EP129 Exploring Geospatial Science and Health Equity with Dr. Prince Michael Amegbor

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EP129 Exploring Geospatial Science and Health Equity with Dr. Prince Michael Amegbor

Aman Chopra: Folks, welcome back to another episode of the "I Am GPH" podcast. Have you ever wondered about geography? Some of you might think about maps from school. Some of you might think about rocks or some of you might think about the entire world in general. Well what's interesting is geography has a bigger influence on the world of public health than we know. To introduce that concept, we have an amazing guest. Dr. Prince Michael Amegbor. Dr. Amegbor is an Assistant Professor of Global Public Health at NYU GPH. He's a health geographer working within the overarching team of environmental and social determinants of health and healthcare-seeking behavior. His research uses big data and multi-method approach to unravel environmental and socio-spatial health inequalities in Sub-Saharan Africa and other geographical contexts. But why should we hear it over here? Let's hear it from our guest itself. Dr. Amegbor, welcome to the "I Am GPH" podcast. Glad to have you here.

Prince Amegbor: Thank you, the pleasure is mine.

Aman Chopra: So can you explain to me… You know, when I saw geography while looking you up, I'm thinking, geography? Geography was a class where I had to color the maps in class.

Prince Amegbor: Yeah, yeah.

Aman Chopra: How did geography get you into public health?

Prince Amegbor: Well actually I had that interest when I was applying for undergraduate studies back in Ghana and one of the courses or the programs available was geography and resource development, sociology and archeology. But over the years I thought of majoring in sociology but as I delved more into geography and got exposed to the concept, and it's through their key issues like spatial inequalities and some of the major issues of consent to society. It's kind of piqued my interest in the program. So I majored in geography. And health, because I've always been fascinated about health and health outcome. So one will say I probably am a disappointed medical student. Someone who wanted to go to medical school but I didn't end up in a medical school yeah? But it's always fascinating because mostly where we live influence our health and as a child growing up I realized that you know, the community I lived in influenced people's health outcomes in terms of the things we're exposed to. Either physically or socially or you know, or emotionally. Yeah so that's what drove me towards that end.

Aman Chopra: So you mentioned this thing about like, there were some really complicated words you used when it came to geography right? Can you simplify that. So I understand what's interesting is that where your location is, what’s your upbringing – it has a lot to do with your location and the world has a lot to do with public health. What about geography? In the beginning were some words you used that oh this is very interesting. They felt like long, what do those words mean? In terms of… how can we simplify geography and when it comes to someone who might not even know what a major in geography is?

Prince Amegbor: Yeah so you can think of geography basically as the study of the earth. Right, and when you look at the earth, there are so many things that makes up the earth right? We have human society which you can term as anthropogenic paths. You have the natural environments, the trees, the rivers, the things you know? The natural stuff that's fun. Topography, drawing of the hills and the valleys and stuff. Then you have in between them both environments: the cities, the railway, the transport and everything. So in geography, we look at the totality of all these factors and how it informs human environment interaction. And there are different disciplines in those subdisciplines in geography. So you have economic geographists who look at it from the economic side. So how do all these together impact economic life and wellbeing? Then you have the health geographers where we look at all these factors and how it impacts human health and wellbeing, yeah.

Aman Chopra: Oh wow, okay. Geography is a lot more than I thought it was, right?

Prince Amegbor: Yeah but some people termed us the jack of all trades and master of none because it's, you can apply it in every fold and every concept right? Because everything we do takes place in space. Right?

Aman Chopra: Right.

Prince Amegbor: And this place, I am butted by human beings, I am butted by culture. So all these things are of interest to geographers  .

Aman Chopra: Yeah, I'm so curious you know. For, I probably haven't thought of geography in a decade. Until I started reading about it and before you were coming on the podcast and I'm very curious, who might be some famous names that we know in the world that can help simplify that this person is a geographer? How do we think of that?

Prince Amegbor: Who do I know? Almost all the geographers I know are in academia. So for example there is this famous American geographer who was the President of the American Geographers Association called Kyle Altensar. And he defined geography as the morphology of landscape.

Aman Chopra: Okay.

