Directing the Dialogue: How global health literacy builds better advocates, activists and leaders

A panel of student leaders from the University of Connecticut Global Health Symposium Organizing Committee (GloHSOC) in the Class of 1947 Meeting Room of the Homer Babbidge Library set a personalized tone at the global health event titled “Directing the Dialogue: How Global Health Literacy Builds Better Advocates, Activists and Leaders” Friday. (Nicole Jain/The Daily Campus)

A panel of student leaders from the University of Connecticut Global Health Symposium Organizing Committee (GloHSOC) in the Class of 1947 Meeting Room of the Homer Babbidge Library set a personalized tone at the global health event titled “Directing the Dialogue: How Global Health Literacy Builds Better Advocates, Activists and Leaders” Friday.

This UConn Metanoia event aims to bolster global health literacy by spurring discussion of healthcare disparities, shining the spotlight on lesser-known healthcare issues around the globe and promoting creative thinking for global health solutions. The event promoted active participation, with many attendees chiming in with their own comments and points of discussion.

The panel shed light on a vast array of topics within global health including food insecurity, vaccination, mental health, the role of social media in awareness, social determinants of health, the right to healthcare and human trafficking.

A major theme brought up throughout the evening was the role of social determinants in the way healthcare is delivered. Akshaya Chittibabu, an eighth-semester health, policy and social medicine individualized major and executive director of GloHSOC, highlights the effects of social determinants on healthcare disparities abroad and domestically.

“People believe that health is something that is contained in the clinic. But in reality, there are so many actors in health and health outcomes,“ Chittibabu said. “The quality of education, access to food, and other societal factors impacts the health that you have. And so when we think about social determinants of health, we need to understand [what these] social structures [are] that intersect to create the health outcomes we are seeing not only in the world, but in our own country and our own neighborhoods.”

Another topic that the panel imparted to attendees was the inescapable link between healthcare and leadership.

“As a leader in any scale or capacity, you can’t lead on issues you don’t know about — and one issue that impacts everyone is health,” Chittibabu said. “You need to be educated about health to advocate for others no matter what field you find yourself in.”

Luke Anderson, a sixth-semester anthropology and nutrition major, expanded the discussion by commenting on the importance of personalizing the issue of healthcare as a way to promote advocacy.

“Part of effective advocacy [is to] help to humanize these issues as a constituent,” Anderson said. “Being able to recognize how these healthcare issues impact people and personalizing these issues by connecting with others is a great way to affect policy.”

This event was just a little taste of what’s to come for global health advocacy at UConn — GloHSOC is hosting UConn’s second annual Global Health Symposium (GloHS), the largest undergraduate-run global health conference in the state of Connecticut, on March 29-30, 2019.

“The theme of the 2019 Global Health Symposium is ‘Winning the Birth Lottery: Globalization in Health,’ where we’ll be talking about how the birthplace of an individual largely impacts and shapes health outcomes,” Chittibabu said. “We’ll be exploring different political, social and cultural factors, and other determinants of health that we largely exclude from the conversation around health disparities. This will be done through keynotes, engaging panels, a birth lottery simulation and some really exciting breakout sessions.”

The GloHS March 29 keynote event, with Dr. Kee Park from Harvard Medical School, is titled “Geopolitical Factors Determining Health Outcomes in North Korea” and will be held at the Dodd Center’s Konover Auditorium, while the March 30 keynote event, with Prof. Sarah Willin from the UConn Anthropology Department is titled “Redlining and Red Seas: How History, Power, and Politics Rig the Birth Lottery in the U.S. and Around the Globe.” It will be held at the Student Union Theatre.

When asked why students should be more educated in global health, Anderson pointed to the wide breadth of the field and its deep impact on the world around them.

“Because of the broad scope and personal impacts of global health, I believe that global health literacy is a wonderful way [for students] to draw interdisciplinary connections between their own experiences and those of other communities to care more deeply about issues that they otherwise may not have cared about,” Anderson said.


Derek Pan is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at derek.pan@uconn.edu.