Brooke Goes Global: Globalization

September 13, 2018

Disclaimer: This post is not my attempt to make a blanket, political statement about capitalism.  Instead, this post is an attempt to illustrate the institutional systems role in perpetuating poverty, which is stimulated by globalization.  As a result, there are structures put in place that advance the middle and upper classes while inevitably hindering the lower class. 


This picture depicts the common life of a child in the rural area of India.  Despite his isolation from the city, globalization contributes heavily to his life.

Starbucks — a franchise recognized across the world.  It’s a caffeine boost.  It’s a free wifi hotspot.  It’s a familiar logo of home.  Because Starbucks is such a recognizable part of many people’s lives across the world, it is an ideal artifact to study in relation to globalization.  The local is the global and the global is the local, and the Starbucks franchise fits into both the interdependent categories perfectly.  

According to a news report by CNN, the first Starbucks cafe in India opened in 2012.  This change to the environment and culture of India has its foundation in globalization, utilizing the ever connectedness of countries, corporations, and markets.  India’s new economic plan in the 1990s — encompassing liberalization, privatization, and globalization — paved the way for the multi-billion dollar company to open its doors within India’s borders.  Studying the key fundamentals of the larger corporation and its individual cafes will help understand the structural oppression that is shaped to advance the health of only a portion of India. 

In order to analyze the effect of this artifact further, Starbucks industry’s source must be identified.  The headquarters are located in the United States, in the state of Washington.  There are over 27,000 Starbucks locations across the globe; more than half of these locations are in the United States.  Comparatively, there are around 100 Starbucks cafe locations in India.  The chain store began in the western hemisphere and migrated to India 41 years later.  Nonetheless, this flow of business, capital, and frankly, Starbucks coffee is relatively new to the area — considering its first store opened only 6 years ago.  The chain, however, quickly spread.  For each year since the opening of the first Starbucks in India, another 17 stores were opened annually.  

Additionally, the business’ motivation for spreading is a key element to its global flow.  This motivation is fundamental to understanding its health effect on the overall population of India.  For example, the first Indian Starbucks was opened in Mumbai, a location specifically and strategically chosen by the corporation.  Mumbai was discussed in class as a relatively wealthy area.  It is a movie producing hotspot.  It is a tourist destination.  These aspects of the city point to a particular lifestyle — a lifestyle of luxury and expense.  The citizens of Mumbai have a disposable income that can be spent on breakfast sandwiches and overpriced coffee.  Starbucks chose Mumbai as a location that would bring in revenue.  Mumbai chose Starbucks as a business that would benefit the city.  The global is interacting with the local and vice versa, each contributing to the worldwide spread of people, goods, and services.

In addition, the meticulous placement of Starbucks is emphasized by my personal experience in India.  Our homestay is in the wealthy neighborhood of Greater Kailash; and down the street is a Starbucks.  People come to reap the benefits of clean water, free wifi, a sewage system, and nutritious food at the cafe.  These are basic elements of the Starbucks franchise.  Therefore, wherever a Starbucks is built, these factors of wellbeing are built into the neighborhood as well.  

However, this strategic and revenue maximizing business plan further stretches the gap of social capital between the rich and the poor.  The rich live in areas like Greater Kailesh and Mumbai which have stores like Starbucks.  The poor live in areas where Starbucks and similar businesses would refuse to open a location.  To demonstrate the contrast, two illustrations must be drawn. 

Example one: A local of Greater Kailesh decides to go to a nearby Starbucks cafe for a cup of coffee.  There, they have the opportunity for free wifi, aiding them in their studies.  They have the opportunity to get a cashier job, benefiting their finances.  They have the opportunity for a hygienic social environment, benefiting their mental health.  Therefore, it is fair to say Starbucks indirectly provides resources that advance life for only a portion of the Indian population, its customer base.  

Example two: This information is gathered from our class’ recent visit to a New Delhi “slum”.  Within the group of small and connected houses, I noticed two places the families of the particular neighborhood could purchase food.  Both places were small snack stands.  The vendors provided bagged food — processed and high caloric.  No kitchen for fresh meals.  No bathroom with running water.  No wifi to help complete homework.  No hiring opportunities.  The food “cafe” of this neighborhood is merely a provider of unhealthy junk food.  It provides no additional advancements to the community.  

