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Globalizing the Classroom Back Home in Evanston

Returning Global Health Studies students offer perspectives from around the world

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June 23, 2014

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By Crystal Yednak

With programs in Chile, China, Cuba, France, Israel, South Africa and Tanzania, students return to campus with a diverse range of experiences, having seen firsthand the effects of the health problems they are studying.

“It’s so interesting to be in a room with global health minors who have been all over the world and are able to discuss how different countries approach a problem,” said Anna Radoff, a senior enrolled in the global health minor.
 
Northwestern’s global health minor appealed to Radoff because its focus is broader than just training doctors to work internationally. As an anthropology major, she embraced the opportunity to learn about health systems across the globe.

As part of the global health minor, Radoff studied abroad on the Public Health in Cuba program. “It’s incredible that you get to go abroad to a country not many Americans get to visit -- and get to see it from a really intense, inside and outside the classroom experience,” she said.

Classes on Cuban health and society and on the country’s history and culture gave students the proper context before they went out to observe the health system at work. Discussions about HIV/AIDS were followed by trips alongside public health workers who were handing out condoms in areas where prostitution is common, and by talking to Cubans about their sexual health.

“The way the government and health system is set up is so different. It’s easy to see a 1960s antiquated system, but they have systems that are accomplishing a lot, and we can learn from that,” Radoff said.

After her return, she became an ambassador for the Cuba program, helping prepare new students for their trip to Cuba, where they’ll also be able to take salsa dance classes from locals. Most importantly, Radoff said, they’ll walk away with a new perspective on how to address systemic health problems by also being respectful of the culture.

“It’s not just ‘Here’s an AIDS solution we can throw at them.’ You really learn how to attack the problem to find a sustainable, long-term solution,” she said.