A new story that caught my eye recently was one from the New York Times about a Fentanyl dispensary in Vancouver. I work on a public health project called Overdose Data to Action, and through this project I have learned a lot about harm reduction strategies. These are initiatives that are actually proven to reduce overdose deaths and the spread of many blood born pathogens by making it safer to use opioids. For example, there are needle exchange programs where drug users can bring in used needles in exchange for clean ones. I have also read about facilities in New York where people can essentially go in and use drugs, but they are monitored by health professionals and this prevents them from overdosing in the street. These types of projects are important for deceasing the harm created by the opioid epidemic, but many people think they are enabling drug use. It is hard to imagine something like this happening in Florida in the political climate that we are in now, and through my work I have learned about the challenges that many Florida counties face just to pass very simple hard reduction projects. Thus, while I am familiar with harm reduction, this article from the New York Times completely surprised me since Fentanyl is extremely dangerous even in the smallest of quantities. The clinics mentioned in the article provide a safer version of the drug compared to the Fentanyl that is typically found in the streets. The opioid epidemic is not something you can just completely stop in one move, but harm reduction projects save lives and decrease the strain that is put on paramedics and emergency rooms. I think the reason why stories like this do not get a lot of coverage is because people don’t understand harm reduction and it is very controversial; however, the more we share it, the more people will understand and our society will be better off from it.
Here is the link to the article in case anyone is interested: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/26/health/fentanyl-vancouver-drugs.html?searchResultPosition=1
For my capstone, the community that I have been interacting with is from Cusco, Peru. I spent 5 weeks volunteering at a shelter for young mothers in Cusco called Casa Mantay. During this time, I researched access to healthcare in Peru, specifically for underserved populations. I have lots of personal observations, and I also conducted several interviews and did a lot of background research for this project. So far, I have found that while access to healthcare in Peru has greatly improved over the last 40 years, there are still many challenges that a lot of people face due to a deeply fragmented and unequally distributed health system. Doing a lot of this research once I got home allowed me to put a lot of my observations in perspective and it helped me develop a new understanding of the community.