For generations, the public health emphasis in low and middle income countries (LMIC) has been on infectious disease prevention and maternal child health. 90 percent of premature deaths caused by non-communicable diseases (NCD) per year globally occur in LMIC. While international efforts to prevent diseases such as HIV, malaria and tuberculosis have created many, successful collaborative infrastructures for slowing these infections, those efforts have not yet extended to managing and preventing NCD. In fact, in Uganda, where Haeyoon Chang interned this summer, researchers are just beginning to quantify the extent of these conditions.
A second-year student in the Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology and Global Health Concentration, Haeyoon Chang contributed to the baseline research Uganda needs to begin to take on its rising burden from NCDs. She gathered qualitative data from patients with diabetes and hypertension, community health workers and medical professionals to discover barriers to NCD treatment and education, and to eventually develop community based models of prevention, care and management for them.
As a former Peace Corps volunteer in the South Pacific’s Kingdom of Tonga, Haeyoon understands how important it is to develop programs in a collaborative and culturally relevant way. “It is slower, but I believe grassroots projects are really how we achieve successful and sustainable development,” she says. While her assignment was to teach English in Tonga, she also collaborated with a local medical provider on developing accessible skill-building materials on nutrition to combat the local obesity issues, as well as materials to expand the community’s respect and compassion for the growing number of people with diabetes-related disabilities.