Wabash Blogs Peru, Parasites & Global Health

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December 20, 2009

Global Health in Peru: A sabbatical project

Billions of people on this planet – typically those in developing regions of the world – are afflicted with parasitic and infectious diseases. These diseases and their impacts are not simply biological problems, but represent the socio-economic, political, historical, and ethical issues that contribute to them.


I am fortunate to be able to spend my sabbatical year working on a project in the area of Global Health. At Wabash my teaching and research centers around parasites (and other invertebrates) and their ecology. Over the last few years I have challenged students -- and myself -- to seriously consider the disease problems facing many in the world. What role can a college like Wabash play in this area? What impact should Wabash College students have after we learn of infections responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people each year? What does it mean to think, act, lead..to live humanely in the global context of these problems?


My interest is to work on a program in Global Health so that faculty and students might be able to examine through their different disciplinary lenses global health problems common to many regions of the world. I also hope that, collectively, we will work to help address some of these problems.


In early January, my family and I will move to Lima, Peru where I plan to work on this project. I'll get to study Spanish and to travel to rainforest and Andean zones as I meet with many of the contacts I've made in Peru over the last year through the generous help of new Peruvian colleagues. I plan to work with university and NGO groups and will search for possible places to take Wabash students, faculty, and others to learn about global health issues. Also, my desire is to establish opportunities for students to engage in research projects in different areas of the country. Given the amazing diversity of organisms, environments, people and cultures in Peru, opportunities for student involvement are abundant.


So...blogging through this experience and my thinking on this project will be an adventure in itself. I'll try to stay on top of it, so please check back periodically and feel free to contribute comments or suggestions.


 In photo: One of the hillsides in Pamplona Alta, a poverty-burdened district on the edge of Lima, Peru. This area is one of the pueblos jovenes, or "young towns" -- shanty-towns on the edge of Lima (any many large cities in developing areas of the world) where a diversity of issues combine to impact the health of the people who live there.  Photo by Eric Wetzel.