Prince Amegbor: So basically, whatever make up the landscape we live in and there are other well-known geographers like Humboldt and Ritter. I don't know, but in terms of you know, in terms of celebrities and others, honestly have no idea. But most of the people I know, probably speak volume of my interest and where I lean towards, basically in the academia so yeah. But back in Ghana there are a lot of politicians who are geographists. So there were former minister of I think, the trade of something who was a geographer. Yeah.

Aman Chopra: Wow. So it's, well it's so cool to hear is that it impacts everyone. Like geography is…

Prince Amegbor: Easily.

Aman Chopra: We are geography. Our life is geography.

Prince Amegbor: Exactly.

Aman Chopra: This table, wherever we are, this building is geography.

Prince Amegbor: Exactly.

Aman Chopra: Urban, it goes into that. So that's so interesting that it, like you said you know, jack of all trades and master of none at the same time.

Prince Amegbor: Yeah.

Aman Chopra: Let's go into the public health. Remember we can talk about geography a little bit more you know? What is a health geographer?

Prince Amegbor: Yeah, so basically a health geographer is someone who applies geographic thinking, methods and techniques to understand health issues. So you could for example, some of the key questions you may want to ask yourself is why is that people in Denmark have a higher life expectancy than let's say someone in the United States or someone in Sub-Saharan Africa right? Or why is it that for example, let's say certain groups, population groups, irrespective of whether they are in Europe or United States have similar demographic, or certain health characteristics. You know, so these are some of the key issues that geographers will probe into in terms of, there's always the component of space in our thinking. So whatever you look at in terms of health, for example maybe a doctor will look at infection among patients. That we are looking at where is the patient located? Why, how does the environment that the patient lived in contributed to their health exposure that the person is reporting to. They are the factors within that environment as well, for the social environment as well, that contribute to it. Comparing this patient to someone who live elsewhere. Would that person also have the same risk of you know, contracting that disease? So these are some of the you know, critical spatial thinking that we ask as geographists in the realm of public health.

Aman Chopra: So it seems like geography is a large scale thing that targets everything in the world. So there is fundamentals of geography and then a lot of, you mentioned the famous person you were mentioning before that right? So you're looking at it from a health angle. You can look at geography from multiple angles and is that how the industry is kind of revolving in geography?

Prince Amegbor: Yeah so I wouldn't say large scale but there is scale in geography, every geography study right? So for example if you pick New York as a city, it's clustered and patterned right? I'm sure you find certain socioeconomic groups live in some way, and or some part of this as you compare to others right? So that's of interest. You can go bigger than New York to maybe the states right? Or even the country of United States. So probably you find that maybe in the West Coast, because of these high educational institutions, you have like NYU and others. Maybe the population around West Coast are more highly educated than say population in other parts of the country.

Aman Chopra: Right.

Prince Amegbor: So it depends on their scale but whatever scale you apply, there is often key and there are questions that are of interest to us as geographers. Even within a community, a neighborhood, there are still differences and we as geographists are interested in understanding, be the differences or the similarity among the population. So if there are similarities, why right? Because as in the grass, we have our own interest and others? So if there are similarities, it's also of interest to geographers. Why the similarities? What makes them behave the way they do?

Aman Chopra: Yeah, I'm really. This is very interesting. There's, a lot of the students that come to our school from what I hear after talking to them is that there's a lot of data involved.

Prince Amegbor: Yep.

Aman Chopra: There's this entire class on I think some stats and math and it seems like a very hard, difficult class for them to do right? We had a podcast with an organization at the school called PQAR, qualitative research and getting quantitative research together for everyone else. And in your intro, we spoke about data. Why is data so important in geography?

Prince Amegbor: There's this saying that knowledge is power and got knowledge from data right? So without the data you don't have that knowledge of what is happening among your population or whatever group or society you are interested in as a researcher or even as a policymaker. So that's where it's coming from. And even though often we emphasize quantitative data or looking at the numbers, if I should say. But geographers are also interested in the weights, people's experiences. Because sometimes you understand the numbers. For example number is telling you that A causes B right? But as in how A causes B, you don't know right? So for example someone may have contracted COVID as a result of maybe going for a party. Someone may have contracted this, probably because they went to a hospital for care right? So the modes of exposure, how they got it is different.

Aman Chopra: Right.

