Margaret Lippitt - Liberia
Social and Behavioral Science Division and Global Health Concentration at YSPH
Global Health Initiative
Career goal: Managing and evaluating health programs that serve disadvantaged communities in the United States and abroad.
Internship outline: I did qualitative research on drug and alcohol use among youth in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital. Gaps in knowledge have made it difficult to develop and adapt standard substance use assessment and intervention approaches in a Liberian context, so my goal was to fill these gaps with information collected through in-depth interviews with drug users and key informants. During my first month in Liberia, I experienced some delays in my project, so I took the opportunity to work with Tiyatien Health in Zwedru. My project there was an evaluation for a skills training program operated by Tiyatien’s women’s empowerment group.
Value of experience: This project allowed me to develop skills in qualitative research methods and expand my awareness of how public health research can be used to influence and improve policy and programs. At the same time, carrying out an independent research project increased my understanding of the challenges and limitations of public health research. I also had the privilege of exploring a different culture and gaining an understanding of some of the ways in which Liberia’s civil war (1989-2003) continues to affect the nation. I truly hope that the product of this work will also be of value for Liberians and others working in that context.
Best moment: Conducting interviews with drug users were certainly the most memorable part of my summer. Many of the participants had incredible stories and I feel so honored that they were willing to share their difficulties and histories with me.
Margaret Lippitt - Liberia
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- During a visit to the Liberian National Police station, Margaret was able to see some of the drugs that the police had recently confiscated in Monrovia, including this package of marijuana.
- When she wasn’t conducting interviews with substance users and staff at social service agencies, Margaret worked with a research team at Mother Patern College of Health Sciences. They are creating and implementing an intervention to improve mental health and reduce risky behaviors, such as sexual risk and substance use, among Liberia’s youth.
- Heroin, or “Italian white” as it is known, is one of the most common drugs in Liberia. The small, pea-sized packages in the upper right are sold for the equivalent of about $5.
- The bag on the right side contains marijuana, which is being stored at the police station until it can be destroyed. Backlogs, lack of funding and poor procedural guidelines make it difficult for the police to do their work in a timely manner.
- Although beautiful, the condition of the main highways in Liberia makes trade and transport of health, food and other supplies challenging.
- Before starting my substance use research, Margaret conducted an evaluation of a skills training program for women in Zwedru. She traveled to different communities to interview program graduates, including this woman who was a part of the sewing training class.
- During a weekend trip to Harper, Liberia, Margaret makes a shaky journey in a dugout canoe. Fortunately, she never had to demonstrate her swimming abilities.
- Before Liberia’s civil war, this man had built a cinder block house; but the house was destroyed and he is still saving money to reconstruct his home. He was Margaret’s neighbor in Zwedru.
- The most important food in Liberia is spicy, spicy peppers.
- The Ducor Palace was one of the first five-star hotels in Africa, but it was abandoned and looted during the war. The skeleton of the building stands atop the highest point in Monrovia and provides a terrific view of the city.
- A little boy returns home with fish for his family. Children his age in Liberia typically do a lot of work to help support their families.
- The colors and design of the Liberian flag convey the nation’s historically close relationship with the United States.