MPH student committed to upstream public health and the people of Haiti

Aslan-Noakes-headerAslan Noakes, CPHHS Nutrition alumna, OSU Student Health Services nurse and current international health student, shares her passions, discovery and work to improve public health in Haiti:


StatisticsAslan Noakes to visit Haiti for the seventh timeMPH student Aslan Noakes is on a mission to raise money to support a public health program she’s working on in Haiti by selling handcrafted goods from Haitian locals.

Take a piece of Haiti home with you this year by purchasing paper bead bracelets or hand-hammered steel ornaments. Each comes with a personal message from the Haitian designer/crafter and is only $10 for one or $25 for three.

“The organization I purchase these from – apparentproject.org – helps keep families together by providing an economic opportunity instead of creating yet another orphanage in Haiti,” Aslan says. “Haiti has more than 200,000 orphans, 80 percent of whom have at least one living parent who simply can’t afford to take care of them. That breaks my heart into a million pieces.”

Those interested in buying Haitian gifts can contact Aslan directly – before she leaves town for Haiti on Friday, Dec. 12 – at aslannoakes@gmail.com.

“The January 2010 earthquake in Haiti occurred during my last year of nursing school, and I ended up going with a medical group about six weeks later to provide primary care for those living in rural areas with little to no access to regular medical care.

We ended up seeing a lot of patients who had been living in Port-au-Prince, but who were now internally displaced, living in tent camps far away from the masses in the capitol.

Many of the people who came to the ambulatory clinics we held presented with chronic health issues that were impossible to ‘fix’ in one visit with the limited supplies and testing equipment we had.

By dispensing a month’s worth of blood pressure meds or pain relievers, we were simply putting a bandage over a gaping wound. We were pulling people who were drowning out of a raging river, but ignoring the fact that we were sending them on their way over a broken bridge, so of course more groups would have to come to pull them out again and again.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a huge need for health care access to those already sick, but you can’t only do that and ignore the repairs that need to be made to the bridge.

Aslan-Noakes-Synergies-1My frustrations with this very downstream medical approach led me to explore the international public health program at Oregon State.

I started this program with the intention of looking at people and organizations that had good intentions, but who ended up causing more harm than good, so as to learn from those mistakes. After all, the first rule of medicine is to first do no harm; however, doing less harm is not enough.

I’m now seeking out ways to better partner with communities in Haiti to empower them and to have their voices heard in all aspects of the problem-solving process –from hearing in small neighborhood meetings what their concerns are, Aslan-Noakes-Synergies-2letting them vote to prioritize how they’d like to tackle the problems and then brainstorming with them on how they would like to tackle these issues from the highest priority down.

Some of the projects that were born through these evaluations require funding, but I don’t have $1 million to write a check, so we’re getting creative.

We’re tapping into all of the community’s resources, skills and ideas. I bring back locally made and grown goods to sell here as a more sustainable way to support these projects instead of simply asking for donations.”

Check back in with Synergies to find out more about Aslan and her most recent trip to Haiti – scheduled for Friday, Dec. 12, 2014.

  • Yuritzy

    Good job Aslan keep the hard work… so happy to have you in my class

  • Jafra D. Thomas

    Absolutely incredible. What struck me most, making me say, hmmm, was the interest to sell grown and manufactured local goods rather than simply asking for donations. I think this route to fundraising has a sustainability component, becoming a more robust source of economic freedom for the local region within which you are serving, Aslan. Are the goods also sold through online markets? Further, I commend you for not being content with immediate care, though important, but rather looking to see how you could become part of efforts set at making a more lasting impact.

    -Jafra D. Thomas
    Ph.D. Student, EXSS