Public Health in Tel Aviv


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By Jessica Hoffen

As a GlobeMed member, I had sat through presentation after presentation on the many study abroad opportunities available, anxiously awaiting my chance to board an airplane and, briefly, wave goodbye to America.  My turn finally came in the spring of 2015 when I landed in Tel Aviv as part of the Public Health and Society in Israel program run by Northwestern and Tel Aviv University.  As a student interested in the impact of culture and conflict on health equity, I hoped that through experiencing this region I would be able to better understand what has worked and failed in implementing health initiatives across ethnic lines. While public health was the focus of my studies in the region I found that what Palestinians and Israelis were most passionate about teaching me, was simultaneously the pervasiveness of those ethnic lines in everything they did and the joy and pride they found in their lives and their cultures despite these.

As an English-speaking American, the Israel-Palestine I had access to included Israelis and Palestinians, Sudanese and Eritreans, Thais and Filipinos; it was multi-ethnic, multi-religious and deeply, painfully divided. Through my program I visited a range of public and private health institutions that collectively provide for this diverse population.  All Israeli citizens, regardless of employment status, pre-existing conditions, ethnicity etc., have health insurance and access to the same basic care package. This covers a range of potential needs including; chronic disease treatment, transportation to the hospital, in vitro fertilization, and drug and alcohol rehab.  Notably missing from the list is mental health care, something that is simultaneously needed, due to the high rates of trauma experienced by people in the region, and taboo, because the prevalence of the trauma has led to the expectation that people should be able to “cope” on their own.

One of the aspects of the health system that I was most impressed by was the emphasis on adherence to care. Everyone has insurance so everyone’s health is monitored. As “big brother” as this may sound, it is very effective in containing disease outbreaks and in ensuring people attend their yearly check-ups and adhere to prescribed treatments. Early childhood nurses make home visits if patients miss an appointment, and tele-medicine, in which nurses regularly check in with patients over the phone, is used to keep track of the needs of chronic disease patients.

Despite these impressive initiatives, for the 25% of Israeli citizens who are not Jewish, the health system fails to provide consistent and equitable care.  In GlobeMed we frequently speak about the social determinants of health, specifically how issues such as trust between care providers and care recipients, distance of populations from hospitals, and responsiveness of the health system to certain populations, all influence health outcomes.  In my experience, Israel-Palestine is a case study in this reality. One example of this is the NephroLife clinic in Umm al-Fahm a primarily Muslim Palestinian town in the center of the country. The director of the clinic had tried to get the government to fund a dialysis center in the town so residents would not have to make the one-hour journey by bus to the nearest hospital. When the government failed to establish a dialysis center he founded NephroLife, a private clinic, that charges for its services. He is now working on bringing a hospital to the area, however, this too will be private, because he was unable to obtain government support.

Before visiting this region I had always held up universal health care as the gold standard of health systems.  However, the clinics I visited and the people I met while abroad made me realize how much this system of government oversight relies on trust between the people and government; trust that is easily broken through conflict and discrimination. Though I did not return to America with answers about how to improve cross-cultural care, I did come away with the firm belief that the first step to improving health outcomes anywhere in the world starts with building relationships that are rooted in respect, dignity, and recognition of history. 

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GlobeMed Ugly Sweater Sale: A Review

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On November 17-20 the GlobeMed Campaigns Team put on the annual Sweater Sale. Here is Jason Chen, Co-President of Campaigns, on the fundraiser in review.

I believe that the annual fall ugly sweater sale is consistently our most successful fundraiser. We large amount of traffic we get brings in a lot of money as well as spreads awareness about GlobeMed and what we do. The sweater sale this year was over the course of four days in the Norris student center.

We put a lot of time into planning the sweater sale. We made many trips to local stores throughout the Chicagoland area to find as many ugly sweaters as possible. All of the promotion materials were constructed by the amazing Communications Team to help spread the word throughout campus via Facebook and flyering. It was a huge success and we sold over 230 sweaters, bringing in almost $4000 in profits.

