Fairfield University nursing professor says Ebola is global society's concern

Image: J PlanasAfter another Ebola-stricken patient returned to the United States for treatment, the world remains captivated by the Americans who became ill with the deadly virus while working in Africa as medical missionaries. Many have had difficulty comprehending why any individual would willingly make a choice to work in a place where they could be potentially exposed to horrific viruses. To Jessica Alicea-Planas Ph.D., MS/MPH, RN, CHES, assistant professor at Fairfield University's School of Nursing, infectious diseases like Ebola are everyone's concern in a global society. As for bringing ill Americans home, it speaks to the U.S. having both the research and economic capacity to take a leadership role in this epidemic, said Dr. Planas, who focuses on the care of vulnerable populations and global nursing.   

Dr. Planas further said of the Ebola outbreak: "While many of us may live thousands of miles away from infectious diseases like Ebola, SARS, Cholera, Dengue and Chikungunya - it does not mean that we are immune to their wrath. Infectious diseases are oblivious to political borders and with the ease of international travel in our global society, the health of every human being is relevant to each of us. Health is the foundation for civil society and for political and economic stability. Despite the tremendous advances in medicine that have been made in the last few decades, many countries are still struggling with the basic necessities of clean water, sanitation, and access to a basic level of healthcare.  Many developing countries are also seeing a rise in chronic diseases (while they are still battling infectious diseases), which puts an added strain on already over stressed and weak healthcare infrastructures."

"It is through efforts of many government and non-governmental agencies and humanitarian aid workers (like those that contracted Ebola) that we have been able to see some global progress," Dr. Planas continued. "Fewer children are dying, more women get help during childbirth, Tuberculosis treatment is more successful and more people have safe drinking water, to name a few. The U.S. has the research and economic capacity to take a leadership role in the efforts being made to improve global health - with nursing capable of being at the forefront of having a positive impact on the lives of billions worldwide. Whether it is working delivering direct patient care, training the healthcare providers in other countries or engaging with communities through various public health efforts, nurses recognize that the cost of continued inaction will be great. Global health requires that the world's citizens collaborate to improve healthcare services in all places, rich or poor."

Dr. Planas has worked as a community health nurse in underserved areas for the last 15 years. Her primary area of interest encompasses Latino health disparities and the care of vulnerable populations with a focus on chronic disease management, health literacy and health education. She has done multiple research projects in Nicaragua (related to migrant health in northern Nicaragua and various public health campaigns in an urban community in Managua) and has public health experience in Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on September 15, 2014

Vol. 47, No. 50

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