IHP Health and Community: Globalization, Culture, and Care (Spring 1)

New Orleans 2013 Letter Home

Dear IHP family,

As we settle into our lives in India, the colorful chaos of this place has us pondering back on our experiences in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States of America. It is with great privilege that we all find ourselves on this trip, traveling the world with grace, and studying amongst change and adversity. I know you would all be proud of us at how incredibly positive we have been.

New Orleans was the launch point of our world journey. We are thirty-three undergraduate students from all over the country. We study everything from literature to biology, health science to anthropology. The one common thread is that we all have the passion to become change agents for the world in the realm of public health. This passion has become effervescently apparent so far with our experiences in New Orleans and within this first week in India.

One of the biggest realizations in New Orleans was how intricate, diverse, and demanding the area of healthcare is. As a whole, we traveled to sites that involve healthcare for minority populations, impoverished populations, teenagers, musicians, entertainers, and many more. We met healthcare professionals from M.D. and Ph.D's to a woman who was the program director for a fresh food market initiative. There were days that the Katrina experience hit us hard emotionally, there were days that the music brought us back, there were days that the parades made us feel like we were part of a truly whole community, there were days the group came together in ways we had never imagined were possible. IHP Health and Community Spring Track 1 has become a family in only three weeks.

SherriLynn and Matty, our fabulous country coordinators for New Orleans, blew open our minds and hearts with experiences, music, site visits, networking opportunities, and different perspectives. One idea, historical particularism, was especially contemplated. Within historical particularism, we as a group were challenged to think about places, sites, cities, and countries not just as they were, but 'why' they were and 'how' the current happenings were contingent upon the history. The city’s reaction to Katrina suddenly began to make sense as well as the parading, the music, the food, and the ambiance. New Orleans is a city with a history unlike any other place in the country, and we were learning the ins and outs of why.

They explained to us that New Orleans was the only city in America run by the French and because of this the city takes on the vibe of another country. With the porch lights lit by flame, the brass bands playing soul, the smells of a diverse union of spice and vegetable, we began to contemplate the meaning of the city’s gumbo, the meaning behind this cajun society. As our understanding developed, we became completely immersed in the vibrations of a place so close to our homes. We learned about globalization, public health, health disparities, structural violence, natural disaster, poverty, the arts, environmental justice, community, and we saw how all of these ideas manifested within the city.  The historical particularism of New Orleans showed us how important anthropology and perspective is for understanding a place's true nature and essence.

SherriLynn, Matty, and their beautiful daughter Nevabell blew open our worlds with compassion, intricate support, and exhausting focus. So much love for our United States Country Coordinators, thank you so much!

One last overarching realization for our group was the importance of community in healthcare. New Orleans is a city of community love. Whether that is the second line band or Mardi Gras parades, it is a place that thrives on neighborhood. The second lines, which are funeral performances from Social Aid and Pleasure clubs, support the families within their neighborhood.

Imagine you are a thirty eight year old woman with two kids, a husband, and your dad lives with you in the seventh ward. Your daddy suddenly dies from a heart attack at fifty five and there isn't 6,000 dollars lying around for his burial and funeral into a mausoleum. The Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs will be there, provide the money, and a whole brass band will walk the streets with you, your friends, your neighborhood, and your family to the cemetery and back to your house for a barbecue. This community makes the place actually feel like home. Mental health especially relies on this sense of community, and our encounters with mental health disparities have shown us the prevalence and importance of providing community support and intervention.

The first three weeks of this trip has felt like what we call the IHP roller coaster. We have experienced slurs of emotion, excitement and fear as we welcome the new of India into the comparison of health and healthcare across the world. It is with great privilege, passion, and gratitude that we write back to you all in the US. We are learning so much about ourselves, about each other, and about the world. It is truly our time to devote ourselves to discovering how it is we truly impact the globe to make this a better place for the present and the future. All components of our livelihood are here with us in India now as we promote ourselves to seek with more love and focus.

All Inclusively Focused,

The IHP Health and Community Spring Track 1 Family

Official song of the group: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7eWL-3OGhk?rel=0&w=640&h=360

Compiled by Stephanie Harris with contributions from Julia Ben-Asher and Jen Strong
Edited by Trustees’ Fellow Sara Bradshaw

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Duration: Fall or Spring, 15 weeks

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Prerequisites: Coursework in social sciences (anthropology, history, economics, sociology, and/or political science). Learn More...

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