As soon as I attended the first session of my Introduction to Public Health class my sophomore year at UNH, I knew public health was the career for me. I had always considered working in global health as my career path. When the global health course offered at UNH was unavailable, Professor Matteucci and I created an independent study. Learning objectives for the independent study include: identifying major global health challenges, features of the global health system, the distribution of health around the world, how social and institutional factors affect the burden of disease, healthcare access around the world, and identifying evidence-based interventions.
A key portion of my global health independent study is working on a global health project in Lima, Peru. In the summer of 2015, I spent time in Thailand living with local hill tribe communities. I volunteered for a local organization that supported these communities that had virtually no access to healthcare because of their refugee status. I had essentially planned my trip to Peru before I had even left for Thailand. I knew that I wanted to have another experience similar to Thailand.
During both my undergraduate and graduate studies, I have always been drawn to working with vulnerable populations. Vulnerable populations (children, elderly, malnourished) often experience the highest burden of disease. In Peru, poverty is the largest contributing factor for making a population vulnerable. In urban areas the rate of poverty is 25% and is as high as 50% in rural areas. Specifically, I am working with the elderly in a sprawling shantytown known as Villa El Salvador, located in Lima, Peru. Villa El Salvador was a result of a massive immigration in the early 1970’s by immigrant families. The area is in desert-like conditions and has limited access to electricity, sewage, and water.
In many cases, the elderly in this area live alone in extremely harsh conditions. Los Martincitos is a community-based program created to provide the elderly with basic healthcare, daily living needs, companionship and community, and promote dignity and respect. The program also conducts home visits to check on the well being of the elderly enrolled in the program. I am very excited about the opportunity to not only learn about community programs that benefit vulnerable populations, but also make a personal and meaningful impact on peoples’ lives.