With this stark contrast in mind, Starbucks in India — a product of globalization — provides resources that advance life for only middle to upper class individuals.  Therefore, the artifact of Starbucks demonstrates a motif of the larger problem of systemic oppression.  For those living in low-income neighborhoods are not able to reap the benefits of a Starbucks cafe because they don’t have access to one.  Outsiders seem to be ignorant of the institutional oppression that creates this perpetuation of poverty.  It’s a cycle with outside influences, influences that flow from the home country and the entire world. 

Brooke Goes Global: Culture Shock

September 3, 2018

It’s been seven days.  Seven days that have simultaneously flown by and dragged on.

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To give you some background, I arrived in India on Monday.  Our program is based in India’s capital, New Delhi.  This post is a regurgitation of the plethora of information I have learned over the past week.  This information has spun the wheels in my head and reaffirmed my love for public health.  While sharing, I did my best to remain partial.  By neither categorizing aspects of the Indian culture as right or wrong, I attempted to write and understand from a perspective of historical particularism — understanding that a country’s current systems, culture, and social norms are shaped by its unique history and development.  With this being said, my perspective is very limited.  By no means do I have a complete understanding of India’s history, community, and traditions.  Nonetheless, I still want to expand on my experiences of a new normal.  I hope I am able to do justice to the complicatedly beautiful culture that is the Indian culture.  

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These two pictures are of a tourist hotspot in New Delhi called Delhi Haat.  The markets here are scattered with a beautiful spectrum of colorful clothing and trinkets.

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I start with my first topic: women.  This is my starting point because it is the topic I choose to be a little more flexible regarding my partiality.  As a woman within this program, I was instructed to cover my shoulders, chest, legs, and at times my hair.  Respectfully, I have and will continue to abide by this cultural norm.  Nonetheless, despite me being completely covered up in temperatures reaching beyond 100 degrees, I have never been more aware of my gender.  I have been told to not look a man in their eyes, for it can be construed as you initiating sex.  I have been told to not smile at a man, that too can be construed as you, a woman, initiating sex.  It is the woman who must alter her behaviors to best contain the sexuality of a man.  It is the woman who must cover up.  It is the woman who must be invisible.  These cultural norms perpetuate the ideology of women inferiority.  

Nonetheless, I am aware and proud that India is progressing in a new direction.  Young adult women are occasionally spotted in freely dressed clothing, confidently paving a new direction of education, equality, and feminine authority.  Nonetheless, strict changes need to me made to society in order to create an environment where females feel safe, able, and accepted — this includes but is not limited to India.  

I move on to discuss the beautifully chaotic city of New Delhi.  The hustle and bustle of the city is what makes it unique.  I enjoy being thrown into a place that is so different from any other place I have ever been.  The population of the entire metropolitan area of New Delhi is about 24 million people.  To put this into perspective, the population of the entire United States is around 324 million people.  Needless to say, it’s a crowded city.  Two lane roads are turned into four lane roads with cars, motorcycles, and rickshaws creating their own road rules.  Food stands, vendors, cows, dogs, and monkeys all compete for a place in the city.  

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You have not experienced the true Indian culture if you haven’t had a near death experience in a rickshaw.

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These are only a sneak peek into the many friends you will encounter walking the streets of Delhi!

This weekend, we traveled to the Taj Mahal.  The Taj Mahal is a beautiful memorial commissioned by a Mongolian King in the 1600s to honor his deceased wife.  This wonder of the world was breathtaking.  However, what shocked me the most was our drive to the Taj Mahal.  Staying in New Delhi, I have experienced the urban lifestyle.  However, during the 4 hour drive to the Taj Mahal, I was able to experience the rural lifestyle — even if it was just through a bus window.  I saw countless farming families.  Their fields flooded with water from the monsoon season’s storms.  Cows and dogs scattered across the land.  And to call their homes shacks would unfortunately glorify the structures.  These homes were held up by wooden sticks with thatched roofs and tarp walls.  I saw a father and son duo showering in the rain.  They stood by the road, in soapy clothes, as they rinsed their shampooed hair with the rain fall.  It was quite a humbling experience to be grateful for my homestay’s bucket showers that consists of four walls and hot water.  

