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June 5, 2010

The Age of Stupid: Day 3, 7th GHC

The topic for day 3 at the Global Health Course at the University of Tampere was Environment and Health. The two lecturers for the day, one from Tanzania and the other from The Philippines, talked about the impact of the environment to human and even non-human health. The springboard of the discussion was the effects of climate change and how it compounds natural disasters which are of great public health concerns. The day ended with a film showing on the documentary: Age of Stupid. The documentary highlighted the idea of humans going extinct and how we bungled the opportunity of choosing to save our endangered species and instead continued down the path of self destruction. It was an interesting documentary and many of the GHC participants were actually moved by the facts and real stories of how climate change has affected both the environment and the people living within it.

For the Philippines, disasters are almost commonplace and being a disaster-prone country, we have established systems that can help us reduce the risk and impact of disasters. While there are successes, there are also failures and since time immemorial, the Philippine government has always been struggling to solve the riddle of how to insure less mortality or casualties in the event of a disaster, man-made or natural or even both.

The emphasis of the lecture on disaster was the actually the role of the health professional before, during and after a disaster. At the end of the lecture, we all felt that the role of a health professional goes beyond the job of being a clinician. While delivery of basic health care is still important and vital, the health professional must also consider other means, particularly non-medical means, in order to address the problems brought about by impending disasters.

In each phase of the disaster, there are means by which we can help reduce the casualties of calamities. Both prevention and response are vital in the objective of ensuring the survivors of returning to a state of life better than the life before the event of the disaster.

The failure of a health professional to recognize the fact that the non-medical means are as important and equally vital as the delivery of health care sometimes tend to narrow the perspectives of a health worker into an isthmus of self-awareness that limits him or her into only a specialist.

The management of disaster therefore in relation to health underlines the necessity of recognizing the various social determinants of health. It is during this incidents that these social determinants of health come into play in the most acute form.

The discussion after the class was very lively and I feel that day by day, most of the participants are starting to peel themselves off of the strictly clinician mode into a more wide-eyed health manager whose concern does not only limit in addressing the biological aspect of health.

I fear though that in the continuance of this course, the emphasis shall remain in the biomedical aspect of health and not so much on the psychosociocultural aspect of health. I think more discussion on how culture, society, religion, state of mental well being, in all levels of human civilization (from the most simplistic human group to the more complex), affect and impact various aspects of health must be facilitated into the limelight by the lecturers and the group as well.

After all, this is global health and by global health does not only limit itself in the Western perspective of medicine and public health.

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