Q&A with Dr. Kate Tairyan

On the power of competency-based education and leadership for bolstering public health workforce capacity locally and globally

Dr. Kate Tairyan is a Senior Lecturer at Simon Fraser University’s Faculty of Health Sciences where she co-leads the Health Sciences and Public Health Education Research Challenge area. Dr. Tairyan’s career in global health and public health education spans over two decades, and her public health experiences include several positions at the Ministry of Health of Armenia and various international organizations on health policy development, health reforms and poverty reduction.Over the past ten years, Dr. Tairyan has also pioneered online learning and dissemination of free competency-based courses in public health through her work with educational non-profits.

Dr. Kate Tairyan

CCGHR is committed to supporting equitable approaches in global health research and training. In this interview, we discussed Dr. Tairyan’s work in reducing barriers to public health education and training and her commitment to democratizing public health education.

Interview by Zeba Khan, CCGHR BCCI SYP

What motivated you to get involved in projects promoting public health education globally?

In short – my own personal experiences and the joy of being a part of public health capacity building then, now and in the future! Let me tell you more. Early on in my public health career I experienced first-hand the barriers to high quality public health education, especially in lower income countries. These included cost, distance and lack of local universities offering any training in public health, to name a few. For someone like me it meant leaving everything behind and travelling across the globe for education. My own quest for solid public health training brought me from Armenia to France, the USA and eventually to Canada. I benefited from generous fellowships and scholarships to pursue my education in public health, and I know it is not attainable for most in the global south. I devoted the next 15 years of my professional career to utilizing the power of internet and promoting high-quality education around the world.

Developing and offering competency-based courses in critical areas of public health (such as global health, health systems, health promotion, health workforce development) both at a public university where I work, and online, through free e-leaning initiatives became a mission for me. Be it mentoring graduate students one-on-one, helping students find their passion in global health, or inspiring a large class of undergrads to choose a career that would lead to better health and equity is my job – day in and day out. Did you know that knowledge is doubling every 12 months, and with the current rate of increasing internet access, we are on our way to seeing knowledge doubling every 12 hours? Being immersed in identifying and assessing online learning content for quality and suitability for higher education, I believe we can provide high quality public health education that is affordable and accessible where the public health workforce is needed most. Universities have an important role to play in democratizing public health education and in the next chapter of my work as an educator and global health professional I will be laser focused on that very goal!

What are some of the exciting projects that you are currently working on?

This summer I wrapped up an important public health project I have been working on for the last 1.5 decades on improving access to online education through a non-profit, educational start-up and I am gearing up for other projects. 

I am working on an exciting course on Public Health Leadership, and there is no better time to get it done when leadership in public health is so highly sought after! The course is competency-based, only utilizes open educational resources (OERs) from the most reputable sources and has skill building activities that would be suitable both in classroom and community-based learning. My former MPH students and mentees are driving this project with me. It will be available to students at SFU and globally through multiple partnerships (including the WHO, other international organizations and public health authorities around the world). 

Another exciting initiative I am proudly working on with a group of very talented colleagues at SFU is focused on health sciences education scholarship; simply put, bringing research and teaching together. This initiative aims to enrich not only the experiences of our local student and faculty community, but also to explore various avenues of wider sharing and dissemination of such high-impact pedagogical practices. Among our first initiatives we are researching the effectiveness of experiential and real-life learning. We bring the faculty and students together to ask and explore relevant questions about our teaching and learning methodologies. You can imagine how crucial this is in the challenging times that both students and faculty are facing worldwide as we speak. In my case, I am working on several global health courses where I will be introducing new OERs, interactive learning tools, games, and will test their impact in my classroom and beyond. The results will hopefully help improve global health education worldwide.

How can someone get involved with your work, especially in advocating for global access to public health education?

The best and most joyful part of my role as an educator is working everyday with aspiring and bright young professionals, the future public health leaders. Whether you are a current student, a recent graduate, or at your first public health job, I would love to hear from you, your ideas on what works and doesn’t work, and what you wish would have been different in your own academic journey. There are endless possibilities as to how academic programs can work with various public health organizations (governmental or non-governmental) in enhancing training and capacity building for solving real world public health challenges! I look forward to connecting with you.