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This is an example of the stark contrast of the close living proximities of both the middle and lower class.  This was snapped from the metro.

In seven days, I have seen the stark contrast of the urban versus the rural.  The rich versus the poor.  The developed country of the United States versus the developing country of India.  In India, structures, institutions, and globalization have caused the gap between the rich and poor to grow.  Because of the recent switch to a market based economy, India’s GDP has grown by 6% in the past few years.  Nonetheless, these economic benefits have been concentrated to only 6-8% of the population — consisting mainly of the upper class, the educated, and males.  In present day India, 100 people control 27% of India’s GDP.  As part of a group of intelligent students, my peers and I look to be an educated and appropriate voice for the marginalized.  But our program coordinator of India reminds us “you are here to learn, not to change things.  Finish your education.  Then come back to see me, so we can change things together.”  And this, my friend, is what keeps me on the edge of my seat.

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I couldn’t finish this post without adding a cliche tourist picture of me at the Taj Mahal.  The World Wonder was beautiful and breathtaking!


Brooke Goes Global: Why Band-Aids Aren’t Enough

August 26, 2018

I’m currently sitting 3,500 miles above the world.  Above the people and the animals.  Above the passing trains, cars and buses.  But my concentration, instead, is on the clouds.  The clouds that seem so endless and infinite in a sky just as vast.  As I sit in this state of existentialism, my body flies to India while my mind remains in America.  My mind — filled with American customs, norms and Westernized idealisms of health — is about to experience the culture shock of one of the fasting developing countries in the world: India.  

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After two weeks of living in a hostel in the hip and trendy town of Adams Morgan, it is time to say goodbye to D.C., and hello to New Delhi!


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The last night of Washington, D.C. was spent exploring the city’s monuments with a fellow Richmond student on the sister track of my program.  The monuments are a completely different experience at night.  If you get the chance, go and check it out yourself!

But I digress to my last week in Washington, D.C., simply because during a time of venturing into the unknown, focusing on something concrete and wholesome steadies my mind.    

Across America, food is passed out, yet hunger still remains.  Jobs are available, yet people still can’t afford rent.  Shelters are open, yet people still sleep on the streets.  These Band-Aid approaches to health are not enough to stimulate long-term physical and mental health.  Many organizations narrow their aid to one specific focus.  It’s an incredibly complicated situation, because people have immediate needs and these needs must be met, but narrow-minded help is a temporary solution to a permanent problem.  Nonetheless, the city of Washington, D.C. has paved a new path of holistic care for its citizens.  

To help illustrate this example, I cite the streamlined and progressive non-profit of D.C. Central Kitchen (DCCK).  Their mission is to limit food waste and help lift people out of poverty.  Their motto is “Food alone will never end hunger.  Jobs will.”  With this in mind, DCCK takes many active roles within the community.  Everyday, they cook over 5,000 meals to distribute to homeless shelters and half-way houses.  They also provide a 14-week culinary arts training program for the unemployed.  The training program is for marginalized individuals with a history that typically stigmatizes them out of the job market.  This includes people who are homeless, were previously incarcerated, without a high school diploma and/or struggle with addiction.  

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DCCK views poverty through multiple lenses of social determinisms which enables them to have a holistic view on health.


My fascination with the program lies in its ability to treat the whole individual.  To provide support for the individual’s immediate needs while also creating a platform of stability and advancement for the future.  The culinary training has many aspects including cooking and kitchen skills but also focuses on self-empowerment and financial planning.  Rehabilitation teaches the students to believe in their worth and purpose within the larger community — something they have forgotten after years of being ostracized.  During the last stage of the program, students are assigned to an internship within a local restaurant or catering company so they can grasp what it truly takes to work in the culinary world.  Each step of the program creates one more building block to a healthy and stable life.  

