Archive for One Health

Health in the Eastern Mediterranean Region

The vast complexities of the Middle East and surrounding regions cannot be understood without bringing health into the battleground of analysis. In this context, the Global Health PhD Network organised the event “Health in the Eastern Mediterranean Region” on 28th of October, 2016 with the funding of the University of Edinburgh’s Global Health Academy. The event was framed as a series of four short conferences on diverse topics related to Health in the region, and two networking recesses at the venue’s foyer at 7 Bristo Square, where delicious kenafa was served by the University’s Middle Eastern Society.

The first speaker was Dr Runa MacKay. She studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh at a time where it was not usual for women to go this further in their studies. In 1955 after qualifying in medicine, Dr Mackay arrived at the Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society Hospital in Nazareth, now in Israel, which has served the Arab population there for more than 150 years. Dr Runa Mackay spent around fifty years working across Lebanon, Palestine, and Israel for the betterment of health conditions among the Palestinian population who live within Israel, either in health policy or as a practitioner in war torn Beirut and West Bank. Today, back in Edinburgh, she has written the book “Exile in Israel”, where she tells her personal experience throughout those years which have taken her to state, as she did in the event, that she feels more Palestinian than British.

As the second speaker, Khuloud Alsaba, researcher from the Syrian Center for Policy Research and a final-year PhD candidate in International Public Health Policy talked about part of her research project: “War in Syria: Political Determinants of Health”. In a very critical and insightful way she explained how within the discourse of “The War on Terror” health facilities and health care workers have become a legitimate target. However, turning access to health into a weapon of war has brought unexpected hardships for the population. Khuloud argued that polio, once an eradicated disease, has reappeared in Syria as a consequence of a thrashed and weakened public health system. She concluded by stating that these war tactics are not only militarily and economically inefficient, but also (and most importantly) a violation of the human rights of Syrians.

After a short networking recess, the event carried on with the third talk. Via videoconferencing, Ben Clavey, a young medical student and the co-coordinator at Medact Arms and Militarisation Group, gave a concise explanation about this NGO and its work in the Middle East. Medact is an organisation where health professionals can go beyond the clinic and actively engage with the search for solutions to the most pressing global health issues. Through analysis, lobbying, and education, it aims at having an impact in policy on four main areas: peace and security, climate and ecology, economic justice, and health and human rights. Regarding the Middle East, he added that Medact’s activity in the region has been extensive. It has worked in Iraq and Palestine performing in ground analysis and campaigning for the respect of human rights and adequate health policy for the victims of armed conflict in both countries. Recently, it has worked on warning and lobbying against airstrikes by the British military in Syria and also against UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia, who has been involved in the destruction of Yemen’s health system and the targeting of its hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Finally, Ben invited us to become part of Medact’s effort in taking health as a human right into policy either by donating or joining the organisation. A stand with further information for those interested in participating was set on the venue’s lobby as well.

The fourth and last speaker was Parisa Mansoori, a PhD candidate at the Centre for Global Health Research at The University of Edinburgh, who presented her research project on Iranian health sciences and academic literature production. According to recent data, Iran has had a dramatic increase in the amount of health related academic publications in the past few years. This stands out as a unique situation among the emergent economies, due to the quality of the articles produced in Iran, which have found their way into high impact international journals. Moreover, Parisa pointed out that practically a large proportion of this new literature has been produced by a small group of academics in Tehran University of Medical Sciences and few other Tehran-based institutions. By providing a thorough characterisation of this phenomenon, she expects to lay ground for further progress and development of Iran’s health sciences and their contribution to the global scientific arena.

In conclusion, the event managed to assemble in a couple of hours a wide range of experiences related to health in the Eastern Mediterranean region. Just as this region has been traditionally associated with armed conflict and violent political struggle, health has also been a very pressing issue both then and now, as Dr MacKay and Khuloud Alsaba exemplified. However, as Ben Clavey from Medact and Dr MacKay let us see, there are still spaces for hope and resistance, as well as moments for empathy and sharing. Furthermore, in spite of these difficulties, the region hasn’t stopped creating new knowledge. As Parisa Mansoori portrayed, the region is home for highly qualified and capable academics who contribute to the development of science and knowledge around the world. Lastly, thanks to the networking sessions and kenafa tasting we were reminded that, as in any other place, there are people living everyday lives in this region, where the creation and recreation of very rich cultures has made of it a quite unique and special place.


Bernardo Moreno-Peniche, MSc Medical Anthropology, University of Edinburgh


Images taken by: Clàudia Serra Vinardell

Uganda July 2016 – the Global Health Academy Summer School

Earlier this month, I was extremely fortunate to take part in the Global Health Academy summer school held this year in Makerere University, Uganda. For the first time, this year, invitations were extended to our program, fulltime Infectious Diseases by research masters students –in addition to the part-time online global health, eHealth, wildlife conservation, public health and infectious diseases master’s students. Tempted by the idea to get out of the lab and meet fellow students studying from distance, I immediately seized the opportunity, and, despite being close to the hand-in deadline for my thesis, it was totally worth it! Since it all happened really quickly and last minute, I didn’t really have time to create any expectative but had I had any, the experience definitely went beyond: what an experience!

