From Preston to Benghazi

23 August 2018

University medical students deliver Libya’s first-ever Health Mela

Medical students from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) have taken the ingredients of an established Lancashire health initiative and replicated its success in Benghazi, Libya.

The ‘Health Mela’ was first conceived and developed in Preston by the *National Forum for Health and Wellbeing and the UCLan students were inspired by its ethos of bringing together a wealth of health-related information, free health checks for the local community and the opportunity to meet health professionals for advice in a relaxed environment.

The students, from UCLan’s Bachelor of Medicine & Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) programme, decided to see if they could mirror its success abroad.

Eight UCLan students (seven studying on the MBBS and one studying Biomedical Science) travelled to Benghazi where they galvanised support from other students at both the Libyan Medical International University and Libyan Arab University.

In total, 35 medical student volunteers took part in the first-ever Libyan Health Mela with over 250 of Benghazi’s local community receiving health advice and checks for things such as blood pressure, BMI measurements as well as analysis of blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

The daylong event also incorporated short lectures, delivered by local hospital nutritionists, while educational videos were available to heighten the public’s awareness of health conditions such as heart disease and stroke.

"The event was a total success and we’ve received some fantastic feedback from those who attended."

Commenting on the day, UCLan’s Sanad Elrishe, a third year MBBS student and one of the event’s organisers, said: “Once we’d carried out our health checks we ran one-to-one sessions with attendees, using their health data to provide lifestyle advice tips.

“The event was a total success and we’ve received some fantastic feedback from those who attended. This was the first time that Benghazi has ever seen anything like this and now we have been approached to guide others so they can run similar events in other parts of the country.”

Sanad, who is from Libya, added: “As trainee doctors we have all gained so much from this experience. Learning academic theory in the classroom is important but there is no substitute for putting concepts into practice by working with people who have real health issues.”

Of the 35 volunteers that took part in the Benghazi Mela, the following were from UCLan:

Sanad Elrishe (Organiser) MBBS year 3

Abdalmanam El-Shikhi (Organiser) MBBS year 3

Rayan Elzwawi (Organiser) MBBS year 3

Elmahdi Darbi (Organiser) MBBS year 3

Ahmed Elhbeshi (Volunteer) MBBS year 3

Yosra Khllat (Volunteer) MBBS year 3

Farah Al-Mughrbi (Volunteer) MBBS year 4

Mohamed Shuaib (Volunteer) Biomedical Science year 3

The other two organisers of the Mela were Sorour Obaida, a fourth year medical student at Cairo University and Ghada El-shititi, a fourth year medical student at the Libyan International Medical University.

*In Preston, the annual Health Mela has been a popular event in the community calendar for the last 17 years. It is organised by the National Forum for Health and Wellbeing.

Sanad Elrishe pictured second left with fellow peers
Sanad Elrishe pictured second left with fellow peers