The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the delivery of healthcare services, and population health practices are crucial as the pandemic continues to spike across the globe.
Population health helps healthcare providers predict risks of illness in different groups of patients. It is defined as the health outcomes of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group. These groups are often geographic populations such as nations or communities.
The COVID-19 pandemic has fueled the need for strong population health information systems to identify and target high-risk populations, said Dr. Tarek Eshak, who joined HU last year as a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Population health.
Population health and health equity education are key components of HU’s nursing curriculum. And, in his role at HU, Eshak is focused on creating healthy communities through education, networking, and research.
We recently spoke with Eshak to learn more about population health and health equity and to Learn more about him and his path to HU:
Q: When did you arrive to HU and what is your role/position?
A: I joined HU in August 2021 as a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Population Health. Together with Population Health experts at HU, I will be working on building up a practice-based public health education aiming at training the next generation of public health workforce not only for how public health is currently practiced, but for how it will be practiced in the future, based on emerging health threats.
Q: What else will your work at HU involve?
A: My work at HU focuses on creating healthy communities through education, networking, and research. My work involves developing and implementing programs, materials, and events with the objective to advance public health knowledge and practice, with a primary focus on Global Health. I will be working on designing Global Health courses that provide incoming public health students with a foundation in local, national, and global health concepts and domains. In addition, my work involves expanding a network of public health research professionals and collaborating with local and international agencies to help address priority population health challenges both locally and globally.
Q: Why did you choose HU?
A: I chose HU because of two main reasons. First, the fact that there is a growing recognition of the importance of population health education at HU offers a great chance to contribute to such a great initiative. Second, through the continued expansion of its offshore campuses, HU has the potential to reinvent itself as a global network university, which provides me with a great opportunity to actively contribute my expertise as a global public health professional.
Q: Tell us about your background. Where are you from and where do you live today?
A: I am a medical doctor and an MPH holder working toward the completion of my Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) degree at the Department of Public Health Sciences, Pennsylvania State University (PSU) College of Medicine. I studied medicine in Egypt, my home country, where I started my public health practice in the area of HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support. In 2010, I received a fellowship from the Netherlands Fellowship Program to pursue a postgraduate education in population health.
For almost 20 years, I have been engaged in global health practice through extensive working and living experiences across various settings around the world, including the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, and the U.S. I delivered research products and provided consultancy services for governmental and non-governmental organizations as well as international development agencies, such as WHO, GFATM, World Bank, USAID, FHI360, UNODC, and UNAIDS.
I have a substantial experience in supporting national HIV programs and interventions. Throughout my career, I provided technical assistance in the development of HIV testing and treatment guidelines and SOPs, the establishment of monitoring and evaluation programs and surveillance systems, and the scaling up of voluntary counseling and testing (VCT), prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT), and harm reduction services.
Q: What is your educational background?
A: I studied medicine at Cairo University in Egypt (class of 2002). In 2011, I received a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree from the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) at the Vrije Universiteit (VU) Amsterdam, The Netherlands. I started my Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) program at the PSU College of Medicine in August 2018, and I am anticipating the completion of my DrPH by April 2022.
Q: Do you have any research interests? What are those?
A: I am broadly interested in global health with a primary focus on epidemiology, infectious diseases, and mental health. In particular, my future research interests are shaped by the emerging trend toward mitigating the impact of increasingly frequent global pandemics that have coincided with globalization and urbanization. My research agenda focuses on advancing our understanding of the local contexts in which epidemics develop and interact synergistically. My dissertation research looks at the impact of the syndemic (or synergistic epidemics) of substance abuse, depression, and diabetes on the retention in care among people living with HIV. I am also interested in evaluating how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting this syndemic relationship. In addition, I am interested in exploring the role of telemedicine and new technologies in transforming the delivery of health care in different cultures.
Q: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
A: I am very obsessed with traveling around the world and meeting new cultures. Traveling provides me with a great chance to learn about a different culture than my own. It offers me an opportunity to connect with people from all walks of life and experience different life perspectives. Trying new food with local people is just as much of an enjoyable part of the travel experience!
Q: Why is population health so important, especially during these times?
A: Population health is about addressing the health status and needs of a defined population. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the continued need for strengthening our population health information system to identify and target high-risk populations. Population health plays an integral role in preparing for, responding to, and recovering from health threats.
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