Exploring Global health Issues Day 1-2-3 of GA in Antalya
GA. How do I even describe? As we drove in a bus through dusty palm tree lined roads to an oasis near Antalya I was incredibly impressed by the wonderful hospitality of the Turkish organizing committee that welcomed us. Exhausted after only 1 hour of sleep, a long bus ride and plane ride, needless to say I was a zombie at the opening ceremonies, but that did not stop me from being completely awestruck by the feeling of a mini-version of the world in one room, with over a hundred member countries all in one room. A celebration of flags, cultures and personalities from all over the globe was an indescribable feeling. The opening act, an incredible orchestra with a very talented violinist was the highlight of the evening. His act, transcended language with his humorous (never knew you could sound like a donkey on the violin) and riveting performance captivated this mini world with a standing ovation from all involved. One of the things to note however is the political context in which we have arrived, currently in one of the few peaceful countries in the middle east, Turkey has been going through a refugee crisis having been swarmed with refugees from Syria. The minister of health addressed us regarding the work that they have done in turkey, inviting us to work there, with a politically charged speech.
During the theme event on the second day, we were also able to be exposed to some of the issues facing the region regarding forced migration both internal and external and the difficulties international organizations face in maintaining neutrality such as MSF. For this reason, the true education came from meeting people from all over the world. For instance, on the bus ride, I had an engaging discussion with a delegate from Libya who opened up about his experiences working in Libya during the revolution. As a healthcare worker who is not valued in a chaotic society torn by conflict, it was rare insight into some of the worlds global issues. This was a common occurrence throughout the GA. Today in the elevator I ran into the coordinator of the KickEbola out programme in Sierra Leone who initiated the community educational program in the region ravaged by the epidemic. I also had a discussion with a friend from Denmark who was explaining the environmental movement and some of the immigration politics in the country and finally I met a Bangladeshi delegate who was working on a handwashing public health project in Bangladesh. It was incredible to meet such motivated people who were doing similar projects in other countries and having similar problems. Addressing complex global health problems with this group of diverse people was very enlightening, in the public health session on trade and health, we looked into the biggest problems in a corporate driven world and and messy inequal world of international trade and its implications on health. We had engaging ideas café where we compared the wide-ranging implications of free trade agreements on everything from education systems to agriculture and the environment. Learning about neglected tropical diseases was much more relevant when talking to students from Brazil and Sudan who talked about their experience with Chagas disease and other parasitic illnesses that are essentially unseen in the developed world.
This morning I helped to facilitate a workshop on climate change and health that felt even more early given that last night was the infamous national food and drink event where we shared food from all around the world. It was a bit difficult given that some members of our team slept in from this late night and we had to improvise on the spot. The presentation went well overall, we tried to make it as interactive as possible relaying first the unequivocal evidence of anthropologically-induced global warming (unprecedented increases in CO2 that haven’t been seen in the past 80,000 years) as well as the impacts of climate change on our health (direct ie. Heat stroke, flooding and indirect ie food and water security) and we ended with some arguments that tackling climate change will also have a positive influence on our health. We made it interactive by getting the others in the public health session to go into small groups and list ways they have experienced climate change in their nations. It was a team bonding experience for us, since we were brought together in a time of stress. It was also a good experience to see our completed video at the end of the session, we plan to present it at the end of the plenary. The next presentation on universal healthcare was extremely enlightening, delegates from each of the BRICS industrializing nations: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa each presented their healthcare systems to illustrate some common problems and some efforts being made towards universal healthcare. In Brazil, one of the main problems is the enlarAnother highlight of the day was attending the Rex Crossley awards for IFMSA local projects, it was amazing to see the work being done in countries to promote public health including fighting dengue in Indonesia and cervical cancer screening in Uganda. The numbers such as the cervical cancer screening which were able to screen over 1000 women well demonstrates the potential for medical student initiated programs to make a big difference in public health.