Nato, Syracuse

Public Health in Colombia, 2018

Nato, an MS Global Health student from Syracuse University, tells us about her time participating in the 2018 Public Health in Colombia course.

During the short program “Public health in Colombia,” we took part in various lectures and academic excursions in and around the capital city. Complementing the academic context, there were different social and cultural activities that made up the summer program in Bogota, Colombia that enabled us to learn more about Colombia and its culture.

The summer course consisted of a four-week duration and explored aims around public health policy in Colombia. This provided students with cultural perspective of healthcare provision in Colombia, within the context of the recent conflict and peace deal and the challenges that this brought about. The morning sessions intersected with the afternoon site visits – looking at the following subjects: Colombian history, conflict, peace agreement, chronic diseases, statutory law, health care, demographics, injury prevention, burden of disease, mental and maternal health. Our site visits took us to places such as visiting the Colombian armed forces, the United Nations, different Ministries of Health, the Cancer Institute, and a health insurance company for example.

In addition, in between the academic work, there were various cultural excursions and activities that occurred after lectures and during the weekend. We had the chance to meet the British Ambassador to Colombia and do the weekend hike to beautiful Choachi Waterfall and other activities involving the presidential election, soccer watching (very important in Colombia during the World Cup!), Gringo Tuesday, Tejo,  a political Graffiti Tour of the city, Monserrate mountain-top and Villa de Leyva.

My two favorite activities in specific where the following: academic – 1. mobility and injury prevention 2. Mental and maternal health and site visit- 1. Bicycle tour around Bogota 2. Cancer Institute. These activities not only enhanced my experience but additionally enriched my learning and comprehensive thinking. Through these activities, I analyzed and learned to disseminate the theory that we had been discussing and apply it to a given case study. As the weeks passed by, it became easy to apply the studied information and use it at the sites which we visited. For example, after hearing about injury in Colombia and how mobility and traffic affects population mass and then individual health, we then visited a mobility center that controlled a circumference of a given region and were able to visualize the picture. Afterwards, we took a 10km bike tour around the main center of Bogota and learned about how different transportation types affected the city mobility. I saw that out of cars, motorcycles, walkers etc. motorcycle rides were causing the most injury and was then able to see the health determinants that affected the environmental factor of transportation. Another experience was at the Cancer Institute where we were lectured around the prevalent issue of cancer affecting Colombian population of men and women. We were then shown around the institute and as well as a nearby hospital; this experience made it easier to understand the hospital-based service in Bogota and how private and governmental based clinics/hospitals serve to aim different purposes and as well as different population groups. Also, in addition to this issue, the high prevalence of trauma and civil conflict consequences were another matter that Colombian population has been dealing with. Along with this, mental health has been an expanding health illness in need of much more aid and awareness. There is so much to learn on the topic of Public Health in Colombia and we covered a huge range of topics during this intensive and interesting four week course!