Public Health Study Tour (PHST)

Chathura Edussuriya is a New Colombo Plan mobility grant recipient from RMIT University. Chathura undertook the Public Health Study Tour in November – December 2018.

Q: Why did you decide to undertake ACICIS’ Public Health Study Tour?

I decided to undertake ACICIS’ Public Health Study Tour (PHST) because I felt that it was a good way to learn about public health outside of the traditional classroom environment. I also took it as an opportunity to travel during my degree and immerse myself in a foreign culture. As a bonus, I would also receive credits towards one unit in my degree.

Q: Did you receive a New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant? If so, how did this contribute to your experience in Indonesia?

I was fortunate enough to be eligible for and receive a New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant. Without it, I would never have been able to participate in the PHST. The grant enabled me to focus on preparing myself for the program without having to worry about the financial aspects involved.

Q: What did you find to be the most challenging about your experience on the PHST?

What I found the most challenging about my experience on the PHST was learning to adapt Indonesian culture, being that it is quite different to Australian culture. For example, we were taught appropriate ways to greet people which was different to how people in Australia greet each other. I would have to stop myself from doing what I would normally do and instead try what is culturally appropriate. Equally, another big challenge for me was trying to communicate with the locals who had limited knowledge of English, as I did in Bahasa Indonesia. However, through actions, translators and some common words, I was able to communicate in the end.

Q: What public health issues in Indonesia have you become more interested in/aware of as a result of this tour?

As a result of this tour, I have become quite aware that smoking is a big public health issue among the Indonesian population. I was very surprised to find how common it is for people to smoke tobacco, how cheap it is to buy and how easily accessible it is.  Even more surprising to me was the fact that there were advertisements around the town promoting smoking instead of trying to stop it. I have also become quite interested in child health in relation to malnutrition from the visits to the posyandu and puskesmas, which are Indonesian community health centres.

Q: Which was your favourite field trip?

My favourite field trip was to the YAKKUM Rehabilitation Centre. I was in awe as soon as I walked into the facility. The staff working there had disabilities of their own, however were not letting their disability prevent them from living their life. I was on board straight away with their goals and their vision to have the people who come to them be able to eventually live in the community independently. I especially loved their prosthetic and orthotic workshops. It was amazing to see that every prosthetic was made by hand. I was able to follow through with the process taken to create a prosthetic, from creating the mould, to measuring the size, and putting it all together so that it can fit the person.

Q: How do you think the Public Health Study Tour will influence your future career or studies?

The Public Health Study Tour definitely gave me a new perspective on public and community health. Throughout my degree, I have mainly focused on tertiary health in hospital-based settings and acute conditions. From my experience of seeing first-hand the health issues at a community level, I am quite interested in learning about identification, prevention, treatment and management of health issues in different communities. This program has also taught me that, depending on the demographic and environment in which the community resides, there will be many different public health issues evident.

Q: What did you most enjoy about the seminar series?

From the seminar series, I most enjoyed two particular presentations: one was about the tobacco issues in Indonesia and the other was about family planning in Indonesia. I really liked that the speakers were all very knowledgeable in their fields and had very valid points to present. I liked how the speakers’ content would generate a discussion from the audience and there were so many great opinions and statements to be heard.

Q: What was your favourite aspect about visiting Indonesia?

My favourite aspect about visiting Indonesia was the people! Everyone was so friendly and welcoming to us. Everywhere we went, everyone would smile at us. I also loved the food, it was so full of flavour and complimented my spicy palate.