GLOBAL HEALTH IN THE SPIRIT OF VIRCHOW & VILLERMÉ
The CVV’s student research rotation in Boston
Global health is an area of study, research and practice that places public health in its global context. “Global” refers to the globalisation of population health and to our increasingly global understanding of health, which includes social, economic, political, and other determinants. To further student learning and research in global health, the Centre Virchow-Villermé for Public Health Paris-Berlin (CVV) partnered with Karsten Lunze, an assistant professor at Boston University and graduate of both Charité and Sorbonne, who this academic year mentored the first cohort of CVV funded students during their 3 months global health research rotation in Boston. Funding for the students came from the CVV and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).
THE CVV’S STUDENT RESEARCH ROTATION IN BOSTON
The discipline of global health is concerned with health promotion and disease prevention particularly among disadvantaged populations. In that sense, both Rudolf Virchow and Louis Villermé were global health pioneers. Much of Virchow’s public health and political activities supported the cause of the urban poor, recognising social and political inequities at the root of health problems. Likewise, Villermé dedicated his public health efforts to the disadvantaged, like child labourers and criminal justice populations. The CVV’s student research rotation in Boston carried Virchow’s and Villermé’s mission forward to current day global health challenges. Following a didactic curriculum on research methods and tools, the students conducted their own global health research projects in Boston, under Karsten Lunze’s supervision and in collaboration with colleagues in Boston, Berlin, and Paris. They researched disadvantaged groups like people who use drugs in Russia and Malaysia, vulnerable populations like new-borns in Sub-Saharan Africa, and other topics.
Hélène Hauch, a French-German medical student at Charité, conducted a study on opportunities for policy change for people who use drugs and who are HIV positive in the Russian Federation. Her research identified strategies to inform health policy in an environment of strong resistance against evidence-based public health and was presented at the Annual Meeting of the American College of Preventive Medicine in Atlanta (USA) this February. Compelled by the stigma that affects this most marginalised group of society, Hélène wants her research to lend a voice to those who have little to no one to advocate for them, those who lack a strong lobby supporting them and those whose voice seems not important enough to be heard. Her project work also made her understand how important, yet difficult it is to be an impartial observer in social science research. She used her research work to reflect upon her own opinion of people who use drugs and explore different approaches to the challenge of drug addictions.
Hanna Gehling, a German student in the European Master of Science in Midwifery (Maastricht University) program, analysed data from a Zambian study on newborn health in the rural Lufwanyama District. She was particularly interested in mothers’ care-seeking behaviour for their newborns. She found several barriers that influence a caregiver’s initial decision-making process and identified interventions that could prevent delays in care-seeking in resource-limited environments such as rural Zambia. Striving to become an academic leader for international maternal and newborn health, Hanna networked intensely with prominent researchers in Boston’s rich academic landscape. She has drafted an academic paper reporting her research findings and outlining the contributions that midwives can make to improve maternal and newborn survival in areas where health systems are severely restricted or even absent.
Netsanet Berhe Gidey, a veterinarian from Ethiopia and public health student at EHESP, sought to create epidemiologic evidence to address health inequities. He used the SAGE survey, a longitudinal study by the World Health Organisation collecting data from nationally representative samples in the Russian Federation, India and other countries, to study the distribution of certain risk factors for non-communicable disease among various populations in countries such as Russia or India. Netsanet found that known risk factors such as high blood pressure are distributed unevenly in many countries, with higher rates for example in rural regions compared to urban areas. Given the potential wider implications worldwide, he plans to dedicate his expertise and research work to the study of global health inequities.
A PROJECT IN THE SPIRIT OF VIRCHOW & VILLERMÉ
Relating back to the initial definition of global health, the students’ global health study and research projects aim at reducing health disparities and improving equitable health care for all. The students came to Boston not only to learn about research and conduct a project. They also came to network, connect to other disciplines, gain new perspectives, and to develop their professional mission. The students share the aim to continue Virchow’s and Villermé’s tradition of health professionals who contribute to social changes, recognising that individual health is rooted in a just society. The students carried out their global health research in Boston. Future student cohorts could also conduct their rotations at research sites in Eastern Europe, Asia or Africa, to facilitate first-hand insight into research implementation. The CVV global health research rotation for students thus continues Virchow’s and Villermé’s multidisciplinary vision of medicine, public health and related disciplines as global health.
Hélène Hauch, Hanna Gehling, Netsanet Berhe, Karsten Lunze
Centre Virchow-Villermé Berlin
10117 Berlin – Germany
Centre Virchow-Villermé Paris
Université de Paris Descartes
12 rue de l’École de Médecine
75006 Paris – France