Prince Amegbor: So that's why the qualitative aspect or the weights aspect also becomes crucial to geographers. So it's not always about the numbers because the numbers, it's important. Because everything, like I said is structured and patterned but you also want to capture the experience. Their motivations. For example, someone is sick and they go to the hospital. The doctor recommend this or even let's pick this critical issue that is often these vaccine deniers right? Why is it that some people embrace vaccination whilst others don't? You know, you want to share their experiences. You can go with the numbers all right but you don't get the richness of what you know, what is the motivations behind that denying of vaccination or you know, embracing vaccination uptake you know? So yeah.

Aman Chopra: Let's target this one final academic concept before we go open up this door a lot more right?

Prince Amegbor: Yeah.

Aman Chopra: There was this thing that I was reading that you wrote recently within the public health newsletter on geospatial thinking. Now we've spoken about geography. We've spoken about data and its importance and how geography targets public health. What is geospatial thinking? How can people in public health or even outside of public health learn from geospatial thinking?

Prince Amegbor: So basically geospatial thinking is basically applying the geographic concept to the space and space is everything around us right? Aand geospatial thinking is crucial especially in this time of our life or of human history because of the inequalities that exist within our society right? And if you look at the official United Nations sustainable development goals, inequality often comes up along as one of the key things that they seek to address. In terms of poverty, reducing poverty or improving health among certain vulnerable population right? And to be able to target or design interventions for these populations you ought to know where are my population? Where are the vulnerable population? And to do that you need this geospatial thinking and geospatial techniques to identify them, right? And how we often construe vulnerability defects. So probably let's pick these tornadoes that were happening recently. Certain communities or areas in the United States are more prone to the effect of tornadoes than others. Others may be prone to the effect of let's say, hurricanes. Others might be prone to the effect of heatwaves right? So the vulnerability defense and so geospatial thinking kind of organizes these things in a way that is very easy for us as human beings to understand. As humans we are very visual right? For example if you watch a video, let's say you are in high school, you are given the option to read let's say, Macbeth written in the old Elizabethan English or to watch the video or the movie. Most people opt for the movie because you can remember more than reading. So as humans we are more inclined to visual depictions and that's where geospatial thinking comes in. So we often visualize these data, try to map it and identify key vulnerability risk or whatever is of interest right? Then see how best we can use policies to intervene in the kind of things that we are seeing based on what the data is telling us right? So for example, if I'm designing a program that seeks to encourage vaccine uptake, I know that okay there's no uptake in this community and based on the richness or maybe the interviews you did, you know that these are the reasons. So maybe I need to target more education on material towards this path rather than pushing it to a place like New York where maybe about 95% or 99% of the population are already taking up vaccines.

Aman Chopra: There's so much there right? What do you think of right now? You're a health geographer. What do you think of when I say the word environment, what comes to your mind?

Prince Amegbor: A lot of things. First, this is an environment. Where we are now is an environment itself. So environment is very broad and often it can be ambiguous depending on how it's used. You can refer to environment as being the nature. You know, the natural things. The trees, the animals, things you see in the wild, jungle, low safari, Tarzan you know? Or you can go further into social relations among people. That's also an environment, that's the social environment. You can look at it from the humans, modifications to the natural environment. The city, the skyscrapers, the parks, the railways, cars and others. So it's a very broad concept and often when you use it in research or even in policy, you need to clearly define what you are referring to when you use that term environment, yeah.

Aman Chopra: Okay, makes sense. There's, there's another part of it right? You mentioned a lot about locations and different environments for people. We hear a lot about climate change recently and you know, everyone knows about climate change. They have a different relationship with it. How would you simplify what climate change is for everyone? Like this is climate change.

Prince Amegbor: Yeah.

Aman Chopra: How would you talk about that?

Prince Amegbor: So first, before we delve into that, you need to distinguish between climate change and weather right? Or climate and weather. So when we talk about weather, we are referring to whatever the condition is within a given location and it's often on a smaller scale. Maybe a city or even a neighborhood and it could be the temperature, the rainfall pattern and others. But when we are talking about climate, we are looking at the long-term pattern of these weather conditions right? So we know that probably between April to let's say June, in New York ideally there should maybe, less rainfall. There should be, temperature should hover around, sorry I'm used to the metric system, so maybe around 25 degrees Centigrade and others but in the situation where… so climate is actually, I think the rough term is 30 years. Average weather conditions for any given location and it often transcends just locality. It can be for a whole country or even a series of countries or a region right? So they all have similar characteristics in terms of how the weather conditions is supposed to be within a given timeframe based on what you've said here. Now, climate change is where these, the range that we understand, start to deviate right? So instead of, for example, temperature right? Let's say in the current period, the temperature hovering around 23. We're having temperatures going maybe 40, 45. You know, and it's occurring frequently. Sometimes you have some anomalies, it's once in awhile. Yes, understandable. But once it keeps happening, you know you have frequent heat waves. So a lot of high temperatures, you have frequent flooding. You know, you have frequent hurricanes. Whilst ideally you are supposed to have let's say one or two within a given year, but you're having them repeatedly. Then it tells you that there's something happening and that's what climate change is about.