Zeba Khan

Zeba has recently earned her BSc. in Physiology and Neuroscience from the University of British Columbia and is excited to build a career in global health. A staunch believer of equal access to healthcare for all, Zeba is devoted to advocating for free access to menstruation care products. Her dedication to advocating for menstrual and healthcare equity has earned her multiple accolades, notably the prestigious Diana Award. 

Discussion forum: Reflections on a COVID-19 summer

In light of “no more normal”, what are your ideas about what we, as the BCCI Community of Practice could explore in the next several months?

By Vic Neufeld

Here we are in mid-summer, and I think we can all agree that this is been a most unusual summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its various impacts. Like many of you, I’ve been involved in discussions, and doing a lot of reading, about what a “post-COVID” world might look like. For some of you, this likely is a very personal question—having to do with the upcoming semester in your chosen university, or a job (or an application for a job), and so on.

I want to share an editorial I read recently, from the well-known international journal, the Lancet. Entitled No more normal , the editorial begins by commenting on two lessons for societies from the pandemic experience. The first is a reminder about role that key workers (including health care workers) play in keeping societies going. The second is the lesson that “society and its systems are much more fragile than many of us appreciated”.

The editorial then goes on to comment on the increasing attention to some kind of recovery, and (learning from the two lessons above), what form the recovery should take. Three priorities for our future are put forward: 

  • equity
  • resilience
  • sustainability

I want to suggest that these priorities in some ways resonate with who we are and could be in our “recovery” – as individuals and as a community—and beyond. I propose that we begin a dialogue about this around this question:

In the light of “no more normal”, what are your ideas about what we, as the BCCI Community of Practice could explore in the next several months—say to the end of 2020?

Please comment on this blog post and/or along your ideas to bcci.community@gmail.com over the next few weeks, before the end of August. Tasha Kara and I will collate your responses and summarize them in the August update, taking your ideas and guidance about actions to be considered.

Q&A with Dr. Cherie Enns

I think I am always learning and my thoughts on this are always shifting. What right do I have to impose ideas and values on other communities? For me, more recently, it means I am more of a listener than a doer

Dr. Cherie Enns is an associate professor at the University of the Fraser Valley’s School of Land Use and Environmental Change. She holds a Masters in Community and Regional Planning from the University of British Columbia, and a Ph.D. in International Policy and Program Management from Ardhi Regional University in Tanzania. Her research focused on pandemics, climate change, and conflict and their impact on children. She is also a registered urban planner.

Interview by Julia Chalmers

What lead you to become involved in sustainable development and program planning?

I grew up in Kenya which is what drew me to working in that region. I was also initially drawn to social work as a career, but I realized that community planning is in a way social work at a community level and that intrigued me.

What global development issues are you most passionate about?

I am very passionate about children’s’ rights. My main areas of research include children in conflict, children in pandemics, and children affected by climate change. A recent project of mine was investigating grave violations against children in areas of conflict in sub-Saharan Africa.

In your opinion, what are some of the most critical global development issues?

Children in conflict, children in pandemics, and children affected by climate change. There are so many elements and components. If we could address pandemic conflict and climate change, a lot of the other elements as they related to the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) would inadvertently align, such as poverty, education, and food security.

How has working on both community and international levels impacted your view of global citizenship?

I think I am always learning and my thoughts on this are always shifting. What right do I have to impose ideas and values on other communities? For me, more recently, it means I am more of a listener than a doer, I am a facilitator and a mobilizer. I am not someone who is going to solve problems without listening really carefully to communities. That doesn’t mean I don’t have particular skill sets that I would like to use in some contexts, but they can’t be used divorced from the local leadership or community.

What roles do disaster planning, crisis management, and urban planning play in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic?

