The 53rd Week visits the 141st American Public Health Association Meeting - Boston, Mass.

The 53rd Week was well represented at the recent 141st American Public Health Association (APHA) meeting in Boston. The heart of our research work was presented in two successful posters around our pilot project in La Romana, Dominican Republic, while our Director of Operations, Dr. Lawrence Loh, was honoured with the APHA’s Jay S. Drotman Memorial Award at a reception and ceremony that also recognised New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as Public Health Legislator of the Year and provided First Lady Michelle Obama with the APHA’s Presidential Citation.

Our first poster, entitled “The Intangible Costs and Benefits of Short Term Medical Trips to the Dominican Republic”, represented an early look at the work done by Ms. Asha Behdinan, The 53rd Week’s summer intern. The poster looks at valuing the costs and benefits of short-term global health experiences to La Romana using two different approaches: the human capital and a contingent valuation approach. Using these as lower and upper limits of values, Behdinan’s preliminary results suggest that there the lower bound is at least a break-even in terms of costs vs. benefits. Interestingly, discussions with volunteers also suggested that people were more willing to donate their time to participate in an experience than to donate an equivalent sum, which could have implications for how charities reach out to young professionals in future charitable efforts.

The second poster presented by The 53rd Week team was a needs assessment entitled “Addressing the social determinants of health of Haitian seasonal migrant worker communities in La Romana, Dominican Republic.” Presented by Aaron S. Miller, the poster reports the findings of a needs assessment conducted by Mr. Miller during the December 2012 53rd Week trip down to La Romana. By interviewing local citizens and local hospital leadership, Miller was able to ascertain the state of various needs and perceived patterns of health in the community. More detailed findings will be available in the eventual published manuscript being prepared.

The Jay S. Drotman award recognizes the work of a promising young public health professional who has challenged traditional public health in a creative or novel way. Dedicated to the memory of Jay Drotman, a public health professional killed in a plane crash in the late 70s, the award recognizes a person meeting the described criteria aged under the age of 30 years at time of nomination. Dr. Loh’s work in calling for greater research into the nature of short term experiences was cited as a part of his selection for the award.

All posters and the team at APHA were busy meeting folks, including many that had worked in the Dominican Republic before. The great interest and experiences we came across showcased the excellent work being done by other volunteers in La Romana and elsewhere in the DR and bolstered our case for a concerted effort to maximize the impact of volunteer work there and everywhere else that received short-term teams.

Were you at APHA 2013? Let us know in the comments, or reach out to our Director of Operations on Twitter @lclohmd

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