All of our events, including the sweater sale, raise money to support the Adonai Childhood Development Centre, which is an orphanage in rural Namugoga, Uganda. Our incredible fundraising efforts this year have been going towards supporting a health clinic that opened up for the Namugoga community last year. The work that we do to raise money for the Adonai center makes a huge difference and truly goes a long way in helping to improve the health of the those in need at the Adonai center and in the surrounding community.

The sweater sale is about much more than just the number of sales we make; for every product sold, it is a chance for people to learn about GlobeMed, Adonai and all of the amazing work our partnership does.


Reconstructing Islam on Campus

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By Elizabeth Kim

Religion is not the first thing that comes to mind in college classrooms, let alone the field of global health. Mention of religion in the media and in the current presidential elections have forced it to have a negative connotation. However, discussion of different religious beliefs is necessary for students of all disciplines, especially those pursuing health-related careers, in order to understand how religion can play a role in the suffering as well as the celebration of cultures around the world. In short, religion is a significant factor underlying how individuals and communities access and practice health. With this in mind, GlobeMed at Northwestern discussed Islamophobia in a chapter meeting earlier this month.

One GlobeMed member, Sarah Khan, is taking a step further and actively working to educate the campus community on Islam and how it relates to students today. Khan is a sophomore studying pre-med and is the Treasurer of Muslim-cultural Students Association (McSA), the group hosting Discover Islam Week from Feb 15 to 19 at Northwestern University. She answered a few questions about what DIW is, and how it relates to her and other college students.

What is Discover Islam Week (DIW)?

McSA’s annual Discover Islam Week (DIW) aims to raise awareness about both Islam and the Muslim community at Northwestern during Winter Quarter. During DIW, our organization puts on firesides, speaker events, and workshops aimed at educating the Northwestern community about Islamic faith and culture. Historically, these events have revolved around areas such as spirituality, current affairs, and community building. The week’s events really bring the Muslim community on campus together to advocate and spread Islamic awareness.

Why did you get involved in DIW?

I chose to get involved with this organization and DIW to spread the most knowledge and understanding of Islam I can to those around me. McSA has given me a family to lean back on, during a time where my beliefs and values are constantly questioned. The community it provides for Muslims on campus is truly remarkable and welcoming to all who wish to learn and participate. At a time when Muslims are being openly discriminated against in the news, in politics, in schools, and in the media – it is very necessary for us, and our relative academic institutions, to step up and advocate peace, unity and inclusion.

What do you hope students get out of the DIW events, whether they are Muslim or not?

I really hope students begin to disassociate the words “Muslim”, “Islam”, and “Arab” with the negative connotations and images the media and politics have been framing. I hope students get the opportunity to not just listen to what Islam is, but understand and learn from similarities and differences. Most importantly, I hope students realize that the Muslims who are fleeing war torn countries are in fact families. They are fathers, mothers, and children; just like you and me. The further dehumanization of Muslims around the world can lead to the downfall of standards of civilized society. We hope that McSA’s small acts of advocacy can help in connecting the hearts and minds of some Americans to those who are being persecuted, but it also relies on the average student to make a choice to come to events to learn and be challenged, or to stay complacent.

How does DIW relate to your involvement in GlobeMed or your health-oriented career?

Personally, I feel compelled to lead a health-orientated career because of my faith. Providing equitable healthcare to the impoverished and underprivileged communities in need aligns closely to the basic tenets of my Islamic values. The empathetic and compassionate foundations of Islam are commonly ignored, and DIW aims to promote these values to the larger Northwestern body. Being a part of GlobeMed, I am actively thinking about the populations in need of service and what we, as university students, can do.

 

Check out some of the events as part of Discover Islam Week: 

https://www.facebook.com/events/1656991934564119//


GlobeMed: An Engineering Perspective

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By John Galyas

Before I stepped foot on campus to begin my freshman year at Northwestern, I knew I wanted to join GlobeMed. I had spent the last few weeks of the long summer before my freshman year Googling anything and everything about Northwestern in an admittedly overeager and futile attempt at preparing for the transition to college life. However, it was during these browsing sessions that I first discovered GlobeMed. At that point in my life, I knew I had a vague interest in global health and that as an engineering student, I wouldn’t have room to take many extra global health classes outside of the rigid engineering curriculum.

