You are here: Home / Research / Travel Blog / 7/15/13 - "A Trip Through Kenya with Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship (HESE)" by Daniel Pustay

7/15/13 - "A Trip Through Kenya with Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship (HESE)" by Daniel Pustay

A Trip Through Kenya with HESE

by Daniel Pustay

Daniel Pustay received an ARC research grant in Fall 2012 for his project entitled "Understanding the Distribution of Public Health Funds to Treat Chronic Diseases in Kenya".

A view of the city from the top of the Nairobi Conference Center

A view of the city from the top of the Nairobi Conference Center

The Kamoko Dispensary, where students conducted a Community Health Worker Training

The Kamoko Dispensary, where students conducted a Community Health Worker Training

“Hakuna Matata” is not only a slogan to a popular Disney film, but a commonly used phrase in Kenya meaning “no problems.” Through my travels in East Africa, the phrase was used daily. It is common to hear when packing into a matatu, waiting for a meeting to commence, bargaining for produce, or at the conclusion of an interview. My two months in East Africa were testament to the welcoming nature of people, and laid back business mentality enjoyed in Kenya’s rural communities.

For two months, I researched noncommunicable disease programs in Kenya with the assistance of funding from the Africana Research Center. During my trip, I was also able to assist other studies conducted through the Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship (HESE) Program. Some students on the trip provided training to Community Health Workers at five local dispensaries, which I utilized as a chance to talk with the officials who managed the clinic. For my own project, I was also able to interview the District Minister of Health, gain valuable insight into the healthcare system, and validate my project with input from health officials. I learned about the threat of noncommunicable diseases to the area, organizations currently fighting the epidemic, and challenges to effectively preventing and treating various noncommunicable diseases. Additionally, I was exposed other students’ projects, most importantly the challenges to accurate data collection in Kenya, which enhanced my own research.

My time before leaving on the trip was spent scouring reports from the Kenyan Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization, and various scientific journals to gather background into the epidemiological and financial basis of noncommunicable disease prevention and treatment. This initial research proved extremely beneficial in many meetings and discussions with officials. My interviews gave me a new perspective from officials suffering the consequences of the situation which I had been studying. Their input gave a new dimension to my study, and verified much of what I had suspected about the funding and treatment difficulties which are rampant when confronting noncommunicable diseases.

Luckily, not all my time in East Africa was spent working. The free time interspersed between meetings and appointments gave me further exposure to the Kenyan and Tanzanian cultures, including their similarities and differences to America and between each other. Tanzania subscribes to the “Pole Pole” lifestyle. Pole Pole means “slowly” in Swahili, and accurately describes the laid back nature of businesses and people throughout the country. When we returned to Kenya, life picked up again, and we were able to complete a few meetings for the healthcare system we were working on (Mashavu Networked Health Solutions) , in conjunction with my research activities.

All my time and effort from two months in East Africa, along with the financial assistance from the ARC have made my research plans a reality. From the data I have accumulated over the last 6 months I have a foundation to continue drafting my manuscript for publication. Furthermore, my travels have granted me a deeper understanding of the culture and people of Kenya.