Olubusola Onasile

Master of Public Health

Studying abroad opened Olubusola’s eyes to health inequity—and changed the focus of her master’s.

Olubusola Onasile initially came to Canada to study Global Health. SFU offered a multi-disciplinary approach, and a practicum; the idea she could apply theoretical knowledge in a real setting excited her. A few months into her Master of Public Health, her focus began to shift. “Initially I was in the Global Health stream. But then I started to think about how there’s a lot of inequity in health. I started to look at myself—as an immigrant in a country—thinking about my relationship with the health care system, and how unequal it had been. I switched to the Population Health stream, because I wanted to focus on addressing health inequity issues at the population level.”

Health inequity is a core focus for SFU’s Faculty of Health Sciences. It wasn’t hard to find an inspiring practicum in the field. For her summer practicum, Olubusola worked with the Global HPV Control Team at the BC Women’s Health Research Institute, to assist with the implementation of a project that focuses on using an online platform to increase cervical cancer screening uptake with self-collected samples for HPV testing among under screened immigrant South Asian women in the Fraser health region. There are a lot of barriers to accessing care for these women. If this study achieves its objectives, it means that cervical cancer screening rates will increase in this population.

Cancer outcomes are significantly improved through early detection, meaning marginalized communities who lack health care access are disproportionately affected by the disease. Olubusola hopes the project will lead to wider implementation province wide and eventually across Canada, improving cancer outcomes for marginalized women nationally.

Prior to her practicum, Olubusola worked part-time as a Research Assistant at the Sexual Violence Support and Prevention Office (SVSPO) at SFU, fighting for health equity in another context: sexual violence support. “We conducted a project that focused on identifying barriers newcomers in the country—international students, immigrants, and refugees — face when accessing sexual violence support services. A lot of newcomers weren’t using the services; we tried to identify the barriers, so we could improve the services provided at the SVSPO and make it more comfortable for these students. We want to ensure that no matter the students’ cultural background; they know the services are for them too.”

An immigrant herself, Olubusola is aware of how different Canadian culture can be to new arrivals. “Everything is different from where I am originally from—the health care system, the education system—fortunately, I’ve met people who are very warm and supportive and have helped me in settling down into the Canadian culture and lifestyle. I have also gotten that same support in my Master’s program which has made the journey worthwhile and less daunting for me.”