If you think of almost anything, from how we organize our housing, to how we create public spaces and play spaces, every element of the city in a pandemic has to be rethought. Everything we talk about as good such as public spaces, bringing people together, transit, increasing density, all have health implications. For example, if you go back to the history of urban planning, it really formally began following the Industrial Revolution. During this time, people worked very closely in inner cities, in manufacturing and different industries and faced cholera and disease. City planners and those who could afford to try and escape those elements of the city had to rethink how to plan and design cities to be more prepared and resilient in the face of pandemics.

What advice would you give to students pursuing a career in global health and sustainable development? 

  • Try to know your audience. You cannot go into a project without empathy and understanding as motivation
  • Live in the place where you hope to work or research, get to know that community. I am honoured to have completed my PhD in Tanzania and will be a visiting scholar at Ardhi University next year when on sabbatical.
  • If you want to work internationally, perhaps begin by working locally with immigrants and refugees and migrant communities here so that you’ve got some understanding of a culture before you travel elsewhere.
  • Be very cognizant that you’re not the expert; you’re just a resource person. The experts are the people who live in that context or place.
  • If you’re interested in working with the UN or WHO, I would certainly look for international internships or experiences. Pay attention to programs such as Queen Elizabeth Scholars program as Universities Canada has integrated exchange and reciprocity into this program.
  • In addition to the applied work, there is also the policy work, and that’s where masters and Ph.D.’s can be very useful if you’re interested in global health policy and the effect on communities.

A tale of two crises

It might be that with this combination of reduced consumption and reduced environmental harm, coupled with societal commitment to ensuring the meeting of basic needs for all, we will find ourselves unintentionally creating the well-being economy we need in the 21st century

By Vic Neufeld & Katrina Plamondon

Undoubtably, the COVID-19 situation is occupying much of your attention in the last few weeks—and so it should. But how shall we, as a community committed to planetary health, think about this new “crisis” in the context of the on-going (and slower moving) climate change crisis. The purpose of this note is two-fold: to highlight some interesting recently published perspectives on the interaction between these two phenomena; and to invite you to share your views on how the COVID-19 story is influencing your thinking.

Illustration by Calvin Dexter

Two perspectives

Earlier this month, Thomas Homer-Dixon (Executive Director of the soon-to-be announced Cascade Institute at the Royal Roads University) wrote an opinion piece in the Toronto Globe and Mail entitled: Coronavirus will change the world. It might also lead to a better future. He makes the point that the COVID-19 situation is a “global tipping event”, characterized by two increasing global phenomena—high connectivity and high uniformity that make us all more susceptible to rapidly cascading change, and at increased risk of “synchronized crises”. He goes on to suggest that the coronavirus pandemic could be viewed as a collective problem that “requires global collective action—just like climate change”.

In his March 22 column in the Victoria Times Colonist, our colleague Trevor Hancock refers to recent observations that dramatic reductions in air pollution and carbon emissions have been noted in China and Italy, and “this will soon become worldwide”. A Stanford University economist has suggested that “reduction in air pollution in China might have already saved more lives than the COVID-19 epidemic had cost”. Trevor concludes his column with this suggestion: “It might be that with this combination of reduced consumption and reduced environmental harm, coupled with societal commitment to ensuring the meeting of basic needs for all, we will find ourselves unintentionally creating the well-being economy we need in the 21st century.”

COVID-19 also presents important opportunities to examine and reconstruct the equity choices that shape our world. Not all countries will experience this pandemic in the same ways. In Canada, healthcare systems are bracing in anticipation of an extreme burden of demand. Our municipal, provincial, and federal public health and political leaders are all working together. They are communicating with their constituents daily. Policies and mechanisms are rapidly being put into place to accommodate for the consequences of a halted economy. And still, we are fearful of our uncertain futures. In contrast, colleagues in the Global South are bracing for complete collapse. Their choices will not be whether or not to stay home, but rather whether or not to risk one’s own life. In settings where healthcare systems are drastically under-resourced, without basic supplies or health professionals, those who become sick enough to need care will likely not get it. Fatality rates from COVID-19 will not be universal. Once this pandemic spreads through Africa, we can anticipate such a dramatic increase in case fatalities that the global average will increase by several percentage points. COVID-19 is a window into global inequities. This is the time to examine our equity choices, and to leverage the opportunities that Hancock and Homer-Dixon point to through an equity lens.

