‘How the Swedish Institute contributes to Georgia’s healthcare’

Shorena Tsindeliani, a Georgian SI scholarship holder and Master student from Karolinska Institutet, shares her reflections on how SI contributes to her home country’s healthcare.

‘How the Swedish Institute contributes to Georgia's healthcare'
From right to left: Kader Abdul, CEO of "Viola Vitalis AB", Staffan Pulberger, Ingrid Pupp, Shorena Tsindeliani and Vera Baziri

Everything started with the Swedish company Viola Vitalis AB. The company is well-known because it has developed a Turnkey System for Human Milk Banks (HMB) to reduce child mortality. Viola Vitalis AB has successfully implemented milk banks in several Low and Middle-Income Countries. Considering the high rate of child mortality in Georgia together with several successful reforms achieved, the country was without a doubt in need and ready for the implementation of this service.

I find that significant initiatives always require patience, motivation and perseverance. Patience is needed when things do not go in the way or at the speed you want them to go. In my example, it took almost half a year until the business showed signs of progress. Motivation was needed to take action, and perseverance was crucial to move forward.

I first got a few negative responses to my initiative, but they didn’t bring me down. I was sure that, one day, I would see well functioning HMBs in Georgian hospitals that will help to save newborns at high risk of illness and death. 

Photo: Discussion on the University’s HMB practice at Skåne University Hospital

After writing a 25-page long project summary and 12 organised meetings with public and private representatives in my home country, maternal and child health experts from the Ministry of Health of Georgia showed interest in HMB by visiting Skåne University Hospital, located in Lund.

August the 29th was a day full of networking and gaining knowledge with Professor Staffan Polberger, neonatologist and Swedish representative at the European Milk Bank Association (EMBA) and Ingrid Pupp, senior physician in paediatrics at Lund hospital. They taught us about the importance of donor milk and all the crucial steps in establishing milk banks to ensure safety and the quality of the donation.  

We were warned that establishing this life-saving intervention has always been challenging in many countries. For instance, even though breast milk has had a long tradition in Sweden, there are only 28 active milk banks nowadays. Access to donor milk is indeed still limited in the country. 

The Ministry of Health in Georgia is now in the process of giving a direct recommendation to the neonatal hospital units in favour of using human donor milk for premature infants instead of formula milk. 

My proudest achievement is knowing that just a few months ago Human Milk Banks were unknown in Georgia, but today, most of the public and private representatives of Georgia’s healthcare are discussing Swedish HMB practices and benefits for children's health.

While I am still in a phase of waiting, I am deepening my knowledge in this particular field. I recently went to visit Stockholm’s Digitalmekanik founded in 1968 which has been cooperating with the Swedish construction industry and prototype manufacturing. It made me realise, once again, that it takes time to create something that can make a positive impact in the world.

Photo: Visiting Stockholms Digitalmekanik

I feel incredibly grateful to the Swedish Institute for the opportunity I have been given to make a change in my country. Let’s all share our experiences because, as we all know, there is nothing more important than education to change the world.  

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Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

Ronoh Philip, who is studying for his masters degree in Infectious Disease Control at Södertörn University, explains why he thinks the Swedish concept of 'lagom' is the best way to achieve good social health.

Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

During my one week orientation program on August 2019 at Södertörn University, we were presented with many aspects of Swedish culture and practices. One of the new aspects that I learnt was the “lagom culture”, As I quote one of the presenters about applying lagom to our studies, he said: ”Lagom will reduce your stressful burdens of hectic lecture schedules and ensure that you spend equal time of working and socializing in the university.”

So being a student with a background in public health and society, I got interested and searched for the deeper meaning of lagom, and how it can  apply to society and health. I found out that it is a Swedish way of life, it is a concept which means not too much and not too little, just enough. I learnt that it came from a Viking tradition laget om which means 'around the group' and was allegedly used to describe just how much mead or soup one should drink when passing the bowl around in the group.

If this concept is applied to achieve social health goals, it would really fit well. So, what is social health at first? Social health is how you interact with other people and adapt in different situations, it deals with how people in society deal with each other. It is important to note that there is a close link between good social health and improvement of the other aspects of human health, this can lead to the achievement of SDG goal of good health and wellbeing. It also leads to self-satisfaction and happiness; no wonder Sweden is ranked as one the happiest countries in the world. It is ranked 7th in 2019, according to world happiness report. I believe lagom has a big role in this achievement.

In the country where I come from, Kenya, one of the greatest challenges we face in our society, is the ability for people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds to interact and form positive and cohesive relationships with each other. From my perspective, when I finish my studies and return, lagom will be worth implementing in the workplace, the place where I live and the society as whole, as it is the best way of finding simple, attainable solutions to our everyday worries like stress, eating better, having downtime and achieving happiness. It’s a balance of work and life, so everything is in sustainable existence with each other.

My goal during my entire university studies at Södertörn, will be to learn more about the lagom principle and also be able to apply it on our SI NFGL Local Network platform, because it is surely one of the best ways to achieve a good  work-life balance, reaching consensus with my colleagues and adapting a team minded approach in dealing with issues in an organization and the society.