The gravest health threats facing developing countries are not viral outbreaks or parasites, but chronic conditions such as heart disease and cancer. Dr. Collins Airhihenbuwa, professor of health management and policy at Georgia State University School of Public Health at Georgia State University, has pioneered a culturally informed approach to confront the global spread of these diseases.
Dr. Collins Airhihenbuwa was a graduate student studying health planning and administration in Tennessee when he first realized there was a problem. When his professors talked about health issues facing developing countries, they focused on the income, formal education, nutrition and other resources that these places lacked — and the impact those deficiencies had on the health of the people. But to Dr. Airhihenbuwa’s mind, the well-meaning instructors were only painting half the picture.
Dr. Airhihenbuwa knew the full scope of life in many of these countries because he had lived it. He had grown up in Benin City, Nigeria, in the 1960s, the son of subsistence farmers. By the standards he was being taught by Western researchers, his parents — who did not work for wages — would have appeared poor, but they farmed their own land and traded for everything they couldn’t grow or make. Scientists might have seen no meat on young Dr. Airhihenbuwa’s plate and declared his diet unbalanced, yet his seasonal plant-based diet conferred all the nutritional benefits he needed. Some might have declared his parents uneducated because they lacked formal schooling, without taking into account their organic and practical knowledge, which had been passed down.
Read more of Dr. Collins Airhihenbuwa’s feature in the Georgia State University Research Magazine.
Learn more about Dr. Collins Airhihenbuwa.Tags: Friday Letter Submission, Publish on November 22