Exchange program helps turn public health theory into practice

2 min read

Under an academic exchange program between Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and the Mexico National Public Health Institute (the Instituto Nacional de Salud Publica, or INSP) that began in January 2013, four HSPH students have studied and conducted research in Mexico and two INSP students have done the same in Boston.

Lu Zhang, a second-year doctoral student in aging epidemiology in the Department of Epidemiology, spent the summer in Cuernavaca, Mexico analyzing the relationship between frailty in older adults and aspects of their living situations, such as their income level or how easy or difficult it is for them to access medical or other services.

“Being in Mexico gave me a chance to see how elderly people actually live there,” said Zhang. “For example, the area I was living in was a bit hilly, and most of the sidewalks had major cracks and were not smooth. This would be a very dangerous neighborhood for frail older adults, who are at high risk for falls. On the other hand, I was also able to learn about Seguro Popular (Mexico’s national health insurance program) and the types of services that Mexico has to help its older population.” Zhang said being in Mexico helped give her “a much better understanding of the problems than mere statistical analysis.”