Since 2015, we have been delighted, with the kind support of Fiona Deane with money left to her by a family legacy, to have offered the Forward Bound scholarship to MSc Health Promotion applicants from low or lower-middle income countries. This award is intended to support health and other professionals who are employed or who volunteer in roles where they will be able to influence and shape health promotion practice and policy on their return. Due to this generous donation, we have been able to offer tuition fees, accommodation, travel and a living subsistence each year to successful candidates. There have been six scholars so far, the second scholar, Anastasiia Bondarenko, graduated in 2017.
We asked Anastasiia to reflect on her experience, almost four years on.
“During my studies, I was given a wonderful opportunity to conduct research based on the existing project in Ukraine. After the research paper was evaluated, I shared the recommendations with the project team, and we had a follow-up meeting to discuss the results. They found it inspiring and although it was not possible to implement these recommendations into the existing programme, the research findings were used to update the organisational policies on youth programme development.
After my studies, I was lucky to get engaged remotely with projects in the Nordics that represent a unique socio-political model even within the EU. Using my passion for data and research skills developed during the studies, I maintained regular data collection and analysis to inform the development of fundraising and awareness-raising campaigns for three Finnish charities, that address public health issues (cancer, child rheumatism, mental health). I utilised my knowledge of the communication platforms and practical understanding of driving cause support and engagement using social media and other online tools.
In 2020 when COVID-19 hit Ukraine, the public health system wasn’t prepared for the pandemic. Together with other public health professionals I joined a gap-bridging initiative assisting Ukrainian healthcare workers combatting the virus. When a leading Ukrainian online media outlet launched an information support project for health professionals, I volunteered to be one of the regular contributors. I have created content for med.bit.ua, searching for relevant information, verifying sources, translating protocols and guidelines, most up-to-date research papers, interviews with leading practitioners from the UK, the USA and China into the Ukrainian language to give medical workers (often not speaking languages) and lacking access to best international practices in the fight against COVID-19. Although there was a medical expert team to review materials prepared by me and other contributors before published, the responsibility was high. Thanks to my experience at the University of Brighton, I had enough self-confidence to undertake such a project, where there is no room for error.
I was already deeply involved with the project above when I have realised that I am following a similar approach I have practised during my course on project management at Uni. I have conducted similar research collecting public health data from different countries, comparing them, searching for evidence, and missing pieces. In that moment, I felt extremely grateful to my alma mater for arming me with such great practical experience that I could apply. It was something known to me that gave me the confidence to deal with the unknown.“
“Having a diploma of a recognised British university made me more confident. I succeeded in a different country, in a dramatically different-from-home educational system, in my third language and studying the subject that is very different from my first degree in Ukraine. I have overcome my fear of public speaking. I still prepare well before performing in front of an audience, but I learned to not be afraid, to be myself and to focus on my strengths rather than the challenging bits. Besides growing more my “I can” attitude, my studies, as well as my experience living in the UK, made me way more open than I was before. Understanding better the complexity of the public health system there was an eye-opener. So was the experience of meeting people, making friends, learning about their everyday life – gave my studies a crucial contextual add-on. I have learned that any policy, any mechanism exists in a given context. That is why certain change processes are so difficult if you try to implement them in a different context. Probably I have never seen it so clearly before my year in Brighton and at Uni.“
ACHIEVEMENTS AND WHAT’S NEXT
“Although during the last couple of years, my activities were limited due to maternity leave and pandemic restrictions, I was focused on remote work and online learning. I got a Good Clinical Practice certificate, completed a course of MySQL and dipped my toes in using serious statistical software – all this is practical for continuing working with big data and research. I recently completed the digital marketing course to improve my SMM skills.
The long-term vision for my further career in a field of public health policy development remains unchanged, despite the fact that during these turbulent times in Ukraine, the promising and long-awaited healthcare reform was halted and reversed. I keep in close touch with my fellow colleagues and health professionals, promoting critical thinking and active citizenship and looking forward to new opportunities to improve the public health system in Ukraine.”