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Global health on the agenda for Lancaster University students

Lancaster University students at Ghana Summer School.
Lancaster University students at Ghana Summer School.
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Students from Lancaster University have taken part in a summer school in Ghana focusing on global health and infectious disease.

The course is a groundbreaking collaboration with Boston University’s School of Public Health based at Lancaster University’s campus in Ghana.

Dr Rod Dillon, Lancaster’s coordinator and lecturer on the course, said: “The six-week schedule is packed with workshops and activities around themes of water and insect borne diseases.

“We bring together students in public health, biomedicine and art to share this experience and learn from each other. We have developed a great range of internships over the past three years including non governmental organisations such as Cancer Connect and Marie Stopes.”

The students even created ideas for a campaign to promote the use of Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs) to protect against malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

This led to a new career ambition for biomedical student Mac Turner who now aims to research tropical diseases following an internship with a testing facility run by Vestergaard, one of the world’s leading mosquito bednet manufacturers.

“The global health programme has been a fantastic experience,” said Mac.

“It’s been packed full and exhausting but in the best possible way. I have learnt so much both in an academic sense where I have found a new interest in public health and entomology – the latter being through my internship- and in a personal way by learning about different cultures.”

As part of a growing interest in art and science collaboration, art student Leonie Robertshaw attended the summer school as an “artist in residence”.

She said: “This trip helped us become more aware about how local and global healthcare is approached, and for healthcare to improve globally – not just in Ghana – a key determinant is knowledge; for one thing, understanding of cancer is low, with some believing it is caused by spiritual imbalance.

“Money remains an issue too, with only 40% of Ghanaians paying into the National Health Insurance Service, but changes in cultural/personal practices can vastly improve people’s attitudes towards their environment, leading to diseases being prevented in the first place, so treatment won’t be needed down the line.”

“We hope to bring our new appreciation for global issues into play in our own degrees. We have developed professionally and academically in such a short time period.”

Student Nathan Tims said the summer school was one of the most memorable experiences he had ever had.

“The work experience has been invaluable to me and was probably the most worthwhile aspect as it not only provided me with real lab experience but also experience with working in a different culture which is important in this day and age.”