My class, Public Health Policy in Practice, went to Ireland and Northern Ireland to explore public health systems across three cities. We learned about health regulations from the EU, and the consequences of Brexit. We also learned about The Troubles, and the impact this conflict has had on public health.
The first day, we went to the University College, Dublin, where we learned about the history of HIV/AIDs in Dublin. We also got to see a bit of Dublin as we walked around. The next day, we visited Eurofound, a company that collects data on the quality of life across the EU. There was data about working conditions and the associated health risks. We also were shown their surveys on job quality and overall health of the workers.
After the visit to Eurofound, we were able to get a private audience of two Irish musicians. We learned about the traditional instruments and music of Ireland. They played many jigs and reels, and we danced along at one point.
The next day, we left Dublin and headed to Belfast. Once there, we went on a walking tour to learn more about The Troubles. We first headed up Falls Road, with a guide who was a former political prisoner. He grew up during The Troubles and became a member of the Irish Republican Army. He talked about the attacks on Catholic citizens, and what it was like to witness it as a young boy.
Halfway through the tour, we passed through “Checkpoint Charlie,” into a Protestant community. Our guide handed us over to a man who also had been a political prisoner for more than a decade, but was Protestant and on the loyalist side. We walked down Shankill Road, and he talked about the civilian attacks on Protestants.
It was very poignant to hear first-hand accounts of The Troubles, and be able to learn about what it was like as both a young Catholic boy and a young Protestant boy. It also really underlined just how complex the conflict was, and all the sides a story can have.
The next day we went to the NHS Confederation. We learned about the Northern Ireland healthcare system, with a focus on primary care. We also learned about the impact of trauma on children, and how to promote a healing environment for them. Healthy cities were also discussed, and we were able to compare Belfast to Stockholm, as well as to our own hometowns.
We have one more trip left to Queen’s University, Belfast to learn more about the health consequences of conflict as well as the benefits of physical activity.
This Study Tour to Ireland and Northern Ireland was very mind-opening. We learned a lot about the history and the conflicts that occurred on this island. We learned about healthcare in the EU and the NHS, along with impacts of Brexit. But, the politics of Northern Ireland and the current unrest from The Troubles was the most impactful part of this Study Tour.