Cross-cultural course in Colombia boosts awareness of refugee issues

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Sixteen students from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the University of Antioquia School of Medicine participated in a cross-cultural course, “Health of Urban Displaced Populations in Post-Conflict Colombia,” January 5-23, 2016 to study public health issues faced by displaced and vulnerable people in Colombia. The course – designed to foster dialogue and goodwill between the U.S. and developing countries – is sponsored by the Open Hands Initiative and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) in collaboration with the University of Antioquia in Medellin.

The participants wrote a series of Huffington Post blogs throughout January on the experience. Read a January 22, 2016 blog post here and earlier posts here.

Gregg Greenough, HHI faculty, and Christian Arbelaez of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, led the course. Guest speakers included Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey. Students wrote white papers on public health issues and made recommendations for Colombian policymakers.

“It is the type of analysis, assessment, and learning that addresses our strongest sense that information cannot flow in one direction and that we have much to learn from each other,” wrote Negeen Darani, executive director of HHI and its Humanitarian Academy at Harvard, in one of the blog posts.

Such lessons, Darani said, have broad implications today for the world’s millions of displaced people from conflicts in Iraq, Syria, South Sudan, and elsewhere.