Aman Chopra: Wow, okay that was very easy to understand. Very well-explained. So in the world of climate change right, we look at 30 years of data like you mentioned and how, is it natural for our world to do it? It seems like it's unnatural right? There is oftentimes, is this a part of how the whatever planet revolves and this climate is gonna come and this is the next 30 years and then it will change again? Or it seems like an anomaly because of environmental aspects that are manmade and you know, pollution or things like that. Is that how it's being formed?

Prince Amegbor: No, so when I talk about 30 years, I was referring to how we define the climate of a place right? So you need a minimum of 30-year data to be able to analyze. For example if I want to let's say, find out let's say the net salary gor let's say NYU professors over the course of the year. I can pick probably this year and it gives me information but there are years that probably because of either recession or others, the salary will drop. So when you have it, it's the same as financial market. When you give a given range, it gives you a fair idea of what ideal situation is right? So that's what I meant by the 30-year. But climate change has been a real kind of phenomena in the earth history. So give or take that is about 1.5 billion years and there's been incidents of dramatic climatic changes in the earth. So we have a perido where it's called, the whole earth was basically covered with ice and snow. So the snowball earth as it was known. Then things happened, often these are natural phenomena. Like volcanic eruptions right, setting gases in that atmosphere and because of these gases, by virtue of being there, they'd warm the earth or they block heat from coming from the sun, so cools the earth. But the problem we are having now is the pace of change right? So the natural ones take a long time to occur. Some could be thousands of years. Even hundreds and thousands of years right? But now most of the changes we are seeing as a result of human activities. So our economic endeavors, factory, production, you know, consumption, production of food and all these things. We release certain gases and certain hazard into the atmosphere and basically they are known as the greenhouse gases. So you can think of it as your backyard garden. You have this glass board to regulate the temperature for certain kinds of plants. The same thing. When these gases are released into the atmosphere, they absorb the heat that the earth emit to space. So instead of going back to space, they trap it and kind of warms the earth right? So excessive heat and that's what is causing all these global warming, climate change issues. So the focus, yes it's occurred in the earth history but the problem now is the pace at which it's occurring right? So even if they're, let's say at a certain point in time they're glaciers and they're, the ice in the Arctic and you know, the poles will melt. Probably to take millions or even billions of years but now it's taking place at a rapid place and that's what of concern to researchers like me and other stakeholders here.

Aman Chopra: Which means where we will be unable to adapt based on where we stand.

Prince Amegbor: Exactly.

Aman Chopra: Right now in the world. In order to do that we have to make changes, significant changes in order to combat this thing. Otherwise worse times will hit us in a way that's unexpected.

Prince Amegbor: Yeah. And even if we talk about adaptation, certain countries might have the resources. Certain individuals even within the United States might have the resources. For example, someone who lives closer to let's say, the coasts and they know that it's more likely to flood. Maybe they'll have the money to raise up the foundation of the abode and so that, even if it's increased by that much, they can. But how many people can afford that right? So while some people can adapt you know, put in measures to minimize the impact of climate change, majority of the population can't right? In the long run it's not good for us. It's better for whether you can adapt or you can put in certain mechanisms right? There is this popular saying that when the last tree dies, the last man dies right? Or the last human die. And it's often because we are dependent. We have this symbiotic relationship with nature and whatever transformation we make to it impact on us. Often nature has to be in an equilibrium, must be stable right? We must be at peace. So if we look at most of our traditional societies, they often advocate for that concept. Of human beings at peace and at oneness with nature and the environment and our recent lifestyle, it doesn't foster that kind of behavior. Hence we are causing a lot of disturbance to nature and yes, we need to start thinking critically about our actions and how it affects the environment we live in and ultimately our health and wellbeing as well.

