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International Development Week: A Medical Student’s Perspective

Celebrating Collaboration 

International Development Week (IDW) is a nationwide initiative where we celebrate Canadians’ collaborative efforts towards fostering an inclusive and prosperous world1. It is a week of education, motivation and honoring the efforts across various sectors including civil society, philanthropy, educational institutions, NGOs and the public. The aim of IDW 2024 is to highlight perspectives and voices of the Global South, the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, and communities engaged in international development efforts. Across the nation, more than a hundred events are organized during IDW, spanning from one coast to another1.  

 

As part of my Community Engagement and Service Learning project at Dalhousie Medical School, I engaged with ACIC’s events including IDW. As a medical student early in my career, I was excited to discover and learn about the diverse individuals working in the international development field and their impactful endeavours. Despite our varied backgrounds, it was fascinating to uncover the intersections between our goals and work. One event hosted by ACIC for IDW was a talk on Menstrual Health and Gender-Based Violence. The talk featured the Founder of Mcrissar Foundation for Women and Girls Nigeria, Rabi Adamu Musa, who also was the keynote speaker at the ACIC Symposium 2023. She inspired me to think about community action and engagement. Rabi advocates for young women in politics and governance, as well as advocating for unrestricted access to menstrual kits for girls aged 12-16 in high schools in Northern Nigeria. Reflecting on her work, I realized that Rabi’s local community efforts have had a global impact, inspiring leaders here within Atlantic Canada – bridging the gap between international and local initiatives.  


Local Actions, Global Impacts 

Rabi’s work was a prime example of how the social determinants of health (non-medical conditions that people are born into) shape the way we interact with society and health. I recently attended the 2024 SRPC Remote & Rural Medicine Conference where I had an opportunity to facilitate a small group discussion on the barriers experienced by rural patients who must travel to access care. This discussion addressed pivotal issues regarding access to care, potential solutions, the populations most impacted by various types of care, successful strategies, and areas for improvement. It quickly became apparent to me that primary care physicians and learners possessed an intimate understanding of the hurdles patients faced. As medical professionals, we stand as advocates for change, working hand in hand with community members. Those with the greatest potential to effect change are often the ones directly engaged with the communities in need of transformation.  

 

Access to healthcare remains a persistent global challenge, and achieving global health equity has long been a priority Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). Beyond healthcare access, broader factors like climate change play a crucial role in advancing health equity. However, reaching global health equity requires addressing social determinants of health (SDoH) on a larger scale. Understanding the burden of illness entails recognizing how policies, economic arrangements, and governmental actions place community members in positions where they are vulnerable to poor health2. Regardless, at the heart of both global and local health equity lie the community members. 


Bringing it all Together 

Throughout IDW, various public engagement activities delved into crucial SDoH aspects such as race, culture, and gender, among others. This dedicated week can serve to lay the groundwork for identifying areas of improvement and highlight what is being done well. I was left inspired after learning about the significant contributions of young advocates who actively shape the global future and serve as inspirational figures. As a medical student, participating in ACIC’s IDW provided me with an invaluable opportunity to explore health issues through a dual lens, considering both local and global contexts while emphasizing the significance of the SDoH framework.  

 

 

References 

  1. Global Affairs Canada. (2024, February 29). International Development Week. Government of Canada. Retrieved from: www.international.gc.ca/world-monde/issues_development-enjeux_developpement/idw-sdi.aspx?lang=eng   

  1. CSDH (2008). Closing the gap in a generation: health equity through action on the social determinants of health. Final Report of the Commission on Social Determinants of Health. Geneva, World Health Organization. 

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