India on the Horizon

Hello all,

Mera nam Ellie Afshar hai (my name is Ellie Afshar), and I’m a recent USC Master of Public Health graduate (well almost). I started my practicum at the USC Institute for Global Health (IGH) in the spring, and am concluding my studies as an intern at the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI). I will be stationed mainly in New Delhi, India, but will have the opportunity to travel to parts of southern India.
At the Public Health Foundation of India I will be working with the health systems team on issues relating to health care and equity in India, especially the dimensions of cost, and socio-economic inequities in health care utilization in India. Although India’s standards of living have risen, there still exists pockets of terrible poverty and deprivation. Just to give you an idea – the ratio of hospital beds to population in rural areas is 15 times lower than urban areas. The ratio of doctors to population in rural areas is almost 6 times lower than the urban population. Looking at infant mortality, an infant born in a poor family is two and a half times more likely to die in infancy than a well of family. These stark statistics only solidify the need to move towards better improving access to health care (mainly in rural areas), system restructuring and strengthening on the financial, institutional and management ends, public-private partnerships, and outreach strategies to remote areas.
I am hoping to research the many factors that contribute to the health care dichotomy between the rural and the urban areas. Factors like health care access, economic and political contexts, and the role of private health care are some markers to understanding the 39 million people falling into poverty every year as a result of health care expenditures. I’m fascinated to finding out firsthand what it takes for individuals to seek and receive every day health care and their perspectives on the system on a whole.
Alongside my work with the Public Health Foundation of India, I hope to explore the many dimensions of medicine in India and the use of traditional medicine vs. allopathic medicine (the east/west uses of medicine). It’s fascinating how many in the India use Ayurveda as a part of their life and I’m curious to see how it is practiced and how it contributes to health seeking and health outcomes. Ayurveda pronounced (aa-yoor-vay-da) is the oldest complete medical system in the world with recorded origins dating back 3,500-4,000 years to 1200-800 BC. It is a science in which the knowledge of the body (sarira), senses (indriya), mind (sattva), and soul (atma) are defined in one meaningful system.
Well, I think I’ve said enough. This will be my first time in India, so I am going to take it all in as much as I can. My nerves are all over the place, but I know I am doing what I have been set out to do. I would like to thank the USC Institute for Global Health – without your support, I do not think I could have made it here. I would like to specifically thank Ivette Flores, Heather Wipfli, and Jonathan Samet. Also, I would like to thank the Public Health Foundation of India for so generously offering me an internship.
Wish me luck! Until next post!
Much Love,


  1. wow – this sounds so fascinating!! so very proud of you and the work you are doing. the people of India really need someone like you there to help change the current conditions. – Shab


  2. Katy says:

    so proud of you Ellie! You're gonna do great things!


  3. I wish you the best of luck on your mission. Safe travels! Write again soon! XO Nas.


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