Project Coordinator, Promoting Healthy Behaviors, 17 Triggers Consulting Asia / Lecturer, Pharmacy Faculty, University of Puthisastra, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Master of Public Health with First Class Honours
It’s a fundamental right of every human being to receive an attainable standard of health and public health is also individual responsibility, says New Zealand scholar Vansak Soeum who came to AUT as an international student from Cambodia to study a Master of Public Health.
“We have a responsibility to take care of our own physical and mental health so that we can live a healthy and happy life, which is a product of a healthy community, especially for children. In the public health sector, I aspire to empower people to adopt healthy lifestyle changes and inspire medical students to be a real health professional.”
Now splitting between his role as a project coordinator for 17 Triggers Consulting Asia and as a part-time lecturer for the University of Puthisastra, Vansak has certainly achieved his goal as a public health advocator.
“My current role at 17 Triggers allows me to deliver health training and research, and assist in health creative designs strategy for Promoting Healthy Behaviors (PHB). PHB is a USAID funded social and behaviour change project, delivered by PSI Cambodia and its partners.
“The project aims to improve health behaviours among Cambodians and targets seven key health areas, including maternal and child health, nutrition, perception of quality healthcare, non-communicable disease; water, sanitation and hygiene; tuberculosis, family planning and malaria. I also enjoy lecturing to pharmacy students and helping them apply their clinical knowledge to address hepatitis, hypertension and diabetes cases studies.”
Learning to make a difference
He fondly remembers his time at university, says Vansak who graduated from AUT in March 2021.
“In the public health courses at AUT, I enrolled in a wide range of papers, including building resilience, health system management, global health issues, health promotion, nutrition and more. Studying public health inspired me to be more generous and more active, and developing a growth mindset. The public health degree taught me not just about the health system but also to look for the root causes of health issues, including poverty, climate change, inequality, cultural issues, unsustainable development, education or politics.”
For his master’s degree research, he examined the distance to healthcare services as a risk factor for type 2 diabetes in Cambodia.
"In Cambodia, diabetes is a health condition of increasing concern, with the growing number of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus cases and a projected further rise in the future. I have relatives and beloved friends who are suffering from diabetes, and I clearly understand the hardship they’ve been through. Therefore, my goal was to alert people about the urgent changes needed to address the disease.”
Vansak’s research was supervised by Dr Ailsa Holloway and Dr Melanie Moylan.
The right university environment
Vansak says he would highly recommend studying at AUT.
“AUT is a New Zealand’s leading modern university that provides you with an innovative teaching and learning environment, and the support of world-leading academic staff. At AUT, you’ll become a great graduate and ready to be a good leader in your area of expertise.”
He appreciated a great service that university offers.
“You will enjoy a multicultural learning environment, and have access to gyms, workshops and training. As an AUT student you also have an opportunity to experience New Zealand culture and visit breath-taking scenery by going on trips.”