I worked for more than three years in the finance sector and corporate consultancy. But I was never really satisfied by merely serving corporate clients regarding their business-centric challenges. I thought I needed to do something more. I had a deep desire to work for the society at large and to focus all of my energy to tackle pressing social issues. As a result, I decided to quit my job at a global management consultancy firm and start my journey in public health.

I recently moved to Canada and thought this was a good time to reminisce and reflect on my experiences and learnings from my career journey with the PH SPOT community.

I started my public health journey when I got an opportunity to work on a public health research study in the Mewat district in the state of Haryana, India. The study, headed by an Associate Professor of Johns Hopkins University, was focussed on enhancing health care access with cellular technology. I had the opportunity to work with some of the most brilliant people on this research project. The study was designed to understand the health behaviours and demographic effects impacting the immunization coverage and timeliness of immunizations of the study participants. I learnt a great deal about the community health issues prevalent among the marginalized communities in a resource-poor setting in India. Further, I had first-hand experience working closely with the rural community and understanding how vital health care accessibility and affordability is to control unbridled proliferation of preventable maladies. The research project was an eye opener as far as India’s rural health scenario is concerned; it also reinforced my desire to address the rural developmental challenges and mitigate health inequities. The learning served as a prelude to my next venture.

Read more about this project on my personal blog: “Health in India’s villages – Challenges in Ghasera”.

I went on to work on a 13 month rural development fellowship program called ‘Youth for India’. I lived in a village and worked with the indigenous communities on a day-to-day basis. My project, ‘Social behaviour change communication and community mobilization to address maternal and child malnutrition’, was based on addressing the issue of malnutrition of indigenous communities in Palghar district in the state of Maharashtra, India. During the course of the project, I realized that malnutrition is a multi-dimensional and an inter-generational phenomenon. The primary focus of the project was health promotion and addressing the social determinants of malnutrition. The project was a significant learning experience and reinforcement of my interest in public health and health promotion.

Read more about this project on my personal blog: “My Youth for India Fellowship Journey”.

After moving to Canada, I am continuing my efforts to be actively involved in advocating for social justice and health equity among the poor and vulnerable sections of the society. I am currently working on a peer-to-peer financial empowerment research study at The Upstream Lab in collaboration with Strive. The study will evaluate the importance of income and financial empowerment as a critical social determinant of health.

In conclusion, I believe I was bold enough to explore the road less travelled and to pursue my passion to work in the public health domain. There are very few career paths as rewarding as public health that offer so much room to grow, learn/unlearn and evolve every day. Public health is one field of work that is so dynamic and enriching. I feel if one truly wants to experience the ‘real’ world, engage with populations and communities from varied backgrounds and pursue a global career of sorts, then a career in public health is definitely the answer!

About the author:

Ankur Chhabra is a public health researcher and development economist with international experience spanning three continents. In future, he wants to pursue Master of Public Health (MPH) in Health Promotion. He aspires to become a health promotion specialist and public health policy analyst. He writes on issues related to public health, social justice and development economics on his blog – www.ankurchhabrablog.wordpress.com