However, all of these steps would be irrelevant if the students did not have the basic needs of survival.  Because without food, you cannot be productive in the kitchen.  Without a roof over your head, you cannot focus on your studies.  And without money for transportation, you cannot arrive to the designated location for learning.  Therefore, DCCK goes one step further to insure these individuals are supported throughout the training program.  The non-profit supplies its constituents with groceries weekly.  They help to organize living arrangements for the individuals.  And they also provide students with a transportation stipend.  

The cost of this program is not cheap.  However, its statistics show the programs’ funding and mission is paying off.  There is a 85% graduation rate.  There is a 90% job placement rate within one month of graduation.  And after a two year followup, 70% of the graduates are still employed long term.  These individuals now have full-time jobs, health insurance and permeant housing.  They contribute social and economic capital to America.  A holistic approach to health is the cure to a long standing and perpetuating cycle of poverty.  

So I urge you to stop the stigma.  Stop the marginalization.  Because the homeless and the jobless are typically not lazy.  In fact, 70% of the homeless population in the United States have jobs, showing they don’t suffer from laziness.  They suffer from a lack of livable wage and affordable housing.  They want to help themselves.  They want to better their lives and their family members.  However, the one-size fits all model for health and wellbeing does not work.  Instead, organizations and programs intended to help the impoverished, the hungry and the jobless need to bring care to the individual and not the individual to care.  



Brooke Goes Global: Gentrification in Washington, D.C.

August 17, 2018

Change is inevitable. The economy goes in cycles. The unemployment rate will fluctuate. And gentrification and development will overcome cities. If these processes are inevitable, how do we, as a community, adapt with the change? How can institutions, as part of the community, continue to preserve the population’s culture and diversity?

Before 24 of my fellow classmates and I take off for India, we are spending two weeks in the nation’s capital. While in Washington, D.C., we are studying America’s health systems, health inequities, and the related role of systems and institutions within the field. 

The International Honors Program pushes their students to view health holistically — understanding there are ample factors influencing one’s health. One major factor to the health of an individual is their home and community.  During a recent experiential learning day, we explored a city within the D.C. area.  My group, a total of five students, set out on the metro to study the area of Howard-Shaw. 

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The Howard-Shaw area has beautiful murals scattered among the neighborhood.  The street art represents and maintains the city’s rich history and culture.


When we emerged from the underground metro station at Howard-Shaw, we were met with vibrant store fronts, colorful restaurants, and a lot of construction.  I stood in the center of a city that very clearly was overcome by the controversial topic of gentrification.  To explain, gentrification is the process of developing an area.  This involves stimulating a neighborhood’s economy through the building of up-scale real estate, restaurants, and modern boutiques.  As a result, the neighborhood generally becomes more aesthetically pleasing and economically viable.  However, this also displaces the original locals of the neighborhood, as they become priced out of their current homes.  Rents increase and developers pressure homeowners to sell their homes for a portion of their worth.  In Washington, D.C., Blacks are disproportionately affected by this forced moving as a result of gentrification.  

In Howard-Shaw, as you look beyond the beautiful architecture of a historic building, you are struck by the overwhelming and ever-consuming construction cranes, trucks, and bulldozers.  This week, I had the opportunity to listen to the locals of Howard-Shaw voice their opinions on how they are directly affected by gentrification. 

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The Howard Theatre is a historic landmark  in the neighborhood.  It was recently renovated in 2012, and it still acts as a functioning theatre.  The crane in the background demonstrates the ever-present condominium construction across the city.

A physical education teacher at a local school, named Pamela, had the biggest impact on me.  She works at a public school with grades pre-school to fifth grade.  Her official title is the physical education and health teacher, but unofficially she is the community liaison.  Pamela described the changing demographics within the school as a result of the last couple years’ development.  The older grades are predominately made up of Black and Hispanic students.  Whereas the younger grades are predominately made up of White students.  We asked Pamela what these new changes to the neighborhood meant for her and the students.  Her response, “I’m a half-full kind of person.  You just have to take advantage of it.”  And taking advantage of the situation is certainly what she is doing.  She creates partnerships with the new businesses that inhabit the neighborhood as a result of the development.  She brought in local businesses and their employees for a school-wide Career Day.  She partnered with a nearby recreation center so the students have the opportunity to swim.  When she was not able to stop a bar from moving in across the street from the school, she convinced the business to instead donate a portion of their profits to the school.  Last but not least, she assisted with the partnership of a nearby clinic, Mary’s Center, to open within the school.  The clinic has health services —  including mental health — for the students and their parents, open from 8am to 6pm.  A change and evolution of a neighborhood is inevitable.  Nonetheless, Pamela is bravely ensuring the change is positively influencing the children of the area. 

