Rosen, Rachel

School of Public Health



Malaysia - Preventing childhood injuries in Malaysia: Piloting a home environment risk assessment and mitigation program

The Johns Hopkins International Injury Research Unit (JH-IIRU) is currently working with the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) to address the knowledge gap regarding childhood home injuries. The project has the following specific objectives: 1) develop and pilot-test an injury hazard assessment module appropriate for an urban developing-country setting; 2) develop and pilot test an educational pamphlet regarding the importance and methodologies to reduce injury hazards in the home; and 3) develop and pilot test a home-based tutorial program for its feasibility and acceptability as a means of disseminating home safety information.

Global Health Mentor:

Jeffrey C. Lunnen, Senior Research Program Coordinator, International Health/Health Systems Program

Abdulgafoor M. Bachani, PhD, Associate Director, Johns Hopkins International Injury Research Unit

“What do you think of Malay food?” “Do you like spicy food?” “Is our food too spicy for you here?” These were three of the typical questions I was bound to field whenever I met a new person in Malaysia. When I first arrived in Kuala Lumpur my answers to these questions were, respectively, “I like it!” “I love spicy food!” and “Nothing is too spicy for me.”

These answers evolved over the course of the three months I spent in Malaysia. My eating experience was at first limited to whatever my Malaysian or JHU colleagues were eating, as I deferred all major eating decisions to more seasoned Malaysian gastronomists. I slowly learned the difference between the Malaysian staples of mee goreng (fried noodles) and nasi pattaya (chicken fried rice wrapped in fried egg). My Malaysian colleagues at first shielded me from the full the wrath of sambal (chili paste) by ordering food without this spicy addition. I eventually convinced them that I wanted to try it and quickly learned that there is, in fact, a thing as food being too spicy for me. From then on, I always ordered my sambal on the side.

As my time in Malaysia progressed and my culinary expertise expanded, I became acquainted with the Chinese and Indian influences on Malaysian cuisine. I fell in love with roti canai and roti murtabak. The day I sauntered up to a street vendor and ordered a roti murtabak all by myself was a proud moment for me. 

I gained a deeper appreciation for the fusion that defines much of Malaysian cuisine when I traveled to Melacca, which was about a two-hour bus ride south of Kuala Lumpur. It was on this excursion that I was introduced to Peranakan food (also referred to as Nyonya food), which is a cuisine that mixes Chinese and Malay cooking influences. Upon returning from this trip to Melacca, I was delighted to find a Peranakan restaurant across the street from our Malaysian partners’ office. I quickly became a regular and had tried everything on the menu within several weeks.

Towards the end of my time in Kuala Lumpur I was invited to a Hari Raya celebration held at the office of our Malaysian partners. Despite making the mistake of eating breakfast that morning, I arrived ready to rise to a challenge for which I had been preparing since arriving in Malaysia: to demonstrate my expertise in Malay cuisine. I eagerly devoured the char kway teow, beef rendang, and satay, much to the delight of my colleagues. For the first time since I had arrived in Malaysia, I felt a warm acceptance from my Malaysian hosts.

As I spoke to colleagues at the Hari Raya celebration, I had new answers to their questions. Rather than my rote answers of “I like it! /I love spicy food! /Nothing is too spicy for me,” I felt newly capable of offering more nuanced feedback on my Malaysian culinary experience. When asked what I thought of Malaysian food, I could discuss my love of laksa and popiah and teh tarik. When asked about my views on spicy food I now responded that while I love spicy food, sambal was indeed a formidable opponent and I had learned that there was such a thing as too spicy.

My inability to speak Malay was a challenge for me this summer. While our Malaysian partners spoke some English, it was nonetheless difficult for me to connect with them. I turned to Malaysian food as a delicious way to bridge communication gaps and build trust. 

“Field Visit”: Rachel Rosen conducting a field visit with a HEALS Research Assistant in Alor Setar, Malaysia:


“Hospital Sultanah Bahiyah”: Sultanah Bahiyah Hospital in Alor Setar, Malaysia, one of the two sites for the HEALS study:

“Rachel and Miza”: Rachel Rosen and Malaysian preceptor for the HEALS study, Hamizatul Akmal:

“MChild Workshop”: Rachel Rosen helping at an mHealth workshop in Kuala Lumpur put on by JHSPH faculty (and GHEFP mentor) Abdulgafoor Bachani:

“Hari Raya”: Rachel Rosen and Malaysian colleagues at the Institut Kesihatan Umum’s (IKU; Institute for Public Health) Hari Raya celebration: 


September 2022



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