The event and subsequent discussions that came up during the study sessions were a perfect illustration of the concept of One Health: sharing everybody’s opinions and point of view on different topics approached differently by students from different fields and disciplines, seeing how interconnected we all are and how interdisciplinary approaches are the best way to solve global issues. This highlighted the need for more communication and collaboration between disciplines: environment, health, technology, conservation, everything needs to be linked and if we can bring all those fields together towards a common objective, we can reach a much wider audience and raise awareness much more easily, hence solving problems a lot more efficiently.

Additionally, it was extremely inspiring to hear about other students’ projects and listen to the stories of alumni students; realise how their master’s program empowered them to set up their own projects and use the skills and knowledge they learnt to practically benefit their communities and make a difference. As the quote says: a picture is worth a thousand words, in this case, having the chance to see first-hand some of the great things some students are achieving was worth a thousand lectures. I was very encouraging to see how, despite being students, we can already start making a change and, through this kind of opportunities, network and get our classmates involved, support each other sharing our skills or spreading awareness and share ideas.

The trip to Budongo was the best example: seeing how Caroline is leading a dedicated team to fight for the protection of endangered species such as chimpanzees and build a strong hub of research on the species to better understand and design conservation strategies. The long walks patrolling in the search for snares also showed us how challenging and complex it can be to open the dialogue with traditional communities and find for them alternative ways of subsistence that do not harm the wildlife and surrounding ecosystem.

There is still a lot to be done, but this is the proof that with hard work and dedication, alumni of the University of Edinburgh are directly contributing to making a positive change across the world.

Elena Perez Fernandez, MSc Global Health: Infectious Diseases, University of Edinburgh

My Ugandan Global Health Academy, Summer School Experience!

When I received the invitation for the Global Health Academy summer school in Uganda, I have to admit I was hesitant.

After just finishing my first year on the MPH course, I wondered if I could muster the motivation to do one more minute of work until the next term. However, after re-reading the course itinerary numerous times, I finally persuaded myself it was the right decision to go.  The itinerary was just too tempting; 4 days of summer school and 2 bonus days of chimp tracking in the forests of Budongo?

With flights booked, I ran over the checklist for Kampala and Budongo again and packed my things. Budongo was going to be quite different from Kampala and we needed to be prepared for that environment. We were given the link to the Budongo Wildlife website beforehand which gave full information on where we would be staying and everything we needed, including how to behave whilst visiting the forest.

The university discussion page went over accommodation and transport in both Kampala and Budongo and all my questions were answered quickly and informatively.

To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect from the school. I felt quite out of my depth at first, with my limited global health experience, and having only just completed my first year? However, my fears were soon put to rest as this scary bunch actually turned out to be some of the friendliest and motivational, individuals I have had the pleasure to share a room with, staff and lecturers included.

Makerere University pic 1 Makerere University pic 2









My co-students were a group of professionals, from all over the world, studying a number of different disciplines at various stages in their studies, however, it soon became evident that no matter what background we came from, we all shared a passion for making the world a better place.   I felt immediately at ease.

Dr Ricky Okwir, University of Edinburgh Alumni

Dr Ricky Okwir, University of Edinburgh Alumni









To briefly summarize: The lectures were inspiring; the activities were thought provoking and the teamwork brilliant! Everyone got stuck in and shared all they had to share.  There were many brave people who stood up to give presentations on their topics, (myself not included, but I will certainly be on the list for next year) and we received lectures from faculty ranging from epidemiology to simply how to reference properly.  There were many questions and many discussions, but we always had time for a laugh, cup of tea and deep fried cup cake!!

The summer school not only taught me a great deal academically, but also gave me the opportunity to learn from other cultures and nationalities, the value they put on their environments, from a social, medical and environmental perspective. There were so many ideas and all added something to the wealth of knowledge the summer school brought about.

Of course, our experience in the Makerere University was just the start of our adventures. We still had the trip to Budongo to look forward to.

Accommodation at Nyabyeya Forestry College

Accommodation at Nyabyeya Forestry College

Accomm Budongo 2

After a few hours bus trip (stopping off to investigate the local culture on the way) we arrived at what I would describe as a little haven, right out of a holiday magazine. Our very basic but comfortable accommodation set amidst the luscious forest at the Nyabyeya Forestry College. It was certainly a sharp contrast to the hustle and bustle of Kampala.

We travelled a little way to the Budongo Wildlife Reserve after settling in, where we were welcomed with dinner, tea and coffee, a very informative introduction to the reserve and a briefing on what we could expect from the next couple of days.

