Pre-Trip Preview

Halo! An easy translation for “hello” in Indonesian. My name is Abbie Armstrong. I graduated from USC in May 2011 and I’m beginning my Master’s in Global Medicine in the Fall at USC. I will spend this upcoming July on a remote island, Sumba, off the coast of Bali to perform a malnutrition research study. I have been fortunate to have traveled to Sumba before when I was 18 years old. I volunteered at the medical clinics, painted murals with kids, and helped to develop a sustainable biodiesel power source. The Sumbanese people were most appreciative of the medical interventions that had the most direct impact on their well-being.

Sumba is an island of raw beauty. It almost seems as if the population lives in the past—the people cherish old traditions, perform ceremonies and Pasolas, and maintain relationships with ancestral spirits. Ever since I stepped foot off that island, I have always dreamt of going back. I am so thankful for the opportunity USC has given me to perform my malnutrition study on the island. Despite its beauty, Sumba is also home to a severely malnourished population. Drawn by its exotic location and pristine surf, tourists and surfers now support a private resort called Nihiwatu on the island. This has generated an influx of global dollars and attention to the struggles of the Sumbanese. This confluence of activity makes Sumba an ideal microcosm to examine the effects of international socially minded eco-tourism directed towards improving the health status of the Sumbanese people.

I plan to evaluate the effect of Western influence, improved farming and access to water on the prevalence of malnutrition rates in Sumba. My project involves investigating the three-year impact of the Sumba Foundation’s intervention in nutrition on the island of Sumba, Indonesia. Previous research concludes that 33.8% of Sumbanese children are underweight due to malnourishment. This cross-sectional study will use quantitative and qualitative methods to evaluate how farming techniques have improved the health status of the Sumbanese people. The relationship between malnutrition rates and sustainable farming techniques as introduced by the Sumba Foundation will be examined. This baseline malnutrition study will help to establish to what degree the intervention has or has not succeeded in reducing malnutrition on the island.

A huge thank you in advance to the USC Institute for Global Health, the Sumba Foundation, the Sumbanese people, the Quiksilver Foundation and the staff at Nihiwatu—Claude Graves, Dr. Claus Bogh, and Rainy Octora.