Participant of the Korea-United Nations Development Programme
Institute for Health and Society
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Hanyang University’s Institute for Health and Society (IHA), formerly called as Institute for Community Health, is a research center that practices comprehensive study regarding public health issues in general. Established in Jan. 1st, 1998, it consists of the Center for Mind-Body Research (focusing on specific diseases and their exposures, including mental health), the Center for Community Health Research (studying health promotion, development of healthy community, workforce and policies), and the Center for Transnational Health Research (focusing on global public health).
IHA was previously selected and worked as the participant of Korea-United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) / United Nations Office for South- South Cooperation (UNOSSC) Cooperation program Phase 1. Recently, IHA was again chosen for Phase 2 from 2017 to 2019 due to its exemplary performance. Dr. Lee Eun-young, the research professor of the center who took responsibility of the center's project of the program, kindly explained about its work in Phase 1, called the ‘Healthy Schools Development Project 1’, and its future plans for Phase 2.
Improving the health and environment of developing nations
The Korea-UNDP/UNOSSC Cooperation Program is a project aimed to improve the capabilities of developing countries led by UNDP with Ministry of Education, and Ministry of Science and Technology of the Republic of Korea in Phase 1, and Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning in Phase 2. Its goal is to identify each nation's problems in the areas of education, science, technology, and ICT, and to seek their solutions in order to lower the country's poverty level.
The two phases of the program have some dissimilarities due to the different ministries that took responsibility. In the first phase, each institute worked individually in separate countries. IHA focused on improving school health of Laos, Nepal, Mongolia, and Sri Lanka. The latter stage’s obligation was that the institutes should cooperate with each other and develop the school health and environment of Indonesia and Cambodia.
The reason to the application to the Korea-UNDP/UNOSSC Cooperation Program of IHA traces back to its former project. It was held in Yangpyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do with the goal of improving the health of local residents, students, and educational faculty, centered around schools. It showed how changing the perspectives of the public officials can lead to improved health of the students in schools with decreasing number of students and lacking resources. Dr. Lee decided to take part in the Korea-UNDP/UNOSSC Cooperation Program with the anticipation that similar project might also work in the developing countries as well.
Teaching to fish, instead of giving one
What differed from other institutes in Phase 1 was that IHA did not give out specific plans in advance to the schools. “What we tried to do is to give the schools the strength to develop their facilities or environment by themselves,” Dr. Lee said. This was done by giving opportunity to the schools to find out the problems and carry out their plans to solve them, by conducting surveys and letting them to assess and prioritize important health issues from the results.
According to Dr. Lee, persuading the school’s staff members including the principal and the teachers, about the importance of health was the difficult part. However, once persuaded, the school’s staff was passionate to alleviate the quality of school health in their own ways.
Mongolia had a severe problem of tooth decay, due to the culture of treating their guests with assortments of sweets. The teachers and the principal of Darkhan’s School No.9 tackled the issue by making educational materials for students, and meeting local dentists in person to ask them to give their students check-ups. In addition, even though Mongolia’s schools have a school nurse and health education teachers, there was no standardized textbook for teaching. So the school teachers came up with a supplement textbook for hygiene and sanitation, allowing for some uniformity in education.
In Nepal, menstruation periods of female students made them to skip schools due to the lack of disposable sanitary pads and proper treatments. During the process of IHA’s project, the principal and the teachers of Basu Higher Secondary School decided to make the pads out of fabric together with the students, listening to their stories of hardships at the same time. The results were worthwhile, leading to higher attendance with no hygiene or cost issues in the process.
Now Dr. Lee and IHA is preparing for ‘Healthy Schools Development Project 2’. The project is incorporating water purification technology of Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST) to schools. Simultaneously, the Canaan Global Leadership Center and Sookmyung Women’s University are working for improving income with farmers who are living around the schools. “We believe that cooperating with other institutes matches with our research philosophy and will amplify our scope of research,” Dr. Lee said.
Jang Soo-hyun firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Choi Min-ju
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