Last week’s gHU Summary: Public vs. Private Prisons by Iris Becene

For the past few weeks the Tuft’s GlobeMed chapter has discussed the purpose of prisons in the United States and the current problems with the system. Prisons in the United States are used as a place of punishment that is intended to deliver justice and deter people from committing crimes. They are also supposed to keep dangerous people away from society and rehabilitate people back into society. The actual system of prisons themselves, however, is problematic and is injust for certain vulnerable populations. During last week’s ghU we discussed the differences between public and private prisons and the implications of those differences for the lives of prisoners. Public prisons are state operated and funded by tax money, whereas private prisons are facilities run by private prison corporations whose services are contracted out by state governments.

Public prisons have an incentive to keep recidivism rates low and therefore are more likely to provide rehabilitation services. The majority of incarcerated people are housed in public prisons, however black males and younger inmates are more likely to be housed in private prisons. This is because private prisons are for-profit companies that use the labor of the inmates to make money. They also focus on reducing the cost of housing prisoners to maximize their profits, which means reducing access to health care, not providing rehabilitation services, reducing the quality of food, and withholding basic necessities. These people are not treated as people, but instead as commodities of a private company. Reducing the cost of housing prisoners increases recidivism rates, creates a greater risk of violence, and increases the spread of disease in prisons.



Achieving Activism Across Specialties Panel

by Sydney Rosh

“What does social justice look like?” was the question that sparked the conversation introducing us to the “Achieving Activism Across Specialties” panel. The rain was pouring outside while the total of Globemed and some friends gathered in the abandoned Brown and Brew. Our four panelists sat eagerly at the forefront, ready to talk, listen and engage with us. Their excitement to share their stories with us—the future of activism—was clear. Our four panelists included Pat Simpson who was a nurse, emergency-prepared coordinator and mentor for high school students; Dr. Gary Goldstein, a physics professor; Laura Rogers a psychologist who had worked in prisons; and finally, Alicia Hunt, the director of energy and environment for the city of Medford. We had a very diverse panel in terms of background and experience. One question we had discussed prior to their talk was whether their cultural and racial diversity, or rather lack of it, would provide a lively, engaging and profound discussion.

After introductions, we got into our next question: what sparked your interest in activism? Furthermore, what are the most effective methods for activism? Pat started us off. She described growing up in the Bronx in New York City with not a lot of money. Growing up in New York, she was forced to interact with many different types of people. She developed a love for people and listening to them. This alone sparked an interest in activism because she was able to see the power in people helping other people. For her the best ways of getting involved in activism was, no surprise, talking and listening to people. She also emphasized the significance of doing proper research, making sure you have good data and having reliable resources. For Gary, who grew up during the Civil Rights Era in a working class family, activism became a significant part of his life during college—he went to the University of Illinois which at the time was only a two-year college. He saw the financial difficulties of this firsthand and fought hard to make a change: he helped organize protests to turn this two year college into a four year college, he organized food drives and generally got involved in his community. Laura grew up during the 60s when the culture of activism was thriving and strong. She grew up in a conservative environment but started to question these ideals once she entered college. Immediately after college she worked in a prison as a psychologists; from this experience she realized her privilege and that she needed to use it for the better. Her strategy regarding activism was simple and to-the-point: take the stance of listening, observing and joining—rather than simply being an activist. Alicia also grew up during the 60s but with progressive-liberal parents. Once she was married and had children she became very aware of the environmental issues that plagued her world. This prompted her work on the Obama campaign, and then her work with Elizabeth Warren. She learned about her local, Medford politics and got involved in local politics. Her methods of being an effective advocate included understanding the situation and who the players are—who are the decision-makers. She offered the advice of making your voice heard to people who can actually make change and do something with that information.

Next, the panelists were asked “How do you define social justice and how does that take shape in your work?” Pat repeated the words, “accessibility and opportunity.” Gary made a claim that we need guaranteed housing in the United States. Laura interestingly said that she does not know what social justice means, but rather the way she she knows what social injustice is. Seeing social injustice and acting on that is the only way to achieve social justice. Alicia told us that social justice means not taking a ‘me first’ perspective but rather learning what the larger region needs. She gave us a specific example of the Fair Share amendment which basically says that people who make over a certain amount of money in income will get taxed—this would provide a billion dollars for both transportation and education! That, she emphasized, is social justice!