Additionally, to reference Lawerence, another employee of the Howard-Shaw area, individuals who contribute to gentrification are part of a complicated relationship.  As they bring something new and vibrant into the area, they also push history and culture out of its original place.  However, Lawerence believes development does not have to constitute displacement.  Lawerence urges the development companies to change their plans to accommodate those who already live in the area.  He believes condominiums should be built for a mix of incomes.  Apartments should be of mixed value, so that a range of income levels can live in a newly developed building.  Nonetheless, in order for this to happen, development companies and contractors must prioritize communities, culture, and individuals over profits.  

Neighborhoods are pleating and begging for their voice to be heard over the noise and selfishness of big businesses.  And without their voice and opinion, culture and history will be lost to modern and expensive real estate.  

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The future calls for development without displacement.  Beauty without a loss of history.  Diversity without isolation.  It calls for a culture that uplifts entire communities, not just particular groups of individuals.


Brooke Goes Global: Only the Beginning

August 10, 2018

It takes courage to go abroad.  It takes courage to leave the comfort of your room, the Richmond campus, to leave America.  To walk new streets and listen to an unfamiliar language. It takes nerve to disregard the boundaries and norms of a lived culture and to, instead, completely delve into a new one.  It takes commitment to leave the comfort of old friends knowing new friendships will complement the old ones.

It’s only the beginning, yet I can feel myself fidgeting with anticipation of the unknown, but I hold back tears knowing so much will be left behind for my return at the University of Richmond.  This post is for all the other fellow students who have the courage to study abroad.  I commend your recklessness, wit and spirit that pushes you to spend the semester in an unknown land.

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Here I go, chasing the sun around the world.  I will miss the sun’s breathtaking color and beauty at Libby Hill Park.

Over the next four months, I will be traveling across oceans to four drastically different locations.  My semester begins in the local and historic area of Washington, D.C.  Then, I travel to the colorful and crowded streets of Delhi, India.  From India, I will fly to the diverse and beautiful land of Cape Town, South Africa.  And to finish off my abroad experience, I will spend my final month in São Paulo, Brazil. In these drastically different locations, health inequities are widespread and ever-consuming.  Our program challenges us to see how factors like culture, community, wealth disparities and government intermix to create a country’s current health institutions and care.

I am majoring in Health Care Studies and minoring in Anthropology and Business Administration.  Through my studies and experience, I understand health is not a one variable factor but instead multifaceted and greatly impacted by circumstances uncontrollable by the individual.  For instance, I have a mother with a full-time job providing us with healthcare coverage.  I live in a suburban area with an abundance of hospitals, clinics and health care facilities available if needed.  And I go to a university that prioritizes wellness.  But what if my family did not have health insurance? Would I be able to afford the care I need?  How would my life differ if seeing a specialist meant a 4 hour round trip every appointment?  And would my healthy lifestyle be maintained if my school refused to offer nutrition, physical activity, and wellness services?  In my experience, my health has critically been impacted by the luck of the draw.  My cards, thankfully, have been winners. However, because health worldwide is not a human right, there are countless individuals whose circumstances have not been as lucky.

As I learn from natives, hospitals, and peers across the world, I am excited to see how individuals view health based on their societal expectations and cultural opportunities. I am beyond grateful to have this opportunity to study health, culture, and community across the world. Thank you for letting me share this opportunity with you.

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I have yet to meet a sunrise that rivals the peacefulness of the early morning over the James.  New experiences and new cultures will be the theme of this semester, but I know I can rely on the steady and vast sun to put things into perspective.


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