Category Archives: Clinical care
Building on epidemiologic evidence that suggests that healthy behaviors are transmittable across social networks, Microclinic International, a nonprofit international organization based in San Francisco, leverages human relationships to address both non-infectious and infectious diseases such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS. The theory behind the Microclinic International is that if negative behaviors such as smoking, unsafe sex and overeating can be contagious, so can positive, healthy behaviors.
The organization operates through “microclinics” that consist of small groups of people who share access to education, technology and social support as they work together to prevent and manage a deadly disease. Founder Daniel Zoughbie says the organization is “built on social relationships and social capital rather than bricks and mortar.” Microclinic works with local partners through community-based workshops with trained facilitators.
NewPublicHealth spoke with Zoughbie about Microclinic’s potential to reduce incidence of disease, both in the United States and abroad.
NewPublicHealth: What gave you the idea for Microclinic?
Daniel Zoughbie: When I was a college junior at UC Berkeley I wanted to do a junior-senior year project that would involve rigorous research, but also have an immediate impact on a community in need. My grandmother passed away from diabetes many years ago and I realized that a disease like diabetes is relatively simple to prevent and manage, and yet it is a leading cause of death and disability around the world.
So, I came up with the microclinic concept and piloted it in the West Bank with scholarship funds I was awarded at Berkeley. From the initial success of that pilot project I was able to expand to Jordan and recruit colleagues who worked with me to help build the organization. And then we expanded further. Today we’re running three microclinic projects in Kenya, supported by Google and other funders, in Jordan, supported by organizations including the health ministry and Her Majesty Queen Rania Royal Health Awareness Society, and in Appalachia, Kentucky supported by funders that include the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Humana.
NPH: What is the concept behind Microclinic?
Zoughbie: One of the most significant spaces for the prevention and management of major disease epidemics is actually not the formal health care infrastructure of hospitals and clinics alone—it is the spaces of homes and businesses and places where friends and family come together and can positively influence behaviors, such as eating healthy food, walking together, engaging in physical activity and helping each other monitor health conditions. Or, these kinds of spaces can be transformed into places where diseases spread. Families can sit sedentary in front of televisions. They can eat junk food together, and choose not to check on each other in terms of health monitoring and taking medications.
As part of a new series exploring the future of public health in conversations with public health students and emerging leaders, NewPublicHealth caught up with rising senior at DePaul University, Teresa Marx, who gained valuable hands-on experience in global health through her service trip with Global Brigades.
Marx signed up to travel to Ghana with Global Brigades, the world’s largest student-led global health and sustainable development organization. Through this program, teams of students and professionals work with communities in under-resourced regions to improve the quality of life while respecting local cultures. Global Brigades programs provide students with the opportunities to work with architecture, business, dental, environmental, human rights, medical, microfinance, public health and water awareness and development during their trips. Marx returned to the United States with the conviction that the public health aspects of her experience were the most valuable and held the most potential for impact on the local communities. Marx is a communication studies major and African Black Diaspora minor at DePaul, where she also hosts and produces a weekly radio show. In addition to her service trip to Ghana, she has also served as a counselor at AmeriCorps Camp Versity, where she developed daily activities for at-risk children and adolescents that helped encourage positive self-image, conflict resolution and healthy living.
NewPublicHealth spoke with Teresa Marx about the lessons she learned during her trip to Ghana and how she can apply them back in the United States in her future work.
NewPublicHealth: What inspired your initial interest in Africa particularly and in public health overall?
Teresa Marx: I come from a really diverse family and I’ve always been really interested in learning about and immersing myself in other people’s cultures. I started minoring in African Black Studies and learning more about Africa [at DePaul University]. I wanted to actually go and experience Africa: the culture, the people and the food. It’s one thing to learn about it, but then it’s another to be immersed in it. Public health has always been an interest of mine because I love knowing that through education and awareness we can create healthier communities and a better world.
NPH: Tell us about the specific program that you were on. There was a medical and public health focus. What was it like to go straight from college to basically treating people?