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Profiles in Public Health

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Paula Kamara

MPH, Health Disparities and Minority Health

1. In one sentence, what is public health to you?

Public Health is protecting the global community by creating safe and healthy environments where people can reach their full potential.

2. What inspired you to study to public health?

My motivation for a career in public health started with witnessing my mother care for war traumatized women and children in my village. Growing up in a war torn country – Sierra Leone, I was plagued by sickness, hunger, and distress. There was a wide-spread epidemic of diseases, such as malaria, Lassa fever, and typhoid fever. I watched many children suffer and die from disease and poverty. The memories of blood, open wounds and cries still linger in my mind. Consequently, that experience motivated me to embark on a career to help protect the health and well-being of people.

3. What has been the single most rewarding experience of your career/studies so far?

This past summer I was privileged to work with children at a children’s health and wellness camp. I worked with many children who have already started developing chronic health conditions such as heart and joint issues. I educated them about practicing healthy lifestyles such as eating nutritiously and engaging in physical activities. During the course of the camp, I observed the severe consequences of childhood obesity first hand. This experience further ignited my passion for public health to make sure future generations are healthy and more productive in society.

4. What is the one piece of advice you wish someone had given you when you were starting out in public health?

I wish someone would have told me to have an open mind and to not think of public health as a straight forward discipline, but as a group of interdisciplinary fields that work together to achieve its goals. You also must be more willing to address the political factors that affect the implementation of public health interventions.

5. What do you think is the biggest challenge that the public health field should be focusing on?

The biggest challenges the public health field should focus on is working more with political and community leaders in educating them about what public health is and what it brings to their communities. Their decisions have a major impact on public health in terms of the health of the people, the distribution of resources, and the provision of financial obligations for intervention programs and research. Also, educating the community to have a clearer understanding of public health and its principles, can at least enable them to be mindful of the effects certain decisions might have on the public health field.

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