Global Health Consultancy?!

**NOTE- words that are green are links that will open new pages for more information on the respective topic**

This is a continuation from Global Health Practice! post where I will describe what I am doing here in Saint Lucia. As I have mentioned previously, I came to Saint Lucia to intern with the MOH for 8 weeks. I came a week early to adjust to the island life (which is lovely!) and for a crash course-orientation with my unit (department) before officially starting my placement. So in the end, I will have spent 9 weeks living in Saint Lucia before returning to the US.

(By the way I added a countdown timer to the right column under the “about me” section for those who are counting down the days until I return [Nov 23]. Now you do not have to rely on your memory or keep asking me every time you forget  — just watch it tick away until the last minute).

As of September 22nd, I have been working with the Government of Saint Lucia within the Corporate Planning Unit (CPU), which is part of the MOH.  (All of the Agencies and Ministries form the Government of Saint Lucia).

But altogether we work towards the Mission of the Government of Saint Lucia:

We lead through advocacy, policy direction, regulation, and the delivery of accessible, comprehensive quality health and social services, using the most cost effective mechanisms.

We create and maintain a health environment that promotes gender equity and encourages personal responsibility for well-being through the building of alliances, partnerships, sharing of knowledge and skills development.

The overall responsibilities of the CPU are policy development, resource planning, and allocation. This is perfect for I have interests to strengthen health systems and to improve the quality of care one of my career goals.

But what is strengthening a health system? According to the World Health Organization, health systems strengthening can be defined as

(i) the process of identifying and implementing the changes in policy and practice in a country’s health system such that the country can respond better to its health and health system challenges and

(ii) any array of initiatives and strategies that improves one or more of the functions of the health system and that leads to better health through improvements in access, coverage, quality, or efficiency.

(You can read more about strengthening health systems here by USAID).

I was invited to join the CPU as a student to gain experience working on projects related to health systems. In addition to any responsibilities assigned to me for projects, I also have duties within the department (e.g. data entry, literature review, answering phones, presentations, etc.). I was very excited about this opportunity to work on this project because it has brought me full circle within my academic career.

–here comes a side story–

When I first applied to USF COPH Global Health Program, I told my advisor that I chose this program because it will provide me with the tools and experience needed to develop and/or strengthen international health systems. Well after a year within the program (or maybe the first semester), I discovered the path I initially wanted to walk down would be an uphill battle climb for me since I did not have any experience working in any governments, especially international governments. Not to mention my foreign language skills have deteriorated throughout the years since I stopped shy of fluency in Spanish and Japanese. So who would want to hire a green little American girl inexperienced global health professional without any ties with an international community other than her peers within the US? As a result, I switched gears to circumvent that obstacle by focusing on maternal and child health & reproductive/population health– that is available in every country right?! No way I need to be proficient in a country’s culture to become an expert in these fields. I can work as a consultant with a local stakeholder to balance my technical skills with culture competency to build their local capacity for program development and implementation (as it should be anyway). 

–back to your scheduled post–

Well all of that went out the window when I arrived here in Saint Lucia. The CPU picked me up off the road towards my back-up plan and place me directly back onto my original path. So I came here thinking that I will gain a little bit of experience working on health systems like a small child getting a bit of food off their parent’s plate. Well the CPU, once again, shattered my little comfort-zone dreams and gave me the pleasure of giving me lots of hands on experience–I am to work on a major project with team members that includes writing the methodology.

Well I took on the challenge and wrote the methodology (an explanation of what you will do to complete the project) thinking that was it. But come to find out I am to be involved in the whole process and that is exciting. So Yes, I am a student placed with the MOH learning the politics of working for a government and working on interdisciplinary teams with low to no resources, etc.

But as far as this project led by the CPU–I am learning how to become a consultant. What a great & valuable experience that is!

Hi my name is Krystal and I am a Global Health Consultant.

I look forward to working with you on this stressful challenging and fun adventure.

Yes, be careful for what you ask for.

For shall you ask, you shall receive.

— Matthew 7:7; Matthew 21:22; Mark 11:24; Luke 11:9; John 14:13-14

I hope you continue to travel with me on this journey!

*Ubuntu Krystal*