In July this year, a group of 8 Griffith students studying Master of International Public Health and two staff members travelled to Cambodia and Thailand to participate in an Asia-Pacific Public Health Field Tour. The group spent a week in each country, in both rural and urban areas, learning about the history, culture, and various other factors which influence population health in this region.
Working with a partner organisation – Challenges Abroad, meant that we had many opportunities to learn about health care and health challenges in each country by engaging directly with both health professionals and the community. Being part of a field tour allowed the group to experience many things which I don’t believe we would have as tourists, we even had the privilege of staying as guests with a Hill Tribe in Thailand.
Looking back, it’s hard to believe how much we saw and experienced in two weeks: the trip started in Cambodia in Siem Reap and then led us to the town of Battambang, followed by a brief stopover in Bangkok, then onto Chiang Mai and to Pa Pae Village to see more of Thailand.
During the trip we visited hospitals and health centres, and many significant cultural and historical sites which helped to inform our understanding of present-day population health challenges in the region. We also got to test out our health education skills through the design and delivery of workshops to school students in Cambodia and Thailand.
In addition to the formal learning experiences, there were also plenty of opportunities to explore and appreciate the beauty of these countries; watching the sun rise over Angkor Wat was a personal highlight.
As a Master of International Public Health student, the field tour has greatly improved my understanding of the current and emerging population health challenges in Cambodia and Thailand, and the factors which influence population health in this region. We also learned about the gains being made in improving aspects of population health in both countries, and the programs and initiatives which have contributed to these achievements.
The experience also increased my confidence in my ability to communicate with people from different cultures in a meaningful way, which will no doubt prove to be very useful in my future professional practice. Being part of the tour was a great way to consolidate everything I have learned about public health throughout my degree at Griffith, and allowed me to apply that knowledge in a practical setting.
The field tour was an invaluable personal and professional learning experience, and one which I would highly recommend to anyone with an interest in improving population health in Australia or abroad.
– Leah Jones (Guest Blogger)
Leah Jones is a former high school teacher who is now pursuing a career in public health. In addition to full-time work, Leah is currently completing a Master of Public Health at Griffith University as part of her ongoing professional development. Leah’s professional experience also includes working for the Queensland Department of Health; in both the Preventive Health Branch and the Communicable Diseases Branch.