MPH Panama Practicum 2012: Day 1 – Day 4

July 6, 2012
Author: Theresa Nguyen

I arrived in Panama with 15 students from the MPH program, led by Faculty at IPR and in Preventive Medicine, L. Baezconde-Garbanati and K. Dwyer, and logistician Rosa Barahona on Sunday, July 1st, 2012. We’ve only been in Panama for 5 days, yet we’ve done and seen so much! Even though I’m so tired and sleep-deprived, it is so worth it and I’m looking forward to more adventures to come! Since several recent blogs have given a pretty thorough account of our activities so far, I do not feel it’s necessary to list them again. Instead, I’ll talk about the activities that are the most memorable to me such as participating in a focus group interview and leading a physical activity workout with a group of 1st graders at Altos de Cabuya Elementary School.

One of the activities that was new to me was participating in a focus group interview at Altos de Cabuya School. There were about 9 students in the focus group and I believe they were mostly 3rd and 4th graders. The purpose was to find out about their eating habits such as what they usually eat on a daily basis, how often they eat, and how much they eat, etc. The interview lasted for about 30 minutes and the children seemed to enjoy the process. They were so adorable as they searched in their heads for the answers to our questions! We also got most of the information that we needed.

Focus group interview at Altos de Cabuya Elementary School on July 6, 2012.

Another fun and memorable activity that I participated in was leading a physical education class of about 15 1st graders. My Spanish is very, very limited and so I was very nervous about leading a class of this many non-English speaking students on my own! Thankfully, there were several bi-lingual teachers there to help me translate. It was rainy that morning so we conducted the class in the classroom. The students were very enthusiastic and somewhat cooperative. We started off with several jumping jacks and we ran-in-place to warm up. Then we did several relay-type activities such as passing the ball back and forth in a straight line formation, the crabwalk, rolling the ball with their foreheads, etc. It got a little bit chaotic, but the kids had a great time and so did I!

Several 1st graders jumping over ropes. (Photo courtesy of Jenny Quynh Nguyen.)

More about the MPH Panama Practicum

A group of 15 University of Southern California graduate students are researching public health in Panama City, Panama, for a two-week international practicum, organized by the USC Master of Public Health (MPH) program. The students have been divided into three groups to work on maternal and child health, vaccination, environmental infectious diseases, nutrition and physical activity.

One group will be surveying patients about the healthcare system at a local clinic and proposing interventions to improve vaccination, infant development and women’s health. Another group will be in the field responding to outbreaks of environmentally spread infectious diseases and working to control common vectors such as mosquitoes. The last group will be calculating body mass index measurements for elementary school students and developing methods to improve nutrition and exercise within the school.

During their trip, the students will also be attending lectures on Panama’s healthcare system and statistics as well as visiting a remote indigenous tribe. Before leaving Panama, each student will be providing a deliverable that is intended to improve health in Panama.

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