Crossing the Pond: Our UK adventure begins!

In just a few days, a group of 16 University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) graduate and undergraduate students and faculty will journey to the United Kingdom to explore public health and healthcare systems in both England and Scotland. We will visit the historic cities of London, Edinburgh, and Glasgow, where students will take a deep dive into population health and global healthcare perspectives. We will be blogging daily, sharing our adventures, insights from our travels, encounters with public health professionals and policy makers, and the invaluable lessons we will learn along the way. So please make sure you check our blog for new post daily beginning May 12, 2024.

As part of this experience, students will have the opportunity to learn about the history of public health, beginning with sanitation and the control of infectious diseases.  While walking the streets of London, students will learn about John Snow, an English physician known as the founder of modern epidemiology and early germ theory, and his response to the cholera outbreak of 1854. We will learn, firsthand, about priority public health issues affecting communities in the UK, how these issues are being addressed, and strategies being implemented to advance health equity.  While in London, we will meet with faculty from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to learn how the UK’s public health and healthcare systems are structured.  We will meet with representatives from the Terrence Higgins Trust, UK’s leading HIV and sexual health charity, to learn about the services they provide and their goal to end new HIV cases by 2030.  In Edinburgh, we are scheduled to meet with a member of the Scottish Cabinet, the main decision-making body of the Scottish Government, Mr. Neil Gray.  Mr. Gray is the Cabinet Secretary for NHS Recovery, Health and Social Care. Two ministers support the work of the Cabinet Secretary, the Minister of Public Health and Women’s Health and the Minister of Social Care, Mental Wellbeing and Sport.  From Mr. Gray’s staff we will learn about the policies Scotland hopes to prioritize and implement to improve its citizens’ health outcomes. Also, while in Edinburgh, we will meet with representatives from Four Square, a community-based organization that provides support and services to those experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of becoming homeless. And finally, in Glasgow, we will meet representatives from NHS National Services Scotland or NSS.  The NSS provides a broad range of both clinical and non-clinical services in Scotland, and we will learn about their response to infectious disease outbreaks, such as COVID-19, and about their efforts to stop the spread of bloodborne pathogens, such as HIV. 

We hope that this experience will showcase the interdisciplinary nature of public health practice and will emphasize the critical importance of addressing the social determinants of health.  Moreover, we endeavor to shed light on the ubiquitous impact of health inequities on global health outcomes, recognizing that disparities exist across various social strata in all nations.

Before we travel!

Prior to our departure for the UK, students convened with various healthcare and public health practitioners and representatives from community-based organizations in Birmingham (AL). These sessions provided insight into global health, local public health concerns, as well as the programs and initiatives aimed at tackling them. The purpose of these meetings is to facilitate a comparative analysis between public health issues and initiatives in the United States and those to be encountered during our time in the United Kingdom.

On Monday, May 6th, Camryn Durham, Assistant Director of the Sparkman Center for Global Health, conducted a seminar introducing students to global health, its history, interprofessional global health core competencies, and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. She also discussed issues around building equity by addressing historical and contemporary injustices, overcoming economic and social obstacles to health and health care, and eliminating preventable health disparities.  This presentation set the stage for us as we begin our journey!

Sparkman Center for Global Health, Camryn Durham

On Tuesday, May 7th, we made a stop at the UAB’s 1917 Clinic. Here, we had the pleasure of meeting Kachina Kudroff, the manager of prevention programs, who is both an alum from the School of Public Health and this very course! Ms. Kudroff provided us with a comprehensive overview of HIV in the United States, with a special emphasis on Alabama. She shared invaluable insights into HIV transmission and prevention, discussed the latest treatment options, underscored the importance of viral suppression, and illuminated the challenges faced by individuals seeking HIV treatment. The purpose of this stop was to equip students with a comprehensive grasp of HIV in Alabama prior to exploring challenges in the UK, with the goal of enabling them to effectively compare and contrast the two contexts.

Kachina Kudroff, UAB 1917 Clinic

To underscore the clinic’s multidisciplinary approach to patient-centered care, Kachina put together a panel discussion for the students. The panel comprised experts from various fields, including prevention/outreach (Kachina herself), providers (Raven Peggins, CRNP), nurses (Marsha Hawkins, RN), social workers (Rashundra Hopkins, MSW), research (Heather Logan, DNP), and community representation (Tony Billups). Despite the absence of pre-prepared questions, the students eagerly dived into the 1.5-hour session, covering topics ranging from vaccine research to medication costs and the enduring stigma surrounding HIV. It was a deeply engaging conversation that showcased the collaborative spirit and dedication of those working at the UAB 1917 Clinic.

Panel discussion at 1917 Clinic

After our visit to the 1917 Clinic, we walked just two blocks away to meet with two remarkable individuals from Birmingham AIDS Outreach (BAO): Kris Hutchins, LICSW, MSW, PIP, Director of Client Services, and Joshua Glenn, B-FED Coordinator. BAO is committed to enhancing the well-being of those affected by HIV/AIDS, individuals at risk, and members of the LGBTQ community. Their mission is realized through extensive outreach initiatives, age-appropriate prevention education, and the provision of supportive services.

Visiting with Kris and Josh at BAO’s Magic City Acceptance Center

During our conversation, Kris and Josh elaborated on the array of services offered by BAO and how they effectively address the needs of individuals living with HIV in the Birmingham area. One significant aspect we discussed was the challenge of food insecurity. In response, BAO established the “B-FED” program, aimed at improving the health outcomes of HIV patients.

Before the inception of B-FED, BAO faced limitations in the types and quantities of food and nutritional supplements they could provide to clients. However, with the launch of this program, their outreach has expanded significantly. Initially serving around 200 clients per month, by 2024, BAO is now reaching approximately 1400 clients monthly. Josh led us on a tour of their facility, showing us that clients now have access to high-quality restaurant-grade vegetables, fruits, meats, dairy, and grains.

Josh discussing B-FED and showing us the BAO food bank

In addition, an education department was established to provide information on nutrition, food safety, meal preparation, and health education to clients. For those with medical requirements, BAO facilitates meal delivery offering healthy pre-made microwaveable meals tailored to individual health needs.

On the final day before we traveled, students conducted presentations to introduce the culture, politics, demographics, history, and public health indicators and concerns in England and Scotland.  These presentations provided everyone with a baseline to draw upon as we visit with multiple stakeholders, policy makers, and organizations in the UK.

Students and faculty will leave Birmingham on May 9th.  We will be blogging most every day, so make sure you bookmark the blog and follow our adventures!

– Lisa McCormick and Meena Nabavi

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