More than Spices: Big Hearts from a Small Island

Courtney Olson

Courtney Olson

2nd Year Global Health Epidemiology MPH Candidate

Hey everyone! My name is Courtney Olson, and I’m a 2nd year Global Health  Epidemiology MPH student. I just returned from Grenada and had the opportunity to work on the Alzheimer’s disease and dementia project under the Ministry of Social  Development with my group mates. 

We conducted focus group and key informant interviews throughout the island to learn about the caregivers’ perspectives on current Alzheimer’s and dementia care and the additional support and education needed to complete their jobs with empathy and love.  Despite a lack of unified resources for caregivers, I quickly noticed that there are many compassionate and dedicated people working in geriatric facilities as well as private homes to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to age with dignity regardless of disease status and stage. These community members acknowledged gaps in knowledge and support for caregivers and the greater community, but there is strong hope for future change. 

From the information that we gathered from the community members, we will provide recommendations to the government to create a comprehensive standardized caregiver education training program in Grenada. Although we were focused on the caregivers’ educational background, we found out that there is a lack of community awareness of  Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, which leads to misinformation and stigmatization of those affected by these diseases. Community awareness will help caregivers feel supported by their families and help families who have loved ones affected to be aware and supportive. 

After one of the focus groups in Grenada, we talked about global health equity, which has come up in my prior research interests about vaccine accessibility. I found that Grenada suffers from being classified as a middle-income country, which excludes them from many financial resources and grants because they do not have the “low-income”  label. They also do not have the resources that high-income nations have to minimize healthcare costs. 

After completing my MPH program this semester, I will be entering a Ph.D. program to study vaccine-preventable diseases, health equity, and global health. This focus group experience will undoubtedly be useful as I plan to utilize mixed methods during my research. 

Before signing off, I would like to thank the community members of Grenada for accepting us into their workplaces and community spaces for a week, the Ministry of Social Development for supporting the project and welcoming us to their beautiful country, and the University of Michigan PHAST team for making all of this possible! This opportunity was amazing and would not have been possible with everybody’s contribution! 

Until next time, Grenada!