During my first few weeks on campus, I prioritized joining GlobeMed over the hundreds of other student groups because of the opportunities it provided to engage with global health. Since then, I’ve learned more than I possibly could have imagined as that overeager freshman. My experience in GlobeMed has had a profound impact on my college experience, and it’s an experience I’m incredibly thankful to have had over the last four years. While I’ve certainly learned a great deal from our weekly chapter discussions on global health, I think what has impacted me the most during my time in GlobeMed is the partnership model. As natural as it may seem to focus on sustainability and collaboration in development work, it is unfortunately not always the norm. This has only become more evident to me through my experiences as an engineering student.

At its core, engineering is simply problem solving, but often with an element of technical design. Engineering “culture” doesn’t always prioritize social consciousness and collaboration, particularly in situations related to international development. However, the most elegant and effective solutions to engineering problems frequently incorporate some element of social design. It is crucial to understand how the social world will interact with and utilize technology in order to formulate and design the best possible solution to the problem. Through my time in GlobeMed, I’ve learned the importance of cultural and contextual awareness when analyzing a problem via the partnership model, as well as the always engaging weekly discussions held during our chapter meetings.

The partnership model is focused on building sustainable relationships and solutions – doing so requires keen communication and social awareness. My involvement in GlobeMed has allowed me to gain intimate familiarity with the partnership model and it has provided me with a unique perspective in my engineering training – a perspective that I believe will make me a more effective engineer as I graduate and launch my professional career. At the end of the day, what is most important to me is that my work will directly improve the lives of people everywhere. I firmly believe that GlobeMed has provided me the perspective required to utilize my technical skills in order to develop the best solutions to maximize the effectiveness and impact of my work.


World Day of Social Justice 2016

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“Instead of treating social justice issues as trendy news topics or points of discussion, we should acknowledge that all social justice issues deserve to be recognized and fought for.”

My name’s Camille Cooley. I’m a sophomore in SESP studying HDPS (Human Development and Psychological Services), and I’m working as the mentor for the World Day of Social Justice committee this year! Each year a GlobeMed committee plans the World Day of Social Justice, a daylong event that will take place this year on February 23rd at the Norris Student Center. The World Day of Social Justice, or more affectionately known as WDSJ, aims to promote awareness and efforts regarding issues such as poverty, exclusion, unemployment, and all other social justice issues that plague both international communities and local ones.

I worked on the WDSJ last year and found the entire process really eye-opening. Planning the event and discussing what we wanted to achieve was an opportunity for me to explore broader social justice issues on a global and campus wide scale, while becoming intimately involved with an event that would help bring awareness to our topic. I really wanted to help out this year because I knew it would be a special opportunity to foster more dialogue, give my team and I a chance to be creative, and plan a day that brings an issue we care about to light.

Grace Jing, Kathleen Clark, and Aysha Salter-Volz are the spectacular people I’m working with this year. They have come up with some pretty amazing ideas that we’re still parsing through. However, something important that we’ve been discussing recently is that social justice issues don’t just end when the media stops paying attention to them. It is always important to focus on what effects people’s lives, despite the fact that issues constantly fall off the radar when the media loses interest in telling their stories. Instead of treating social justice issues as trendy news topics or points of discussion, we should acknowledge that all social justice issues deserve to be recognized and fought for. We can move forward in making change by keeping productive dialogue open, staying educated, and bringing awareness to local and international issues through events like the WDSJ.

