Global Health: Social Justice at the Forefront of Healthcare

Global Health: Social Justice at the Forefront of Healthcare

Often people may not see much of a connection between social justice and the medical field. People can see the medical field as a way to make a change in individual lives, but it may not be apparent how healthcare can play a role in overarching social change. From Carrie’s lecture, I learned that public health and global health are great platforms for social change within the healthcare field.

Carrie walked us through her occupational journey and demonstrated how we can be dedicated to social change and learning from different communities in the medical field. I was astonished by the work she did for HIV/AIDS by protesting, providing testing, counseling, and participating in conferences and campaigns to end AIDS. In doing this, she banded together with others passionate about the cause and worked to bring awareness to the public and the government. This is fundamental for social change.

Carrie also talked a lot about being sensitive to other communities’ cultures. In doing this, you have to come in with an open mind to a new and different set of standards and attributes. Engaging with the community and the people and organizations within it is a great way to learn about things you may be unfamiliar with. Carrie learned that even though she thought she had a reasonable solution, progress can’t be made unless you understand the community you’re working with. This is a valuable lesson as healthcare providers. Whether we want to serve people across the globe or here in Ann Arbor, we must dedicate ourselves to learning about the environment and the people we are serving. Only then can we really make long-lasting change.

What do you think about the role of social change and justice within healthcare? What are some ways that we can be culturally sensitive and ethical in working with different populations?

7 thoughts on “Global Health: Social Justice at the Forefront of Healthcare

  1. Gabby, I agree with your point that one needs to be open-minded to be able to engage with the community, its people, and its culture when working with a different population. We have to be willing to make an effort to educate ourselves when it comes to learning about another culture, and it can be hard to work with a community that is different than our own. We may never completely learn or know all the customs of another culture but it is important for us to do as much research as possible and utilize all the resources that are available to us to learn about their language, religion(s), food, clothing, holidays, etc before we serve in their community. We may never know as much as the local people, but always be conscious of the region’s cultural, economic, political, and historical attributes and have the eagerness to keep learning about them with an open mind.

  2. Gabby, I agree with your point on how important social justice is to bring changes to the health care system. There are many instances at which certain groups of people are not receiving equitable health care compared to other groups. This signifies the disparities that are prevalent in our current health care system. Many countries to do have basic access to afford basic medications and medical interventions such as condoms to protect oneself from contracting any sexual transmitted disease. Part of the reason why this may be missing is that some countries’ cultures and religion prohibit the use of these medical interventions. As future health care professionals. We have to be mindful and respectful of these beliefs and cultures.

    I think social change helps bring awareness to the dire issues on the inequality of health care that certain groups of people receive. As health care professionals I think that this is helpful for us to target these populations and help reduce the amount of inequality. Ways that we can respect the culture and follow the medical ethics in other countries are to do research on the country’s culture and government policies before doing any form of health care services there. Also, I think having partners in these countries would help flow the communication to more areas of the world that may have not received the proper medical care.

  3. I think there are many things that can be done to allow individuals to become more culturally sensitive to the areas they will be doing work in. Creating dialogue around the challenges and differences they may find in that area is very important to do. With this, a group or an individual can learn more about what may lay ahead. In addition to this, it may be helpful to take a class or do research on the area they will be traveling to. This would be educational in both a cultural and ethical way by providing a vast knowledge of the population. I feel that the healthcare field plays an important role in social change. Many people look up too healthcare professionals and trust them, so I feel that it is essential for providers to have a role in social change.

  4. Hi Gabby,
    I completely agree that everyone can take a part in social change. When working in a health care field people see many different people from varying backgrounds and have the chance to practice social justice by treating everyone equally. We learned last semester that most of us have unconscious biases that may affect how we treat certain people. I think all of us can counteract those biases by being aware of them and by consciously counteracting them. That way we don’t play into social disparities and by spreading awareness of social justice issues in general we can start making a change in our small communities.

    I went to a symposium last Saturday and one of the speakers said something very important: Privilege doesn’t imply guilt, it implies responsibility. All of us are privileged in at least one way, we all have access to higher education. By being privileged we aren’t guilty of the wage gap or the disparities that exist between people with and those without education. However, what we make of that opportunity, is a responsibility we have assumed the moment we enrolled at Michigan. Let’s just hope all of us make the most of their degrees and use them to evoke social change.

  5. Carrie’s experience in Africa trying to help decrease violence in a community was a great example of needing to understand a community to really “help.” First, you must understand if stepping in will really help the community. Then, you must be willing to put away any thoughts of ethnocentrism. This is the idea that your own culture is more superior which leads to evaluating another culture from the perspective of your own. As Carrie’s slight lack of knowledge on part of the community demonstrated, the only way you can effectively help a community is by looking at it through the eyes of the community. This is how one can remain culturally sensitive and ethical.

    In my anthropology class, I had the pleasure of hearing one of the lead researchers in the Africa Ebola crisis speak to my class. One really interesting thing he said was that the attempts to help the community were so futile at first because no one consulted with the local community. If they had, they would have understood that telling the community to burn dead bodies to prevent the spread of the disease was not going to be well-received. This is because the community’s culture called for first moving the body and burying it and the birthplace of the dead, then touching the body. Once this was taken into consideration, other ways of preventing the spread of the disease were suggested directly to the local people who then spread these suggestion amongst themselves instead of through people in government control. By staying in touch and connected to local people, one can also remain culturally sensitive and ethical.

  6. I was also amazed by how much work she put into spreading awareness about HIV/AIDS, and it goes to show that as long as you have a passion, you can have a voice and bring about change in a community. Social change is a way for society to evolve and move forward as we see our mistakes in the past and learn from them. However, as you said, the key component to successfully initiating and creating change starts from learning from our communities and the cultures that lie within them. Oftentimes when we tackle a situation, we begin to experience tunnel vision because we are so focused on our goal. We fail to take into account every important factor, and just as it had happened with Carrie, we can’t get the plan off the floor because of that. Everyone comes from a different background and different experiences; what might be considered normal to one person might not be the same for another. Social change and justice has a fundamental basis in understanding different environments and communities. Within healthcare, social change and justice has the power to alter the way an entire community can receive and perceive the care that they need. We will never know about another group’s culture if we never ask. Questions can lead to solutions, and they’re always a good way to go, so long as they’re respectful and understanding.

  7. Like you, I was also amazed by how much work Carrie has done in the fields of global health and HIV/AIDS. She brought to light many aspects cultural sensitivity that I had not thought much about, such as the fact that historical and cultural background of the place you’re visiting can be vital to understanding the best way to help people in certain areas. Medicine needs to be approached in more of a holistic way, especially in circumstances where first world countries are trying to provide aid to second and third world ones. To many of us western medicine seems like the holy grail of treatment and prevention, but we have to understand that many who do not grow up with the same cultural surroundings do not have the same amount of enthusiasm and may actually be very skeptical of our involvement. This was especially exemplified by Carrie’s experience trying to help an elementary school in Africa, in which she believed the best way to help the children be less prone to violence was to encourage them to practice choir after school. It wasn’t until it was too late she realized that this wasn’t a viable option due to the fact that the building right outside was dangerous to be around after dark. It because of circumstances like that why we must always be open and aware of the circumstances that surround those we try to help, and do our best to prepare well before traveling.

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