FSU and FAMU researchers work to improve public health in Honduras

Members of the Global Health Collaboration Project during a visit to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, March 2023. (Courtesy Charles Fleischer)
Members of the Global Health Collaboration Project during a visit to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, March 2023. (Courtesy Charles Fleischer)

Researchers from Florida State University and Florida A&M University are partnering with the government of Honduras in an international, interdisciplinary project to improve health care in rural Honduran communities.

The Global Health Collaboration Project, or GHCP, is an initiative of FSU, FAMU, and the Faculty of Medicine of the National Autonomous University of Honduras. Project researchers recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Honduran Ministry of Science, Innovation and Technology, or SENACIT, to develop a collaborative health center in the country.

“Our goal is to approach public health issues in Honduras through the lens of scientific collaboration,” said Charles Fleischer, director of FSU’s Center on Global Health and GHCP co-principal investigator. “Research at the center will inform interventions to improve patient care, mitigate potential harm, and treat acute and chronic conditions in ways that are culturally aware, feasible, scalable, and sustainable.”

In addition to physicians, the GHCP includes researchers specializing in pharmacy, public health, nursing, engineering, social work, and biomedical sciences. SENACIT will share the data collected during its work to improve the availability of health data in Honduras and help the mission of the center.

Center researchers will work with local people to learn more about their culture and specific health circumstances and needs. This will provide healthcare professionals with insight into the development of interventions designed for patients. Including feedback from the populations the interventions are meant to serve respects their autonomy and makes treatment effectiveness more likely, Fleischer said.

For example, consider high blood pressure. Non-drug approaches, such as adopting diets designed to treat disease, have been shown to improve blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease and other chronic diseases. But physicians prescribing such an approach must consider what patients already eat and what food is available and affordable to them.

“Understanding the dietary practices of the population you serve is extremely important, because what you do in one area won’t always work well in another area,” Fleischer said.

In addition to helping meet the healthcare needs of patients, the center will provide a learning opportunity for students from the United States and Honduras.

“This interdisciplinary research collaboration between universities in the United States and Honduras provides professional development opportunities for students and faculty,” said Fatimah Sherbeny, assistant professor at FAMU and co-principal investigator. “It also underscores the importance of diversity, in skills, background and expertise, in establishing a holistic plan to improve patient health outcomes in underprivileged communities.”

For FSU and FAMU students, potential future opportunities with the center are an opportunity to challenge themselves and grow as researchers and healthcare professionals.

“It is a unique experience for students from all of our programs involved to interact, get along and learn from each other and from different backgrounds and environments,” said Sunny Narayanan, FSU researcher and co-principal investigator. “It provides perspective, insight and expands everyone’s understanding of health, culture and our world.”

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