As the panel went on the panelists were asked to get more personal about how their individual backgrounds influenced their work. They were asked, “How does your own identity effect your involvement in the field of activism?” Pat spoke about losing her best friend in 9/11. In the aftermath, she worked with survivors which got her into the health center field. “Do what you love,” she preached, “your activism can become your job.” Gary talked about identifying with the working class and how that influenced his activism. Furthermore, he spoke about being a physicist and how that gave him a unique understanding of activism. Laura spoke about how her identity evolved from being a developmental psychologist to a clinical psychologist. She spoke about working in Nepal with students with disabilities. She is interested in how we engage with marginalized people in activism—a common question we discuss in Globemed. Alicia spoke about not always having an interest in environmental issues but how that interest evolved.

The last question asked was perhaps the hardest for the panelists to answer: “Taking into account your own privilege, how do you reach others and have other voices be heard?” Pat described how her boss, who is in a place of power always listens to ideas and suggestions from others. Gary described supporting unions. Laura explained how in Nepal, people whose ethnic background was Nepali were being evicted through abusive measures, and thousands of ethnic Nepalis had to go to refugee camps in southern nepal. They needed counseling but this wasn’t a part of their culture, so she learned how to work with professionals in Nepal about how to take care of these people. She discovered different ways of dealing with stress between cultures, and had to learn how to bridge that gap. Her work involved people who are silenced and have the knowledge but not the tools. Alicia described Medford’s growing effort to listen to other communities/populations besides just the ones who speak English. The question centered around the idea of ownership in activism, which dispelled some of our prior concerns about their leadership roles as White Americans in the field of social justice.

The panelists opened the floor to questions. Fellow Globemedders mainly asked about activism on college campuses and what to do with this newfound information. We were told to make email lists, and take advantage of social media and the power of telling people what we are doing. “Actions speak louder than words,” Alicia sat tall in her chair, “Look for ethical dilemma’s in every field,” Gary smiled into the crowd. As the conversation died down and we thanked them it was the clear the impact they had. We organized this event single-handedly and we were proud of our work; these panelists were clearly passionate about their work and had a lot to say. However, a part of me lingered for more. Some of the concerns we expressed prior to the talk were not completely unfair. Perhaps it would have been beneficial to hear from a more diverse panel, and furthermore, learn more about specific activism in Nepal. Perhaps we could have directed more questions at the panelists not just about what activism is itself but inquire how do we as Americans go about activism in a non-ethnocentric way.

Last Week’s ghU!

Here’s what GlobeMed at Tufts talked about in our last ghU!

Immigration Policy and Health

In the United States, there are roughly 44 million documented immigrants, which makes up around 13.5% of the total population; however, there are also 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Since Trump’s election in 2016, undocumented immigrants have fears about their future. Before Trump’s presidency, the Temporary Protected Status program granted residency for citizens from seven countries residency status. However, citizens of El Salvador and Haiti are no longer eligible for this program. In addition, the Deferred Action for Childhood Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which passed under the Obama administration, is also under threat. Although Trump promises to pass the Clean Dream Act, which will offer children brought to the United States before the age of 18 a path to citizenship, he asks the wall between the U.S.-Mexico to be built in exchange.

These policy changes affect healthcare, because people are losing employer health insurances after DACA’s failure.

Undocumented immigrant already have a difficult time receiving healthcare in America. For them, there are often language barriers. In addition, the fear of requirement of documentation is always on their minds. Thus, they are limited to emergency care and free clinics when they need to be treated, although states like Massachusetts and California can extend their healthcare system to provide for them.

How do you think undocumented immigrants access and interact with the healthcare system?

