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Healthier women = healthier everyone

by Barb Boose No Comments

Improving women’s
health and earning
power benefits them,
their families and
their communities

In her Peace Corps work, education,
research and practice, Jenell Stewart
has strived to follow an uncle’s advice
to “put a heartfelt effort into this life.”

Three years ago, Jenell Stewart,
D.O.’12, M.P.H.’12, was working
with a group of women in Jirapa,
Ghana, to build a bakery that
would create employment
opportunities and, as a result,
help reduce poverty in the area.
In her 27 months as a Peace Corps
volunteer in the West African country,
she also educated people about Guinea
worm disease, encouraged behaviors
that help prevent HIV/AIDS, taught
people living with HIV/AIDS how to
make soap to earn money, and
organized volleyball teams among
local men as a way to make them
aware of their often-sexist remarks.

This summer, Stewart took her good
works for women to a global level:
During a nine-week internship at the
World Health Organization
in Geneva,
Switzerland, she developed a training
course designed to educate front-line
health care providers on gender-
responsive health care. She notes that
gender-related health care disparities
are made worse for women in poor
countries where they face discrimination.

“Countries and communities where women have lesser rights, independence or economic standing than men often see notable differences in the health of men and women,” she says.

The WHO’s 2009 “Women and Health Report,” Stewart adds, highlighted the need to strengthen health systems to better meet women’s needs in terms of access, comprehensiveness and responsiveness. She hopes her training course will help achieve that, including in Ghana.

“We hope to do a field test in Ghana soon,” she says. “Between my supervisors’ professional contacts in Ghana’s Ministry of Health Department and mine in Peace Corps Ghana, we should be able to locate some communities that would benefit and be receptive to testing it.”

Meanwhile, Stewart is in a year-long rotation at St. John Macomb Oakland Hospital in Warren, MI, Detroit’s largest suburb. She expected to observe other kinds of disparities there.

“There is so much diversity there not just in race and ethnicity, but also religion, economic, etc. Also, it is such a tumultuous time for so many in the current economic environment [in Detroit],” she says. “I expect that I will learn about medicine in a broader context as I observe and work with patients to find practical solutions to their health issues among complex barriers.”

Stewart plans to continue bringing dual perspectives from osteopathic medicine and public health to her work. “I have become even more inspired and focused on finding my niche in the big picture of public health as a clinician working one on one with patients,” she says.

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