Aman Chopra: Certain regions in the world are impacted more than other regions, correct?

Prince Amegbor: Yeah.

Aman Chopra: And yes, you mentioned where some areas are more prone to hurricanes. Some areas are more prone to you know, tsunamis or you know, sea levels. What are some things beyond these climate factors right? Could there be health inequities in the place? Income of a certain region, the area it's located in?

Prince Amegbor: Yeah and yes so ideally, even though we have these climate, eco and environmental effects happening as a result of climate change but we realize that like I said, as humans our life is intertwined with the environment.

Aman Chopra: Right.

Prince Amegbor: So whatever happens to the environment affect us. So for example in Sub-Saharan Africa and most of the global south or the so-called developing world, a lot of people depend on the environment for the sustenance right? So if you look at the farmers, they depend on rainfall, they depend on maybe certain optimal temperature, in order to harvest crops. Now if rainfall becomes erratic right, it leads to flooding, destruction of crop land right? Which affects household food security. That in turn affects you know, the level of nutrient they are getting and it can impact, lead to certain diseases like anemia and other nutrition-related. Now the same thing, even the destruction of life and property as a result of these floods and hurricanes and tornadoes right, and if an ability comes like you say, one depends on the geography of where the population is located. And also two, as a result of the socioeconomic conditions of the society right? So certain societies might have the resources to maybe create certain technologies or buffers in order to minimize the impact. Bear in mind, we can minimize it. We can't totally eradicate it. So we minimize it but other, most populations don't have the resources or technology to do that right? So as we are even thinking about climate change, its effects, we also need to talk about the sharing of knowledge. We need to talk about equity in terms of how we share resources, how we share knowledge. We share some of these vital technologies that people need to you know, need to incorporate into their daily life in order to live healthy and sustainable lives. For example, we talk about, often when we are talking about climate change, we talk about the need to modify certain behavior/ Maybe we need to minimize let's say, logging in the tropics and the Amazon and in the Sub-Saharan Africa, Congo and other places. But if you go to the ground, you realize that for a lot of people, source of livelihood becomes a very key challenge for them right? So right now let's pick this example. In Ghana, there is this illegal mining activity going on. Which has caused destruction to river bodies and forests right? And we know how the importance of these environmental assets to climate and our wellbeing. Now if you go and preach climate change, if you go and preach sustainability, the people in the community will not listen to you because at the end of the day, they are thinking of how to make a living. How are we going to survive? Where are we getting our next meal from? And these are people who initially were into farming activities but maybe because of climate change and now their crops are failing. So they have to resort probably, either mining or looking for gold, minerals, other minerals from other places or when they were producing these food crops, because of you know, how world markets dictates, they don't get enough from their produce. So there is many stances like that where people have shifted from farming to illegal mining because they don't get enough from their produce and they see the illegal mining or the minerals as a quick way to get rich. So we need to think about all these things. Because once your neighbor is living comfortably right? Then you can also live comfortable right? So if you look at, if you pick the Scandinavian countries as an example, crime rates is very low. And it's often because of that socialist you know, I know Americans hate socialism and communism but I feel, because of the welfare society. So everyone is living, ideally, everyone has work to do. So they don't think about, "Oh let me rob this person." Or, "Let me take this person." And I always use the example where I say Master's students, I was coming back from Ghana. I had bought a new phone, as of then I think it was Sony Xperia V. You know it was one of the phones and as I was running to catch the bus, the phone fell out of my pocket. And you know, based on my thinking I was like, "I will never get this phone back." I got in, spoke to my neighbor who was also a friend. I said, "Juanya, I don't think I'm going to get this phone back." He said, "No, let's call the phone." We call, someone picked it up. They say, "Oh yeah I found it on the floor.” “I've dropped it at 7/11." So when you go, just draw an ID and they'll give it to you. We went and truly we got our phone back, I got the phone back. But if I should drop such a phone in New York, do you think I will get it back? Why? It's because someone living in Oslo, because of the way society is structured doesn't need your phone to survive right? They're already well-to-do. So  I always say once we reach the level where as a society we are at equilibrium or equity right? There's equity among everyone, then I feel most of our problems we can address, will be addressed right? I don't know whether that answers your question.

