MPH Panama Practicum 2012: Fin!

July 13, 2012
Author: Jessica Wright

These past two weeks in Panama have been amazing. Getting to know my fellow MPH students and professors outside of the classroom and having the opportunity to apply what we have learned in our classes has been an invaluable experience. Today was the our official last day and closing of the program. Each group presented their projects, findings, and deliverables to Lourdes Alguero and Dr. Arlene Calvo, and they seemed very pleased and appreciative of what our group has accomplished after 6-7 days at our various field sites.

The nutrition group presented our findings on the school-wide data we collected. We computed BMI measurements for 394 students at Altos de Cabuya school, and found that about 25% of the students are overweight.  More boys are currently overweight than the girls, but a greater percentage of girls are at risk for becoming overweight.

There is a lack of data and research focusing solely on overweight and obesity among school aged children in Panama as well as the Latin America and Caribbean region. These calculations will be used as baseline data for a nutrition program involving current nutrition students at the Universidad de Panam?, so we hope that this data can help to fill a gap in current research.

Below is a short video summary of the work the Nutrition and Physical Activity group was involved in during our time at Altos de Cabuya. Many thanks to my fellow group members, Yasmin Abedin, Theresa Nguyen, Chloe Smith, and Chelsea Walden, our mentor and group leader, Dr. Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati, Dr. Kathleen Dwyer, Rosa Barahona and the USC MPH program for a fabulous Practicum experience in Panama!

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.

These blog posts have been re-posted here with permission and can also be viewed at