The CCGHR Principles for Global Health Research provide one useful framework for such a lens. Now is an opportune time to look at these principles, bring them into your classrooms and dinner tables, write to your political leaders—spark a dialogue about the world you’d like to see, and collectively, perhaps we can plant seeds for a more equitable one.

We welcome your comments and notes about your thoughts and experiences. In particular, we encourage those of you from home countries other than Canada (such as Nigeria, Uganda, Mexico, Brazil, etc.) to share your stories and leave a reply below about how the COVID-19 situation is affecting your families and friends

Solutions to pollution

Two students from the University of Fraser Valley describe how they took initiative in raising awareness about planetary health through the effective use of social media. Read on to explore how you can adapt this project in your own community.

By Julie Rhodes & Julia Chalmers

What are your names and research areas?

My name is Julia Chalmers, I am a third-year undergraduate nursing student at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV). My current area of interest in global health and the connections between planetary health and human health.

My name is Julie Rhodes, I am a third-year undergraduate nursing student at the University of the Fraser Valley. My current area of interest is health promotion and primary health care as it relates to public and global health.

We both attended the study tour to Sierra Leone offered by UFV in Spring of 2019 which is where our passion for global health emerged. As undergraduate students we are not researchers however we hope to explore opportunities as we continue our education and careers. We are also cofounders of the “Student Nurses for Global Citizens” group at UFV.

Please briefly describe the project and its goals. 

This project was inspired by the momentum of the movement “Friday’s for Future”. As students we wanted to contribute and engage our student population in making a difference in climate change action. We wanted to hear the ideas of the student body and to display them on campus. So we hosted a giveaway on our Instagram page asking students to comment their ideas or “solutions to pollution” as we were calling them. Every comment was an entry and we drew a winner for a sustainability starter package after the contest was over. We then compiled the comments into themes and created a visual poster to display at our home campus in Chilliwack BC. We hoped that by spreading the word, we inspired some students to take some accountability towards how our actions impact the health of our local and global communities.

In your opinion, what are some of the most critical planetary health issues?

Beautiful mountains, lush forests, and pristine oceans and rivers are just a few of the things British Columbia is known for. However, in recent years these fundamental ecosystems have been under the threat of climate change. The WHO (2019), recognizes climate change as a significant global health threat. It is evident that planetary health has a profound effect on the health of humans. In British Columbia alone we have seen an influx of drastic weather events such as flash flooding, extreme heat and drought, and ramped wildfire activity. Flooding can displace people from their homes, lead to food and water contamination and result in property damage. Moreover, smoke from wildfires reduces air quality which can exacerbate cardiovascular and respiratory conditions such as asthma and COPD (Government of British Columbia, n.d.a). Additionally, the effects of climate change will impact vulnerable populations most such as those living in rural communities and Indigenous populations. As health care providers we must be prepared to respond to climate change related health issues. Development of emergency protocols, incorporating climate change education in patient teaching and lobbying for sustainable policy are just a few examples of how health care providers can respond to the climate crisis (Government of British Columbia, n.d.b). Globally, low income countries with weak health infrastructure will require significant support to cope with the effects of the climate crisis on human health (WHO, 2019).

What did you find successful about this project?

We had a lot of student engagement which was amazing to see. We had 143 different comments from students presenting their solutions to pollution. Ideas ranged from using reusable coffee cups to advocating and lobbying for more sustainable policies to local government and institutional bodies. It was very encouraging and inspiring to see the ideas of our peers on how individuals can make a practical difference for the health of our local and global communities. One thing that facilitated the success of this project was the timing: the contest took place during the Federal Election as well on the coat tails of Greta Thunberg’s appearance in Vancouver. We approached the community at a time when the discussion around climate change was at an all-time high and therefore received a significant amount of engagement.

