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Exchange program with Malawi, Zambia seeks to improve public health practices


Global Health Fellows from Malawi and Zambia pose for a photo Global Health Fellows Lucky Mbewe, Mwaka Namfukwe, and Brave Hanunka with Virginia Tech Professor Patricia Kelly, Kyrgyzstan pediatrician Baktygul Kambaralieva, and School of Education Professor Emeritus Josiah Tlou tour Virginia Tech's Lumenhaus, the university's international award-winning solar house.

BLACKSBURG, Va., April 20, 2012 – Fourteen health and media professionals from Malawi and Zambia are currently at Virginia Tech in a monthlong exchange program. The Global Health Fellows are visiting various regional community health associations, observing, and evaluating best practices to help them address specific health problems upon return to their home country.

Patricia Kelly, chair of learning sciences and technologies in Virginia Tech’s School of Education, and Kerry Redican, professor in the Department of Population Health Sciences in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, are coordinating the project using a Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs/U.S. Department of State grant.

The Global Health Fellows represent a wide range of professionals: physicians, nurses, community health educators, print and video media specialists, environmental health specialists, and community organizers. They are currently participating in a two-week classroom-based experience to learn about American public health best practices. This will be followed by an immersion experience where the Fellows work alongside an American colleague in a community health setting; and finally a visit to Washington, D.C. 

Agencies from the New River Valley, Roanoke, and Franklin Counties participating in the immersion experience include the Rescue Mission and the Child Health Investment Partnership in Roanoke, the Roanoke Health Department, Prevention Council of Roanoke County, WDBJ7, Carilion Franklin Memorial Hospital, Carilion New River Valley, Pregnancy Resource Center in Blacksburg, Montgomery County Health Department, the Free Clinic of the New River Valley, New River Valley Health Department, New River Valley Community Services, and Carilion New River Valley Medical Center.

As a part of the overall experience, each Fellow develops an action plan, incorporating what they learn in both the classroom and immersion experiences directed at addressing a specific health problem in their respective countries.  These plans range from HIV/AIDS prevention programs to maternal and child health, and wellness programs. All the action plans involve media.

Many Virginia Tech faculty participated in the classroom experience:  Kaja Abbas, Francois Elvinger, Madison Gates, Kathy Hosig, Susan Marmagas, and Amy Smith from the Department of Population Health Sciences; Adrienne Ivory from the Department of Communication; Dana Cruickshank, Catherine Doss, Jean Elliott, and Gabrielle Minnich from University Relations; Sheila Carter-Tod and Bernice Hausman from the Department of English; Eleanor Schlenker from Virginia Cooperative Extension; Jennifer Brill from the School of Education; Laurie Fritsch and Jon Fritsch from Schiffert Health Center; and Dean Sutphin, associate vice president at the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine.  

In addition, many community-based professionals participated in the on-campus program including: Ev Richards from Internet Radio; Paige Bordwine from the New River Health District; Nancy Hans, Fran Kiker, and Paster Elijah from the Prevention Council of Roanoke County; Penny Muelnauer, pediatrician in Roanoke; Karen Remine of Omnimissions; Bill Jacobsen, vice president of Carilion Franklin County Memorial Hospital; and Marquita Hill, environmental health specialist.

Background information

In Malawi, an estimated 175 children out of every 1,000 live births does not reach the age of five. Although public health officials expressed optimism that the country would meet its Millennium Development Goal targets for reducing child mortality as recently as 2004, a food crisis and threats of malaria, poor nutrition, and other concerns have presented increased challenges in recent years.

Both Malawi and Zambia have adopted the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals as targets for reducing the maternal mortality ratio, reducing the mortality rate among children under the age of 5, improving hygiene and access to safe water, and improving nutrition.

This project has already seen 14 projects come to fruition in 2011. Conservative estimates of impact for Zambia are 138,380 people and 6,800 Malawians.

The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine is a leading biomedical teaching and research center, enrolling more than 700 Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, master of public health, and biomedical and veterinary sciences graduate students. The college is a partnership between the land-grant universities of Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland. Its main campus in Blacksburg, Virginia, features the Veterinary Teaching Hospital and large animal field services which together treat more than 79,000 animals annually. Other locations include the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Virginia, and the Gudelsky Veterinary Center in College Park, Maryland.
The College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech includes programs in the arts, humanities, social and human sciences, and education. The college seeks to illuminate human experience and expression by creating works of lasting scholarly, cultural, and aesthetic value; empower individuals to engage critically with the complexities of a diverse, global society; and foster the inquiry, innovation, and growth that produce individual and social transformation.