Enter to Leave, Leave to Serve

Therefore, I am grateful that I was able to learn from the local faculty who live the realities that they teach about. I was able to discuss the changing dynamics of public health, both in terms of global transitions and locally specific issues. As someone who didn’t know much about even the U.S. healthcare system, I learned so much the differences between public and private care and the importance of policy and government action for the U.S. and the three countries I visited. I think one of the most important takeaways from the program was understanding the different social determinants of health and getting to witness the public health systems in action with multiple hospital visits. At first, I thought that health consisted of just going to the hospital and getting a check-up from my doctor. Through my time abroad, I’ve come to learn that it is so much more than that.

There are structural factors that affect health-seeking behaviors and then create and perpetuate inequities in how individuals experience health. This could be based on the environment in which a person lives, such as when a person experiences a "food desert", where there aren’t enough healthy food options. There are also sometimes financial reasons that play a part in whether people can afford healthier options. Beyond this, some people can afford better healthcare services than others due to the costs associated with getting proper healthcare, especially within the United States. Sometimes societal or cultural stigmas play a role in how people view not only their own health, but the health and well-being of others. These are just a few of the many different factors that need to be considered when talking about public health.