The student conference started on the 9th of February. I was lucky to join a session in which research methodologies were discussed. It was presented by delegates from India, whom included Shankar Reddy, Tanmay Mahapatra, Suman Kanungo, Prof Mandal and many more who were sharing their knowledge on ethical research. They were teaching about how research should be undertaken and the type of research methods that are important for selected type of studies.
Although I have conducted research, a number of times before in my life, I managed to learn a few things from the session. I learned that public health research should not be research if it does not benefit the community. Public health specialists should always put the community first. Prof Mandal gave examples of unethical research in the past and how it affected communities. This included research that was conducted in the Nazi camps to determine how tolerant human beings were to pain.
I attended a pre-conference opening that was opened by the Madhumita Dobe who is the Chancellor of a University in Kolkata. He and other teammates published a book that was launched on this day. It is about the history of public health Kolkata. I was lucky to receive a copy which I will be sharing with interested JuPHASA members in the country. I listened to other speakers at the opening ceremony, including the president of WFPHA, Mengistu Asnake. It was interesting to hear that the World Congress on Public Health is hosted for the second time in Kolkata.
Another one of the interesting sessions I attended was about career opportunities in public health. One of the burning issues discussed was the fact that public health is always presented to us like a practice that is Medical-practitioner oriented, and other health and social sciences professionals are overlooked. Sanjay Mehendale discussed in detail the role of other health professionals in public health. He believes that medical practitioners are a part of public health, but the key players of public health are community health workers. Jolanda Lindenberg explained to the audience the ideal characteristics of a public health professional CV. Students and young professionals were advised to always indicate how the organisation would benefit if it were to employ the applicant.
On my last day in Kolkata I attended a session presented by PHASA, in partnership with other BRICS member countries at WCPH15. One of the main concerns shared by all the anglophone countries was their loss of health professionals to the developed world. E.g. Waasila (PHASA Secretary) indicated that South Africa produces 1200 doctors each year. 600 of these leave the country. About 400 work in the private sector and only a small portion of those remaining will work in rural areas. Such instances leave developing countries with a health care workforce backlog. All the countries shared their strategies to retain health workers in the public service. Strategies included increase in salaries, shortening of the number of training years to make qualifications unrecognisable by developed countries and prohibition of active foreign recruitment.
I was able to meet with South African delegates who were attending the main conference. I had a meeting with Babatunde, Secretary of AFPHA students association. He told me about their successes and challenges of AFPHA to date. I also updated him about what we JuPHASA’s in South Africa have been undertaking. We as JuPHASA, hope to play to play an active role in the next ISMOPH and WCPH.
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