Aman Chopra: No, it certainly opens up the conversation for a lot of people right? So many folks see climate change as a possibility but there's so much more beyond.

Prince Amegbor: Exactly.

Aman Chopra: That's why what I was so curious to what an environment means to you right? This is an environment. I leave my phone here, I leave my laptop here. It will be fine.

Prince Amegbor: Yeah.

Aman Chopra: Why are environments designed this way? What's influencing environments?

Prince Amegbor: Exactly.

Aman Chopra: It's worthwhile to… and what's so interesting is that's geography.

Prince Amegbor: Yeah.

Aman Chopra: That's what's the coolest thing over here right now.

Prince Amegbor: Yeah, yeah. And the whole issue is especially, some of these, we need to protect, let's pick the Amazon for instance. It plays a very vital role in you know, the global environment because of the oxygen that's trace-released to atmosphere, the cooling effect and other things. And most of the times you find that vulnerable populations live around these locations right? And either vulnerability in terms of either they're indigenous people who probably are not even engaged in any economic activities degrading the land but due to certain economic activities, they are being kicked off or their life out is being, or vulnerability in terms of that because of socioeconomic challenges, people have to resort to degrading the environment which in a way, is as a bit demonstration, even fairer. In order to make mends meets right? Or make ends meet, sorry. That's the right word, make ends meet. So we need to, but if you give these people authentic source of livehood right? And they know that okay, instead of cutting down, degrading, uprooting this forest, I can make livelihood through these other alternative approaches. Then they would even serve as guardian or custodians for these vital assets right? So that's where we come in and that's where geography is very important. We identify the key vulnerable areas, vulnerable populations, who are contributing to their ability? What are the measures we need to put in place? Because the measures will differ. For someone in maybe Amazon who is classified as vulnerable, what makes them vulnerable might be different from someone living in let's say, the Congo basin or someone living in where I come from, Ghana, in western region, classified as being vulnerable.

Aman Chopra: I have, I'd like to take it in this final direction before we conclude right. You're from Ghana.

Prince Amegbor: Yeah.

Aman Chopra: You've gone to the Scandinavia, Norway. Then you've gone to Canada.

Prince Amegbor: Yeah.

Aman Chopra: And then you've gone back to Scandinavia and now you're here at NYU right? What, are these decisions based on, oh it was a better academic? What made you choose these specific regions, you have the world right? Based on the way you think.

Prince Amegbor: Yeah so my first travel to the Scandinavian or Norway was rather informed by necessity but others were conscious choice. Necessity because when I was finished, I was thinking of doing my Master's and I come from a very financially challenged background in terms of my family. So I had actually started a Master's program and I was thinking I was going to the school and how to pay my fees was a challenge. And so one of my professors back in Ghana introduced me to, or mentioned the idea of this quota scholarship where the Norwegian government gives these scholarships to needy but brilliant students. So I applied for it and I got it but I also learned a lot being in that environment because of the exposure right? Of how society operates. Of how the things that goes on and also in terms of what is of priority. So I realize that in Ghana, in terms of my research, the things that are of priority were not of priority in Europe because of what was happened over there. So kind of shape your perspective in terms of what's of priority to different population. Now, when it came to my Master's, because of the language barrier in Norway, I decided to seek an English-speaking country for my PhD. Because I wasn't involved in the academic training, involved in research. Even though there was an opportunity to continue doing my PhD in Norway, I opted to rather do it elsewhere because I thought I needed that training and I wanted, I'm someone who's always passionate about research and so it was a certain skillset I thought I lacked. So that's why and the same reason why I went to Denmark because it was a new center, research center that focused on using big data to understand the relationship between human environments, interaction and health outcome. But I thought it was interesting right? Because it's a novel thought and some of the things and ideas that was being, the aims of the project itself was exciting to me as a person or as a researcher. So that made my move to Denmark after my PhD.

Aman Chopra: And now you're teaching over here.

Prince Amegbor: Yeah.

Aman Chopra: How was the transition? And I believe you have to teach when you're in a PhD in some universities as well right?

Prince Amegbor: Yeah, so yeah.

Aman Chopra: How was that transition from being student to teacher for you?

