Public Health Study Tour (PHST)

Joyce Ruparanganda is a New Colombo Plan mobility grant recipient from Charles Darwin University. Joyce undertook the Public Health Study Tour in November – December 2018.

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

At first, it was because my lecturer was promoting the tour as an alternative placement option for a unit within my degree. I became slightly persuaded but then I found out that I did not have to do one of the assignments of the unit, and I became instantly hooked on the idea.

A few weeks into the semester at my university, I realised that I actually enjoyed public health and I grew to love the unit. My lecturer was very passionate when teaching it and I started to do my own research about public health in general and also in relation to the Public Health Study Tour with ACICIS.

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

Yes, I received a New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant. The grant gave me financial freedom – it relieved the burden of having to raise the tour cost myself. With this grant, I was also able to prepare properly for the trip, including focusing on my studies prior to the trip as I did not have to work as much. The grant also allowed me to have extra pocket money to do more activities during the tour.

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

Language was the most challenging thing because it meant I could not speak to the locals, they did not understand what I wanted and the barrier was an issue. However, this was resolved after our Indonesian class where we learnt some simple phrases and common things to say. This, along with Google Translate and our Indonesian student buddies, really helped when we went shopping or to the markets. Prior to the trip, I was not aware that English language comprehension is very rare in some parts of Indonesia.

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

Health literacy is an issue that I became more interested in. Abortion was one of the topics I presented and during the research, I found out that there were high rates of sexual assault and abuse and unsafe abortions, and also that sexual education and contraception is often only available for married couples. As a result, health literacy in this area is very low and many Indonesians are being unknowingly sexually assaulted and abused, and participating in risky behaviours such as unprotected sex.

This was a major shock coming from a country where sexual education is easily available and starts at a young age. Without health literacy, people will never know what they do not know. This poses as a major risk as there are diseases and conditions related to sexual health such a Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome, HIV/AIDS and cervical cancer, which can be easily prevented or treated.

Q: Which was your favourite field trip?

Visiting the Posyandu and the YAKKUM Rehabilitation Centre were my favourite field trips because you could clearly see the hard work of the staff and volunteers to try to improve healthcare in their communities. At the Rehab centre, it was refreshing to see how people handmade clothes, casts and other things to be used, yet countries like Australia rely on technology. The best part about both field trips was seeing how although the people did not have a lot of resources, they still managed to get by with the little that they had and they were very passionate about their roles.

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

The tour gave me an interest in studying a Master of Public Health and also getting involved in volunteer work or paid work overseas. There is a lot of help that can be given to many countries and being in Indonesia opened my eyes to how a little bit can go a long way.

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

I enjoyed being able to ask questions and learn from experts and stakeholders. It brought a sense of reality to the issues because people actually knew what they were discussing.

Q: What was your favourite aspect about visiting Indonesia?

Meeting the people and learning the culture were the highlights. Every single person was polite and friendly which made me feel welcome even though at times I could not understand them and vice versa. I have never met such wonderful people and it was refreshing.