What did you find challenging and/or surprising about the roll-out of this project?

We were unsure of the level of engagement we would receive from the UFV community as we had never done a project like this before. Moreover, we had to educate ourselves to ensure we were disseminating accurate information to our peers.

What advice would you give other students or young professionals if they wanted to pursue a similar project?

Know your audience. You can go into a project with as much motivation and initiative as you want but if you don’t know how to engage your audience then you won’t be as successful. An important factor when using social media to promote an initiative is to know what will stand out and how to spark an interest. For example, we kept our contest rules very simple: you just had to 1. Comment an original idea and 2. Be a student at UFV. We knew that a lot of Instagram contests often have multiple rules to gain an entry which can be a deterrent to people, so we wanted to keep ours simple and content focused. We weren’t fixated on gaining followers or likes, rather we wanted to hear the voices of our community and give them a platform to share their ideas.

In what ways was social media an advantage?

It’s very easily accessible for people and relevant to our population of interest: other students. Likewise, Instagram is a visual tool which has been helpful for us in our projects. Social media has the ability to grab people’s attention and expose them to the realities of our world. After this project we reflected back and realized how it really was a form of community brainstorming. In today’s day and age social media can be something that is very negative, and we can often become bogged down by marketing and consumerism. However, this project was a way of using social media to our advantage to spark an interest in our community and raise awareness about the action needed during the climate crisis.  

References

Government of British Columbia. (n.d.a). Addressing climate and health risks in BC: Climate change health risks. Retrieved from: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/environment/climate- change/adaptation/health/final_climate_change_and_health_backgrounder_overview.pdf

Government of British Columbia. (n.d.b) Addressing climate and health risks in BC: Frontline healthcare. Retrieved from: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/environment/climate- change/adaptation/health/final_climate_and_health_backgrounder_frontline_health_care.pdf

World Health Organisation [WHO]. (2018). Climate change and health. Retrieved from:https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/climate-change-and-health

Nursing in the realm of planetary health

By Raluca Radu

Planetary health is an attitude towards life and a philosophy for living.

Horton et al., 2014, p. 847

As the largest body of healthcare workers worldwide, nurses have been traditionally known to provide care for patients within a myriad of settings, whether they are hospitals, community health clinics, long-term facilities, to name a few.  However, it did not occur to me how essential nurses’ presence is within the realm of planetary health until I had the opportunity to attend the BC Coalition Institute-2 (BCCI-2) at the University of Victoria this past August.  Although I spent the last few months of my graduate degree at the University of BC looking at how climate change impacts human health and where nursing practice fits within this spectrum, it was only when I physically interacted with the topic of planetary health and listened to presentations delivered at this institute that more connections were being made for me as a registered nurse.  These ‘connections’ tie into what our moral obligation as a caregiving profession is towards the public and equally important towards our environment. 

In preparation to attend the BCCI-2 I wanted to equip myself with knowledge regarding what the concept of planetary health entailed. I looked no further than to the report of the Rockefeller Foundation-Lancet Commission on Planetary Health launched in 2015 to gain a better understanding of this intricate concept.  The authors assert that “planetary health is based on the understanding that human health and human civilization depend on flourishing natural systems” (Whitmee et al., 2015, p. 1974).  This statement was evident throughout the entire institute whereby everything was centered around the symbiotic interconnectedness between our planet and human health.  As I read through the report and grew furthermore fascinated by the lens with which the environment and health were being looked at, I was and continue to remain determined to act upon the authors’ call to health professionals who they strongly affirm “have an essential role in the achievement of planetary health: [by] working across sectors to integrate policies that advance health and environmental sustainability, tackling health inequities, reducing the environmental impacts of health systems, and increasing the resilience of health systems and populations to environmental change” (Whitmee et al., 2015, p.1974).

