Winnie Jean, fellow KILN Scholar, and I attended The Global Health and Innovation Conference, which took place during April 21- April 22 at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. The conference focused on global health concerns and how to address them in new, practical and innovative ways. There were about 2,200 people in attendance at the conference ranging from students in high school to college, from medical students to doctors and other professionals striving for global change.

Winnie and I participated in a variety of sessions regarding different areas of global health, including topics such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, child birth and innovative ways to help developing nations to truly benefit them. One session I found particularly interesting was watching a documentary that looked at developing areas of Kenya and the American influence on the country. This film illustrated the difference in American and Kenyan perspectives regarding the influence of American industries in Kenya. I was surprised to see how the Americans were so oblivious to the Kenyans actual needs and how little they did to actually understand them. The Americans assumed they were doing the best for the community, but never asked how the Kenyans felt. They were replacing the farms with livestock and other crops, which had been managed by Kenyan families for generations, with rice farms. I realized from this part of the section that before giving any aid, one needs to understand the actual needs of the community to ensure that the community is truly benefitting. Before trying to initiate a plan of action, one needs to look at the basis of the problem and get input from the community, because no one knows the problems of a community better than the community members themselves. Also, locals need to feel they have contributed to the success in their community. There are many innovative leaders who do not seek feedback from the rest of the population when designing their projects to aid developing communities, which can create a gap between the actual needs and the assumed needs.

One must take a holistic approach looking at the community and its needs as a whole. This does not just apply to global health, but to health in general. A patient cannot be looked at as the carrier of a disease, but needs to be looked at as an individual person; in the same way a community cannot be looked at for only its problems, but for the other qualities that make a community unique. This is something I took away from this conference and can apply to my nursing career no matter where I work or who I serve. One cannot focus solely on the problems of communities and people. Individuals and communities possess a uniting factor that gives them the strength to persevere and advocate for themselves. To me, having the ability to look at the negative aspects without losing sight of the positive ones can help to make a difference in people’s lives.