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OP-ED: Building a healthier nation

  • Published at 03:14 am August 6th, 2021

Experiences from the James P Grant School of Public Health

Nothing saddens me more than having to listen to stories of women and children dying from diseases such as, diarrhoea, measles, pneumonia, malnutrition, etc, which can very easily be avoided through preventable measures. Having grown up in one of the remotest parts of Nepal, I have been exposed to such gruesome conditions ever since I was a child. 

This is what led me to enrolling into a Bachelor of Public Health degree after acquiring my higher secondary school certificate. It was the first step I took to pursue a path in the public health sector. I studied hard and, after graduation, worked closely with the Nepal government’s nutrition sector for more than three years.

Working in the field of public health for more than three years to enhance the nutrition status of adolescents, women, and children led me to the realization that my passions were deeply motivated by wanting to improve the health and wellbeing of people in need in my country.

Contributing to public health education and practice requires advanced knowledge and skills meant to improve comprehension of policy and management, which is crucial to validating certain decisions related to health. With the proper application of policy formulations and applications of data science, deaths and medical errors can be prevented. 

It was for these reasons that the BRAC James P Grant School of Public Health’s (JPGSPH) Master’s in Public Health (MPH) Program first piqued my interest. I was seeking a better understanding of global public health issues, effective policy formulation, and other managerial aspects. 

In the context of Nepal, it is imperative to have trained personnel in policy and program formulation who can contribute to effective policy formulation and program designs that are cost effective and reflective of the real needs of a community. 

I wanted to fill this gap and become a pivotal resource to my country’s public health needs and effectively transform policy design formulations. As I went through the program’s course outline in search of public health courses that would contribute to my academic knowledge and skills, I came across a few courses that convinced me that BRAC JPGSPH would be the right place and next step in my journey to becoming a public health leader. 

In addition, I had also reached out to a JPGSPH alumni who were working in Nepal; alongside their positive feedback, I wasted no time and enrolled in the program. 

The MPH program at BRAC JPGSPH can be summed up as a challenging and rewarding experience that offers a versatile range of opportunities. The learning methods put a particular emphasis on diversity and inclusion while still being engaging and collaborative in nature.

Having students from different educational backgrounds in the class always provided dimensions to understanding a particular topic and analyzing it. As an individual with a deep passion for promoting proper nutrition, I was thrilled to discover the large number of nutrition-related programs that BRAC JPGSPH offered, which has helped me to gain extensive knowledge and skills and success.

This reassured me that the MPH from BRAC JPGSPH would propel me in the correct direction; my aim was to achieve health equity, and thus, improve the healthcare system back in my country, Nepal.

One of the best features of the program is that it exposes its students to practical learning. The technical aspects we learnt were demonstrated to us through real field experiences to understand community health aspects. The field visits have definitely left a lasting impact on me and dare I say is one of the major highlights of the program.  

The massive network of the school across the world allows for opportunities that would otherwise be lost, such as icddr,b, an international health research organisation and BRAC JPGSPH’s institutional partner. 

The quality of education I received from the BRAC JPGSPH program has enabled me to perform at the highest levels in all areas of my current position. Currently, I am associated with UNICEF and looking after the nutrition programs under Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Plan for two provinces out of the seven provinces of the country and I consistently use the concepts learned throughout the MPH coursework.

My experience at the school allowed me to explore my interests further, while ensuring the foundation needed to build a career in public health. As much as I am grateful for the contributions and efforts the school made towards my ambitions, I must also add that there are not many programs out there with this level of focus on specialization.      

Prakash Chandra Joshi is Nutrition Officer, Nutrition Section, UNICEF Nepal.