Arts and Sciences
Johns Hopkins University-Institute of Public Health Mobile Health for Child Injury Prevention in Malaysia (JHU-IKU M-CHILD) program
The Johns Hopkins International Injury Research Unit (JH-IIRU) is currently working with the Institute of Public Health in Malaysia to strengthen mobile health capacity to assess risks and improve prevention of child injuries in Malaysia through an innovative model of sustainable capacity development. Specifically, this program aims to: develop a mHealth tool for home risk assessment and prevention of child injuries, a key national priority in Malaysia; pilot test MAP-CHILD in Malaysia to evaluate data quality and user operability by families; and develop a core group of researchers focused on the use and integration of Mobile Health for research and training in public health at Institute for Public Health (IKU) in Malaysia.
Global Health Mentor/PI: Abdulgafoor Bachani, PhD
For my GHEFP placement, I traveled to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to work on a mobile health project aimed at child injury prevention within the home. Since Malaysia is expected to be considered a developed country within the next few years, I assumed that working there would not be so different from working at home. After I started working, however, I realized that while the technology and working conditions were similar to those at home, the working environment was much different—there was no sense of urgency or rush to finish as much as possible, like we sometimes feel at home. While the laid-back attitude was refreshing, it was challenging at times because each task seemed much more prolonged than it needed to be. I learned that global health research requires flexibility—the paperwork is extensive and problems with local governmental approval can sometimes make it very difficult to abide by a concrete timeline. Still, my time abroad was very informative. I learned the process by which apps are created and introduced to local populations for pilot testing. More specifically, I learned how to create the surveys that are often used for data collection—a skill I believe will be very useful in the future.
I was lucky enough to be in Malaysia at the time of their Hari Raya celebrations—the biggest holiday of the year that marks the end of Ramadan. My colleagues enthusiastically brought me to the parties that the Institute had, and patiently explained all the different foods they eat and traditions they carry out. I was even able to try a few of the foods and watch a traditional Malaysian dance! Although the official language of Malaysia is Bahasa Melayu, most people are able to speak in English in Kuala Lumpur, making communication relatively easy. As Malaysia is a Muslim country, I had to be mindful of the conservative dress code—even though it is very warm in Malaysia, wearing shorts and a tank top was not always appropriate. It was also interesting to listen to the Muslim prayers that can be heard throughout the city 5 times a day.
Between conversations with my coworkers, I was also able to become familiar with the universal health care system in Malaysia. The government offers public medical health insurance to all Malaysian citizens that only requires a payment of about 5-10 ringgit (~$2) per visit. While the health care system is very reasonably priced, the quality of care seems to suffer due to the sheer number of patients that public hospital physicians are required to see each day. Fortunately, people are able to choose which physicians they want to see—unlike many countries where universal health insurance means assigned physicians. Private health care is an option, albeit a less popular one, as it is much more expensive and can only be afforded by a small percentage of the population. Although our health care systems are different, it seems to me that Malaysia is facing some of the same problems as us—many patients and a shortage of physicians.
Not only did GHEFP give me experience with conducting research abroad, but it also gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in the culture of a different country. It was an unforgettable experience that I whole-heartedly recommend to anyone that is willing to step out of their comfort zone to live in a different country for a brief period of time. My only regret is that I was not able to stay longer. Although I always had an interest in international health, this experience solidified my goals of eventually having my own project or at least volunteering with a medical program in a developing country.