What a couple of days we had! We participated in monkey and chimp tracking with highly skilled staff who also gave us an introduction to the whole ecosystem of the forest.  We met other visiting teams who were studying the forest and the surrounding areas and enjoyed discussing their experiences, having been based there for the last 4 weeks.

We were not just treated as passive visitors, but expected to report back on the day’s findings. Our feedback was very much valued and gave us a chance to really get thinking in groups, about things that would contribute to the continued success of the research centre and surrounding areas.  We discussed improving awareness and promotion of the project, and ways that would promote the engagement of the community.  I suddenly found myself utilizing a number of concepts we had learnt throughout the MPH course and the lectures we had received earlier in the week.
Budongo 1Budongo 2







Following this we followed our guides into the forest for a spot of snare patrol, where we were taught how to find and identify snares often set by hunters. These ranged from small wires to huge mantraps, all an extreme hazard to creatures living in the forest, and also forest rangers.

Budongo 5


We later visited local villages where we were given a talk about the on-going battle bco-existence of humans and wildlife. We learnt about sustainable crop development and the setting of buffer zones in order to control the disruption of local communities by the chimpanzees and other animals living in the forest, which frequently visit to crop raid when food levels are low in the forest.

Only too soon, it was time to return to Kampala and make our way home to our respective countries, to take back all that we had learned and apply it not only to our studies but to our everyday lives and those around us.   I couldn’t wait to get started!

To say I have learned a great deal would be an understatement and it is with great pleasure that I write to inspire others to join in the next one.


Seonaid Biagioni, Masters of Public Health, University of Edinburgh

Summer School 2016 – Uganda

I am currently a Year 2 student in the MSc Global eHealth course from the University of Edinburgh. eHealth is an emerging field at the intersection of medical informatics, public health and business, referring to health services and information delivered or enhanced through internet and related technologies. Each year The University of Edinburgh runs a Summer School Programme which draws together cohorts of Masters level students studying across the domain of One Health and Global Health: Innovation and Education. I was eligible for the programme and jumped on the occasion to meet friends which I encountered virtually only. This year’s Summer school took place in Uganda at Makerere University in July.

Uganda was a pleasant surprise for me. I reached the airport and happy to have good WIFI to talk to my family. The roads are loaded with vehicles and Ugandans are hard workers. They never seem to sleep. I was told that every day nearly 2 million people move to and from Kampala for work. Whoa! Mauritius where I am from is only 1.3 million people. Uganda has a population of 39 million with GDP growth of 5% (Source: Wikipedia). This is pretty impressive and promising African country.

The Summer School programme kicked off with a discussion on One Health and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It was great to see the lecturers in action. We have been discussing a lot on the discussion boards and it was clear that we are not strangers but friends on a mission for better good. There were workshops on presentation skills and I got the opportunity to pitch my work and receive valuable feedback. The sessions on epidemiology have been made simple and I could grab the concepts better. Day 1 was pretty heavy but I seemed to get a better grip of the structure of the programme as the days went by.

The great thing about Online distance learning is that all the students are busy working professionals in their own fields. This programme provided a platform to network and talk about potential synergies. Each one of us is contributing in our fields and learning the best practices from different areas is pivotal to acquire the multi-disciplinary skills of future leaders.

We had a comprehensive data analysis workshop with Professor Michael Thrusfield. It was the first time I truly understood the meaning of p value and t-test. The workshops ended daily with inspirational talks from alumni and students.

Professor Michael Thrusfield

Team building workshops were interesting and allowed us to know our friends better. From writing press releases to data analysis on quantitative studies, a wide variety of activities fostered a challenging yet fun environment to learn.

I finally managed to meet Dr. Liz Grant. She signed my scholarship letter in 2014 and I am indebted for the support she has given me since then. This MSc has challenged me to step to the next level and move ahead in my career.

Amal Bholah and Liz Grant








The final day of the workshops, the students gathered up and went for dinner. We had 1.1 million Ugandan Shillings worth of food and it was really tasty (1 GBP = 4451 Ugandan Shillings).

dinner receipt

The University of Edinburgh organized a trip to the forest of Budongo were research is conducted to understand the relationship between biodiversity, forest management practices. We stayed in a lodge which was far better than I expected. We spent two nights there and I was impressed by the hospitality of Ugandans. On day 2 we went chimpanzee tracking. We walked nearly 3 hours in the deep forest of Budongo appreciating the wildlife. It was surprising to see how the chimpanzees were undisturbed by humans. I saw a really balanced wildlife ecosystem. Our guide could identify the chimpanzees from far and even called them by name. Wow. These guys are doing an amazing job to preserve wildlife and also maintain a peaceful balance between humans and wildlife. I enjoyed these two days in Budongo and it’s recommended to all those visiting Uganda.


The key aspect of the Summer School Programme is that I made great friends from different fields who are leaders of tomorrow.


Dr Leckraj Amal Bholah, MSc Global eHealth, University of Edinburgh

Dr Leckraj Amal Bholah