Hurricanes and Health

Although our President seems to be focused on criticizing NFL players right now, most of the rest of the world is concerned about the state of our global climate and even more importantly, surviving. There have been three major hurricanes as of late. In late August Hurricane Harvey made landfall in southern Texas and Louisiana as a category four hurricane with over one hundred thirty mile per hour winds and dropping forty-sixty inches of rain causing terrible flooding and damage and catastrophic impact. Then there was Irma which hit many of the Caribbean islands and was named a category five hurricane, the strongest possible with the highest wind speeds. The damaged travelled up the Florida Keys as a category four storm and battered much of Florida and then moved up to Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama. The storm started late August and worked its way up through mid-September. Florida evacuated more than five million people and more than three million lost power. Finally, Maria hit the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico decimating the island. One man in Puerto Rico said, “Irma gave us a break but Maria destroyed us.” The entire island lost power, there was also horrific flooding and many deaths. As with the other storms, there are significant challenges to rebuilding homes and communities. While all of these storms have their own stories, they should leave us with a common conclusion: the world is in turmoil right now and if we want to see a sustainable future, we can’t just sit around anymore.

Hurricane Harvey hit a thriving city, Houston and yet relief seems far from reach. Houston is on a low-altitude part of the Gulf Coastal Plain and has poor drainage; so, in terms of environment this city is susceptible to floods. Some see this as reason to dismiss the issue of global warming as the cause for the most recent natural disaster; however, in recent years Houston has achieved rapid development on the front of drainage capacity. Harvey completely erased these efforts. Due to Global Warming, the ocean waters are above average temperature as well as above average level. Warm water is the catalyst for energy for major storms and can prolong storms and their intensity. The floodwaters contained numerous hazards to the environment and general health.  Bacteria such as E. Coli, coliform and Vibrio vulnificus, a “flesh-eating disease” that lives in the Gulf Coast has affected many hurricane victims in this area. Additionally, many cancer-causing toxins and carcinogens were found in the water and sewer systems.

Hurricane Irma’s impact was so far-reaching and catastrophic with confirmed landfalls in Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Martin, Anguilla, Turks and Caicos, The Bahamas, Cuba and the United States. Yet, the storm deeply affected areas far removed from the landfall phenomenons as well. Irma shut off electricity in many areas, which cut off their wastewater lift stations, leading to overflows and spills—twenty-eight million gallons of sewage was dumped across Florida. With this sewage, came perilous bacteria, viruses and parasites including E. Coli, salmonella, and hepatitis A. Another health risk that arose in the aftermath of Irma was that because of the humid temperatures mold and mildew built up in houses which causes allergies, asthma and various respiratory conditions. Additionally, build up of still water can be breeding ground for mosquitoes and all the health risks that come with them such as West Nile and Zika. Another health risk that is often overlooked is the UV exposure that comes from damage on tree canopies.

Hurricane Maria, while slightly smaller than Irma may be the worst one yet in terms of its long-term affects. There is still no power on the island, meaning there is still no clean drinking water, places to bathe or flush toilets. Food, fuel and cell service is also extremely limited. Transportation, including roads and even the airports are severely damaged. Perhaps even worse, very few hospitals are operating because so few actually have power. Additionally, although agriculture was a relatively small part of the Puerto Rican economy, it is now completely destroyed after wiping out eighty percent of the crop value which will likely increase prices and intensify the probability of food shortages.

Besides these very tangible health consequences in the aftermath of these three devastating disasters, so much comes from these effects. Not only are homes themselves destroyed but the families inside are as well. The death toll is high, and additionally mental health in the aftermath of events like these are in turmoil as well. And with these mental and physical ailments comes extreme financial unrest. The cycle is never-ending. Luckily with our access to news comes our access to solutions. There are charities to give to such as American Red Cross, Global Giving, the Salvation Army and Americares. However, simply giving to these organizations seems like a reactionary solution. This is a problem that needs to be addressed at the root: people need to acknowledge their actions in adding to the effects of global warming on our country; additionally, great works needs to be done to acknowledge the disparities of who is affected most in the aftermath of these natural disasters. We shouldn’t just address these issues when we are bombarded with news on three new disasters, this should be an ongoing fight for justice and equality. If only Mr. Trump would acknowledge this instead of just tweeting, “…Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble.” We know.


