Why I Chose Public Health

This wasn’t what I was going to write about originally but something happened today that reminded me of why I am passionate about health care. Well, health care and education. Here is an excerpt from an application I wrote in grad school (It was for the Global Health Scholars Program. My application was successful, in case you were wondering) and has become a type of elevator pitch:

Spending my childhood in a low-income sub-Saharan African country brought to the fore the importance of access to excellent healthcare as well as the preventative advantages of basic sanitation and availability of clean water.  My interest in public health grew out of these experiences. My specific areas of interest are maternal-child health, HIV research, and prevention communicable and non-communicable diseases in low- and middle-income countries and my goal is to work with an international health organization committed to strengthening the primary healthcare facilities of developing countries and creating affordable, integrated health services.

From the different classes I took in graduate school, my interests grew to include: intervention design and implementation (including monitoring & evaluation), health systems strengthening and data analysis (and all the wonderful things data can be used for). Okay, so back to what happened today. I found out that a lady I go to church with died this morning. During child birth. At a private hospital. This news was extremely upsetting for me for a number of reasons. One, how is it that in 2017 women are still dying during child birth. There is no good reason why this should happen. None at all. Not in my books, anyway. Anywhere in the world. Secondly, why is our healthcare system so broken? If a woman changes health care providers, her information should move with her from one facility to the other, there’s a reason why patient history is collected during registration. And a woman with a high-risk pregnancy should be given the best prenatal care to ensure a healthy pregnancy and delivery without complications. And if complications occur during labour, a caesarean section should be scheduled immediately. Additionally, private hospitals are supposed to be better than public/government-funded ones (in Ghana at least), so people shell out a significant amount of money to get care there. Why? This is because their doctors are better paid and therefore will provide better service (I have an issue with this premise but moving on), they usually have state-of-the-art equipment, they tend to be smaller so patients can get personalized care, wait times are shorter etc. So, given all the above reasons, why should a perfectly healthy woman (by general standards) die during child birth? I wasn’t present and I’m not a doctor (although at times like these, I wonder if I should have pursued my childhood dream of becoming a doctor) so I can’t say with any kind of confidence what went wrong in the theatre this morning. All I know is something went seriously wrong and a mother and her child lost their lives. A husband lost his wife. Two children lost their mother. And our church family lost one of our own. And we will mourn this loss. It hurts my heart because as far as I know this could, should have been prevented. Data from the World Bank shows that the maternal mortality ratio for Ghana in 2015 was 319 per 100,000 live births (It’s down from 634 per 100,000 live births in 1990, so some progress has been made). This number might not seem huge but compared to countries like Finland and Greece that have 3 per 100,000 live births, it shows that we have a loooooooooong way to go. Yes, I can’t compare those countries to Ghana for a variety of reasons but there’s no reason why we as a country can’t have those statistics in the near future (very near). I don’t pretend to have the answers because I do not. All I know is that something needs to be done and I have a role to play. I’m still trying to carve my path and figure out exactly what I’m meant to do. One thing I am sure about is that I want a world where women have safe deliveries, where babies live till they’re old and grey, where health is a basic right to every single person, no exceptions.

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