Belize, located on the eastern coast of Central America, has provided USF College of Public Health students hands-on learning and research opportunities since the late 90s, according to Dr. Ismael Hoare.
Hoare, COPH alumnus and assistant professor of global health, has just been appointed a visiting scholar at the University of Belize and said he plans to use this appointment to help strengthen those opportunities for USF COPH students and faculty.
“The COPH has been collaborating with Belize for quite some time,” he said. “Belize is a nexus for both the Caribbean and Central America with strong linkages to Central American universities. It’s also an English-speaking country that provides an opportunity for students to conduct research in Central America, especially for those who are non-Spanish speaking.”
Hoare has been working with COPH colleagues, in collaboration with the University of Belize and the Ministry of Health, to conduct research on several public health issues in the City of Belmopan, San Ignacio, Toledo district and Corozal Town.
Topics investigated include: health education, prevention of obesity related non-communicable diseases, injury prevention and domestic violence.
“I would like to strengthen my research capacity in developing knowledge that impacts the quality of life in Belize, particularly the indigenous populations of Maya and Gairifuna,” Hoare said.
According to Hoare, these two indigenous populations are most at risk for diabetes, hypertension, obesity, intimate partner violence and chronic infectious diseases, such as HIV and AIDS. “My goal is to develop knowledge in that area and develop expertise to be able to provide meaningful contributions to that population, as well as helping to contribute to the University of Belize’s research development—one of the primary goals of obtaining the appointment was to establish a group of researchers at the University of Belize to work along with us to help us to conduct public health research.”
Hoare said the work of students has not only provided them with valuable experiences, but also contributed to local institutions as well.
“For example, one of our students developed and implemented a training program to prevent lower back injuries for nurses at the Western Regional Hospital,” he said. “Another student analyzed and submitted an epidemiological analysis and report on the cancers in Belize. We have complemented our student placement with research projects implemented in Belize and regional Latin American countries.”
And, the public health research and impact is ongoing.
Hoare said he plans to work on a program to develop a process for ensuring ethical research practices, continue to look at noncommunicable disease impacts among the indigenous populations.
“[This appointment] means a lot because it recognizes the contribution of the research I’ve done in Belize,” he said.
Related story: COPH researchers push for public health in Belize
Story by Anna Mayor, USF College of Public Health