World Day of Social Justice

“Social justice is an underlying principle for peaceful and prosperous coexistence within and among nations. We uphold the principles of social justice when we promote gender equality or the rights of indigenous peoples and migrants. We advance social justice when we remove barriers that people face because of gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or disability.” -United Nations, WDSJ webpage (1)

In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly declared that February 20th be celebrated annually as World Day of Social Justice. A product of rising globalization, World Day of Social Justice encourages nations to devote the day towards the eradication of poverty, inequity, exclusion, and unemployment. While we know these goals cannot be achieved in a day, World Day of Social Justice provides us with a chance to look around our community, locally and globally, with extra purpose and passion. GlobeMed at Tufts and PHASE Nepal share a drive to collaborate and eliminate global health inequity, and we find inspiration in the action taken by the international community in support of global health equity. February 20th has become a day to rally, to dream, to energize, to learn, to grow, and to come together. Especially in the current national climate, it is increasingly important every single day to take action and to create hope.

This February 23rd, GlobeMed at Tufts will be hosting a film screening of Vessel, an award-winning documentary following the work of Rebecca Gomperts, founder of Women on Waves. Dr. Gomperts, a Dutch physician, activist, and artist, made it her life’s work to end the health risks associated with illegal abortions. Dr. Gomperts and her organization work on a ship-turned-clinic that sails to areas where women cannot access legal and safe abortion. Once in international waters, Dr. Gomperts and her crew are trained and authorized to administer abortions and provide contraceptives. They also train local women to administer safe abortions using non-surgical WHO-researched protocols. Through a network of empowerment, Women on Waves has given countless women access to safe abortions, birth control, and invaluable knowledge.

We find this documentary especially relevant after the reenactment of the U.S. Mexico City Policy, also known as the Global Gag. First enacted by President Reagan and most recently reenacted by President Trump, this policy blocks federal funding to NGOs that provide abortion services or counseling as well as those that advocate for the decriminalization or expansion of abortion services.

GlobeMed at Tufts is devoted to social justice, nationally and abroad, and aims to emphasize the importance of self-education and community discussion. Please join us on February 23rd at 6 PM in Tisch 304 for a free screening of Vessel with snacks, discussion, and good company! We hope to foster an open dialogue about the film and World Day of Social Justice, so all thoughts, feelings, and opinions are welcome.

Vessel trailer:

Women on Waves website:


Considering the impacts of climate change on global health, a call for intersectionality

On November 15th, 2016, the GlobeMed Policy team hosted Dr. Barry Levy of Tufts Medical (co-editor of the book Climate Change and Public Health), Dr. David Gute of Tufts University, and  Dr. Jonathan Buonocore of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Center for Health and the Global Environment for a conversation about how climate change is impacting and will continue to impact global health. Dr. Levy opened the panel with an overview of a variety of different impacts including: heat-related disorders; the health impacts of air pollution; vectorborne, waterborne, and foodborne diseases; impacts on nutrition and food insecurity; displacement; and increases in collective violence. Dr. Gute then followed up with a discussion of the ways in which every academic and professional field is implicated in the issue of climate change. He argued that they should all be working together to find solutions, drawing connections between engineering and climate justice through the example of buildings built to decrease carbon emissions as well as accommodate sea-level rise. Finally, Dr. Buonocore talked about the potential for and importance of development and widespread implementation of renewable energy sources. 

One noteworthy point brought up during the Q&A was about the impact of climate change on mental health. Mental health is often forgotten in conversations about health emergencies, in the wake of natural disasters, for instance. However, it is just as relevant and important as physical health, and will likely be heavily impacted by climate change. Each of the aforementioned impacts of climate change on health has the potential to impact mental health as well. Mental health impacts must be treated with the same severity as all other impacts.

