After attending the Global Health and Innovation Conference, I learned a lot about a range of global health issues. Though I’ve only experienced two Health Studies courses at Western, I was made well aware of the practical applications of this knowledge at the conference. Many of the personal and social determinants of health were mentioned throughout the weekend by various speakers and illustrated the relevance of this material in not just the classroom, but in tackling larger global health problems. Concepts taught during lectures that did not appeal much to me became much more interesting and reaffirmed to me why it is necessary to learn these things for a future career in health.
One keynote speaker in particular that stood out to me was Gary Cohen, when he spoke about “Healthcare in the Age of Climate Change”. For me, the healthcare industry is where I would like to pursue a career and I found it extremely fascinating how he linked it to climate change, a topic that I previously dismissed in importance. Instead of just lecturing about climate change in the usual way, he presented facts to portray how unsustainable our current way of living is. He offered a unique perspective, as he mentioned how fetal health is affected by pollutants, how hospital workers experience specific health issues like asthma and how unaffordable the damage from extreme weather has been. Furthermore, he mentioned easily implemented solutions of systematic changes that could address these problems, such as offering healthier food options in hospitals or purchasing furniture for hospitals without carcinogenic chemicals. I became more informed about the issue of climate change and convinced as to why it is an issue that we should all care about.
Mental health is also an area that I am very passionate about and so it was very rewarding to attend the sessions regarding Mental and Neurological Health. Specifically, there were two different lectures that discussed the idea of integrating mental health into primary care in developing countries. In Rwanda, this has been implemented by training community health workers to screen for mental illnesses in their communities, as there is a lack of psychiatrists in the country. However, I believe this system would also operate well in developed nations like Canada, as mental health care is still lacking. Most people with a mental illness often do not seek help and that is a problem that still exists in high-income nations. It would be interesting to see whether the integration of mental health into primary care is better implemented in Canada in the future, as it has been fairly successful in Rwanda. Ultimately, it was a privilege to attend the GHIC Conference and it was an extremely memorable weekend!