Monday, December 19, 2016

Learning the Value of International Research in Ghana

Over the summer of 2016, four MPH students, one medical student and one MPH faculty took part in ongoing research projects over five weeks in Ghana. Staying on campus at the teaching hospital, Kuomfo Anokye, in Kumasi, students worked to
  • collect data to help predict risk of Metabolic Syndrome (MetS);
  • examine water quality across a gold mining region; and
  • investigate factors associated with Hepatitis C (HCV).

Matt McHugh recounts the experience.
“Most of our involvement had to do with expanding previous MetS study work. Processing data via a 6-part survey (Anthropometric measures/Health risk factors/Food diary/SES interview) gave us a hands-on look at the complexities of conducting research in underserved communities.

After collecting water and soil samples in three different towns (Kumasi, Obuasi and Nkwantakese), it was tested to measure the heavy metal content that varied due to the distance of area gold mines. We were able to see how the mining practices affected the health of area communities.  

Additionally, we participated in a collaboration between Gilead Sciences, LUC and NYU. Tailoring a survey to protect the dignity and modesty of participants—but still gain important knowledge pertaining to hygiene and sexual behaviors that contribute to HCV transmission—we surveyed 25 people in Nkwantakese with translators. The work gave us great insight into HCV transmission factors that would help develop effective treatment plans utilizing the new pan-genotypic drug.”

But why Ghana? Why conduct research abroad at all?
In addition to gaining practical working knowledge on how to conduct complex research, strengthening their ability to see patterns between environmental issue and health effects, and becoming more cognizant of how sensitive topics can affect research outcomes, the students also expanded their understanding of community. This field experience broadened their social and cultural experience which will have a profound effect on their future research, practice and advocacy work.

The power of international education and research is immense. The MPH program is proud to have so many professionals that understand the benefits of this unique type of collaboration. 

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