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ND students, alumni assess third-world health

Bill Brink | Monday, February 25, 2008

During a human development symposium Saturday, Notre Dame students and alumni said a lack of resources and knowledge are inhibiting health improvements both in America and third-world countries.

The Kellogg Institute for International Studies, the Ford Family Program in Human Development Studies and Solidarity, and the Center for Social Concerns co-hosted the event, “Solidarity in Pursuit of Authentic Human Development,” which took place in the Hesburgh Center for International Studies.

The effectiveness of traditional medicine in third-world countries took center stage in the presentations. Sophomore Jeff Lakusta drew from his experiences in South Africa last summer researching the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

“There is $230 billion in aid from the top 40 donors alone,” he said. “The obvious question is how can $230 billion not provide us more significant results?”

The stigma of HIV/AIDS sometimes prevents people from seeking medical attention, Lakusta said, and ill-placed faith in traditional healing methods prevents people from acquiring proper modern medical care.

“If you’re at the education level where you think eating food or breathing air gives you the disease, of course they’ll want to stay away,” Lakusta said.

Senior Nathan Serazin addressed a similar issue with his research. Serazin worked for two summers in the town of Pedro Vicente Maldonato, Ecuador studying alternative medicine.

Serazin analyzed the medicines used by traditional healers and complied a handbook detailing the similarities between modern medicines and those used by healers. In one case, he noted, a seed used by healers to treat sore throats contains menthol, a common ingredient in lozenges.

“This is the first line of defense for most people,” he said.

Junior Patricia Hughes, who conducted research in Baltimore, Md., said late stages of AIDS can be better managed in group homes that allow patients easier access to the care they need.

“If we look at HIV today, it’s become a chronic, but manageable, condition,” she said.

Lacey Hausman, a 2003 Notre Dame graduate, said refugee camps in northern Uganda presented a Catch-22. While the camps did provide medical services not available in the refugees’ home villages, AIDS spreads quickly through the camps.

“If they go home, they’re losing easy access to these services,” Haussman said.

Haussman also said women in the camps do not receive proper prenatal care because the hospitals in the region are understaffed and don’t have the necessary supplies to perform birthing procedures.