In our world of radically increased interdependence, the forces that have shaped the challenges are universal, and they are not easily reversed.
- Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization
In today's 24-hour news climate filled with negative stories, it is easy to lose sight of the positive. Disease and inequities abound. Global health researchers, students and practitioners are often drawn to those negative narratives and are driven to change the stories and the realities. With this context, as well as the current political climate, it is vitally important to celebrate the growth of global health work, our achievements and our mandate.
Ten years ago the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provided funding to launch a humble group of researchers, led by founding Chair King Holmes, into a fully functioning Department of Global Health (DGH) at UW. Now DGH is among the world's foremost academic global health programs. We work with partners in over 130 countries to address over 132 health topics, and we are growing. DGH faculty, staff and partners are honored to work side-by-side with the Washington community to improve health and reduce inequities around the world.
On February 8th, DGH celebrated our founding, as well as the anniversaries of eight other global health organizations in Washington state, with a day-long symposium titled Global Health: Next Decade, Next Generation. Speakers and guests discussed some of the most pressing issues faced by the global health community today. It was a huge, inspiring success, with over 700 in-person participants and hundreds watching via live-stream.
Washington state is a premier destination for the global health sector, with the UW Department of Global Health at the center of innovation for more than 30 years. The symposium provided a glimpse into the 168 non-profits, businesses and entities across Washington working to improve global health, a sector that has brought in $5.8 billion of direct economic benefit and almost $46 million in state tax revenue.
The day was not strictly about the past, however. We also used the moment to look to the horizon and consider challenges the next generation will face, including pandemic disease preparedness, global environmental change, and growing rates of non-communicable diseases.
Featured keynote speeches by Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization and Dr. Peter Piot, Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine focused on the overwhelming need to break out of topical silos and expand the way we think about and study global health. The emphases of the day were increased community engagement, equal representation in policy making, pandemic disease foreshadowing, and cross-industry collaboration. A big push exists about reaching outside of single-issue comfort zones to bring health information and services to the people who need them most.
Panelists included leaders from across the UW community, as well as PATH, Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirths, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Health Alliance International, Washington Global Health Alliance, Center for Infectious Disease Research, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, and WSU's Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health.