Last Autumn I had the opportunity to study for a semester in Sweden. Looking to fill some requirements for my International Studies major back home I signed up for the course Global Health. At the time, it slipped my mind that Sweden is known for this kind of study and research. As I sat amongst students from Sweden, Poland, the Netherlands, South Korea and Zambia who were studying subjects which ranged from nursing to psychology, I realized that I was in for an eye-opening semester. As you read, please keep in mind that all of the facts are already a year old, but their significance is no less impactful. This blog is a very short snippet of all that I learned in that class; below are the concepts and figures that moved and surprised me the most.

Excerpts from my final paper:

• “I was also struck by a statement which one of the presenters recalled from one of the older Zambian women, ‘When the white men came we saw that we were poor.’ I believe that we have as much to learn from struggling peoples as they have to learn from us, they are rich in other aspects of life.”

• “I also found it fascinating when Mr. Almroth talked about how children need love, and when their parents die they are more likely to get sick as well. It’s amazing how something so simple can have such deep and compounding impact. It’s hard to realize how much that love is taken for granted in developed countries where health is expected and sickness can be treated.”

• “Additionally, the knowledge that female literacy is most directly connected to child mortality, and that fifty percent of all child deaths could be prevented through female literacy surprised me.”

• “Education empowers women, gives children more access to healthcare, encourages micro-loan systems, informs about water sanitation and improves infant survival through breast feeding.”

• “I was finally incredibly relieved to hear Mr. Almroth talk about the fear of over-population. I admit that I was one of those people who are often conflicted by compassion for people in need and scientific numbers of over-population. Hearing that increased child survival has always lead to less pregnancy was all I needed to hear for my fears to be quickly relieved and my compassion to take over!”

• “I was encouraged to think about AIDS as a result of poverty, not necessarily a lack of knowledge. This cuts at the basic human need to survive, and when people see no way to make money, they turn to dangerous practices to survive. When it is knowledge vs. necessity, necessity always wins.”

• “Standing at twice the African regional average, 150 out of 100,000 people in Zambia are infected with tuberculosis. Of those infected, over half are co-infected with HIV/AIDS. Zambia is currently working to improve lab facilities, increase community awareness, expand public-private partnerships (such as support groups who visit patients,) increase printed and circulated materials and conduct training of health workers.”

• “One very cool way of disease education that Zambia has implemented is grounded in schools. Each year on World AIDS Day and World Malaria Day formal debates are held between students in schools to increase awareness of the disease crises.”

• “Every year 7.5 million women and babies die unnecessarily due to pregnancy-related causes, NOT disease. This is 50% more people than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined! In poor nations around the world poverty causes death in heart-wrenching ways because the cure is both known and attainable. On one side of the problem lies a lack of funding for pregnancy care and neonatal mortality prevention and the shift of educated doctors from rural Africa to lucrative Europe. On the other side of the problem lies hope. The greatest resource that Africa needs to improve the maternal health situation is educated midwives. Additionally, the country of Mozambique is leading the way by training ‘non-physician clinicians’ to perform cesarean sections, obstetric hysterectomies, laparotomies and other life-saving emergency obstetric care. These clinicians also exist in rural Malawi and Tanzania, creating an incredible resource where doctoral care is limited or non-existent…Cures and preventative methods are known, available and common; proper funding, education and trained professionals are what the world is waiting for.”

Thanks to lecturers Almroth, Berggren, Halling and Bergström.