March 25, 2005

World Health Week brought global perspective

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Neil Boothby, professor of Clinical Population and Family Health and director of the Program on Forced Migration and Health at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, spoke twice during the annual World Health Week. His lecture Tuesday at the School of Medicine was titled "After the Flood: The Pyschological Consequences of the Tsunami in Aceh, Indonesia."
photo by Dana Johnson

World Health Week brought global perspective

This week, international health issues were brought into sharper focus as speakers from across the globe shared their experiences, research and insights with the Vanderbilt community as part of World Health Week.

Alfred W. Brann Jr., M.D., professor of Pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine and director of the World Health Organizations/

Collaborating Center in Reproductive Health, opened the lecture series with his talk “Reproductive Health: Comparative Issues Around the World.” He discussed the collaborative effort of his organization to address the issues of maternal and infant mortality in Georgia and across the world.

“The probability of higher rates of mortality and morbidity are not randomly distributed — they are higher among those with lower education and lower economic means, and this is the case regardless of what nation you look at,” Brann said. “The knowledge and the skills exist today to decrease the excessive rates of maternal and infant mortality by 50 percent. Our goal is to provide real interventions to do this.”

Brann shared the group's process used for determining which stage of care — women's health, prenatal care, neonatal care to infant care — was most deficient, so interventional resources could be focused at the greatest need.

Neil Boothby, Ed.D, professor of Clinical Population and Family Health and Director of the Forced Migration and Health Program at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, shared with an audience at the School of Nursing his experiences working with children in Mozambique from 1988 to 2004 who were abducted and forced to become soldiers.

In his presentation “Child Soldiers: What Happens When They Grow Up?” Boothby said he tracked down 504 child soldiers in 8 of 10 provinces. Seventy-five percent reported witnessing killings, 90 percent witnessed torture and beatings and 30 percent killed other human beings. Yet Boothby said the children have proven to be resilient and all but three he has followed over the years have grown up to be productive adults. “These are children who went through some really, really awful stuff and have turned out to be doing remarkably well,” said Boothby.

“Once abused, always abused — it can be true, but if we only look at those paradigms we're missing the picture,” he added. “If violence begets violence, could it not also lead to altruism? Could we not scratch our heads and say that is possible?”

Boothby also spoke at the School of Medicine, presenting “After the Flood: The Psychological Consequences of the Tsunami in Aceh, Indonesia.” Jonathan Spector, M.D., of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) USA, shared his talk “Emergency-Phase Nutritional Rehabilitation and Medical Care in West Darfur, Sudan,” and Snezana Simic, M.D., professor of Public Health at Belgrade University and advisor to the Serbian Minister of Health, wrapped up the events with her presentation, “Health Care in Transition: The Republic of Serbia.”