The panelists presented compelling arguments that were both intimidating as well as energizing. Dr. Gute argued that in most situations, change begins on a community level. This grassroots level is where new technology or new strategies can be tested, or where norms begin to shift. He gave the example of how Tufts as well as most other institutions in Boston, now ensure that every new building they construct is LEED certified, and how that represents a shift in norms. When faced with the recent election of Donald Trump and the nomination of Myron Ebell to lead the EPA, it is difficult to expect much top-down change with regards to the environment over the course of the next four years, making it all the more important to consider the power that individual communities hold to make a difference.

Finally, a theme present throughout the panel was how these problems have had, and will continue to have, disparate impacts on different groups of people across the globe. The impacts of climate change have already proven to and will continue to affect people based on race, gender, class, and geography, all shaped by a long history and currently reality of colonialism that shapes our world today. Taking this into account, we see the importance of the intersectionality of social justice movements. This event was framed around the intersectionality of climate justice and health justice, but it inherently brought up issues relating to economic, gender, and racial justice. This was one of the most important takeaways of the evening: that it is impossible to fight for one type of justice or equality without fighting for them all, a critical message to all those who, like the members of GlobeMed at Tufts, implicate themselves in the fight for health equity.

Below are some photos from the panel:

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Reflections from the Summer 2016 Grow Team

When we wrote our first blogpost about GROW, not having yet arrived in Nepal, each of us mentioned our excitement and enthusiasm for learning about PHASE and using that knowledge to strengthen our partnership. As a chapter who went a year without being able to send a GROW team due to the devastating earthquake in 2015, we have experienced firsthand the palpable disconnect between the majority of the chapter and our partner organization that occurs when a GROW team is unable to go during the summer. We were able to present small bits about Nepali culture and PHASE, but without the ability to tie in any strong personal connections, many of the lessons just skimmed the surface. It was difficult to get new members to understand the purpose of our fundraising and education efforts. Some of our members had prior experience in Nepal, but no one could remotely comprehend the effect of the earthquake on communities in the country.

Not only has life changed due to the earthquake, but so has PHASE’s efforts. They had to reallocate funds from their usual programs to support relief projects, which included our own fundraising which was originally structured to go to training a teacher-trainer who would facilitate workshops for teachers in the communities PHASE works in. Learning about these changes without seeing it in action has been difficult, and further muddled the information being given to members about the organization. Other than PHASE newsletters once a month about their different efforts and the many videos of the earthquake’s destruction in tourist areas, it was impossible to know what working in Nepal involved. Even the last GROW team’s stories of day-to-day life became less applicable because the house they stayed in became too damaged to be inhabitable along with one of the schools they worked in. The gap made us ineffective and less accountable fundraisers. This year, we hope that having had 5 members get so much exposure to and experience with PHASE will enable us to renew GlobeMedders’ sense of purpose, and help everyone in the chapter better understand our partner. We look forward to transferring our knowledge through presentations, the incorporation of information about PHASE in weekly ghUs.

The absence of the GROW trip from the GlobeMed model also created a disconnect on PHASE’s end of our partnership. We realized this summer that most of the PHASE staff weren’t very aware of who we were, why we were there, or what we do. Other than a small stamp as a donor on the company calendar, GlobeMed was an unknown. The trip was an invaluable opportunity to communicate our goals to PHASE staff and demonstrate our potential as interns every summer. We got the chance to interact work with so many PHASE staff members, getting to explain who we are to them. We also gave a presentation to the staff at the end of the summer, summarizing what our initial goals for the trip were, what we had been doing in our time in Nepal, and more general information about the chapter. We were graciously hosted by a PHASE education officer who we spent many nights chatting with about PHASE’s work in detail and these personal relationships will not only help in creating better dialogue going forward but they are the types of grounded experiences that will make our fundraising, education efforts, and future GROW planning easier.

Finally, we believe that GROW is crucial to the GlobeMed model, because GlobeMed supports sustainability in development. We believe in accountability for the impact that we have. It is critical for individuals and organizations to understand the impact that they are having when they support projects. Although the work may not be hands on, it is still affecting people, and it is of the utmost importance for donors to understand that and hold themselves accountable for it.