I am so excited for this year’s World Day of Social Justice. If you’d like to learn more or help contribute, you can contact me at camillecooley2018@u.northwestern.edu


Lessons From “Around the World”

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By Tamar Eisen

The most common question I have heard after returning to Northwestern for winter quarter is, “How was the world?” The reason I am consistently asked this question is because last fall, I went on a semester-long comparative health program to India, South Africa and Brazil. While I did reach three continents, spent time in ten different cities, and got to experience three distinct cultures, I can still say that I barely scratched the surface of the world itself. Moreover, when I try to answer this question to a friend or professor, I usually do not have time to get into the complexities and intricacies of the state of these three countries, so I tend to settle with the response, “The world was good.” I guess now that I have the space, I can delve into this answer a bit further.

In each place we visited, we obtained a comprehensive understanding of the country’s governing health system, epidemiological profile, major barriers to health outcomes, traditional healing mechanisms, public-private divide, and potential health reforms and innovations through classes and guest lectures. But no class could have prepared me for the overcrowded, understaffed, ill-equipped hospital we observed in rural India or the highly racialized nature of healthcare in South Africa or the plight of the poor living in urban dwellings across São Paulo, Brazil. An overwhelming sense of shock encompassed me as we discussed HIV, food insecurity, homelessness and violence against transgender populations in the shadows of the White House and Capitol Hill. My trip was, almost on a daily basis, a brutal confrontation with the realities of poverty, gender inequality, poor sanitation, hunger, racism, climate change, human rights violations, discrimination, and social, economic, political inequities.

But of course it was not all bad. We visited grassroots, non-profit organizations in India that worked towards better health whether it be by promoting LGBT health rights, repurposing scrap material to make female sanitary napkins, instituting children governments in rural villages, or developing compostable and economically affordable toilets. We heard stories of hope in South Africa through our conversations with the Treatment Action Campaign, who successfully fought and advocated for the introduction of anti-retroviral drugs and a universal government-provided AIDS treatment program during the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We visited a Quilombo in rural Brazil – a community of individuals descending from runaway slaves – who asserted their identity to claim land rights from the Brazilian government. And we witnessed the success of Brazil’s publically funded health care system, SUS (Sistema Único de Saúde), which provides free and universal healthcare to all of its citizens.

Through these experiences I have learned to interrogate the world around me, to take a second glance at the seemingly obvious, and to embrace ambiguity and uncertainty. I’ve come to find that the world is complicated and contradictory and ironic; it can sometimes be a really awful place, but also an amazing one where people come together to create things that are beautiful.

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A freshman’s take on joining GlobeMed and going on GROW

By Neil Thivalapill

This will probably be a very disorganized post because I can’t organize my thoughts for the life of me. So, here it goes:

GlobeMed. Level with me here, your club SOUNDS like it is filled with Pre-meds who want to save the world with their *expert medical knowledge* or at least convince medical schools that that’s what their end goal is. And I’ll admit, that was definitely a reason that I applied to GlobeMed. But damn, you guys did not fit that stereotype and I am so thankful you didn’t for essentially two reasons: I hate Pre-meds, and you guys have opened my eyes to the world of global health and social justice. My freshman experience at GlobeMed really did change me. It made me sadder but in a good way. I know that doesn’t really make sense but hear me out. Before joining GlobeMed, I didn’t understand health disparities, or social determinants of health, or really much of global health in general. Granted, I still don’t know a lot, but having my eyes opened this much to the field of social justice and global health was a lot to deal with. But it was comforting to know that I was and am still surrounded by people who get sad when they think of the current state of global health.

For some reason, I clearly remember repeating “I just love the community” when asked what about GlobeMed appeals to me. I mean come on, how could I sit there and tell the GROW Team coordinator and co-president, “Yeah the name of this club really jives with medical school.” Knowing both my interviewers now that would NOT have been a great answer. But I digress. Community. I definitely found it as a freshman, which I really did not believe would happen because I had this preconception that everybody hates freshman. But I found it nonetheless. I found it when at the new member retreat, at the reading of the Michael Brown verdict, at the Ugly Sweater Sale and at every chapter meeting (I hate how cheesy this sounds). I found people who cry when they think about global health disparities, who are not the conventional pre-meds and who are not pre-med but are fascinated by health. And I think these are the kinds of people I want to surround myself with for as long as possible.

