The Department of Global Health works to achieve sustainable, quality health worldwide through the focused mission of improving health for all through research, education, training, and service. Prerequisite to our success is our shared commitment to increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion within DGH and pursuing antiracist and anticolonial actions in all of our work.
During the 2022–23 academic year, we hosted webinars and programs that examined the topic of DEI and its intersection with global health, worked to bridge the gap between research and implementation, and became inspired by our students who are the future of global health.
We kicked off the new school year by highlighting the ardent work and initiatives of one group of students determined to leave their positive impact on the world sooner rather than later. With that driving goal, they joined DGH’s Global Health Justice group and launched its website with an aim of amplifying voices from the Global South.
Students contribute by writing articles and making videos on public health aspects they are passionate about, while also bringing outside-sourced articles.
As we moved into winter quarter, DGH had the privilege of hosting a book talk-focused webinar with esteemed author and journalist, Anand Giridharadas, to discuss some of today’s pressing issues surrounding philanthropy and philanthropic giving in the global health space - what some pointedly refer to as philanthrocapitalism.
A key focus of this webinar was confronting the truths about philanthropic and financial influence in global health. We heard how money controls the conversation in global health. “A lot of what we see right now is corporate marketing masquerading as public change,” explained Giridharadas. “We should understand that this kind of giving is very much in the interest of the giver.” This leads to the question: should there be accountability in the space of philanthropic giving? Billionaire philanthropists may have the financial resources to put towards philanthropy, however they do not necessarily have the knowledge or expertise to know what really works in the field they are trying to solve.
In May, DGH had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Madhukar Pai, MD, PhD, Canada Research Chair in Translational Epidemiology & Global Health and Associate Director of the McGill International TB Centre, to partake in the Stephen Stewart Gloyd Endowed Lecture Series. He presented his talk titled "Can We Walk Our Talk on Decolonizing Global Health?"
The lecture outlined five key obstacles in decolonizing global health and examined plausible solutions.
Critical discussion took place around the key issues of:
- Global health continuously failing on health equity for citizens of the Global South
- The imbalanced amount of talk versus action taking place on DEI and decolonization in both academic and corporate institutions across the globe
- How the global health field itself is inequitable, dominated by those with power and privilege
- Global health repeatedly failing on equity unless we shift from charity to justice and from saviorism to allyship
- How walking the talk of decolonization is hard, but possible
Dr. Pai emphasized his point stating that the only way to achieve change is to bring people together through mobilizing or organizing, harnessing the power of many for change. Additional emphasis is given to the point that we must get political to solve things.
There will be no change without political action and concentrated efforts to dismantle current systems and structures of power and privilege as all of this is critically important in geopolitics and for overcoming obstacles of global health action. This will take us closer to a world that Dr. Pai describes as one “where we don’t need charity at all.”
DGH discussions on the imbalances in health and structural racism continued in May with a medical apartheid-focused webinar hosted by a coalition of students, faculty and staff.
The webinar centered on:
- Intellectual property rights, Big Pharma, and global trade barriers to vaccine and medicine access in the Global South
- The growing international debt crisis (intensified by the pandemic) and austerity policies that prevent health system investment and undermine access to basic services across the Global South
We discussed how Big Pharma and Big Banking put profits and business interests ahead of saving lives. Capitalism thrives, even in times of desperate need. Attendees dived deeper into examining how structural racism, the international debt crisis, and austerity policies intersect in medical apartheid and keep a deadly knee on the neck of the Global South and how we can join efforts to push back.
DGH continued concentrated efforts to define and refine focus in its updated strategic plan for 2022–2024. Underpinning the entire strategy, and prerequisite to its success, is a shared commitment to increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion within DGH and pursuing antiracist and anticolonial actions in all of DGH’s work. The strategy is formulated across four key strategic levers:
- Transforming our learning environment
- Optimizing research to improve health systems
- Cultivating equitable partnerships
- Catalyzing interdisciplinary solutions
Apart from the many provocative discussions on DEI, we also celebrated great work done by our DGH centers, programs, and initiatives that implement our goals of anti-racist and anti-colonialist work. Global WACh, I-TECH, and Global Cardiovascular Health Program (GCHP) have all produced impressive work in areas including: breaking down barriers to health and wellness for women in India, improving pediatric nutritional care in Kenya, launching new or improved programs, partnerships and resources centers across Eastern Europe, Central Asia and West Africa and, bridging the gap between research and practice in cardiovascular care in Uganda.
Additionally, the International AIDS Research and Training Program (IARTP) held a Global Health Research and Training in Cardiometabolic Diseases Research Symposium on June 5-6, 2023. This program works with collaborative research institutions in Kenya to provide advanced training in HIV research, focusing on improving the HIV care cascade and promoting implementation science research.
DGH awarded 25 global travel fellowships this year to support onsite projects and research of graduate students at UW for the next academic year. Students from varied disciplines, including global health, epidemiology, nursing, health metric sciences, and environmental health sciences, will travel to 13 countries to engage with local communities and pursue fieldwork experience. Projects range from investigating antimicrobial resistance patterns in Ecuador to promoting neonatal health through text messaging interventions in Kenya.
The Department’s travel fellowships are funded through the generous donations of private individuals and organizations, as well as support from the Department of Global Health. Donations to support future fellowships and critical funds are always welcomed.
Climate change is a community and global health problem. UW’s Jeremy Hess and Jason Vogel premiered the Climate Health Risk Tool to an engaged audience attending a Beat the Heat informative event on June 22. The tool explores potential climate-related impacts to community health using interactive decision-support models. The information gathered helps decision makers and community members develop plans to protect communities and public health under changing climate-related environmental conditions.
As we closed out the academic year, we celebrated our students and all their academic success through graduation and award celebrations.
One such student we celebrated was Carole Green, MPH. She was the Master level awardee of the prestigious Gilbert S. Omenn Award for Academic Excellence. Her studies focused on how climate change is affecting human health and well-being.
Carole shared, “I think we tend to look at climate change as we’re all doomed and the world is going to end tomorrow and I think that’s not the right way to look at it,” Green said. “Climate change, when broken down into different smaller problems, is very solvable.”