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The pursuit of happiness

Fourth-year student spent the spring semester on co-op at the World Health Organization in Switzerland
August 17th, 2011

When Julie Green­gard found out she would be researching hap­pi­ness on co-​​op with the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion (WHO) in Switzer­land, she was over­joyed. Naturally.

“I’ll hap­pily research that,” the fourth-​​year human ser­vices major quipped.

As a research assis­tant in the WHO’s health infor­matics and sta­tis­tics depart­ment, Green­gard scoured arti­cles and global studies on hap­pi­ness in older adults and the rela­tion­ship between health and hap­pi­ness. She also researched and devel­oped pre­sen­ta­tions on dif­ferent ways of mea­suring hap­pi­ness and how fac­tors such as well­being, sat­is­fac­tion and quality of life are defined on a global level.

“There is an increasing elderly pop­u­la­tion now, and we need to look at ways to improve their health,” said Green­gard, whose work will sup­port future WHO poli­cies related to health and hap­pi­ness. “Hope­fully, we can also find ways to help the younger pop­u­la­tion now to make their older years healthier as well as happier.”

Reading about hap­pi­ness all day long inspired Green­gard to make a human­i­tarian con­tri­bu­tion. After learning that elderly people’s lives can be improved by becoming more social, for example, she began vol­un­teering at a nursing home.

As Green­gard put it, “This co-​​op changed my out­look on life. People often don’t think about the con­nec­tions between health and happiness.”

On an pre­vious co-​​op expe­ri­ence with the local non­profit research and con­sulting firm Root Cause, Green­gard exam­ined poten­tial improve­ments to cafe­teria food in the Boston Public Schools system. In the future, she would like to work closely at the com­mu­nity level on health issues such as obesity.

“I want to be close to the people I’m helping,” she said.

- by Greg St. Martin


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