Program Gives Bucknell University Students Global View of Public Health

By McGill, Natalie | The Nation's Health, March 2013 | Go to article overview
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Program Gives Bucknell University Students Global View of Public Health


McGill, Natalie, The Nation's Health


ONE IMAGE forever seared itself into Bucknell University sophomore Chau Tieu's brain while on a January 2013 trip to Nicaragua: A boy, no older than 5, eating food as he sat on a garbage pile at a trash dump next to the city of Nueva Vida.

"All I was thinking was how easy disease could get through their body," Tieu said. "That was a really overwhelming moment where you realize how different your life is from theirs and it's really eyeopening."

Tieu spent 10 days in Nueva Vida as part of the Bucknell Brigade, a group of volunteer students and faculty that works annually with the Jubilee House Community and the Center for Development in Central America to provide medical care, free prescription medications and community service at a local medical clinic.

Jubilee is a non-governmental organization that provides community service in Nueva Vida and houses volunteers from the Lewisburg, Pa., university every year.

The Bucknell Brigade began in 1999 as a student response to damage that resulted from Hurricane Mitch in 1998. For the past 14 years, the school has sent a group of more than 20 Bucknell students, faculty and a doctor to Nueva Vida in January and March, said Paul Susman, a Bucknell geography professor who takes part in the trips. Students from any major can attend the trip, Susman said.

About 17,000 people reside in Nueva Vida, which is close to the nation's capital of Managua, and most residents earn no more than $1 per day, said Susman, who has led additional summer trips to Nueva Vida every other year since 2005.

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Public health issues in the city range from irregular water service, contaminated water and fumes from the trash dump where Tieu saw the young boy eating his food. Respiratory disease is common among residents because of burning trash, Susman said.

Tieu remembers seeing many young mothers in the clinic and children with nearly blonde hair--a sign of malnutrition, she said.

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