Promoting Your Health and Global Health

Promoting Your Health and Global Health
By: Linda Arnade

As a graduate student in public health, I was drawn to the field because I enjoy working with healthy people and preventing them from physical or mental illness. I have been involved with global health endeavors over the last decade and am currently enrolled in the “global health track” at the Mailman School of Public Health. I believe there are many lessons to be learned from my various “global health” experiences that apply to how to promote a healthy heart and holistic well-being of an individual.

Lesson from India: Limit consumption of sugar
As a college student, I spent a semester in Rajasthan, India studying arts and culture and completing a global health project. I remember distinctly how in India I consumed so much less sugar than in the USA. For example, in India people will just eat plain yogurt with little to no sugar. When people have a soda, it’s a rare occasion and often served in a small glass bottle size. Often desserts were served in very small amounts and eaten only rarely.

Lesson from China: Drink lots of water and eat regular meals
While working in Beijing for a health not-profit, I was often reminded to drink “kai xue” or hot water. People tend to sip on hot water all day long, especially green or jasmine tea. They believe it has a healing effect. In essence, people consume a lot of water. In China and other parts of East Asia, I observed that food is very celebrated. People view mealtimes as important both for physical health and nutrient intake.

Lesson from Dominican Republic, Cuba, Brasil: Dance your heart out at all ages
My time as health teacher in Santo Domingo and as a collaborating researcher in Rio de Janeiro, showed me that the Dominicans and Cariocas (persons from Rio) enjoy dancing a lot throughout all ages. Dance is often integrated into the culture and seen as an enjoyable activity. This is a lesson other countries can learn from to increase overall physical activity and perhaps social wellness. For example, at a samba party recently in Rio, I observed many people well into their late sixties doing rapid samba dancing! I also observed an elderly group in Havana still doing Cuban style salsa well into their seventies.

Lesson from New York: Walk a lot
While living in New York as a graduate student, I realized that in Manhattan one can walk a lot to many places. Recently, many obesity experts discuss the importance of the “walkability” of a city. Specifically, Manhattan has been recognized as a very “walkable” city, where people are able to walk more to do daily activities. For example, one can walk even just to go the local store. Over time this can reduce obesity and improve one’s heart health.

Lesson from Netherlands, Germany, and Chicago: Bike instead of Drive
A city like Amsterdam has garages to park one’s bicycle. As a high school exchange student in Germany, my Biology class took a bike trip. A culture of biking promotes more daily movement and keeps people healthy. In Chicago, city bike lanes made biking in a large urban city possible. Thus, many young Chicagoans are able to bike to places.

Lesson from USA: Eliminate smoking
Smoking is linked to many heart and health issues. The USA has led a trend in eliminating smoking in public places, especially like bars in New York. Some public health experts cite that this increases stigma around smoking and individuals are less likely to smoke.

Lesson from Japan: Eat fish and many other vegetable oils
Overall reducing overall intake of animal fat can result in a long-life span and better overall heart health. The Japanese still have one of the longest life expectancies. While spending time in Tokyo and Kyoto, I observed that much of the diet is limited on dairy products and has a high level of fish and vegetable oils.

There are many individual lessons to be learned from all parts of the globe to improve one’s heart health and overall health. I could on forever, but these are just a few of the global health lessons learned. This is what I believe global health is truly about; exchanging health ideas to improve both individual and population health.