“Living in India, I’ve become more aware of the factors that determine health.”

Molly Bachmann is a student on the IHP Health and Community: Globalization, Culture, and Care program. Below, she shares some of her thoughts on the factors that determine health during the program period in southern India.   

In the market with vendors selling jasmine flowers, which newlywed women wear in their hair and around their necks.


“Experiential learning has allowed me to distinguish between sickness and illness. Through this program, I’ve been able to dialogue about the affects of HIV/AIDS on people from rural villages in India, how medical technology will change the game of medicine as we know it, and how doctor-patient relationships significantly affect the health of the patient.

I can recite the traditional medicinal benefits of every South Indian food, as bestowed to me by Amma (which means mother in Tamil). We’ve talked with award-winning neurosurgeons, laughed with the most well known HIV/AIDS activist in the world, Dr. Sariti Soloman, and lived through extreme weather conditions affecting not only the health of our immediate community but also that of the larger population.

We’ve been pushed, pulled, and stretched to “ask better questions” and to approach healthcare from a variety of perspectives: preventative health, care, spirituality, traditional and progressive methods. In traveling the world with IHP and using experience as the primary form of learning, I’ve come to look at health from a very different perspective.

Sitting in my sheltered suburban home in Worthington, Ohio, with dreams to change the world beyond reasonable measures, I had defined health as a state of wellbeing: an absence of disease. A complete balance between physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing. Everything seemed so simple. Achieving heath was simple.

Living in India, I’ve become more aware of the factors that determine health. Amid my fascination with the color, spiritual culture, and incredible peace and love my host family has shown me, I am continuously disillusioned with the factors that determine health. As if certain factors “predestine” you to a certain way of life.

And for most, it is virtually impossible to achieve a different state of wellbeing. We call these “social determinants of health.” Social factors include: personal biological make-up and behavior, access to healthcare as determined by location and government system, physical environment, education, and social environment. Our livelihoods are determined by these things.

In trying to understand just exactly how another part of the world works, you have to understand health, because from that comes the foundation of every complex system created by mankind.

Consider India where I’m now studying. India is home to 1.1 billion people, 742.7 million of which live in a rural setting. That’s 3.6 times the population of the United States living in a much more compact area. India has a booming economy, the 4th largest in the world, and is a hot spot for medical tourism.

According to UNICEF, 1 in 3 malnourished children in the world resides in India. Malnourishment is a leading cause of developmental issues in children. How can this still be an issue in ANY part of the world? If we produce enough food for every person on this planet to consume 3,000 calories per meal, how can you explain such a high number of malnourishment cases, especially in children?

Molly with her host family at a dinner on their final night together. Molly and her host sister performed a dance at the dinner.

Through my experiences in Washington, DC, and in India, my definition of health and how it is maintained continues to evolve, as I look forward to China and South Africa. I can say for certain, however, that this journey has inspired me to not only pursue a career as a physical therapist but also to become an advocate of change in communities of greater need.”

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