Matthew, Georgetown

Public Health in Colombia 2018

Matthew, who studies Global Health at Georgetown University tells us about his time participating in the 2018 Public Health in Colombia course.

“Public Health in Colombia has given me a thorough introduction to the current health situation in Colombia. The program began with a detailed account of the history of Colombia, with a special focus on the conflict and its impacts on society. Because the conflict was such a long-term and impactful event, it was vital for the course to begin here to fully understand the current challenges to Colombia’s public health. The conflict has affected nearly every Colombian’s life, and it has often been the biggest barrier to Colombia’s development. When we speak about the health system, maternal mortality and mental health, it is impossible to not make connections to the conflict. This foundation gave us the perception of the conflict and its vast effects on Colombians.

I found the health system lectures to be not only interesting, but also extremely complex. Healthcare is one of the most complicated systems in society, and I was grateful for the talented professors who explained the numerous financing routes, systematic pathways and intricate details that made the system unique. I was particularly fascinated by the fact that health is an ideal guaranteed by the Colombian constitution, and that there was a litigation process known as tutelas, where citizens could claim to a court that they needed certain medical services that may have not been provided by their healthcare provider. Coming from the United States where healthcare itself is not guaranteed in such a way, I was fascinated by the ways in which specific tutela cases were processed and aiding in the delivery of health services. I am also excited to begin lectures on the mental health of Colombians and former FARC members and how the conflict has directly affected mental health in the country. Millions of Colombians have suffered extreme circumstances due to the traumas of war, and how the health system supports all Colombians will be a large determinant in the path Colombia takes as a country committed to peace and development across the nation.

I love studying in Bogotá for many reasons, but one of them being its numerous amounts of national level organizations, which provided for unique site visits, and opportunities for professionals to explain nation wide disparities, especially by Colombia’s departments. Besides the academic lens, Bogotá also provided the necessary social context for our visit as students to Colombia. Extreme disparities do exist in the city and are a constant reminder of the real-life challenges that exist for Colombians outside the classroom. As a diverse and cosmopolitan center, Bogotá in addition provided incredible food, amazing sites, and a was a wonderful backdrop and home for my time in Colombia.

Making the experience even better is having the support of Red Tree Study staff. Red Tree has organized social events, provided students with important logistical information, and helped smooth our transition into Bogotá. The staff are amazing people, who want to do all they can, so we can have an equally amazing experience here in Bogotá.  I especially appreciate the knowledge the staff, many being bogotanos themselves, have about Bogotá. It is a great privilege to have so many locals as a resource to ask advice on cafes, museums, restaurants and general questions about what it is like living in the city”.