplinary examination of the complex connections between health, culture, economic growth and development, and environmental sustainability. First and second-year College Park Scholars students who participate in the GPH program gain an understanding of the conceptual and practical foundations of community health, explore global public health challenges and consider ways to improve population health within diverse contexts. Dr. Elisabeth Maring directs the GPH Scholars program. Visit the GPH Scholars website for more info.
Certificate in Global Health
The Graduate Certificate in Global Health is designed to provide basic knowledge in global health delivery to enable individuals who may not have public health backgrounds to work effectively in agencies and programs providing global health services. This 12-credit post-baccalaureate program emphasizes translational health issues and combines population-based prevention methods with evidence-based, community-supported initiatives. The program prepares students to identify and analyze major health problems in the global society and to develop skills for designing targeted programs, interventions and campaigns to address those challenges. Students collaborate with leading global health experts to design solutions, and prepare for careers implementing global health strategies.
For more info, email Maurice Rocque.
Public Health Without Borders
Public Health Without Borders is a student-run organization supported by the School of Public Health that assesses health disparities affecting disadvantaged communities around the world and creates sustainable interventions to alleviate these disparities. In partnership with the UMD Engineers without Borders chapter, PHWB students have recently travelled to Compone, Peru and to Calaba Town, Sierra Leone to work on projects focused on improving water sanitation and conducting community organizing and health education activities to improve hygiene and prevent disease.
View a video from their 2017 Launch campaign to learn more:
Study Abroad Opportunities
Study abroad in Bolivia this summer! Meet with indigenous community members and experts in ecohealth, protected areas management and agroecology as well as health professionals who provide care in remote areas of the Bolivian Amazon. Activities include learning about medicinal plants and how indigenous communities maintain their health, visiting a sustainable golf course, and learning about the work of one of Bolivia’s most effective conservation organizations. Open to UMD Undergraduate and Graduate, and Non-UMD Undergraduate and Graduate. Sign up by March 1st.
As we head further into the 21st century, India and the U.S. represent our two largest democracies. Based on culture, history, governance and politics, these two countries have adopted similar and unique ways of addressing public health concerns. This course, designed for students who are interested in public health in a global context, will expose you to policy and programmatic frameworks for the delivery of public health services in these two cultures.
Cuba: Law, Public Health and the Cuban Family (summer term)
Join Professor Kerry Tripp on a summer adventure to Cuba for a truly unique opportunity in this comparative family law, public health/medicine and impacts of poverty course. During this blended travel and on-line learning course you will be among the first in a generation to travel to exotic Havana for eight days of dialogue, educational experiences and cultural events as we contrast Cuba's socialized health care and legal systems with our own. FMSC486 4 credits
Sport Commerce and Culture in the Global Marketplace (winter term)
KNES 342 is a three-week immersion into the sport culture of Australia. Visiting Australia’s three largest cities (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane), students will actively participate within Australian sport culture in many different ways. Students will learn about the development of elite athletes, physical activity in the lives of Australians, and the provision of public recreation through visits to training sites, meetings with public officials, and lectures from prominent Australian academics. Students will experience Australian physical culture through participating in activities such as netball, surfing, and lawn bowling. Students will engage with the Australian sport industry through meeting with sport managers and executives and by attending major sports events.
Past Study Abroad Opportunities
International Public Health in Germany
This course examined key health issues and compares the practice and venues of health promotion and injury control as they occur in Germany with those in the US. You will gain further understanding of the role of history, culture, and geopolitics on the development of health care and health promotion in a developed country; interact with students involved in similar academic activities at a university in another country; and participate in educational, cultural, and social activities of people from another country.