Inside USD

Making Health Care a Human Right

Monday, October 12, 2009

nursemainThe 1948 United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights called for everyone to have a standard of living adequate for health and well-being. As part of the University of San Diego’s 20th annual Social Issues Conference last week, four USD professors talked about how that goal can still become a reality.

Four professors from the Hahn School of  Nursing and Health Science (pictured, right) have participated in international missions across the globe. Lois Howland has worked in Mexico and Haiti to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. Susan Bonnell has helped provide pediatric services and educatation to people in the Dominican Republic. Barbara Sarter is investigating the use of homeopathic cures for cancer in India. Anita Hunter (pictured, bottom right) worked with other USD professors and students to help build a hospital in Uganda to keep children from dying of malaria and other diseases.

“We with so much, have a duty to help those with so little, overcome the barriers that prevent them from achieving their universal human rights,” said  Hunter, director of international programs for the nursing school.

While there are many challenges — poverty, unstable or corrupt governments and a legacy of colonialism that is often difficult to overcome — there is no doubt more progress can be made, the professors said.

huntermain“When you teach someone to do something, they teach other people to do something,” Bonnell said. “And when they have such high motivation to learn, it’s a pleasure to go back and work with them.”

The learning is reciprocal, they added. Sarter said she feels the United States is “impoverished” in many ways because it “doesn’t have the kind of choices available to other people around the world because of the domination of big industry in our health care system. These natural therapies are often not examined the way they need to be examined.”

The professors also talked about the importance of moving from a model of charity to one of empowerment in the communities they assist.

There is generally a time limit on the assistance offered, Hunter explained, and those receiving it know they will soon be on their own. In Uganda, for example, the message was always “this is a Ugandan hospital. It’s not an American hospital.” Encouraging a sense of dependence “is the last thing we want to do.”

— Liz Harman

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