Megan McClelland, endowed director of the Hallie E. Ford Center for Healthy Children and Families (HFC), along with the other HFC scholars, studies positive development for children and families.
But their work doesn’t end once a paper has been published. They actively share their findings across Oregon and the world — and now, in Lebanon.
Discovering international partnerships
Megan joined CPHHS Dean Javier Nieto for a six-day visit to the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) at the American University of Beirut (AUB). The purpose of their visit was to explore an international collaboration between the College of Public Health and Human Sciences and AUB to promote the health and well-being of Syrian war refugees, particularly children.
The conversation began in 2016 when Dean Nieto visited AUB as he was starting his job at Oregon State. It continued in the fall of 2017 when AUB professor and chair of epidemiology, Monique Chaaya, PhD, spent a mini-sabbatical at CPHHS exploring possible collaborative efforts with college faculty. The dean of FHS-AUB, Dr. Iman Nuwayhid, also recently visited CPHHS to continue these conversations.
During their time in Lebanon, Megan and Dean Nieto also visited a Beqaa Valley refugee settlement where Medical Teams International (MTI), a Portland-based international relief agency, supports health promotion and disease prevention efforts.
“One of the main reasons for the trip was to connect with faculty who might have similar research interests and see what MTI’s needs are on the ground,” Megan says. “We found a number of common interests that we could move forward on concretely and quickly.”
Translating research to refugee camps
Visiting the Syrian refugee camp was a haunting and powerful experience, Megan says. At the same time, she was inspired by refugees’ resilience and by the opportunity to help improve their lives.
“We have a great opportunity to take our research and help children around the world,” Megan says. “The research we do at the HFC to improve children’s development can be applied to help children in refugee camps.”
Megan says child and youth mental health and well-being took center stage during their visit and ensuing discussions. “We talked about how we could promote children and family health, and how to help them better deal with trauma and build resiliency,” she says.
The partnership is in the early stages, but Megan says there is a real opportunity for CPHHS faculty to connect with AUB faculty who are addressing similar topics in Lebanon — doing work that impacts families dealing with war and major trauma.
“It was an exciting and powerful trip,” Megan says. “I thought, ‘Wow we could really do something to improve children’s lives.’”
This opportunity also builds on ongoing collaborative efforts of CPHHS faculty in the Middle East, including Professor Chenhuei Chi’s and Dean Nieto’s work with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) that assists Palestinian refugees in the Palestinian Occupied Territories, Lebanon and Jordan. “These efforts are part of our global health strategic initiatives focusing on the pressing needs of refugees and people displaced by war in the Middle East and other areas of the world,” Dean Nieto says.
Watch Iman Nuwayhid’s, MD, DrPH, presentation “Health in the Arab World: The Social, the Political and Identity,” given to the Oregon State community.