In 2022, Community Partners International (CPI) funded scholarships for 17 members of ethnic and community-based health organizations in Myanmar (Burma) to study for a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree course at Khon Kaen University’s Faculty of Public Health in Thailand. Against the backdrop of Myanmar’s coup, rising conflict, and deteriorating health system, we hear from four of the graduates about how their studies will help them to support essential health services for vulnerable and conflict-affected communities.
The majority of the scholarship recipients are from ethnic minority communities in Myanmar’s border regions that have experienced decades of conflict and marginalization with associated impacts on their health status. Through the scholarship program, CPI is seeking to strengthen community health systems and forge networks that promote increased cooperation in health service delivery.
COVID-19 Response Coordinator
Karen Department of Health and Welfare (KDHW)
"Study opportunities like this are crucial for health workers like me."
I coordinate and support the implementation of COVID-19 project activities for the Karen Department of Health and Welfare (KDHW) in southeast Myanmar. Many of the people we support live in remote locations, and it can be challenging to reach them, especially when there is conflict. We always need a backup plan.
I applied for the scholarship to contribute more to the organization and the people we serve. I want to build my skills, knowledge and confidence.
The MPH program has been challenging and valuable. I learned many things about public health, epidemiology, mental health, occupational health, research, and statistical methods from regional and international perspectives. I also learned to see health more broadly, including social and environmental determinants and risk factors. This will help me to focus more on preventive health rather than just treating illness.
I feel more confident now to consult with health professionals in my organization and to work on public health issues. I can also support research activities and share findings to help improve the organization’s health response.
Study opportunities like this are crucial for health workers like me. Community workers need access to this type of learning to equip them with the skills and knowledge so that they can contribute more to their communities.
“My capacity to contribute is stronger than before.”
I work with vulnerable and marginalized populations to provide medical treatment for infectious diseases such as HIV, TB, and hepatitis C at the northern border of Myanmar. Since the coup, it has become twice as hard to provide services to them. Most are living in hard-to-reach areas and face many roadblocks and travel restrictions when trying to access facilities and treatment. They need to take medicine regularly but they can’t reach health services.
The opportunity to study on this MPH program came during one of the most difficult times in my life. I wanted to continue my education but my family couldn’t support me and I was struggling financially without work. I have a lot of experience in the clinical field and I wanted to complement that with public health and research expertise.
I was familiar with public health terminology from my clinical work but had never had the opportunity to study it in depth. Now I have had that opportunity and my capacity to contribute is stronger than before.
After graduating, I hope to be able to work with displaced and migrant populations on the Thailand-Myanmar border. Helping people in Myanmar is so essential right now.
I am glad that these MPH scholarships are open to community health workers, health assistants and clinicians like me. It’s essential that non-clinicians working in humanitarian and health-related organizations also have access to this kind of education.
Help the people of Myanmar:
Infectious Disease Control
Myanmar Health Assistant Association
“With this education, I can help my organization to improve health services.”
I joined this MPH program to gain advanced public health knowledge and skills and better serve my community with quality health services. With this education, I can help my organization to improve health services, public health initiatives and research, and communicate our activities to international audiences.
The MPH program helped me to learn about global public health systems and how they operate. I also learned how they implement primary health services by studying Thailand’s health system. This is crucial because, if communities can access primary health care, it will help prevent diseases and reduce the need for secondary care and hospitalization. I also studied community-based health care systems and how to build capacity at the community level. This is vital for health services to be sustainable.
This experience will help me to design and implement health programs. I can also analyze programs and make recommendations for improvement. I can apply what I have learned directly to my work.
Pharmacy Management and Quality Improvement Coordinator
Karen Department of Health and Welfare
“This kind of training is very useful because the health system in Myanmar has weakened.”
Since COVID-19 and the coup, our work has become much more difficult. Many people have been displaced by conflict. It’s more difficult for them to access health services and clean water. We see many health problems among these populations including malaria outbreaks, skin infections and injuries. We use mobile medical teams to reach them. The teams face many risks in reaching displaced populations because of the fighting.
I applied for this program because I wanted to know more about public health. I previously trained as a community health worker and a medic. The courses that I took were a good combination. They included community health promotion, health system structures, epidemiology and the role and use of data.
This kind of training is very useful because the health system in Myanmar has weakened. In rural areas, it is very hard for people to access health care. We are finding that more and more people are coming to us for health care.
Help the people of Myanmar: