Fulbright U.S. Student Program

2011 Tanzania Fulbrighter

Powell Perng

There’s a small and dingy shoe-repair stand near my apartment in Dar es Salaam. Written prominently across the wooden booth in big, blue, spray-painted letters is the phrase: “Education is better than money. I had always assumed that money was the most important asset to reducing disease prevalence in any population. Without money, there are no drugs, no healthcare workers, and no medical facilities to treat the ill. During my time in Tanzania this year, however, I discovered that education can often be just as important—if not more important—than financial assets when fighting disease on a population scale.

My research focuses on social and ecological barriers to cervical cancer health interventions in Tanzania’s rural communities and in my profile photoI am working with a mother of two and am discussing the importance of cervical cancer screening. During my interviews with women about the acceptability of cervical cancer screening services, I quickly learned that health education plays a vital role in laying the groundwork for modern health interventions: informing the community about disease symptoms and outcomes; emphasizing the importance of seeking preventive care; and highlighting viable treatment options are essential to the uptake of screening and treatment. Furthermore, education provides a venue through which the women build trust in the technology and accrue faith in its efficacy. Without recognition of the disease at hand, and without trust and faith in modern interventions, the most accurate screening tests and the most potent therapeutic agents would be of little use in the fight against cancer in these rural communities.

This year, as I strive to better understand how best to weave cervical cancer prevention services into the social fabric of rural communities, I bear in mind the simple adage that education can often be our most valuable asset.

 

Fulbright Fellowship
Tanzania, 2011-2012

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Current U.S. Student

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