Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending a Continuing Medical Education (CME) session conducted by the College of Public Health and Occupational Physician, Singapore at the Duke-NUS campus in Singapore General Hospital. (Thanks to Dr. Jeremy Lim of Insights Health Associates for inviting me).
The title of the topic was “Public Health Capacity in Afghanistan: Who, What, How and When”, by Dr. Dauod Khuram, BRAC Afghanistan’s Project Coordinator.
At this time, I am going to repeat the answers for a few frequently asked questions;
- The reason why I am interested in public health is because I believe that prevention is better than cure and the modern healthcare system where we pour resources into acute care is unsustainable
- This is also the reason why I am undertaking a Masters of Public Health (MPH) even though it is perceived as a ‘unprofitable segment’ in healthcare. I am doing the MPH out of personal interests, not for the potential monetary ROI
(No one does a MPH to make money because there is none)
- The reason why I am interested in Afghanistan or any Low And Medium Country (LAMIC) is because I think they need help (seriously). This is also why binaryHealthCare exists
So what was I trying to achieve by attending Dr. Dauod Khuram’s lecture? Well, one of my pet projects is to develop training materials on effective public health informatics in low resources setting as a capacity building tool in LAMIC (not the usual stuff I do in health informatics but I think this is equally if not more urgently needed) and I want to contribute it to Afghanistan when it is completed.
However, this is not the point of my post.
After attending Dr. Dauod Khuram’s lecture, I proceeded with other activities for the day (I do have to work in order to bring home the bacon 🙂 ) and by good fortune, I bumped into some old friends in another hospital’s cafe.
As I have not seen these folks for years, I sat down to chat and because we have not met for so long, I had to explain what I was ‘up to’ these days.
While I didn’t go into specific details, I did share the mission and vision of binaryHealthCare. Of course, it was with no surprise that I drew ‘blank looks’ and the usual puzzles on ‘why I want to spend time running a social enterprise to help Africans instead of utilising the time and skill sets earning lots of money’.
(There is also the usual misconception that being an ‘independent consultant’ means I am an ‘odd job labourer’ – which is not true but that is a story for another day).
So why help Low And Medium Income Countries (LAMIC)?
At this point, it is important to define help; I meant help as in “teach a man to fish” and not help as in “give a man a fish”, hence the rationale to ensure sustainable capacity building as oppose to just donating money – which I don’t have much to begin with!
Now back to my point to why help LAMIC. What many people do not realise is that the world is connected and we are all neighbours on the same planet. Some of us are fortunate to be born in developed countries while others had lessor luck and was born in areas with huge disadvantages.
If we do not help rectify some of the problems in other parts of this planet, it will come to affect us in one way or another. Using public health as an example, if there is a pandemic outbreak somewhere in a LAMIC and it is not contained properly (due to lack of infrastructure or knowledge/capabilities to do so), it will affect us globally because we are so connected (remember SARS?).
I have another example that is even better.
This morning, I came across an interesting TED talk by Allan Savory on reversing desertification in places like Africa and why it is important for humanity’s survival. In my humble opnion, this talk amplifies the message why it is important to help LAMIC if we have the capability. (Do watch the TED talk if you have the time, its very educational).
So think about it, how can you make a difference to others (so your children and their children can benefit from the butterfly effect