Thursday, June 1, 2017

Capstone 2017 – Jasmine Swyningan

Presented May 4, 2017, Jasmine Swyningan offered a look into the lifestyle factors that influence hypertension specifically as they are effecting countries in East and West Africa. As noted in Jasmine’s research, along with other non-communicable diseases (NCDs), researchers have documented a significant increase in hypertension and type 2 diabetes over the past 35 years. The lack of research documenting the contributing factors and gaps in treatment and prevention knowledge are limiting elements to the mounting burden of these types of diseases in Sub-Saharan African countries.

Comparing data gathered on non-pregnant women in Kenya and Ghana, Jasmine was able to support some key public health predictions within these areas. Her findings replicated the positive relationship between age/BMI and hypertension. Additionally, as the wealth index increases, so does the prevalence of hypertension. An individual living in an urban environment, having a higher education and being covered by health insurance is more likely to be diagnosed as hypertensive. While all of these factors are a result of movement toward economic development and increased wealth, these are also causing changes in the environment and behaviors that influence the health of the population.

As lifestyle continues to change at varying rates between and even within, countries must look to prepare themselves for the health impact of NCDs. Unfortunately, it may be outside financial reach to install effective prevention efforts that combat the effects of lifestyle changes. However, work could be done to leverage the existing healthcare networks—targeting clinician and patient education—to help curve the long-term effects of NCDs.

Jasmine joined Loyola University’s Master of Health Program with a BS in Economics from Iowa State University and MA in International Relations from the University of Chicago.

Learn more about Jasmine’s capstone experience.

Why did you choose to pursue an MPH? 
My desire to pursue an MPH and specialize in Epidemiology was organic in nature. I was brought to the University of Chicago for a few reasons that have remained unchanged throughout my academic career at Loyola: I am fascinated by economic development, and its intersection with other facets of society (e.g., education, health, gender, culture); I have a passion for enhancing my surroundings in a holistic manner; I love learning and engaging in both sides of an argument. I felt that an MPH at Loyola would allow me to grow in all of these areas.

What led you to your topic? 
Lifestyle and type II diabetes among women in sub-Saharan Africa was the focus of my MA thesis back in 2011, shortly after Imperial College London completed and published findings from their 30-year-long project to track diabetes rates globally. What they found was a stark increase in the prevalence of type II diabetes, particularly in countries in sub-Saharan Africa and the Pacific Islands. Before I even began studying public health, I became obsessed with understanding the social, economic, and cultural forces at play in these low-and-middle-income countries that are influencing the increase in NCD prevalence. After I completed my MA thesis in 2012, I presented my observations at African Studies conferences at Michigan State University Stanford University. At both conferences, people encouraged me to continue pursuing this topic and to look at everything from a public health lens. The transformation of this project has been an interesting challenge that I have come to greatly appreciate.

What personal skills helped you the most in completing your project? 
Time management! I spread out my capstone over two semesters which allowed me to do most of the background during the first semester, and then run the data (and rerun, and rerun, and RERUN the data...) during the second semester. Over the duration of my project, I also worked full-time (sometimes on weekends), completed 2-3 other courses, and started planning my wedding! Time management and an open dialog with my faculty advisers were key to completing this project. I also think that a genuine interest in the topic helped quite a bit.

A student’s Capstone project is a professional presentation, which demonstrates his/her ability to apply the program learning to a specific public health topic. Selected by the student, the project reflects a culmination of the course curriculum, field experience and independent study. This experience helps students explore their academic passions while preparing them for a competitive job market.

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