The 2016 Summer Grow Team: Colette Midulla, Jenna Sherman, Nick Roberts, Kiley Pratt, Kellie Chin 

Rebuilding Nepal: Reflections from a GlobeMed Alumnus

Nick James Macaluso, an alumnus of GlobeMed at Tufts, is currently working with our partner organization, Practical Help Achieving Self-Empowerment (PHASE) Nepal at their headquarters in Bhaktapur. He answered some questions about his experience over email.

IMG_0120PHASE’s new office building

Nick James (NJ) Macaluso graduated from Tufts last year and was a GlobeMed member during his time as an undergraduate. He served as GlobeMed at Tufts’ Grassroots Onsite Work (GROW) Coordinator on our executive board. The GROW team organizes our summer internship projects; NJ was able to visit PHASE Nepal during the summer of 2014 as a GROW intern. He is currently working with PHASE Nepal at their headquarters in Bhaktapur. He works under the Communications Manager, and has been helping with PHASE’s website, including creating graphics and generating future website content, among other projects.

NJ’s biggest project with PHASE so far has been creating a summary sheet for each Village Development Committee (VDC) where PHASE works; he described a VDC as “kind of like the subgroup of each district—for example, Rayale is a VDC of Kavre.”  These summary sheets include project information, donors, and demographic information.

NJ is also helping plan the 2016 GROW trip. His history with GROW and previous role as GlobeMed at Tufts’ GROW Coordinator has informed his work with PHASE in this aspect. He wrote, “As coordinator last year, a big part of my job was figuring out how to make the trip unique from the previous year, and I’ll continue to do that here on the ground in Nepal.” NJ will be traveling to Rayale, where this year’s team will be placed, to evaluate their needs and help next year’s team develop a project that will benefit PHASE.

IMG_0275The view from where NJ is living in Nepal

Earthquake Damage

The massive earthquakes in Nepal on April 25th and May 12th of 2015 and their aftershocks left thousands of families without homes or livelihoods; the earthquake on April 25th was of 7.8 magnitude; the two major aftershocks on May 12th were of 7.3 and 6.8 magnitude. On NJ’s first night, there was another earthquake of 5.3 magnitude. He wrote, “It was absolutely terrifying, but such aftershocks have become the norm for most people in Nepal.” NJ was in Kathmandu at the time, relatively far from the epicenter in Sindhupalchowk, so he was unharmed.

NJ stated that since his arrival in Nepal, he has seen countless construction projects. However, Bhaktapur and Kathmandu, the two areas he has visited so far, were not among the areas that were severely damaged by the earthquake. According to NJ, many popular tourist sites were damaged; tourism is a large contributor to Nepal’s economy. For example, two of the sites he visited on his first trip to Nepal—Bhaktapur’s Durbar Square and Basantapur—have been significantly damaged by the earthquakes.

IMG_0152Damage in Bhaktapur from the earthquakes

PHASE Nepal’s Relief Efforts

Like the organization’s name suggests, self-empowerment is central to PHASE’s mission. As stated on their website, PHASE Nepal’s vision is “A self-empowered and self-sustained society, where all kinds of discrimination are absent.” PHASE Nepal is a non-profit, non-governmental, nonpolitical, social development organization founded in 2006. PHASE Nepal’s core programming includes health, education, and livelihood projects for disadvantaged populations in the Himalayan regions of Nepal. PHASE strives to break the cycle of poverty in these regions by helping communities achieve a self-sufficient future.  

In addition to these core projects, PHASE has implemented an Emergency Relief Program for VDCs of Gorkha, Sindhupalchowk, and other districts. NJ wrote, “These projects include distribution of shelter materials and other necessary items, construction of school TLCs (Temporary Learning Centers), roof reconstruction, winterization projects, and WASH [Water And Sanitation for Health] projects. PHASE attracted many new donors around the world after the earthquake who have been responsible for these projects.”

IMG_0272Students celebrating Saraswati, a school holiday devoted to the Goddess of Education/Knowledge

GlobeMed After College

NJ said, “My involvement in GlobeMed definitely made this all 100% possible!” He also stated that things our chapter discussed during our weekly Global Health University (ghU) lessons have informed his volunteer work. For example, one of his projects is updating PHASE’s donors on Nepal’s progress in the Millennium Development Goals, a topic we covered in ghU last semester. He added, “GlobeMed is definitely a great tool for those who would like to work with NGOs or have a career in public health. Even the structure of GlobeMed is similar to the office structure of PHASE, and it’s nice to feel comfortable in this setting, delegating work within teams and sub-committees.”

