MPH Panama Practicum 2012: Panama Fun-Week 1

July 9, 2012
Author: Yasmin Abedin

Before arriving in Panama, I did not know what to expect. Some people told me it was a third-world country and some mentioned the beauty. As we drove from the airport to Panama Clayton Inn, I fell in love with the high rise buildings and brightly lit scenes! I was so excited to see another country and experience a different culture!

On the first day of the trip, we visited the old city. Walking in the humid weather, I embraced the change from Los Angeles. After much confusion and clarification, I understood the engineering behind the Panama Canal and was able to appreciate such an architectural art-work. However, after recently taking PM 529-Environmental Epidemiology I grew concerned about the pollution and public health concerns from the canal.

The next day all of the groups went to tour their sites. I am in the nutrition group (Chloe, Chelsea, Jessica, Theresa, and me-Yasmin) and for the past week we have been going to the elementary school “Escuela Altos de Cabuya” in the community “Veinticuatro de Diciembre.”  I believed that the children of Panama faced malnutrition problems. However, after talking to local professionals, teachers, and students, I learned  that obesity leading to diabetes was a growing issue for young children. With our initial needs assessment and site visit, we determined that the teachers, parents, and students needed more information on physical activity, nutrition, and health in general. Throughout the week, we did some physical exercises and presentations with the various grades.

We were also able to see the school garden and chicken area. The school grows vegetables and fruits, and raises chickens that are cooked for the children in need. I thought it was nice that the national government was providing some healthy food or healthy ideas. On the other hand, the national government also provided the school with milk and cookies, which did not have wonderful nutritional value.

Overall, this experience has been great. Collaborating with fellow students, professors, Panamanian public health representatives, this has definitely been a team experience. I am looking forward to this week and delivering my findings and recommendations.

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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