I learned about a very different healthcare system (in comparison to the U.S.), how to complete and communicate a project internationally, and the very important lesson that projects will rarely go according to plan.
I have been waiting to write this in hopes of being able to reflect back on COVID-19’s impact on the U.S. and the many indirect consequences—like this class. However, it does not appear that the spread is lessening in the near future, and online classes seem to be the new normal.
Last week, we presented to our client. Prior to it, I felt nervous that they would be disappointed in our decision to not travel to Brazil. That decision was the first of what has become many decisions by the school to protect the health and safety of the student body. However, our clients still welcomed us with (virtual) open arms and gave us the same kind of attention and time that we would have had in-person.
They showed interest and excitement for all of our research. One interesting element that my team was able to research was how to empower community women in Maranhao through entrepreneurship opportunities, establishing them as leaders in the community and measuring the impact of women empowerment on community success. I appreciated the client’s excitement for this idea, because it shows how healthcare is significantly impacted by social determinants. It also resembles that prevention healthcare is incredibly powerful, but maybe harder to measure, than band-aid treatments. This is not always accepted in Western medicine.
They were particularly interested in our suggestions to improve their Healthy Homes Program survey and what the data was presently showing us. The client was surprised that the community survey showed that community members do not view their presence as “public health” intervention. They mentioned that it is imperative to the success of their program that community members understand and support the initiative. I feel that this is a wonderful exhibit of why companies hire consultants—it can be difficult to spot gaps in work when the client is so entrenched in the day-to-day. Their excel sheet was not showing them anything different than our excel sheet (in fact, it was the same one), but it was easier for my teammate to notice a flaw than for the client to.
From here, we will synthesize their recommendations and comments into a final report that will help add closure to this project. When I signed up for this class last November, it was impossible to know that this is how it all would unfold. However, I have no question that this was still a worthwhile experience. I learned about a very different healthcare system (in comparison to the U.S.), how to complete and communicate a project internationally, and the very important lesson that projects will rarely go according to plan. I have an unbelievable amount of respect for the work our client has already done to improve access to clean water, empower community members and measure the impact of the program to show the cost savings of preventative care. Although Brazil is a developing country, in some ways, I feel their public health system may be far beyond that of the U.S.