Students depart workshop keen to take on the world

A large group of Masters of Public Health students completed an empowering five-day workshop at Bedford Park in June that enriched students with the knowledge and skills to advance health equity anywhere in the world.

The workshop was part of the Action on Social Determinants of Health intense mid-year topic, which runs from 22 June to 19 July.

Led by Dr Annie Murray, 45 domestic and international students participated in the workshop, together with another 70 who undertook the topic online.

Dr Murray says the topic is critical to teach students about the role of public health and primary health care practitioners in bringing change to the social determinants of health.

“During the topic, students discuss critically the theories of power and empowerment inherent in primary health care approaches concerned with bringing about change or individuals, groups and communities. By the end of the topic, students should be able to analyse change initiatives, address the tasks required to establish programs, and understand contemporary approaches to public health and primary health care,” she says.

“While clinical knowledge and training through medical and allied health degrees is critical, a higher-level understanding of theories, concepts and public frameworks is essential for those who are keen to bring about broad, preventative change.”

Now based in Alice Springs as Coordinator of the Remote Health Practice postgraduate programs, Dr Murray’s own experiences to complete higher education contributed to her passion for social equity.

Students at the workshop came from a variety of backgrounds and nationalities, with their personal experiences often a catalyst for considering public health. Some are already practitioners, others completing their masters following previous medicine or allied health degrees.

While all students came away from the workshop feeling empowered to take action, the learnings were particularly eye-opening for international students from developing countries.

Nowrin from Bangladesh says: “The course really opened my eyes. I now understand how factors like colonisation and the economy impact on health, and I know to ask the questions about what is the government doing, what is the health profession doing, to address these underlying issues.”

Nowrin is looking forward to returning to Bangladesh with a new perspective and undertaking research to bring real change to her community’s health. “The world is turning in a good way to do something to help the people, but we have been on the back foot in my country.”

Aziza (left) and Nowrin will return to Bangladesh empowered to advance health outcomes in their country

Aziza is also from Bangladesh, and like Nowrin is a medical practitioner. She says her key takeaway from the workshop was learning how empowering individuals and communities is core to transforming health outcomes.

“Now I can think about the causes behind illnesses and how to resolve these. I will return with a greater understanding and keen to make changes to those background factors.”

Nadeesh feels Australian employers will recognise the knowledge gained through his Masters of Public Health as a valuable supplement to his medicine degree.

The topic is the last for Nadeesh, who will soon have completed his Masters of Public Health in addition to his medicine degree. From Sri Lanka, he expects future employers will recognise the additional knowledge and perspective gained through this program, as he hopes to embark on a medicine career in regional South Australia.

“It’s been wonderful to have this additional training on top of my clinical studies,” Nadeesh says. “I now have broader knowledge and expertise that will be valuable to my medicine career and improving health outcomes.”

Coco, an international student from China, was a physiotherapist before quitting her job to move to Australia and focus on public health. She is hoping this qualification will help her find work with a non-profit organisation in Australia, where she can improve health outcomes for disadvantaged members of the community.

“When we are working in the system we can’t see what is going wrong. This course has helped us step out and take a top-down view to understand what is going on in health and all of the factors that feed into it.

“It is so important and has given me a whole new perspective.”




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