Anisha Prabhu presents poster at Fulbright reception

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“Although historically taboo, public expression of sexuality is slowly becoming accepted,” reads the abstract from a poster presentation by Anisha Prabhu, an MPH candidate at the USF College of Public Health.

At first glance, sociology might seem a more fitting field for such a study, but the public health angle becomes more apparent with a little bit of elaboration.

“Public Health is an important part of everyday life. It’s about social justice and equity, whether it’s in your back yard in Tampa or in the villages of Africa,” Prabhu said.

A Fulbright Scholar originally from Maputo, Mozambique, Prabhu presented the poster at the Fulbright Mid-Florida Chapter Reception Sept. 12. It was culled from a research project that she and fellow students from the Global Health II spring class first presented at the Florida Public Health Association annual conference in Orlando July 30-Aug. 1. The course required students to create a community-based public health needs assessment.

“We chose to look at the occupational health and safety risks of exotic dancing,” Prabhu said. “Women’s health is an important part of public health, and ensuring that the environment in which women work is safe is part of it. Since Tampa is considered ‘the strip-club capital,’ we wanted to explore the work environment and determine what health risks may be associated with this often taboo and stigmatized profession.”

The multi-method study gathered responses via an electronic questionnaire submitted to current and former exotic dancers, of whom 16 completed the survey. The responses indicated a public health need that had been overlooked, Prabhu said. She and six MPH student colleagues thought it deserved some attention, and the poster and presentations followed.

A microbiologist and immunologist by profession, Prabhu earned an undergraduate degree in honors biomedical sciences at the University of Adelaide, Australia. She is a professed advocate of women’s health and gender equality. She was a Fulbright Scholar before beginning her graduate studies, a recognition that helped her land at COPH.

“The USF COPH was suggested to me by the Fulbright advisors as one of the accredited schools whose program best fit my areas of interest,” she said. “I was also very impressed by the number of faculty who have projects and collaborations with universities and research centers internationally.

“I love that COPH offers its students opportunities to work with such accomplished researchers and faculty members and to develop their interests further through international travel opportunities (such as my trip to Panama with the Women’s Health course over the summer).

“My time here so far has been very eye-opening,” she said. “I’ve had the opportunity to expand my interests, as well to learn the skills and tools that I will need when I return to my home country. I’ve been very lucky to meet and work with inspiring and motivated individuals.”

Story by David Brothers, USF College of Public Health.

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