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Third annual Case Competition promotes interdisciplinary problem solving and friendship

Paige Bennett | Nov 28, 2016

After many hours of preparing, researching and presenting, the winners of the 2016 Global Health Case Competition have been announced.

The competition required teams to address global health issues related to climate change in Paraguay. El Niño has caused increased rain and floods in neighborhoods, and poor infrastructure and building materials have not been able to withstand these challenges. As a result, more than 100,000 people have been displaced from their homes. The community is facing contaminated water issues and an increased risk of vector-borne diseases.

The top three teams, Chicas por el Cambio, Qhali Kay and Tranquilo attended the International Education Week's Awards for Excellence in Global Engagement on Nov. 16, where they were awarded for their hard work and success in researching solutions to these health challenges in the target country.

The competition encouraged diversity and innovation through the requirement of multidisciplinary teams. Twelve OHIO colleges were represented through the competing teams, with each team consisting of four students from at least two different colleges and four different majors or disciplines. The competition brought a wide range of knowledge and skill, as 15 graduate students and 17 undergraduate students participated.

Fithi Embaye, Ellen Haile, Brenna Innocenzi and Abyssinia Young of team Tranquilo were announced as the winners of the 2016 competition. The members exemplify the multidisciplinary nature of the competition, with Embaye studying social work in the College of Health Sciences and Professions, Innocenzi studying exercise physiology in CHSP, Haile studying political science in the College of Arts and Sciences and Young studying communication studies in the Scripps College of Communication.

The team will travel to Paraguay in May 2017 to research and evaluate the feasibility of their solution. The team presented a multifaceted health promotion plan to reduce the health risks to the community of Bañado Sur in Paraguay.

The goals of Tranquilo’s project are to reduce health risks by increasing health promotion and reducing environmental risks by repurposing trash as “bottle bricks.” The creation of “bottle bricks” out of trash requires people to fill plastic bottles with non-biodegradable trash until they are full; then, the bottles can be used as bricks for construction of houses and other buildings. Bottle bricks have the potential to fit the community of Bañado Sur well as the residents live in one of the largest trash and landfill sites in the country.

“I have enjoyed learning so much about another culture,” Innocenzi said. “I also didn’t know my teammates before the competition, and so I’ve made great friends. It’s so interesting to learn about each other and the Paraguayan culture. We spent a lot of time brainstorming, bouncing ideas off of each other…the competition is a lot of work, but a lot of fun.”

Near the end of the awards ceremony, Innocenzi hugged teammate Embaye tightly. Only months ago, this team was comprised of strangers. Now, these team members are preparing to investigate global health challenges with each other’s support and friendship.

Students interested in participating in the 2017 Global Health Case Competition can be confident in the many benefits they can gain from the experience. From the opportunity to travel to another country, to researching global health challenges and solutions, to finding new friendships and working with a diverse group of people, participants have much to gain from partaking in the Case Competition.

“It’s an incredible opportunity to not only learn about another culture, but to learn about yourself,” Innocenzi said.

The case competition is sponsored by the College of Health Sciences and Professions with support from an 1804 award and some matching funds from a number of other colleges and administered by the Ohio University Global Health Initiative.  For more information about the competition, contact the Global Health office at globalhealth@ohio.edu; 740.593.2359 or check out the event webpage.