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Global Health students work towards building capacity in health care in the Caribbean

Global Health students work towards building capacity in health care in the Caribbean

MSc Global Health student Danielle Denwood

September 26, 2018

The continued growth of McMaster University's Master of Science in Global Health program has created new opportunities for students to gain real world experience in the global health field, while working collaboratively with partner institutions. 

This summer, Global Health student Danielle Denwood completed ten weeks of fieldwork at the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) Collaborating Centre at the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Jamaica. Along with fellow students Rachel Morgan and Xuan Yu, Denwood’s project involved investigating and documenting the status of nursing and midwifery human resources in the Caribbean, with Jamaica as a pilot project to gather data to support capacity building in the region.

“What we found is that migration of trained nurses and midwives is an issue, especially among critical care nurses, leaving shortages in hospitals and health care centres throughout the country” explains Denwood, who worked closely with professors from UWI School of Nursing (UWISON), while liaising with a supervisory team at McMaster to conduct an analysis of the reports, documents, literature, and databases available on health human resources in Jamaica. "There's a 'brain drain' happening, with nurses moving to the US and the UK for better paying jobs," she says.

As a certified professional midwife, with an undergraduate degree in international development, Denwood was able to draw on her past experiences during the project, although she admits that the experience was still a learning curve. “We all found ourselves in a new environment, with its own cultural context, and we had to get up to speed quickly in order to produce a report on existing data, and to develop a survey to be filled about by various stakeholders in Jamaica’s health care system – including Regional Health Authorities, the Ministry of Health and Educational Institutions,” she explains.

Denwood is hopeful about how the report and the data will be used moving forward, and the future of the project. “This was an exciting pilot project, which can hopefully be rolled out to the rest of the region,” Denwood says.

Through the project, Denwood says she was able to build on the theories learned in the research methods course, and strengthen her skills in leadership, as well as writing and research – skills that will be critical in her future career. Long-term, Denwood sees herself continuing to focus on reproductive and maternal health, but would like to bridge her clinical skills with her knowledge of policy to strengthen midwifery care, both internationally and locally.

Andrea Baumann, director of the Global Health program and centre director of McMaster’s PAHO/WHO Collaborating Centre in Primary Health Care & Health Human Resources, says, “This collaborative project with UWI is a prime example of the ways in which we are preparing global citizens and putting theory into practice by having our students tackle real world global health challenges.”