In this student story in public health, I will share interesting educational opportunities that I had in the previous month, including a congress and an internship.
Between July 10 and 12, 2021, the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI) was responsible do organize the “EAACI Hybrid Congress 2021”.This year, the congress was focused on “Harmonizing Research and Patient care in Allergy Asthma and Clinical Immunology “. As we continue to face the covid-19 pandemic, the congress format was flexible, in which there was simultaneously a physical part, held in Krakow, in Poland, and a digital part, which ensured the participation of audiences from anywhere in the world. From the digital point of view, it was possible to see and participate in real-time and interactively, through chats and quizzes created for the placement of questions and answers. I believe that EAACI was a pioneer in establishing this hybrid format that showed be a huge success. Moreover, all the speakers were asked to allow their presentations to be placed in the EAACI platform so the members and participants can have access after the congress. In the future, it would be interesting if the international congresses included these two possibilities so that more students and other participants could have access to the contents covered there in a non-presential manner.
This congress is extremely relevant in the field of Immunoalergology. This year the scientific program included “new frontiers in asthma, challenges in allergen immunotherapy, novelties in allergy prevention, use of biologicals in allergy, precision medicine in drug hypersensitivity and food allergy, environmental health, pro-con sessions and interactive discussions” . For me, as a PhD student in Public Health with an interest in nutrition and allergic diseases, it is an excellent opportunity to learn from the best professionals in this field. In addition, we have the opportunity to know the works of other research groups and there are sessions about the most recent topics, which stimulate our creativity and interest in research on new areas. On the other hand, it is also an opportunity for students and young researchers to present the work they have developed over the past months. This year I presented the work “The influence of eating at home on dietary diversity and airway inflammation in school-aged children” in poster format. Once it has been accepted for publication, you will be able to read the full article in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health .
Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to do an internship at a Family Health Unit in Tâmega, a sub-region in the North of Portugal. Among the internship possibilities, my first option was this Unit, since in this area there is a deficit regarding education and training compared to the rest of the country, including the North region , namely the city of Porto where I live. I believe that contacting a reality so different, so close, and at the same time so far from mine (45 minutes away by car), will impact my perspective as a PhD student in public health, especially with regard to demographic, social and economic determinants of individuals.
In this observational internship, I had the supervision of a physician specializing in general and family medicine, who, before the beginning of the appointment, shared the background of the patients, including age, gender, place of residence, professional activity, pathologies, usual medication, recent medical exams, as well as the anamnesis of the previous appointment. It was possible to notice that the vast majority of patients had economic difficulties, requiring subsidized transport to have access to health care. In addition, one of the major concerns of the physician was related to the price of prescribed drugs that could jeopardize adherence to treatment.
Na aspect that caught my attention was diet and nutrition being shared between the physicians and nurses. Since many of the appointments were directed towards diabetes mellitus and arterial hypertension, there is primordial teaching performed by nurses through the distribution of pamphlets with dietary advice, followed by the collection of information about eating habits by the physician. Although this multidisciplinary team took into account the role that diet plays in the development, treatment, and progression of diseases, this issue was often neglected by patients. Specifically, patients reported that the work they performed (many of them in agriculture) required a diet richer in carbohydrates so that can get the required energy or that they were unable to change their eating habits at their age (specifically elderly). In fact, patients frequently have the idea that changes in diet do not bring advantages that justify the effort to modify it. In addition, the appointment is quite long and it is not always possible for the physician to explore more deeply important changes in eating habits. In this context, I believe that it would be an asset to integrate more nutritionists into the national health system so that these patients can be referred to Nutrition appointments in order to have a more personalized and targeted follow-up with professionals who have specific knowledge of this area. Lastly, the need to promote food and nutrition education at an early age became evident, and if possible during pregnancy, which is a period where there is a window of opportunity and susceptibility, in order to ensure not only treatment and delay in the progression of diseases but also to promote health promotion and prevent diseases development.
Both experiences allowed me to enrich my knowledge in the area of public health and stimulated my critical spirit, especially in terms of the determinants of health and illness, such as poverty, working conditions, and eating habits that can affect the state of health and disease, as well as factors (ie, food, environmental, physical activity, obesity) that should be considered in the study of allergic diseases. In my opinion, students should seek and accept every opportunity that comes their way to learn and become better professionals. The contact with different realities and the constant updating of our knowledge with experts in different areas is essential for us to carry out research of high quality in the area of public health and with a direct impact on improving the life and health of individuals and communities.
- 10-12 July 2021 EAACI Hybrid Congress 2021. Available: https://www.eaaci.org/eaaci-congresses/eaaci-2021
- de Castro-Mendes, F.; Cunha, P.; Paciência, I.; Cavaleiro Rufo, J.; Farraia, M.; Silva, D.; Padrão, P.; Delgado, L.; Moreira, A.; Moreira, P. The Influence of Eating at Home on Dietary Diversity and Airway Inflammation in Portuguese School-Aged Children. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health2021, 18, 2646. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18052646
- de Castro, A.; Rodrigues, V.; Vilaverde, A.; Gonçalves F.; Marques da Silva, J.; Silva, JM.; Sopas, L.; Sottomayor, M.; Costa, S. Plano Estratégico de Desenvolvimento Intermunicipal. Tâmega e Sousa Comunidade Intermunicipal. Relatório Final. Dezembro 2014.