After visiting several primary healthcare centres (PHCs) at Gangolli in Udupi, Roojin, a student of McMaster University, Ontario, told The Hindu she was inspired by the enthusiasm of healthcare workers here who had “a lot of character.”

She said, “I almost preferred them to the healthcare system of Canada because they were so personal, caring, and paid attention to detail.”

She was one of 145 students from McMaster University, Maastricht University, The Netherlands, and Manipal University who participated in the ‘Global health symposium 2013’ organised by the three universities.

The symposium — Bridging different worlds — held from April 21 to May 4, aimed at bringing together PG students and faculty of global and public health so they could learn from one another. It was oriented to be hands-on, cross-cultural, collaborative and included field visits to public and private hospitals in Udupi, Karkala and Kundapur.

During their visits, the students learnt about 13 issues: infectious and vector-borne diseases, pesticides, mental health, community monitoring, occupational health hazards, occupational health hazards, maternal and child health, tribal health, leprosy, HIV and expenditure on health.

At the end of their visit, Nadine from Maastricht University, who studied women’s health among the Koragas, said she learnt it was more than only medication that led to their health problems. “The government provides cataract surgery free of cost to them but they can’t take three days off from work as they are daily wage earners,” she said.

Olga, also from Maastricht University, said global programmes in public health are few. They provide academic knowledge but translating that into practical, interventional programmes require learning interpersonal skills and adapting to working across cultures. She said she found that her subject of study — family planning — needed a careful approach. “The gestures, tone of voice, the presence of other members of the family (mattered),” she said.

Lloyd from Maastricht University said that in last year’s symposium, a group put in great effort to draw up a questionnaire only to be told that it would not work here. It was reworked to make it relevant, he said.

Meet has left students thinking

Sue Barclay, Co-ordinator, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada, said there were many unresolved issues at the symposium. “More questions were raised than answers. We don’t expect to come away with answers. Getting answers isn’t easy but they are thinking. Now, what can I do about it?” she said.

She said students learnt about dermatitis caused due to the acid in cashews, an occupational hazard for women working in cashew-processing factories, and fungal infections in the hands of fisherwomen.

Agnes Meershoek, Department of Health, Ethics and Society, Maastricht University, said all health problems are related to socio-economic factors, gender and culture such as fighting HIV or malaria. It was more than just dealing with the health problem, she said.

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