The Buzz About Global Health as The Modern Day Quest Continues (Part 4)

You may remember that in Part 1 of this blog series I mentioned that during my first maternity leave I felt very disconnected from the physiotherapy profession. What I didn’t mention was that this disconnect was so strong at times I was considering all sorts of career changes. I know this was mostly driven by the desire to be able to enjoy a good amount of quality time with my daughter when I went back to work, something that didn’t seem overly feasible with my job, working two evenings per week and working on adminstrative tasks at home some (most!) evenings would make this challenging. A straight 9-5 job where I could truly leave work at my place of work sounded very appealing to me. However, knowing that I wouldn’t find the same connections, the challenges and overall job satisfaction in another line of work, I never actually did anything towards leaving the physiotherapy profession and I was able to find a reasonable compromise between work schedule and home life after my mat leave.

I bring this up because I have two months to go on my maternity leave and I’m feeling another strong desire to make some sort of change in my professional life. This time, however, it’s not at all about leaving the profession. It’s about taking things to a whole new level and it’s all down to the most recent programme I completed on Physiopedia Plus.

Have you ever felt that buzz inside you when you hear or read something that really resonates with you? Something that excites and interests you so much that you keep thinking about it for ages afterwards. Well, that was the Global Health programme on Phyisopedia Plus for me. My introduction to the concept of global health occurred when I first learned about the Global Health Division of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association. I remember feeling a similar type of buzz at the thought of travelling around the world to help other physiotherapists in some way. But by then, I had one child and going abroad for weeks or months at a time wasn’t feasible. Fast forward to the Physioplus Global Health programme and there was that buzz again, louder and prouder, as I went through the material. Not only that, but it’s been about three weeks since I completed the course and I’m still feeling the buzz.

This time I’m not thinking about going abroad so much. This programme has really shown me the breadth and depth of issues related to global health and how many of those are issues closer to home and thus something that physiotherapists can help to address closer to home too (e.g. Non-communicable diseases, physical activity levels).

As my mind dwells on this subject (often as I’m pacing the floor trying to get baby #3 to fall asleep), it’s the subject of physical activity that I keep coming back to. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a recurring theme in the course is the role physiotherapists can play with the global NCD crisis [Spoiler Alert: you’re encouraged to consider if physiotherapists are in fact the best HCPs to spearhead this issue]. And so I’m thinking back to papers I’ve read and speakers I’ve heard about Exercise is Medicine and prescribing physical activity and how we should all be getting 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week. But at the same time, I remember the gist of a Tweet I read years ago, something to the effect of stop telling me how much I need to exercise. I’ve heard it all before but it  doesn’t change the fact that I have two kids ad two jobs and I don’t have the time to exercise. The person Tweeting this certainly wouldn’t be the only one in this type of situation and I think the Tweet has stuck with me because it was an eye opener. I know that statistically patients seldom do the exercise programs exactly as we prescribe, if they do them at all, but I think a few years ago, my assumptions would have been that:

  1. They didn’t care enough to take the time to exercise and
  2. That I hadn’t done a good enough job explaining the importance of the exercise.

I probably wouldn’t have thought to dig deeper or I might have been embarrassed to ask the important but personal questions that would have led to a fuller understanding. And even if I had asked, what would I have done with the information? Would my suggestions just have sounded unrealistic or perhaps even condescending?

Two phrases really stuck out at me in the GH course. One was said by Gordon Brown in a Harvard School of Public Health Forum on Transforming Global Health:

“We’re always, rightly, trying to raise the ceiling, so we’re trying to build for the future with quality targets, targets for doing better in every area,  but we have not yet built the floor. And I think there has to be some sort of consideration as we finish this first set of Millennium Development Goals about those who’ve missed out, those who are left out, those who’ve been left behind almost entirely.”

The other was

“We discuss the world without knowing it; too much debate, too little knowledge…” – Hans Rosling 2015.

These two quotations epitomise my global health buzz. I think the ceiling will continued to be raised through technology, innovation and the private sector but building the floor needs a really concerted effort between various parties starting at the highest levels of government and that is what I’m drawn to. But I’m also keen to avoid coming into this with any sort of arrogance or wrong assumptions so right now, I’m looking at what research, policies and advocacy groups already exist and where my carpentry skills might fit into that mix.