MPH Panama Practicum 2012: The trash here never ends…

July 13, 2012
Author: Deena Pourshaban

What makes a city livable? Museums, public transit, cafes, parks, schools, banks, wifi, bike paths, density, international vibe, nightclubs? Yes, but these are just additional amenities that make life more interesting, but without the basic essentials like safety, clean water and sanitation, civility cannot exist. Trash is a huge issue in Panama.  From the moment I got off the plane, I noticed trash everywhere, in the streets, bushes, in front of people?s homes, and in playgrounds; trash is EVERYWHERE. Not only does it make the city look unappealing, but also it is a perfect breeding ground for mosquitos.

Addressing the issue of trash is definitely a sensitive issue.  I inquired about the trash issue to our mentor, Health Inspector Edwin Franco.  He informed me that the people of Panama just don?t care about cleaning up their trash.  He continued to say, that the people believe the government is responsible for dealing with trash, however this should not be the case. Every citizen should take responsibility for their trash, and dump it in designated dump sites and not in the streets.

I don?t want to leave the impression that Panama is a big trash dump, it isn?t. Certain areas in Panama are well kept and clean, these are areas where tourists stay.  However, as you enter into more rural areas, you begin to see a significant difference; loads and loads of trash. It might seem simple to us to throw our trash in a trashcan, but others seem to have a difficult time grasping that concept, hopefully things will change soon.

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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