When I got a missed call from Carol, I was walking back to my room from Norris and I thought I had been turned down. But I wasn’t really disappointed because I wasn’t expecting much. Then I saw that she left a voicemail and I began to question her life choices because who leaves voicemails in the 21st century. And then I listened to it and I guess the rest is history. To be completely honest, I am very scared for GROW. I can’t believe that we are less than 14 days from leaving and I consistently worry about messing up. What if I end up participating in voluntourism and leave a negative effect on the community there? What if I don’t immerse myself in the culture fully? What if I become a victim of racial profiling on the journey? None of these won’t matter in the end though, because past GROW members have told me that there is a good man waiting on the other side for us. And I really can’t wait to meet him.


ghU Recap: Voluntourism

By Amy Lin

Last quarter, the ghU sessions delved into the topics of gender and sexuality. While the sessions were empowering and fun as a woman, it was easy to get swept up in the feminist movement and start saying things like “gender is a social construct” and “down with the patriarchy.” The ghUs addressed these topics, but went even further in discussing the surrounding social environment. We talked about the personal issues with acceptance and social norms, and then went on to shed a light on the larger implications of the inequalities, especially with regards to access to healthcare and other rights.

While ghU’s always create dialogue about these important issues, the discussion often feels like it ends when the meeting ends. With our new focus on advocacy, it’s exciting to understand the beginnings, principles, and history of activism; in addition, it’s inspiring to be able to see the potential influence and change that student activists can bring to campus, and even beyond campus. .

We started the quarter with the focus on voluntourism, a hot-button topic that was sure to generate discussion due to GlobeMed members’ interest in global health. With our foundation rooted in the partnership model and making sure that our partners don’t just “listen to the donors,” exploring advocacy in the health field provoked a lot of questions regarding the benefits and shortcomings of voluntourism. During the debate, a lot of the issues raised were with regards to the White Savior Complex, the inherent power dynamic, the lack of sustainable support, and the limited opportunities in-country growth and development.

While the intentions of service trips may come from a good place and the relief provided may have significant short-term impact, it’s comparable to putting a single band-aid on a festering, gaping wound. The band-aid isn’t going to be helping that much, but it’s better than completely ignoring the problem. The voluntourism programs do succeed in one area: raising awareness for the needs in certain areas. While volunteers and tourists are being sent to these areas, these programs need to ensure that their participants are responsibly and respectfully engaging in these communities.

As short-term relief is being provided, more discussions need to be had about how to create self-sustainable programs that can promote growth, development, and eventually independence from foreign aid. It’s naive to think that this can happen overnight or within a few years. Government, policies, and infrastructure all need to come in play; however, if all the innovative organizations and groups keep implementing responsible actions abroad, then their cumulative  efforts can equip people in the communities to create change from the bottom up.

With the upcoming ghUs, we are going to be shifting our focus to student activists and organizations on our very own campus. Learning from our peers, we can use the skills and lessons they’ve learned and implement them to advocate for not only GlobeMed related global health issues but also other important causes that need advocating.

Amy is a member of the ghU committee at Northwestern.


Voices On Transgender Community

By Elizabeth Kim

This winter quarter’s GHUs at GlobeMed Northwestern has focused on gender and sexuality, of which transgender has been a topic of discussion. The overwhelming consensus in the discussions and in US classrooms is that there is not enough education regarding these issues, especially defining specific terms such as transgender, travestite, and transexual. Despite the general lack of information and understanding, recent events in the media have triggered conversations about the transgender community in the United States.

On February 5, Barry Williams of the TV show Brady Brunch appeared in an interview on Huffington Post Live. Toward the end of the clip, Williams suggests he should go transgender as former Olympian and Kardashians father Bruce Jenner, who recently got a lot of publicity for a car accident, did for publicity of his show and career. When the host tries to explain the internal complexity of transforming into transgender, Williams replies, “I am an actor, I can handle it.”

