What DGHI Taught Me About Community

May 23, 2018
Hope and Professors
Hope with members of her DGHI community, Professor Boyd and Professor Broverman, at DGHI commencement.
Hope in Geneva
Hope during her time at Doctors Without Borders in Geneva, Switzerland.

By Hope Arcuri, recent graduate, global health and public policy major

As a new global health alumna, I’ve been thinking a lot about all that I’ve learned over my time in the Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI).

My biggest takeaway from my global health education is that global health is all about community. 

As Wendell Berry once said, “To speak of the health of an isolated individual is a contradiction in terms.” 
 
Health is fundamentally communal. To focus on health, we must focus on community. People understand individual health, and often this is considered medicinal health. People can even understand global health from a theoretical level: we should make sure our entire globe is healthy. 

But when we break down health, and consider it in the context of global health, we quickly learn that to help people out of poverty, to improve overall health, to ensure people have access to daily necessities, education and opportunity, we must think on a communal level. The globe, after all, is simply a collection of millions of communities. 

Think about successful global health interventions. For vaccinations, we use the ring vaccination approach to provide herd immunity, vaccinating communities of people systematically. HIV prevention, tobacco control, and a greater push for focusing on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) all achieved immense success because of their dependence on community-based knowledge and their community intervention techniques. Most global health interventions have a community-wide focus, and without community involvement and understanding, these interventions are rarely successful. Global health advocates prioritize working in a community, for a community, and with a community. 

Throughout our DGHI classes, specifically 101, ethics, research methods, and through all the electives, we learn that global health is first and foremost about COMMUNITY respect, involvement, integration and perspective. Global Health 101 and Global Health Ethics emphasize repeatedly that effective global health interventions consider the community context and prioritize cultural competency. And our experiential learning opportunity allows us to gain greater understanding and appreciation for cultural competency, by allowing us to immerse in a new culture and community.

I even see an emphasis on community among the faculty and professors at DGHI. DGHI is a community of people who want to make other communities healthier and happier. From my thesis advisor Dr. Toole, who read countless drafts, to my ethics professor, Dr. Moe, who listened to my diatribes, to Lysa MacKeen, who helped make my experiential learning experience a reality, to Dr. Clements, who believed in the sexual health intervention my group designed, to Dr. Broverman, who celebrated my successes and helped me through my failures, I can tell you that everyone in DGHI wants to get to know you and wants to welcome you into the global health community. 

As I prepare to leave Duke, I want to encourage those in global health, and those curious about global health, to consider your community. DGHI teaches us that global health is all about community, but that does not mean we should reduce that concept to just an academic setting. 

Reach out and get to know your fellow global health majors, strike up a conversation with a new professor in the Institute, subscribe to and follow global health online communities and blogs and read about successful community interventions. If we truly understand and believe that global health is all about community, then we must invest in our own community right here at Duke, and beyond! 
 
I will miss DGHI and all that it has taught me, but I am excited to join an entire alumni community of people who want to make a difference in global health.  

NOTE from editor: Are you a DGHI alumnus/alumnae who wants to stay connected with fellow alums? Join our Facebook alumni group!