Here I am once again, reflecting on my third and final course of the summer. From learning about how mental health and public health are connected in session one, to learning about the impact African Americans had in Copenhagen and Paris in session, to now viewing the idea of health policy on a whole new continent. I am extremely grateful to have had the chance to take such a wide range of courses that I’ve truly enjoyed, and now here’s how my Public Health Policy in Practice course went!
Health Care Across the Globe
I remember always seeing the above picture in some of my health related classes back at Michigan, but to see it again here in Sweden made me think about healthcare in a whole new way. Here, healthcare is both universal and automatic for all legal residents. The standard of health is definitely higher and many would say that it is quite better than that of the United States. We talked about these differences much more into depth, but also dug deep into topics relating to health of individuals with migrant status, cost, as well as inequalities within the system. With our field studies as well as our study tour in Ireland, it opened my eyes and deepened my passion for health in a whole new way.
One thing that has been the biggest challenges in Sweden’s healthcare system is addressing the health of migrant populations. For legal residents and citizens, this isn’t an issue as they are automatically enrolled into a plan. However, for those who are in the process of gaining that residency or citizenship, they don’t have much to rely on, as they aren’t covered. They are left to pay out of pocket, with exceptions for treatment that cannot be postponed. These groups are most vulnerable especially post migration, and the lack of access to care increases stressors and can have more negative impacts on their health. Navigating a new country on your own is already stressful enough, but having to figure out a new system of healthcare makes it much worse. As I figure out what I want to do as I further my education in public health, this class has certainly peaked my interest in wanting to help make healthcare for immigrants and refugees much more affordable and accessible.
Our class took a field study to Yalla Rinkeby, which is a program for migrant woman coming from all over the world, to allow them to develop skills to help best integrate them into Sweden, through teaching Swedish, how to cook (as this is something they’re familiar with), along with other things to make this transition process much smoother. This place is a central hub for people living in the city of Rinkeby which as a whole is filled with migrant families, as it’s a restaurant that the woman work at and where people often come to eat or do work (the falafel is absolutely delicious, highly recommend!). With a community garden and pool, this place becomes much more comforting to live in. It was really inspiring to see such initiatives being put into place to help migrant groups, and as a daughter of immigrant parents myself, I admire the work being done to make this adjustment as smooth as possible.
Health Policy in Ireland
In Ireland, there has been a long history to how the healthcare system has evolved–to a point now where the best way to describe it, is right in the middle of the systems of the US and the UK. Healthcare was overseen by religious order for a very long time (and still is in some areas), and practices were much more strict in those parts. Wait times are incredibly long, and as time passes, the amount of people on a private insurance plan is slowly increasing. Future strides need to be made to address issues of lack of advances in technology, the disconnect between GPs and specific health professionals, as well as providing more services throughout the country.
The history of Ireland is both very complicated and quite interesting to learn about. Migration has been and continues to be a big thing, especially emigration out of the country. Conditions were very poor, and over a million people were dying due to the famine, and other illnesses, causing people to want to escape these conditions. Irish blood spans far and wide across the globe, and to learn about how it has moved everywhere was crazy to hear!
One of the biggest issues impacting health is the use of alcohol, and we saw its impact in both a negative and a perceived “positive” way. We visited people from Alcohol Action Ireland, an independent group advocating for reducing the harm caused by alcohol use. This not only impacts the individual drinking, but 1 in every 2 people in Ireland have been negatively affected and/or influenced by someone who uses alcohol. More and more younger people are starting to drink, the amount consumed is very high compared to other countries, and there has been much more promotion of drinking rather than a push to stop or reduce its consumption (this is is the number one cause of preventable death). The passion they had in order to make efforts to limit advertisements and put more restrictions on alcohol use are what is needed to bring the necessary change to benefit the overall physical and mental health of everyone. We then made it over to the Guinness Storehouse to see the glorified side in person, and while I did want to leave after hearing all the horrid things prior to coming, it was still interesting to learn the history.
From a delicious selection of foods, to hopping on board the Paddywagon heading from Dublin all the way to Galloway, Kilmacduagh Abbey, and the Cliffs of Moher , we had a very jam packed and eventful week. Dublin was very similar to many cities that I’ve seen, and out west the views are something I’d go back to Ireland to see time and time again. It was a great and stressful week, but very educational!
Overall, this class has taught me about public health in ways that I haven’t seen it before. I’m so used to the sciences and the advocacy, however I never took the time to look at health from a cost, governmental, and policy point of view, but it was certainly an area that I’m glad I now have some exposure to, and I’m thankful for everything I’ve gained through this session course, and through the others!