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Public Health Students Travel to Tanzania During Study Abroad Program

  • Author: Thursday, September 11th, 2014

Three students from the department of public health, College of Health and Human Services recently traveled to Tanzania June to July 2014 as a part of the KIIS Study Abroad Program. Trevor Davis, senior (healthcare administration), Samantha Holmes, senior (public health), and Jasmon Harris, second year (MPH), all traveled together to study and gain practical experience in the Tanzanian healthcare system. KIIS Tanzania Program, led by Dr. William Mkanta of the department of public health offers a vast array of public health classes including; global health, nursing, comparative health systems, and women’s health in Tanzania. The program also offers up to six hours in global health service-learning practicum. All three students participated in the service-learning practicum and were able to work hands on in hospitals, clinics, orphanages, and non-governmental organizations. Each of the practicum sites offered a unique perspective that gave them the opportunity to compare the American healthcare system and public health curriculum with that of a developing country.

Samantha did most of her practicum experience with children of the Chakuwama Orphanage Center located in the city of Dar es Salaam. This center is a community-based facility, which means that the government has no involvement with the site. The orphanage is progressing as they utilize resources available to them. The home director, Mr. Hassan Hamisi informed Samantha that the basic needs of the children are all related to education. The children are in need of funding for education including money to send them to school, transportation, and school supplies. Samantha had the pleasure of donating educational materials, toys, and hygiene products. In her practicum, she taught basic math and literacy skills and informed the children of basic hygiene practices. Through the use of the toys she was able to play with the children as well as teach them concepts like sharing and teamwork skills. Samantha noticed while being around the children that they are smart and are able to apply basic structure to their daily lives. Different from Americans’ materialistic desires, the children of the Chakuwama Orphanage maintain happiness through a selfless way of life.   

While in Tanzania, Trevor conducted a qualitative photo research project with the help of a non-governmental organization, WAMATA, a Swahili acronym for people in the fight against AIDS in Tanzania. It is one of the practicum sites and it helps individuals and families living with or are affected by HIV/AIDS. WAMATA’S mission is to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS through information, education, and communication. It also engages in counseling to minimize social, psychological, and economic effects of the pandemic by providing a forum for mutual support with the aim of attaining optimum quality of life through advocacy, counseling, treatment, and support to infected and affected people.

Each participant in Trevor’s photo research project consented to provide their photos through WAMATA for research. They were given a digital camera and asked to capture pictures that represented stories pertaining to their life with HIV/AIDS. Trevor then sat down with a Swahili translator and interviewed over fifteen different participants. The aim of each interview was to collect demographic information, analyze and discuss each picture taken, and determine what each individual identified as challenges and barriers to their everyday life related to their disease. The information collected from each participant has been and will be shared with community and service providers both in Tanzania and the United States to help bring awareness to HIV/AIDS and explain how the disease affects families and individuals.

Students involved in the practicum course observed and had hands on experiences in local public and private hospitals in Dar es Salaam. Being engaged with these hospitals allowed the students to disperse in their specific fields and learn from doctors and nurses how the Tanzanian healthcare system works. There was dentistry, nursery, radiology, maternal and child health and many more areas the students were able to immerse themselves into. The hospitals provided an outlook of the different kinds of service delivery systems in Tanzania and how they work to create functional health practices and viable working environments for the employees. The students were also able to visit the College of Health Sciences in Zanzibar where they communicated with the students about their way of life in college. This college is the only government institution that provides education for health professionals at the diploma level within the islands; it aims at providing degree level programs in the near future.  Their mission is to train health professionals by providing scientific knowledge, skills and attitudes on prevention of diseases and caring for patients/clients in all health care settings. 

Traveling to Tanzania was a truly insightful experience that taught students not only about the Tanzanian healthcare system, but also about themselves. Healthcare in Tanzania is still lagging far behind that of more developed countries. For example, it lacks appropriate resources and technological advancements that are hard to come by in most African nations. Although there are weaknesses and threats inhibiting the capacity of Tanzania’s healthcare system, students learned of numerous advancements that are expediting more efficient and effective care. For instance, Kairuki Hospital, one of the leading private hospitals located in the city of Dar es Salaam, began using computers throughout most of the hospital just last year. With the addition of computers, staff is now able to document appointments and patient records’ more efficiently as well as bill insurance companies online. Each computer is connected to the hospital’s central server and can access a database allowing patient records to be sent to any department instantaneously. Through these experiences with the health care systems in Tanzania, the students were able to learn about the value of patience and how to become more independent individuals. By immersing themselves into the culture through hands on experiences they learned to be more accepting and open to people from different cultural backgrounds. We believe this is an important aspect of care for us as future healthcare professionals in an American setting that is increasingly growing in population diversity.   

KIIS Tanzania is the only KIIS program with emphasis in the field of public health. Studying healthcare in a developing country allows students the opportunity to apply critical thinking skills, use knowledge gained in the classroom, and share ideas with healthcare professionals in healthcare settings that are in need of improvement. KIIS Tanzania offers insight through appropriate classes as well as hands on experiences in the field that show numerous differences in health care between America and Tanzania. Studying and working abroad in Tanzania give participating student a strong competitive advantage in their future healthcare endeavors as they would have demonstrated their ability to successfully stay and work in rapidly changing situations, new and challenging environments. 

The practicum will be offered again in Tanzania during the 2015 summer program. For more information about this course and the program in general you may contact Dr. Mkanta through william.mkanta@wku.edu or visit the program website at http://www.kiis.org/go/Tanzania.php

Public Health Students Visit Tanzania

Jasmon Harris

Jasmon on a practicum day in the nursery at Kairuki Hospital in Tanzania. (June 26, 2014)

Public Health Students Visit Tanzania

Samantha reading to the children at the Chakuwama Orphanage in Tanzania. (June 21, 2014)

Public Health Students Visit Tanzania

Trevor Davis in Tanzania

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