With this in mind, I realized that there is no better time than now for all healthcare professionals to enact principles of planetary health into all levels of practice.  I think it is essential that the delivery of care is made through a sustainable lens while accounting for how environmental changes and natural events directly impact the livelihood of individuals.  If we are to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals then we as healthcare professionals need to place aside our differences and act in unity with the common goal of ensuring the continuation of our species and the ecological preservation of our planet.  Though we may face several challenges ahead that are out of our control such as increasing natural disasters, we must learn to integrate elements such as climate adaptation and mitigation into our practice and more so in educational settings, with the overall goal of building resilience in our communities to better cope when adversities occur. 

This institute instilled in me a level of inspiration and motivation I had not felt in a while.  I am truthfully forever grateful for being given the chance to meet a community of like-minded individuals who have a tremendous passion for planetary health and who through their work gear much of their energy toward raising awareness about the environment and its link to human health. 

On my way back to the mainland, as I stood on the platform of the ferry while it serenely made its way through the Gulf Islands, I took a deep breath and absorbed the beauty that surrounded me with an entirely renewed set of senses.  I thought about how many advancements we made in science, technology, and other fields, oftentimes at the expense of our planet.  I thought about the injustice that happens all around the world particularly in low- and middle-income countries where the effects of a changing climate are having proportionate impacts on the health of millions of people – increasing conflict, displacement, scarce resources, fight for survival, and the cost of all things living.  I also thought about how much more we could be doing to ensure this one and only Earth’s conservation. 

I left the BCCI-2 pondering on a few questions that even today continue to guide me as I pursue my scholarly research: How did we get here and why do we keep letting it get worse?  How do we shift our values to live equitably in harmony with each other and in good health on this small planet we call home?  These questions keep me grounded in my work and serve as motivators for why I am pursuing research on climate change, human health, and nursing.  They serve as reminders that this work is instrumental in helping shape actions that I personally hope are adopted with more urgency as we have no time left for inaction. 

Raluca is a registered nurse from Vancouver, BC. Raluca has worked as an acute care nurse in surgical, medical, ambulatory, rural, and emergency areas in both public and private settings.  She also enjoyed teaching LPN & BScN students within theory, laboratory, and clinical practice-based environments.

Raluca is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) at the University of British Columbia with a focus on integrating Climate Change topics into Nursing Education.  Throughout her MSN program Raluca has held numerous roles with the UBC Graduate Students in Nursing Association such as Events Director (2017/18) and President (2018/19).  

Various activities culminated her passion for Climate Change, such as attending the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing National Forum on Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases in Ottawa and by being introduced to Planetary Health through participating at the BC Coalition Institute in Victoria (Aug, 2019).  Recently, Raluca was appointed as Secretary of the Canadian Association of Nurses for the Environment and looks forward to collaborating with other nurses across the country on driving change at the national level. In addition, this past summer, Raluca became a member of the Nursing Now BC Steering Committee and is excited to participate in organizing activities that lead up to the Year of Nurse & Midwife (2020).  

Raluca is excited to complete her MSN and looks forward to pursuing work in local and global health policy contexts.  Raluca believes the only way forward is for nurses to come together in unity as their expertise is not only highly valued and trusted by the public, but also an imperative component of attaining the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

References:

Horton, R., Beaglehole, R., Bonita, R., Raeburn, J., McKee, M., Wall, S.  (2014).  From public to planetary health: A manifesto.  The Lancet 383(9920), p. 847.  doi:  10.1016/S0140-6736(14)60409-8

Whitmee, S., Haines, A., Beyrer, C., Boltz, F., Capon, A. G., Ferreira de Souza Dias, B., Ezeh, A., Frumkin, H., Gong, P., Head, P., Horton, R., Mace, G. M., Marten, R., Myers, S. S., Nishtar, S., Osofsky, S. A., Pattanayak, S. K., Pongsiri, M. J., Romanelli, C., Soucat, A., Vega, J., Yach, D.  (2015).  Safeguarding human health in the Anthropocene epoch:  Report of the Rockefeller Foundation-Lancet Commission on planetary health .  The Lancet 386, p.1973-2028.  doi:  doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(14)60409-8S0140-6736(15)60901-1

Podcast: How climate change affects nursing with Raluca Radu

The podcast for nurse leaders who are ready to shift their thinking from “just a nurse” to claim their position as a powerful agent for change. Join host, Amy Deagle, the Founder and CEO of the International Network of Nurse Leaders, as she interviews nurse leaders from across the country to talk about their personal journeys in leadership, and their advice for nurses wishing to be proactive in their careers.

