The January 2013 collaborative public health field course took place in the city of Fortaleza, the capital of the state of Ceará, which is widely recognized for its innovative efforts to reduce infant and child mortality over the past fifteen years. Students participating in the course had the chance to learn from hands-on experience about these efforts, as well as about the Brazilian health care system, health polices, and endemic infectious diseases in the country.
This collaborative field course was offered by the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), the Universidade Federal do Ceará (UFC), and the Brazil Studies Program at Harvard University's David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (DRCLAS). A Scientific Organizing Committee was responsible for the planning, review, and assessment of the course, and was comprised of faculty members from HSPH, UFC, Faculdade de Ciências Médicas da Santa Casa de São Paulo, and Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade de São Paulo. Professor Marcia Castro was the HSPH leader for the course.
The five topics to be covered in the course were chosen based on assessments of the major health problems in the city of Fortaleza. The topics were HIV/AIDS, Leishmaniasis, Leprosy, Tuberculosis, and Maternal & Child Health and Nutrition.
The overall course objectives were to enhance participants’ abilities to:
Critically analyze environmental and socioeconomic factors in Brazil that are associated with a high prevalence and geographic distribution of the infectious diseases discussed in this course.
Identify population characteristics, such as nutrition status, immunity, co-morbidities, degree of exposure associated with disease epidemiology and the impact of these factors on disease morbidity and mortality.
Identify and describe selected infectious diseases that are prevalent in Brazil.
Foster lasting academic collaborations and joint research projects between HSPH and Brazilian participants, strengthening personal networks throughout Brazil and internationally.