CSU Long Beach -- October 31, 2003
Students from Cal State Long Beach Take Trip to Brazil for Health Care
Gina Piane won’t take no for an answer.
The associate professor of health science at California State University,
Long Beach was told she could not take her students to Kenya in 2003
to study Third World health care because a State Department travel warning
deemed the terrorist threat too great.
All right then, make it Brazil.
In four days, Piane organized a two-week trip to the enormous South
American nation that took 10 CSULB students from Sao Paolo, the third-largest
city on earth, to the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, home to many of Brazil’s
most dangerous drug lords.
“This was my first trip to Brazil,” Piane said. With the
help of a former colleague from Northern Illinois University where she
worked for 12 years, she got her own answers to some of the top issues
in health care in the developing nations.
“We toured Sao Paolo first and were just overwhelmed by the sheer
urban weight,” she recalled. “We left for Rio after only
a few days and we were treated very well.” The students and she
visited health care institutes that gave their reasons why Brazil broke
the AZT patent to fight AIDS, as well as trips to hospitals and a health
education site for Brazilian children.
One of the trip’s peak experiences was a tour of several Rio favelas.
“It reminded me of growing up on the West side of Chicago because
that’s where the drug lords live and therefore were some of the
safest neighborhoods in town,” she explained.
The students and she walked through shantytowns where electricity is
filched in knots of wiring and communities of squatters build houses
on top of each other.
“We saw non-governmental agencies that provided free day care
and after school care for favela children,” she noted. “We
were impressed by how hard these agencies worked to help the children
finish their educations.” Next stop was Porto Allegra where military
hospitals explained the influence of the US DARE program and how it
helped law enforcement educate Brazilians about health care.
She came away from the visit impressed by what she saw as the compassion
of Brazilian health care. “They are not just concerned about the
bottom line. Just look at the AZT patent breakthrough. They would not
stand around while Brazilians died,” she said. “And I was
pleased by the quality of dental care. Forty years ago, the Brazilians
were known as the people without teeth. Now, with more dentists per
capita than we have in the United States, that is changing.”
Piane is anxious to return to Brazil. “I’d like to see the
flip side of the country and travel the Amazon,” she said. But
her wanderlust will not be slaked by a second glimpse of Rio. “I
want to visit Kenya because I feel I owe an educational tour there to
the Kenyans who expected me this year,” she said. “I also
want to visit Yemen to train Yemenis in traditional birth attendance.”
Piane received her B.A., M.P.H. and Dr.P.H. from the University of Illinois
in Chicago, earning a doctorate in public health with an emphasis in
health education and chronic disease. She is an expert in international
health, health promotion, the treatment of drug addiction, patterns
of drug use and epidemiology.
Media Contacts: Rick Gloady, 562/985-5454; Shayne Schroeder, 562/985-1727