There are certainly some people who will have just the same response as Williams. Some will persistently ignore the fact that there is a deeper mental and emotional process underlying those questioning their identities. As incorrect as they may be, these are the opinions that instigate further nationwide conversations on critical issues.

But this should not be the case every time an important discussion needs to be held. A negative comment cannot be the basis of a social movement in a country that boasts of freedom of speech and right to participate and pursue happiness.

Those who believe in their right to have an equal part need to let their voices be heard because until the conversation starts going two-ways, there will still be people who will make light of and continue to deny someone else’s personal emotional and physical struggle to become who they want to be.

Aydian Dowling, a trans model, recently set an example of combatting the ignorance about the trans community with his latest photoshoot. Dowling recreates the look of Adam Levine’s naked photoshoot in Cosmopolitan UK in 2011. While Levine’s photo promoted raising awareness for prostate cancer, Dowling’s sends a positive yet urgent message about the need for transparency and visibility of the trans community worldwide.

The author of the Refinery article who reposts the picture closes by saying, “We’re also looking forward to a day when it isn’t necessary to recreate the action of a cis celebrity to prove that the relationship between gender and appearance is more than meets the eye.”

Celebrities and on-air personalities tend to pervade the media on a daily basis; as a result, they are often the ones to start conversations and movements and receive strong criticism. These are short-lived, however, if they are not supported by informed citizens who want to stop perpetual cycles of ignorance about not only the LGBTQ community but also other racial groups and nations as well.

Readings:

http://nymag.com/thecut/2015/02/bruce-jenner-transgender-e-docuseries.html

 


A History Of Failure: Why Global Health’s Past Is Important For Its Future

By Nida Bajwa

Anyone who has studied global health knows that the field is wrought by many many failures, and very few successes. It is easy to get discouraged from the field when analyzing the immense amount of failure and repetition of those failures in the field. However, in analyzing these failed histories perhaps we can arrive at a greater future. As students, what is our role? What do we want to achieve from our global health education? How can we take a history of failures and turn it into success?

The relationship between politics and global health is immense, and can be traced back to colonialism. The commonality that exists today is that healthcare to poor, developing countries is delivered by westerners who come in and impose their set of values upon the people, an idea borne from colonialism. In some hundreds of years, not much has changed. The white man’s burden rechanneled itself into delivery of global health around the world. Similarly, racism in America has found new channels but has not left us. To this day, America is a country with institutionalized, systematic racism. That racism is the same racism of the 1600s that began slavery, the same racism of the 1950s that spurred the civil rights movement, and the same racism that spurred the Ferguson protests just months back. Similarly, global health today is still a field that is battling with that stigma, a stigma that was embedded very deeply in our colonial history.

Sadly, global health has oft been used as a tool by those in power. Interestingly enough, the mortality rates of blacks vs. whites in hot climates served as justification for the trans-Atlantic slave trade. A measure of health, associated with progress and development, thus aided in justifying a brutal system of slavery. The same determinants global health advocates use to try to do good were used to do evil. The same determinants used to grant equity in healthcare were used to justify racism, colonialism, conquest, and the lingering consequences of these institutions we are still feeling today and quite possibly will reverberate for the rest of American history. You can’t escape your colonial past, you can only work with it.

Paul Farmer, an anthropologist in the field of global health, discusses the impact of colonialism and history in an essay titled “An Anthropology of Structural Violence.” In the essay, he explains the idea of structural violence as the oppressive systems in play which all those who are engaged in take part in, perhaps subconsciously. As American citizens, we are thus responsible for structural violence, whether or not we personally engage.

So how do we, as students move forward? How do we escape America’s colonial past? The answer is uncertain, but it is clear that some form of systematic change has to occur, most likely at a political and a social level. In order to truly impact change on a health level, you have to impact change on a social scale. Until systematic racism is no longer in play, how can health ever be equal? We will have to think critically as a nation, as students, and as global citizens in effecting change and hopefully, one day, we can undo the years and years of colonialism and the damage it has caused around the world.