Public Health Study Tour

Deena Mehjabeen is a student from the University of Sydney. Deena undertook the Public Health Study Tour in November-December 2019.

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

Since starting my Master of Global Health coursework degree at The University of Sydney, I had been looking for a global public health field experience. I came across the Public Health Study Tour (PHST) ACICIS program. After some initial research, I learnt more about ACICIS and the different programs it offers as well as all the member Universities. I realized that applying for the PHST through ACICIS would be the best option for me to gain public health field experience and knowledge.

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

During the PHST experience, the most challenging aspect was adjusting to the intensive nature of the program. The ACICIS staff members, including Mbak Citra, Mbak Yani, and Mbak Khansa, all worked hard to keep us motivated, and it proved to be especially useful when energy levels waned towards the end of the tour. Communicating in Bahasa with the taxi drivers was another personal challenge I faced, and even though we had language lessons at the Universitas Sanata Dharma, I still need more practice to be fluent in the language. However, the PHST buddies were very friendly and helpful in this regard.

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

The entire PHST was an eye-opening experience, and I became aware of the Indonesian health insurance system. With the decentralised public health system of the country, the local government of each state provides healthcare in the form of national social security for its people. I also became interested in the current sexual and reproductive health of females in Indonesia. I learnt that due to the variable abortion laws, limited contraceptive options as well as the conservative society, there is a need for gender-focused family planning policies.

Q: Which was your favourite field trip?

I found all the six field trips highly informative and exciting, but my favourite would be The World Mosquito Program (WMP) site in Yogyakarta. I first got to know about the WMP in one of the classes for my Master’s degree, and visiting it in person was as thrilling as it was informative. I learnt in detail about the rearing of the Wolbachia-carrying Aedes mosquitoes, the release process, and the post-release monitoring within the communities to reduce dengue fever outbreaks in the densely-populated city of Yogyakarta. It will definitely be one of the memorable experiences of the PHST for me.

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

While pursuing my Master of Global Health degree, I became interested in public health promotion, especially for the marginalized community. The Public Health Study Tour exposed me to many successful and promising health promotion projects which could be used as a model in countries similar to Indonesia. I am currently involved in mental health well-being promotion. So, I felt that the field visit to the Yakkum Rehabilitation Centre in Yogyakarta, for example, helped me understand about the challenges, in providing care and support to people living with physical disabilities and mental health issues in Indonesia. I believe this experience, including others during the PHST, will help me become more conscious to the struggles of socially marginalized people, which will positively influence my career goal to become a well-rounded global health practitioner.

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

The seminar series included presentations on some important public health issues such as the national health insurance system in Indonesia and communicable and non-communicable disease control and prevention. I thoroughly enjoyed the detailed structure of the lectures and the opportunity to raise relevant questions. The questions led to interesting discussions from the guest speakers, our tour leader Dr. Emily Rowe as well as the student buddies and other PHST participants. I felt privileged to attend the beautiful campus of Universitas Indonesia (UI), which is one of the oldest and prestigious universities in Indonesia.

Q: What was your favourite aspect about visiting Indonesia?

My favourite aspect about visiting Indonesia was enjoying the culture and food. I enjoyed the cultural trips from the PHST to the Prambanan Temple in Yogyakarta and the Presidential Museum in Bogor, Jakarta. During our free time, Mbak Citra and Mbak Yani provided us with recommendations for restaurants and places to visit. I was looking forward to the puppet shows, and Ramayana ballet, which I was told was a must-watch in the pre-departure information session that I attended. I managed to book a ticket to the dance, and it was a memory I will cherish for a long time. I found the Indonesian people to be very kind and hospitable. I hope that I can make many more visits to Indonesia in the future to fully experience all that the country has to offer.