Day 14 (? we’ve lost count!): Final Day in Oslo

Today was the big culmination of our two weeks here working on Sustainable Development Goal #17: Partnerships for the Goals!

Since our arrival, we have been collaborating in international groups (three Norwegian students and two American students in each group) working on community health projects.

For these projects, we have identified international populations with health issues, researched global literature to find evidence-based solutions to these health issues, identified S.M.A.R.T. goals backed by research, and planned how to actually implement these interventions through identifying potential barriers, stakeholders, and evaluation methods.

Today, our three groups of mixed Norwegian and American students presented our community health projects, and the results were creative and inspiring:

  1. Ashley, Mathea, Naomi, Sharon, and Sophie presented an interactive project identifying interventions for people living with HIV. They compared and contrasted the responses to the UN’s 90-90-90 goal (90% of people with HIV know they are infected, 90% of people with HIV are on antivirals, and 90% of people with HIV have an undetectable viral load) between the two countries. We learned how Norway has already surpassed this goal and their next goal, while the U.S. has yet to reach the 90-90-90 goal. The best intervention identified to implement in the U.S.A. that has proven successful in Norway is for nurses to advocate for policy change around HIV treatment management, including access to healthcare and medicine for people living with HIV.

  1. Ingrid, Janessa, Karin, Maria, and Priya presented a video they produced, which focused on interventions for people who use substances. They found research showing that healthcare providers’ attitudes drastically affect the healthcare that people who use substances receive. The students also interviewed two Norwegian men who use substances, and the men shared stories of their experience visiting healthcare. Hearing the stories first-hand was impactful, as we empathized with these men who were disbelieved, kicked out of healthcare facilities because of bias when they were in need of help, and not given enough pain medicine because they were seen as drug-seeking. The evidence-based intervention to address this health issue is for providers to use compassionate, empathic care. Simple but powerful.

  1. Anne, Ingar, Malene, Windy, and I presented a song (our own lyrics, to the tune of TikTok by Kesha) outlining our interventions for people who are homeless and suffer from mental illness. We discovered Housing First is an intervention widely used in Scandinavia, where people who are homeless are given housing first, and then treatment. This is different from the traditional models where people who are homeless first need to “get sober,” “take care of their mental issues,” or any other qualifications in order to “earn” housing. Meeting the most basic need for shelter first, then addressing treatment for mental illness, has proven effective in Norway, among other countries. We came up with a model of a government-funded version of Housing First to implement in Columbus, Ohio.

After our final presentations of our study abroad trip, and heartfelt goodbyes with our new friends, we branched out to explore, shop, and write postcards. We finished our final day in Norway with a (surprisingly educational—hello, Sustainable Development Goal #3: Life Below Water!) group dinner at swanky The Salmon restaurant at Aker Brygge pier right on Oslo Fjord. We said some more heartfelt goodbyes to our Mama Unni and are currently attempting to pack way too many things into way too little bags.

Being in Norway has been eye-opening, inspirational, and soul-fulfilling in too many ways to describe. I am beyond grateful for this experience and to everyone who shared it with me and shaped it for me. TUSEN TAKK from the bottom of my heart.

xoxo Jeanie, signing off from Norway 22

Day 7: Norsk Elder Wellness

Today we had our first experience at Lovinsenberg Omsorg+, an elder home for independent seniors. On this trip, we have been able to learn firsthand about Norway’s great institutional systems/structures and how they promote wellness in the community, and today was another example of Sustainable Development Goal #16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, and #3: Good Health and Well-Being.

We began the day with some aerobic exercises with the staff and a (very spry) 88 year-old resident who put us to shame. We loved starting the day right off with some physical wellness (Dean Bern would be proud) and saw how the activities at the home help keep the seniors well across many areas of the wellness spectrum. We visited the roof with incredible views overlooking all of Oslo, and the plots where residents care for their own gardens.

Many of the residents were in their 70s, 80s, and 90s, all living independently in their own apartments. Inger Marie, a 99 year-old woman living independently at the home, showed us her room and emphasized the importance of staying sharp as we age. She showed us pictures of her children, grandchildren, and then brought out a bag of hats she hand-knits for premature babies. She told us she’s made over 300 in the past year.

In the elder center, there are designated day rooms for residents with dementia, a big communal room for socializing, and organized activities that change daily. We happened to be there on waffle day, so shared authentic Norwegian waffles and coffee with the residents, along with many stories. There was also a pop-up clothing shop, so we had lots of fun playing fashion stylist with the residents. Many families with babies came in, because the pool at the complex was hosting baby swimming lessons, and it was sweet to see the joy both the elders and the young families shared. I went for a walk around the neighborhood with some of the residents, who told me stories of their skiing days on the mountains.

I feel incredibly honored to have shared time and space with the people we met today. I heard so many stories of the incredible life experiences of the residents, and am touched with how their lives continue to be full and rich at this institution.

Tonight we leave for western Norway and some epic fjords! We’ll be back with more updates soon.

xoxo Jeanie, Norway 22