Prince Amegbor: I think I'm someone who always love interacting with student. So when I finished my high school in Ghana there this is one-year productive wheat before getting into university. I actually taught in elementary school and I loved the interaction with students. I love showing ideas, learning from students. That's what I thought, especially when it comes to the academic environment, it's a bidirectional feedback. There's always things to learn from your students. Often either because of where they are coming from or generational gap, you know and there is things that you as an instructor impart on your students as well. So I've always loved that. So during my PhD as I did teach or tutor courses and even after my Master's, I went back to Ghana to teach for a year before starting my PhD in Canada. Then here I'm teaching as well and one thing I love about the School of Global Health is the diversity in terms of the student population. You know, I interact with students coming from different parts of the world and it enriches the discussion you have in class right? And you, though it's often, if you are say from the United States you might know, "Okay these are the things that happen within." But you are not aware of what is happening in let's say, in Ghana, in let's say, Sri Lanka, in India, China, you know, Zimbabwe and other places. And that's the richness or the diversity of the student body in NYU and also in the School of Global Public Health helps the discussion. I had one student who actually told me one of the classes I'm teaching this semester or the class I'm teaching this semester is the most global course she's ever taken during her study in NYU because of the breadth of the perspective that comes. Yeah.

Aman Chopra: Well Dr. Prince, you have opened our minds up to, first off, the podcast started off with geography. You know it's very, it's not a common subject to speak. So thank you for simplifying it, opening our minds to what the possibilities are. If you could leave us with something right? How should we view the concept of environment and geography going forward? We have listeners that might be from your country as well right? Now we might have listeners that are students at the school. We might have listeners that randomly clicked on this video or this podcast. How can we create a relationship with geography going forward?

Prince Amegbor: Well I think we can, we can create a relationship with geography by embedding some of these geographical thinking into the things we do. Not just in research but even in our everyday activities as well as policy, you know formulations and program. And it's very important as I had mentioned earlier because geography, when you incorporate geographical thinking into whatever you are doing, there you are bridging the gap right? Between the haves and the have nots. Between the inequalities that exist within any given context right? Because you become critical of you know, the differences that exist between your populations. So even as a politician or as a, let's say, a stakeholder you know that okay, this is what I need to do in order to improve the life of my constituents right? So it's, geographical thinking, I feel it's a basic knowledge that all of us must embody into our way of life, into the things we do and in terms of the environment, we have to think about it as an extension of our body right? Because ideally you would not want to cut off your arm because of the pain and the things. You know, the health effects that you have. So if you think of the environment as something that makes you as a human, live comfortable, sustains your life, then you know that “okay, whatever I do to the environment in the long run affects me.” So I only want, not in the sense that I only want to cut off my arm but I wouldn't want to stab myself or something like that. Then I have to treat the environment with care. I need to respect the environment. I need to be reflective of my actions. For example, if I'm buying a cup of coffee. After drinking, can I use this cup for something else? Or do I just throw it away, dump it everywhere?

Aman Chopra: What is my relationship with that environment?

Prince Amegbor: Exactly.

Aman Chopra: Yeah. Sounds like it applies to friendships, relationships, breakups, makeups, the same thing.

Prince Amegbor: Yeah, yeah. And like I said, the environment is bigger right? It's also referring to social relations. So how can I improve the life of you know, those around me right? Because ultimately these, it's often called social capital. You need that, it's an asset and it can be a blessing or a curse. Depending on how it's structured. And we need that to function. As humans, we are social beings right? Thinking, sitting here, chatting with you. In a way, elevates my excitement level, you know makes me happy. So it's kind of improves my mental health and my wellbeing right? Also positive for example, there's some form of antagonism between us, you know there's a strife. I'm always agitated by the sight of seeing you. So it's you know, dampens my spirits. It's not good for me mentally right? So it's all part of it. We need to think broadly in terms of when you think, talk about geography and the environment. So all aspects is very important. The social is important. The financial is important. The physical, the borders, the natural, animals, everything is important.

Aman Chopra: It's for the long-term and I certainly hope there's no strife between us going forward. This has been a delight Dr. Prince. Thank you for exposing us to this entire new world, to me at least and a lot of listeners that will be and thanks for taking the time out to hop on the podcast.

Prince Amegbor: Thank you, thank you. I'm glad to be part of this show and happy to be here, the pleasure is mine. Always Aman.

Aman Chopra: All right folks, we'll see you in the next episode. Thanks for tuning in and everything will be in the description regarding what you heard today. Take care.