MPH Panama Practicum 2012: Catching up…

July 12, 2012
Author: Patrick Nugent

Time has been flying by, and as it stands now, we are just a short two days from completing our work here in Panama!  I have been working as a member of the Environmental Health and Vector Control group for the past week and some odd days.  Thus far, the experience has been better than I could have hoped for.  Our mornings begin with a briefing on the sites we are to visit, as well as some time to pick the brains of the health inspectors, which has yielded some very interesting information not only on the infectious diseases they routinely combat, but also on the common health behaviors that put communities at risk for infection, such as not throwing out garbage, or allowing standing water to accumulate.  Of particular interest to us are Dengue, Malaria, and Leishmaniasis, three vector borne illnesses that represent the biggest threats to public health when considering the potential for an outbreak.

The field visits, of course, have been the highlight of the workdays.  The group has been to several farms reporting recently infected individuals, some local markets for routine health inspections, and also a couple of water sanitation plants.  No matter the site, there seems to be one common thread: Infectious disease is everywhere!  Of course you will have heard the saying that ?an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,? but in this instance it holds especially true as vector control is the only feasible means to reduce the burden of these infectious diseases.  This is made even scarier when you add in the context that despite the massive amounts of prevention education being done, the response from the public is negligible.  This sort of inaction in terms of health behavior change is a very serious barrier to public health progress, so in order to make the greatest possible impact, we have chosen elementary school children as our target population.

As a whole, the Panama practicum crew has been extremely busy with many amazing projects, and because of that, my update is coming late in the game.  However, I look forward to providing another update after all is said and done.

The Vector Control gang out in the field!

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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