Hey guys! I am Ginny Oberle, a Junior at Elon University, and I will be guest blogger number two. I would first like to establish that I do not blog.. or write that often. I do talk a lot though, so this will be in conversation form.
I have had an interesting journey at Elon thus far. I came into college knowing that I wanted to be a psychology major, and do… something with that. I am still trying to figure out the specifics. I considered and declared the neuroscience minor in addition to the psychology major the first semester of my freshman year, and part of me regrets that decision. I then became interested in religious studies, then public health, then women and gender studies. And now I am headed to India to learn about the rich culture there, but also, to be honest, to see if there is a way in which I can integrate these three interests. This trip obviously highlights aspects of religion and women’s studies in a global context, but more important, it addresses health practices in a country that is being spotlighted in the global health community right now.
I took my first public health course this Fall, but it has been a passion of mine for a good seven years or so, I just didn’t know where to find it. This course was titled Global Health, taking “global” in two lights, meaning both geographically diverse health as well as comprehensive health. We were asked to choose a country on which we would focus our research as the semester progressed. As I had already signed up for this study abroad course, I chose India. I must say the more I learned, the more fascinated I became. A lot of the public health issues in India stem from population growth, an issue that is central to any discussion of the environment, economy, and globalization. What I did not know is just how well India is doing at addressing the issues they face. As a part of this course, we were asked to report the current status of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were set by the World Health Organization. While there is still, and always will be, room for improvement, India is doing a remarkable job at reaching the established goals, and far surpassing expectations in many areas such as infant mortality and overall literacy. For many other countries that report the same causal variables, the goals were far from met, and many lacked the initiatives to address them in the first place. Not to get too political, because that is certainly not what this is about, but the results were shocking to me as an American. The United States has some of the best health care in the world, but far from the best health care system. I think many forget how much room we have for improvement, and yet the process is slow and painstaking to even attempt legislation that addresses this need. Still, a country, that before I took this course I envisioned as very much an impoverished nation, had set out to improve and they have done just that. And not just met those goals but far exceeded them in infant mortality and literacy and countless other ways in which people measure the health of a nation.
A “family planning” slogan on the back of a truck advises people “We Two Ours 1,” meaning each family should limit itself to one child.
Perhaps this is where I will be able to integrate psychology into everything else I am interested in. Are the Indian people any different from Americans? The politically correct thing to say is that no, of course not, we are all humans at a basic level. But I question this perception. Their religions, traditions, and values surely contribute to a culture of collectivism, in which people genuinely care about the well being of one another. A good friend of mine just got back from a semester in France, studying global educational disparities with students from all over the world. But naturally, the course conversation expanded to other political issues that should not be discussed on a blog like this. The most insight she gained from her venture came from a conversation on educational reform, gun control, and every other political issue with a young man from Switzerland who said, “No wonder you don’t want to pay for each other’s stuff, no one trusts anyone”. I find it humbling that a model for a progressive society comes from a country many perceive to be limited by tradition. I am excited to see this progress in action.
Children at an after-school program in the South Indian city of Madurai.
Young people fishing along one of the backwater canals in Kerala.