It’s a pretty unique opportunity to spend summer break at the leading organization for global health matters but Neha Upadhyay, a Masters of Public Health Student in the Department of Epidemiology, is one of 530 students from a pool of 10,000 applicants who received this honor. Upadhyay packed her bags and flew to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland where she explored two of her research passions – non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and addressing capacity in low-and-middle-income countries. Low-and-middle-income countries are disproportionately affected by NCDs, which include cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease and diabetes. NCDs are the cause of 35,000 deaths annually worldwide; 28,000 of these deaths occur in low-and-middle-income countries.
The primary causes for NCDs are familiar and tied to behavioral risk factors such as tobacco use, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, and alcohol abuse. While at the WHO’s Department of Chronic Diseases and Health Promotion, Upadhyay compiled and analyzed data to evaluate the quality of health programs. She also drafted technical papers on capacity-building for low-and-middle-income countries around NCDs.
Through her work at the WHO, Upadhyay concluded that addressing the social determinants of health, implementing chronic disease surveillance, and promoting health in policies are critical strategies that could help developing countries mitigate the growing problem of NCDs.