Raluca Radu speaks about the current and future impacts of climate change on nursing. 

Nurse or not, listen on to hear about Raluca’s story:

  • Why she chose to leap into a Masters degree early in her career
  • Why she shifted her focus to climate change and nursing
  • Environmental factors that will increase health risks
  • What to do when you’re facing challenges in nursing
  • Recharging after burnout
  • Horizontal violence and bullying in the sector
  • Simple ways to get involved in policy change

Connections between planetary health, indigenous sovereignty, and sports

Reflections from the 2019 British Columbia Coalition Institute

By Claire Remington

A recent UN report celebrated the insight that “Indigenous sovereignty could save the planet.” At the British Columbia Coalition Institute workshop at the University of Victoria, Dr. Shannon Waters, a member of Stz’uminus First Nation and a Medical Health Officer with the Vancouver Island Health Authority, expounded on this insight with her observations of the state of planetary health in her home territory of Cowichan Valley. Planetary health is a field of research that illuminates the relationship between human health and the health of the environment. Dr. Waters plays a key leadership role on the Cowichan Watershed Board. The Cowichan Watershed Board is co-chaired by indigenous leadership and was instituted in response to a myriad of issues with water quality and availability in the Cowichan Valley.

The Cowichan Valley Regional District describes how summer drought is the “new normal” in the Cowichan Valley. Drought has immediate impacts on key ecosystem functioning like the availability of water in rivers for salmon migration as well as more indirect impacts on mental heath. Ecological grief, or solastalgia, is the experience of grief produced in response to the dramatic scale of ecological loss that we are experiencing, or anticipating, on both local and global scales. For indigenous communities, the sentiment of eco-grief can be magnified by the degree of connectedness of people with their land produced through historical relationships that continue to this day. These relationships are being tested by dramatic changes in environmental conditions that make it difficult, if not dangerous, to continue with traditional practices.

Dr. Waters shared how there was an outbreak of Vibrio cholera in Cowichan last year caused by the consumption of herring eggs. Eating raw herring eggs are a traditional food practice for many First Nations communities, but the health authorities’ response on the issue was to cook the herring eggs prior to consumption. It was conjectured that the prevalence of V. cholera was caused by an increased availability of nutrients and an increase in ocean temperatures and pH. This is one example among countless of the challenges, tension, and grief that we are experiencing – and anticipating – as a result of climate change.

I have been coaching Ultimate Frisbee to youth in indigenous communities with Victoria-based Ultimate Spirit. Ultimate Spirit was created in collaboration with the Indigenous Sport, Activity, and Recreation Council (ISPARC); Ultimate Canada; and BC Ultimate. Central to Ultimate Spirit is the principle of Spirit of the Game. Spirit of the Game has several tenets to guide players towards a greater sense of community even in times of competition, but fundamentally Spirit of the Game refers to the fostering of connection – between you and your spirit, between you and fellow players, and between you and your surrounding environment. Guided by the principles of Spirit of the Game, Ultimate Spirit seeks to use sport as a mechanism for social change, a fostering of wellbeing, and creating opportunities for healing.

As a coach with Ultimate Spirit, I have been grateful to share my enthusiasm for Ultimate Frisbee and what I’ve learned about connectivity through sport and Spirit of the Game. After listening to Dr. Waters and her clear expression that “we are the stories we tell ourselves,” I am grateful to learn more about how to foster confidence and positivity in indigenous youth around managing eco-grief and stewarding our planetary systems.