IMG_0233NJ with some students of Shankhadhar Memorial School, which is located right near the PHASE office, during their Parents Day program. The students did performances, such as dancing, singing, playing musical instruments, karate, gymnastics. 

Learn more about PHASE Nepal through their website and 2014-2015 Annual Report.

Learn more about GlobeMed at Tufts through our Facebook page.

Consider donating to PHASE through GlobeMed at Tufts’ current project to support the work that Nick James Macaluso and countless others are doing to help rebuild Nepal.

Please contact if you have further questions about GlobeMed at Tufts or about our partner organization, PHASE Nepal.


Taylor Kennedy is a senior majoring in Child Study & Human Development and Clinical Psychology. She served as GlobeMed at Tufts’ Director of Communications from 2013-2015.

Treatment in the Time of Cholera

Last summer I had the opportunity to conduct research with Tufts’ Civil and Environmental Engineering Department on cholera in drinking water in rural Haiti. Nearly six years ago, when the 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the country, Haiti was on the front page of every news source. Once the crisis abated and the country lost the limelight, international aid and attention plummeted. Still, in the months after the earthquake, cholera– an infectious disease spread through water– appeared in the country for the first time in a hundred years, brought in by foreign aid workers trying to help. It remains, now endemic, in the country to this day.

The thing about cholera is that is entirely treatable. If, say, I had contracted the disease while I was there last May collecting samples, I would have been transported to a hospital either in Port-au-Prince or Miami, rehydrated and maybe given some antibiotics, and I would have been fine. Untreated, however, it can kill in a matter of days. Furthermore, because the disease works by flushing all liquid out of the body, any water contaminated by the excrement of the diseased will then spread the cholera even further.

This was the case in Haiti. Because of the lack of infrastructure, the idea of waste water treatment or a centralized water system of any sort is entirely unheard of in the country, especially in the aftermath of the earthquake. Instead, in the rural areas where my research was focused, communities get their water primarily from wells and open sources called canals that irrigate the fertile Artibonite Valley. Once the Artibonite River, the main artery of Haiti, was contaminated, so was every canal in the valley. The disease spread like wildfire.

While cholera has been a chronic issue in Haiti for the past six years, it has recently popped up in outbreaks around the world. The tragedy of this sickness continues: in a world with the medical knowledge and technology ours has today, people are still dying from something as treatable as cholera. All you need to survive is clean water, something that is incredibly easy to take for granted in this country. The importance of providing basic human necessities like clean water to protect the health of others is insurmountable. We need not have another Haiti.

Kellie Chin, sophomore
Communications Team

To learn more about cholera and Haiti, check out Water, Sanitation and Hygiene – Unicef and Ministère de la Santé Publique et de la Population.

Mental Health at Home and Abroad

Last week at our chapter meeting, two members of our ghU staff team did an important presentation on mental health, both at Tufts and in Nepal. An underlying theme of the presentation was how mental and physical health are treated so differently in our society, and yet how there is no way to have one without the other.

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This stigma prevents everyone from college students to rural villagers in Nepal from receiving the help they need. For example, in the entire country of Nepal, there is only one mental hospital. Looking at mental health from a wider, whole-body health perspective is also in line with the greater mission of our partner organization, PHASE. They include education and livelihood as key elements in promoting health because they know that health is a combination of physical, emotional, and social factors.

Finally, we discussed an important but difficult question: How should mental health be treated in nations facing serious physical health problems? Should it have the same priority level as physical health? As a chapter, we were unable to determine a definitive answer. What do you think?

P.S. If you’re a Tufts student looking for any sort of help, please visit Tufts Counseling and Mental Health Services at the Sawyer House, or call Ears for Peers (617-627-3888) any night from 7pm to 7am. Stay healthy everyone!