UW students examine health issues on U.N. study tour

A group of University of Wisconsin–Madison students traveled to New York City for a week in June to visit the United Nations headquarters and, through the lens of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), examine key issues that affect health – poverty, hunger, education, gender, child and maternal care, disease, and environment.

The United Nations and Millennium Development Goals Study Tour was among the summer field courses offered through the Global Health Certificate for Undergraduates. The students were accompanied by Marilee Sushoreba, programs coordinator for International Student Services and coordinator of the Millennium Development Goals Awareness Project (MDGAP) at UW-Madison, and Margarita Northrop, a recent Political Science, International Studies and Global Health Certificate graduate.

The course is designed to provide participants with an understanding of the U.N., its network of programs, funds and specialized agencies, and how they collaborate to fulfill U.N. goals, especially those related to global health.

Afterward, the students wrote reflections on their experiences, which are posted on the MDGAP website.

Meghan DeYoung wrote about the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), focusing on family planning: “The benefits of family planning are substantial. Simply by allowing women the option to space out their pregnancies by three to five years potentially lowers infant death by 46 percent. (UNFPA: Choice Not Chance)

Kate Henniges took note that the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) had made children with physical and social disabilities one its primary focus areas: “My hope for the future is that children with disabilities all over the world will be valued and cared for by their societies in the years to come.” (UNICEF Shifts Its Focus To Include All Children)

Ian Jamison was moved by a visit to the Holy Apostles’ Soup Kitchen in New York:  “To some, Holy Apostles means a nutritious, much-needed meal before a return to life on the street. For others, it’s a place to get the resources they need to get their lives back on track, or to simply hear the sweet sound of piano music and feel the warmth of a friendly smile. To me, it was a reminder that although today’s challenges are daunting, there are always selfless volunteers like Tony and A.J. rising to meet them.” (At Home With The Homeless)

Kristen Lunde reflected on the World Food Programme: “As many of the Study Tour’s other meetings underscored, adequate nutrition is a baseline for health in both children and adults. The World Food Programme thus has an essential role to play in improving health on a global scale and in contributing to the progress made in tackling communicable and non-communicable diseases worldwide.” (The World Food Programme)

Mayra Miranda focused on the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), particularly efforts to improve conditions for younger girls: “Girls must be seen as an important component when discussing global health. UNFPA is working to include men in the conversation too. In patriarchic environments, forming alliances can facilitate the shift in protecting young girls.” (The Worth Of Being A Girl)

Ashley Olson reflected on stories heard at the Holy Apostles’ Soup Kitchen in New York: “One guest told me stories of his domestic and international travels. He hit a rough patch, and now, as a 63-year-old man, is struggling to support himself in New York City. The realization that poverty can affect anyone was solidified by my experience at the soup kitchen, and stories like his.” (Our Visit To The Holy Apostle Soup Kitchen: Touching Real People With Real Stories)

Alexandra Rashedi wrote about confronting sexual violence in conflicts: “How do we as a world move forward in the quest to eliminate sexual violence? The issue will always remain an uncomfortable and complex matter, surely, but the only way to fight against this horrific reality is to end impunity and stop the cycle of acceptance and ignorance.” (Sexual Violence In Conflict: Why Silence Is Our Greatest Obstacle To Universal Change)

Larentia Soerianto wrote about a panel discussion on ending the scourge of war: “War obviously has a huge impact on global health. People living in conflict areas are often very vulnerable and faced with many diseases, which is why there is a huge concern.” (Determined to Save Succeeding Generations from the Scourge of War)

Nathan Watson reflected on efforts to address HIV/AIDS: “Unfortunately, despite all of the advances made in treating and reducing the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS there are still significant hurdles that need to be crossed in order to completely eliminate stigmas and discrimination.” (End of a Plague?)

MDGAP seeks to raise awareness of the eight U.N. Millennium Development Goals on the UW–Madison campus and to connect students with relevant research, internship and volunteer opportunities in order to promote the development of job skills, foster global competency, and advance the goals locally, nationally, and internationally.