Claire is a master’s student in the Public Health & Environmental Engineering (PH2E) Lab at the University of Victoria. Her research explores the design of sustainable sanitation systems from three different but complementary perspectives: lab-based environmental engineering work to characterize fresh faeces, big-picture desk-based research looking at the flow of nitrogen through global agriculture and sanitation systems, and the installation of a composting toilet on the UVic campus. She communicates through these varied perspectives that sanitation is a global issue; the design of sanitation systems that 1) protects public health and 2) stewards sustainable water and biogeochemical cycles is an urgent priority for both developing and developed country contexts.

Previously, she was engaged in economic, geographic, and public health analyses of SOIL’s household sanitation service in Cap Haitien, Haiti.

(For more information: http://claireremington.com/)

Capacity development as a structural intervention for sustainable health

By Ngozi Joe-Ikechebelu

As a public health specialist from the global south (Nigeria) and eager to start my much-anticipated Canadian PhD study, I never envisaged being involved with such a dynamic, trans-disciplinary health group as the BCCI. The on-site event at the Interior Health office in Kelowna, a city surrounded by hills, brought a serene environment suitable for capacity development in global health.

The theme was “Equity-Centered Practices for Connecting knowledge with Action,” one that the facilitators expounded on practical approaches that are aiding my academic and research inclines especially for health disparities seen with social related actions and its possible untoward health outcomes for certain groups. The associated networking and mentorship revealed the humble nature of this group in its quest for health equity. I was eager to be part of it, and it has been an eventful one year filled with academic and social processes.

I had been faced with certain capacity challenges necessary for global health practices; a contextual institutional restriction of my background. Following the Kelowna exposure, there has been a series of monthly activities at UVic (a part of BCCI) for me. The monthly networking of situated learning processes from ally researchers from different disciplines; the continuing nudges from mentors; the town and gown activity of January 2018 that featured engineering and medical researchers; the continuing webinar meetings and trainings on topical global health issues; the Social Sciences and Humanities Council (SSHRC) and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) connection grant writings; and the Nigerian working group on the impacts of climate change on health.

All of these activities are changing my approaches to global health practices and applications of varying theoretical frameworks. The diversity of members reveals an obvious partnership that humbles one from a global south context and the dual shared benefits show a sustainable interventional health approach that can help alleviate health disparities.

29d4b3bad9d644c08b0668e9119fdb7bNgozi is a Public Health specialist with an MBBS from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, an MPH from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, an MSc in International Health Development and Management from the University of Birmingham, UK, and is currently a PhD student in the Social Dimensions of Health Program at the University of Victoria. Ngozi is an active member of the  BCCI Community of Practice and following the event in Kelowna, she and fellow participant Paivi Abernathy reported on the BCCI in a Discussion Group on Global Health Research session with the Centre for Global Studies (CFGS).

Incorporating CCGHR principles in rural health research in BC

June 19, 2019 at 12:00pm PT

Through this discussion you will learn how the project led to the development of 5 ‘building blocks’ needed to sustain local maternity care, hear the perspectives of North Island community representatives, the Health Authority, health professionals and other experts and key stakeholders, as well as explore the community-driven research process and its alignment with the CCGHR principles, within a global-local health context. 

In this webinar, presenter Kira Barwich will guide us through the process and progress of the Building Blocks for Sustainable Rural Maternity Care, a project that began as a response to inequity of maternity services for North Vancouver Island communities and with an intent to understand community experiences of birth on North Vancouver Island. This in-depth, community-driven investigation worked to understand how to support culturally appropriate and respectful local maternity care, as articulated by mothers, elders, care providers and community members. 

Kira Barwich is a Research Coordinator at University of British Columbia at the Centre for Rural Health Research. Kira has an MSc in Global Health from Trinity College, University of Dublin and has worked on global health research projects in Indonesia, Zimbabwe and Cambodia. Her current role involves looking at how to sustain maternity care in rural, low-resource communities in British Columbia.

Kira is an active member of the Student and Young Professional Network and the BCCI Community of Practice.