How time flies when one’s having a good time! In addition to my regular classes and meetings, I’ve had interesting classes last weekend and today. Last weekend I taught part-time MPH students. These are students who have full-time jobs during the week, but have committed themselves to taking the AU Master of Public Health course every other weekend. This requires about 14 hours of classroom time every other weekend for two years, so it’s not a small commitment. About half of the class comes from Harare or other cities that are four hours away from AU. All of them already have a bachelor’s degree, and most are working in a health or health-related field now.
They are taking the Noncommunicable Disease module now, which is what I teach. This includes most of the diseases like diabetes and heart-related diseases that are so common in the West, but that are now striking Africa almost as hard, particularly in the urban areas. The most effective way to treat and/or prevent most of these diseases (as opposed to simply trying to keep them under control) is by making healthy changes in one’s lifestyle. WHO and the Centers for Disease Control in the USA agree on this, but note that the public seriously underrates lifestyle impact on health. It’s interesting to see my students’ skepticism about the impact of lifestyle on health gradually change as they take my classes. By the time they’ve heard and seen what cutting-edge science has to say and show about the impact of lifestyle, they’re ready to make serious change in their own lives, and then to share this message with others.
Today I was a student, along with about twenty others, in a Mental Health First Aid Workshop held on campus. It was taught by Dr. Machinga, a lady psychologist who got her PhD in the USA. I was interested in it because mental health challenges like depression, anxiety, addiction behaviors, and other disorders are a problem here, as they are almost everywhere, and I wanted to learn more about ways to help students and others cope with these very common problems. Dr. Machinga proved to be an excellent teacher and workshop leader, as I had heard. We’ll all be better equipped in this area when we complete this class two weekends from now.
It was almost 3 PM when we finished today’s class, and I wanted to get some hiking in for my own mental health. It was a beautiful afternoon as I hiked to a small village not too far from campus. The picture below shows village cornfields nestled in a valley between mountain ranges. I stopped in the village and bought a mess of pumpkin greens that they picked fresh off the vines for me. The greens will be great with my brown rice and butternut squash tonight!