“How many of you wear contacts?” Sweta Shrestha, programs associate at the University
of Wisconsin-Madison Global Health Institute, asked a room full of high school students and their teachers. “How many think of that as a disability that could put your life in danger? What if someone can’t go to the eye doctor–even in the United States?”
“Opening Doors to the World,” the second annual High School Global Health Day at UW-Madison, introduced 20 rural students to the many circumstances that impact health in Wisconsin and across the world. The day was co-sponsored by the UW-Madison Global Health Institute, South Central Wisconsin Area Health Education Center and GlobeMed UW-Madison.
“The day-long workshop is designed to expose students to the determinants of health in a global context and have them realize the impact of global issues on their own lives, communities and, hopefully, their future careers in health,” Shrestha said.
Students participated in several activities that explored disparities in health and how health is impacted by geographic location, gender, ability and support networks. They met other rural students also interested in health challenges, saw opportunities available to them at UW-Madison and were introduced to how they might engage as global citizens.
“The (global health day) helps students see beyond the world they’re in,” said Lynne Miner, who teaches a survey class in medical occupations at Johnson Creek High School.
“These students can go out to the world,” said Glenda McCracken, who teaches medical terminology at Parkview High School. “It’s there for them.”
SCW-AHEC educators, who make hundreds of presentations each semester to high school Health Science Occupations classes in 13 counties, had previously visited each of the participating high schools. Several of the students—from Janesville Craig, Johnson Creek, Parkview and Wautoma—had earned or were planning to earn their Certified Nurse Assistant certificates; many planned on health careers.
Wautoma teacher Sam Lloyd looked forward to the knowledge the students would take home from Madison. “This is something they’re passionate about,” he said.
Seeing health in a new way
For Rosa Guajardo, a Wautoma student, the global health day was a way to see different points of view about health. She was surprised to learn that the United States was not always a leader.
Luis Caro, also from Wautoma, said the day opened his eyes. “When I think of medicine, I think of the U.S.,” he said. “Here, I see problems around the world.”
“I’ve always been interested in the health field and a health career and always wanted to be part of it,” said Alisha Heil, a Janesville Craig High School. “I hadn’t thought about global health. This is opening my eyes to everything that’s going on.”
In a small group session about “The Four Annas,” students read stories that showed how many factors influence a child’s health. The four girls, each called Anna, live around the world in disparate circumstances and face different cultural, economic, political and physical barriers to care.
The story also applies in Wisconsin, Shrestha said. “These differences are present in your community because there’s such a large disparity and inequality here, even between urban and rural communities.”
The United States, she told the students, is the only developed country in the world where the maternal mortality regressed. Milwaukee’s maternal mortality rate is similar to Syria.
“More than anything, I don’t want students to think of global health as somewhere else,” Shrestha said. Global Health Day shows students that global health includes Wisconsin, and they can be part of the conversation.
“This really opens my eyes about what we can do to help others,” said Laiken Noble, a Parkview High School student. “It really opens my eyes to what I could potentially be doing some day.”
By Ann Grauvogl/ Dec. 10, 2014.