The trip to Yale for the Global Health and Innovation Conference was truly eye opening. Going into this, I was at first sceptical about what to expect from this conference. I was not sure how listening to speakers would affect me. However, once actually participating in the conference, I was blown away. As a first year, Health Science concepts (such as social determinants of health) were new ideas to me and this conference allowed me to utilize my knowledge and fully make sense of it. I listened to a variety of speakers, their projects, their ideas and goals for the future, and seeing them use the foundations of Health studies concepts was amazing. For example, I attended a social impact lab, where a woman was conducting peer health groups in prisons in Mexico, where inmates educated each other about STDs, diseases and other things. She acknowledged that they were in impoverished settings and lacked high quality health care. She considered the social determinants that were strongly associated with the prison system and worked around it to enhance their healthcare as a whole, and it showed how innovative these speakers were.
It also was refreshing to learn about NGOs and their efforts in countries. Hearing about situations in struggling countries like Haiti, it changed my perspective on NGOs. Prior to this conference, a seemingly asinine thing like an NGO celebrating its 40th year in a country seems remarkable. However, it was immediately pointed out that a NGO should not be present in a country for 40 years, and that something innovative needed to be done to make the change that is required. Furthermore, it impressed me to see how locals of countries that were being aided were highly praised and respected. I am used to seeing and hearing about those who enter these countries and ignore local help/do not give recognition or credit to local help and it was amazing to see that the speakers emphasized how crucial local help was. It shows the immense respect and humility of these speakers and displays their credibility.
The speaker that I enjoyed the most was the Minister of Health in Rwanda, Agnes Binagwaho. She was remarkable. Despite the country undergoing terrible circumstances and events, they have developed at a rapid rate to the amazing stage they are at today. She targeted the poorest of the poor, working to ensure that they received the highest quality of healthcare. This ties in to concepts in Health Science, where there is an unequal distribution of wealth and health care, resulting in a social gradient. Binagwaho tackles this directly and it has led to a tremendous rise in their health care system, demonstrating how acknowledging the poorest of the poor, rather than only the rich, can benefit the country as a whole.
Ultimately, this conference was excellent and I hope to do it again in the future. It enhanced my knowledge as a Health Studies student by allowing me to apply the knowledge I have, and leave with new information. There are many things that I learned at the conference that have changed my perspective and look at health in a broader view. I believe this experience has made me more open minded and aware of other issues that circulate in global health, rather than the standard idea of treating symptoms only and not considering the person and their experiences. After this conference, I am seriously considering a job in the public health field, or at least pursue volunteer work in the field. I feel more enriched and I truly recommend this experience to anyone interested in the health field.