This may be the shortest research blog ever, considering that I’ll be spending 6 weeks in one of the most remote regions of Kenya. Internet will be limited, but I’m hoping to post updates every once in awhile.
I can’t believe the departure date is almost here! I came up with the idea for this project in January (look for a project summary in a future blog post) after I saw a talk by Dr. Stacie Dunkle V’07 about work she did with the CDC in Ethiopia on integrated vaccination. Hours of emailing, skype meetings, and project planning later, I’ll be arriving in Kapenguria, Kenya in West Pokot County on July 11th.
One thing I’ve learned in my communications is that “Evan” is not a popular name in Kenya, but “Evans” is. I expect to hear “Jambo, Evans” a lot in the next few months! I’m excited to travel to Africa again. Studying abroad in South Africa during my junior year of college was one of the most influential experiences of my life. I not only learned about savannah ecology and African conservation – shoutout OTS – but also began to understand how most people live in the world. OTS started me on my current path to One Health and the understanding that everything is connected. I changed (grew I hope) as a person, which can best be summarized by the phrase, “empathy through experience.”
How will this summer change me? How will I grow? There are a few things that have been on my mind recently, and I’m wondering how my thoughts on them will change after my trip.
Animal welfare vs. animal rights: Veterinary medicine is firmly in the animal welfare camp, defined as ensuring that animals are healthy, comfortable, well nourished, safe, and are able to express innate behavior. Lately I feel like I’m looking over a fence at the animal rights camp (rights believed to belong to animals to live free from use in medical research, hunting, and other services to humans) and realizing that I might belong on the other side. However, many people in the world rely on livestock for their livelihoods. For example, Turkana pastoralists, some of whom I’ll be interviewing this summer, depend on livestock for nutrition and economic stability. How does animal welfare and animal rights exist in this setting? Importantly, I’m passionate about biodiversity conservation and I believe that conservation and agriculture can complement each other. Not only that, but livestock play an integral role in helping people across the world escape the poverty trap and live healthier lives; economic stability is a social determinant of health. Thus, while I acknowledge the sentience of non-human animals and sympathize with the concept of animal rights, I strongly believe that engaging stakeholders, in this case farmers and herders, is vital to achieving the conservation and development goals I believe in. Is this an insincere discrepancy? How about the fact that I frequently eat meat that comes from factory farms, which I disagree with on principle?
The social determinants of health: The more classes I take in public heath, the more I realize just how important the social determinants are. The most insightful (for me) thought I’ve had recently in this area is that fixing disparities in heath, education, and economics requires identifying socially-determined groups, i.e. identity politics. Without identifying these groups, it’s impossible to fix the disparities that exist between them. Thanks to Nate for starting the conversation on that one. Also, I really like the idea of health in all policies, defined as a collaborative approach to improving the health of all people by incorporating health, equity, and sustainability considerations into decision-making across sectors and policy areas. How can it be applied in the U.S. to a fuller extent? What about where I’m going in Kenya?
I’ll try to talk about my project more in my next post. Signing out for now!