Only a couple days into our trip and already I am amazed with the opportunities we have been given. Just yesterday we were able to meet and interview Kathleen Sebelius, the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Howard Kho, the U. S. Assistant Secretary for Health and Sir George Alleyne, the U. S. Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean region. It was such an honor being able to speak to each of them and I am so grateful for the experience.
|K. Srinath Reddy|
Today we definitely had a very busy morning! We began with an interview with Mike Splaine, the Director for State Policy and Advocacy Programs at the National Office of the Alzheimer’s Association in Washington, D. C. He addressed the importance of developing a better understanding of age-related diseases as dementia is one of the top ten causes of death. He stressed the seriousness of Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common cause of dementia, and expressed how it is a major public health problem. After our interview with Mike Splaine, we spoke briefly with Dr. Roger I. Glass, the Director of the Fogarty International Center and Associate Director for the International Research at NIH. While we came into the conversation with our field of interest in mind, he told us to be open to different experiences, locally or globally, as they will truly shape us. Following our talk with Dr. Glass, we were able to speak with Professor K. Srinath Reddy, the founding member of the Public Health Foundation of India. With his extensive background in not only the medical field but the public health field, he was able to share with us an incredible wealth of knowledge.
After the interviews, I attended an incredible side event called “Strengthening palliative care as a component of integrated treatment throughout the life course.” Delegates from the U. S., Panama, the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Malaysia, Senegal and John Beard, Director of the World Health Organization’s Department of Ageing and Life Course, presented their perspectives on Palliative Care. Palliative care seeks to improve the quality of life of patients and families as it focuses on relieving and preventing the suffering of patients. John Beard, the WHO’s Department of Ageing and Life Course, mentioned how palliative care is not just pain relief or pain management for a patient but instead it is about the social support and guidance a patient receives when facing a difficult road ahead. This was further emphasized by the delegate from the Federal Republic of Nigeria and it was mentioned again that palliative care is not just pain relief but a family issue as well. As each delegate continued to share their message, it become very transparent how more focus needs to be on palliative care, how it should be integrated into basic services, how more professionals need to be trained, how there is such poor access and how there is just inadequate knowledge of palliative care in general. In Kenya, for example, while there is a national program for palliative care, only 24% of children have access to it. Then in Malaysia, more than 10 million people or 37% of the population are still not cared for by palliative care. Clearly, there are changes that need to be made to strengthen palliative care. The U. S. Delegate made final great points saying that we need to have a positive conversation about life and dignity in life should be to the very end. It’s an important time in life for patients so they should receive the best care possible and feel the support they deserve.
I cannot wait to see what else is in store these upcoming days. It has been an incredible experience so far and I am so excited for the rest of the trip!