UBC Reports | Vol.
51 | No. 4 |
Apr. 7, 2005
New UBC Program Essential for International Aid Workers
By Brenda Austin
Karen Lund prepared to change careers and teach in the nursing
program in Dhaka, Bangladesh by taking the UBC course in international
health and development.
This course is one of five in the new Certificate in International
Development (CID), offered by Continuing Studies at the Centre
for Intercultural Communication.
“This is a flexible, mainly web-based certificate that
can be taken part-time while working, as long as it is completed
within three years,” says CID Program Manager Leah Macfadyen.
Although Lund has been a researcher in academic health sciences,
many who take the course do not have a healthcare background.
They might be members of non-governmental organizations, engineers,
bankers or educators -- people who want to lend their skills
in ways that enhance the broader vision of health.
This vision extends further than freedom from illness and
disease to include sustainable development, access to clean
water, human rights, security and safety.
The variety of backgrounds of the students is a positive
factor, says Dr. Michael Seear, professor of clinical medicine
and pediatric respirologist at BC’s Children’s
Hospital. He is the instructor for the international health
and development course and presently in Sri Lanka where he
is providing assistance after the Tsunami disaster in December
“Every discipline and every profession or job in some
way impacts on someone’s health somewhere in the world,”
he says. “And for every activity we undertake there
is a medical price to pay, whether it is due to agricultural
policies or goods manufactured in sweatshops.”
For his own participation in Sri Lanka, Seear and others,
funded by the Asian Medical Doctors’ Association, set
up a functional children’s ward from a rough hospital
in the village of Srila Kalmunai, one of the poorest areas
on the east coast of Sri Lanka. This includes a school and
counselling services for children with depression.
Seear’s course raises awareness of international health
and aid issues as well as cultural, social, economic and political
environments aid workers might encounter which could hinder
effective use of relief monies.
“We sometimes suspend belief, thinking if we give
money or goods to aid agencies, we are helping. But this is
not always the case,” Seear says. “We have to
be aware of fakes and crooks, of money not reaching those
for whom it is intended.”
Seear stresses that no student should leave university without
understanding the impact and importance of health issues around
the world. Many students are idealistic, they are nice people
and want to “do good,” but it is more complicated
“To tie in with the global vision UBC has, we need
a university degree in International Health,” Seear
believes. “We would be first in the field and it would
meet the needs for competent, aware people who could include
this with studies in their own discipline.”
Lund took the international health and development course
after planning for two years to move from health sciences
research into something that focused more on people and would
allow her to see another part of the world. The project she
chose focuses on improving the standard and status of nursing
“What Dr. Seear’s course did more than anything
was to teach me not to impose my own assumptions on other
cultures,” Lund said. “It was an eye-opener for
me to discover how much well-intentioned aid funding is wasted
because those who hope to help don’t communicate well
with the people receiving aid. Without the health course,
I could have been one of that group.
“The Web-based framework was fabulous because it saved
me so much time commuting to classes. You miss out on the
personal interaction with the instructors, but the online
communication is excellent,” she said.
The CID program is also useful to people in Canada who work
with multicultural communities, Macfadyen says. Marie-Claude
Lavoie is one such person, currently working in Iqaluit, Nunavut
as an occupational therapist.
“I have been very pleased with the CID program,”
Lavoie emailed from Nunavut. “There are unique challenges
here of over-crowded housing, malnutrition and the presence
of TB. There is much financial need, but the Inuit are very
rich in culture and traditions.”
For more information visit: www.cic.cstudies.ubc.ca/cid.