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Introducing Zulfiya Chariyeva, Intern at IntraHealth

Zulfiya Chariyeva recently joined IntraHealth International as an intern. Last week Zulfiya and I discussed what brought her to IntraHealth and the global health field.

Q: Zulfiya, Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
A: I’m originally from Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. I studied Economics and Sociology at St. Petersburg State University in St. Petersburg, Russia. I received my MA in Economics from the Institute of Management, Economics, and Strategic Research in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and my MPH from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I’m currently working toward a PhD in Health Behavior and Health Education at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Q: When did you first hear about public health?
A: When I was in Turkmenistan  I worked for ZdravPlus (note: a USAID-funded project led by Abt) for two years as a “health marketing specialist”. My goal was to promote health to mothers of children who had diarrhea and acute respiratory conditions. Women in these rural areas didn’t have a lot of training in how to take care of their kids’ medical needs.

After women in the program became more educated about the medical needs of their children, I felt like I had been a positive influence for those women. That was great, but I wondered what happened when the program ended. It wasn’t a cheap program. If you train nurses, they can do public health training. But you also need to do community level work. There was no community involvement, so the program was lacking sustainability.

Q: What made you decide to pursue public health as a career?
A: My mother lost a child due to a respiratory infection because she did not realize that he needed medical attention at the moment. There’s a lack of knowledge and misinformation about child care, hygiene, and nutrition in Turkmenistan. I like this field because it offers and implements simple actions that have a huge impact on population health: vaccination, seat belt use, clean water, and anti-smoking laws. Public health is also about human rights—everyone has a right to be healthy.

Q: Are there any people in your life who have been influential in guiding you toward this field?
A: My supervisor in ZdravPlus, Alanna Shaikh, was very influential in making me want to study Public Helath. [Note: you can follow Ms. Shaikh’s twitter feed here.]

Q: What made you decide to intern with IntraHealth?
A: I’m interning with IntraHealth because IntraHealth’s activities bring change at the structural level. Public health interventions should not be restricted to the interventions aimed at individuals, but need  to also address issues of access to health care. From my experience of living and working in Turkmenistan, I know about the importance of training health care workers and keeping their knowledge up to date. Too many organizations focus on individual behavior change. There’s not enough focus on systems and access to health care.  

Also, I wanted to do more M&E work; it’s an area I want to improve in. I’m currently working on the cost effectiveness analysis which is within the M&E department. I’ll be discussing it with Leigh Shamblin and Laura Gibney. I’m looking forward to learning more about conducting cost-effectiveness analysis.

I’ve worked for government organizations, but I’ve never worked for an NGO (non-governmental organization). So much work internationally, especially in the HIV prevention area, is being done by  NGOs, so I’m looking forward to seeing the structure of the organization and learning how they work.

Finally, the internship program at IntraHealth looked well structured. I want to participate in order to learn about the organization of internships in the future.

Q: Speaking of the future, where do you see yourself in five years? Do you see global health as a part of your life?
A: I see myself designing, implementing, and evaluating wide scale public health programs internationally.