Tag Archive: Ecuador


Welcome back from Ecuador, Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Togo, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Kenya,  Malawi, Ethiopia, Nepal, Germany, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam   — not to mention those of you who explored the global dimensions of improving health and well-being right here in Wisconsin!

After classes ended in May, nearly 200 of you set out to expand your understanding of sustainable global health and well-being.  You engaged as learners and change-makers with communities around the world.  It has been great running into you and hearing your stories on the Lakeshore path, State Street, coffee shops, and the library (really!) — a special thanks to those who have stopped by my office to share!

This year I will be blogging about field work, fall courses, global health networks, and books related to global health.  I would also love to feature YOUR WORK as your global health projects and ideas develop.

travelMy travels:   In ECUADOR I will be teaming with Instructor Janet Niewold to work with the Sumak Mayo women’s group on a women’s micro-enterprise and health project.   The women are selling jewelry and scarves, and are hoping to develop an eco-tour that highlights their rich indigenous culture.  In ETHIOPIA I will be continuing to collaborate with leaders on Quality Improvement in Emergency Medicine, and I hope to expand the effort to have hospital-wide impact.  There are many other broad-based initiatives going on in Ethiopia with leadership from Dr. Girma Tefera, Dr. Jonathan Patz, and Heidi Busse, MPH, so I hope to blog about their efforts as well.  Finally, I will be going to MOZAMBIQUE for the first time, to work on quality improvement in the pediatric department of a large public hospital.   If you see me between campus listening to a WALKMAN don’t worry, you have not slipped through a time warp into the 1980s — I am making use of my vintage equipment (cassette tapes!) to brush up on my Portuguese.

booksBooks Related to Global Health:  I will be reviewing a mixture of fiction and non-fiction related to global health.  I’ll be covering a pair of South African novels,  Ways of Dying by Sakes Mda and Disgrace by JM Coetzee, which I read during my recent visit to South Africa.  I’ll review  Strength in What Remains, by Tracy Kidder (of Mountains Beyond Mountains fame) and I also have Inferno, by Dan Brown, on my desk.  That is about the World Health Organization – should be fun.  Of course I will cover this year’s UW-Madison GO BIG READ, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki.  Also on my bedside table is La Linea by Ann Jaramillo and What is the What by Dave Eggers.  If you have books to suggest please post in the comments section and I will add them to the list, and maybe even review your suggestions first.

Global Health Networks: I will  blog highlights from my reunion at the Harvard School of Public Health, where there will be some workshops and lectures on leadership, and the American Public Health Association — the theme this year is Global Health.  I will be participating in an Roundtable on Inter-professional Competencies with a network of other universities –the concept note that I will present draws on insights from the global health teaching and lecturing that I have done at UW and at  John’s Hopkins University over the past 20 years.  Also, I will be presenting a “TED talk” at a Conference related to Care for Orphans and Vulnerable Children in April — so I will blog or tweet items of interest.


Teaching:  This semester I will be teaching Foundations in Global Health Practice for graduate students in the health sciences, and a new course, with Professor Nancy Kendall, entitled Education and Global Change.  I’ll also be doing grand rounds for the OB/GYN department, and preparing a workshop session for the residents at UW hospital.  These will be highly interactive sessions, and I will share key resources and insights here.

GUEST BLOGS:  I welcome these from all of you!  Please email your global health reflection with 1 or 2 images that go with it to dipretebrown@gmail.com. and I will contact you about next steps.

GH Student Mailbox:  We have had some amazing email exchanges about your field work.  I am going to share some of these as blog posts (making them anonymous first) from time to time — so that by “reading each other’s mail” and sharing comments, we can all learn more about Global Health.

Harvesting Maize

Dona Margarita, an indigenous woman from La Calera, Ecuador, graciously gave me permission to use this beautiful photo. University of Wisconsin students visit Magdalena’s village each year to learn about indigenous culture and work with the community. I join this field course, led by anthropologist Frank Hutchins, as a public health instructor, exploring determinants of health and well-being alongside the students, and addressing topics that range from access to water, to gardens and family nutrition, to basic first aid, to micro-enterprise for women.

This visit took place around the time of the harvest of quinoa and maiz.  Margarita and her granddaughter are shelling maiz. As she explained the local agricultural cycle to our students, one of them knelt down to help, and before we knew it we were all on our knees, working and listening.  During such moments students learn about health problems that communities face, the resilience of women like Margarita, and the efforts that the community has made to move forward.

One year students helped Margarita plant her potato field. The next year she was behind a closed door in a dark house, grieving. One of her sons, who she had worked so hard to nurture and educate, was killed while working in Quito with at risk youth.  While the details of his violent death were murky, it was clear that, in addition to facing the challenges of rural poverty, Margarita and her family live with a double burden, as they are also touched by problems associated with rapid urbanization a struggling national economy, insecurity and political unrest.

The young man in the photo is Margarita’s other son, Luis, who serves as a guide in our community work, in addition to working the land himself, he is committed to preserving his culture, and earns a living as a guide and leader in the local eco-tourism movement. Luis and his neighbors hope that they can find ways to share their culture, and at the same time create economic alternatives to destructive mining, the rise of the flower export industry, and other practices which may not be sustainable, healthy or equitable, and do not embody indigenous values.

Maragarita’s life is intimately intertwined with the life-cycle of the maize and quinoa that she grows.  Quinoa, a high-protein grain touted as a miracle food, is the staple of the indigenous food tradition in this region of Ecuador. The year this photo was taken, the quinoa crop had failed. The climate is changing, members of the community observed, and they felt sure it had something to do with how we, all of us, are living. There is a growing body of research suggesting that people like Margarita are the first to notice the effects of climate change, and perhaps can help to identify early warning signs. During their time in Ecuador, the students are encouraged to compare their environmental footprint with Margarita and the other residents of La Calera. We all return to Wisconsin with the awareness that, in addition to working side by side with Magdalena’s community to address poverty, we in Wisconsin need to change some things about how we are living.  Together we discover and rediscover the importance of learning from, standing with, and when necessary standing for, people like Margarita.  People who we are privileged to share the world with. People who are a lot like us.

Based on Remarks from UW-Madison Global Health Retreat, May 2010

Photo: Abriana Hau Barca, 2008