After long quest, climate/public health pioneer applauds Obama’s historic emissions order

The year is 1997. Jonathan Patz, a young university researcher, is organizing and leading the first-ever federal briefing on the combined topics of climate change and health to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Carol Browner. Among those in the room, he has convened an U.S. Army colonel, a Centers for Disease Control & Prevention branch chief, and other leading scientists. Patz is advised he’ll be lucky to have 30 minutes with Browner, whose agency is charged with ensuring a safe environment for public health; the meeting lasts for 90 minutes and may represent a pivotal shift in the framing of climate change.

Patz Spring 2013

Jonathan Patz, MD, MPH

Fast forward to June 2, 2014. Patz, now Director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Global Health Institute, is invited to listen live by phone when President Barack Obama announces his historic order to cut coal plant carbon emissions 30 percent by the year 2030. Unlike most Americans hearing the announcement, Patz is not surprised that the President chose a hospital as the venue for this speech. His message from 17 years ago still resonates: Public health is a central concern in the climate change agenda.

“The President’s executive order is a game changer,” says Patz, who is also a professor in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and the School of Medicine and Public Health. “It puts a non-voluntary limit on carbon dioxide emissions from our largest emitting sector. It finally places us back on the world stage taking leadership as the world’s number one producer of climate altering pollutants over past decades.

“This helps legitimize our asking countries like China and India to join an endeavor requiring unprecedented international cooperation.”

Patz is a recognized pioneer in the field of climate change and health. In 1994, he organized the first-ever panel session on climate change for the American Association for Public Health (APHA). A year later, he wrote the association’s first policy resolution on the threat climate change poses for public health.

In 2008, he testified before both Houses of Congress (listen here) in support of the pivotal 2009 “Endangerment Finding” of the EPA that recognizes climate change endangers human lives. His scientific articles are among the most cited in the field.

Patz co-chaired the health panel of the first Congressionally mandated U.S. National Assessment on Climate Variability and Change and served as lead author for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

In a brief Q&A, Patz talked about the climate change and health conversation he has helped shape for 20 years.

The effect of climate change on health was considered a marginal issue in the early 1990s, and your supervisors advised against pursuing the topic. What brought you to this issue and how did you help sound the alarm?

I saw climate change as a linchpin preventive medicine issue that included energy policy, pollution, population growth and multi-pathway risks to health. It was barely investigated, so I chased it with fervor.

Why is Obama’s executive order critical in the struggle to maintain public health in the face of climate change?

First, climate change poses enormous risks to our health, from heat waves and floods, to food security, infectious diseases, and social disruption. But a key added bonus is that burning less fossil fuels has immediate health benefits and, in fact, is the focus my own research team has taken.

In the last few weeks, the IPCC and the U.S. National Climate Assessment reports have shown how quickly our climate is changing. The Supreme Court released its ruling that allows the EPA to regulate smog from coal plants, and now, the President has offered the strictest rules, to date, for carbon emissions. How will these events change the conversation?

We’ve come to a point in time—with the resounding confirmation from these assessments —where the overriding scientific results show that climate change is real, it’s human induced and, therefore, human solved. The science is clear, and Obama is doing something about it. I am gratified by the focus on human health in this major step forward.

More and more people realize climate change is not just about polar bears. It’s about people, especially children. The Global Health Institute, supported by public and private contributions, is committed to addressing the root causes of disease, pursuing health today and ensuring health for tomorrow. To learn more or to make a gift, visit

By Ann Grauvogl /June 5, 2014

Graduate Students Take on Global Health Challenges

With help from the Global Health Institute’s 2013 Graduate Student Research Awards, seven students are tackling health challenges around the world, from the spread of dengue fever in Colombia to the impact of health care changes in the highlands of Thailand. The results of their research could provide information that will lead to improved health for children and adults. Read more.


In Haiti, mango trees can benefit health, economy and communities

In rural Haiti, mangoes can have far more than economic benefits. They represent better health, a means to improve family well-being and a way to reverse deforestation, says Gergens Polynice, a fellow in Agricultural and Applied Economics in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Gergens is among a trio of University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers who received a seed grant from the UW-Madison Global Health Institute to look at how to encourage increased mango production among small farmers.


UW-Madison researcher Gergens Polynice, right, and his research assistants interviewed about 800 mango farmers to determine how to encourage families to plant more trees.

“While providing health care and medications are very important to global health issues, empowering communities through the creation of economic activities is critical in preventing poverty-born diseases,” Polynice says. As work on the project comes to a close, investigators discovered farmers encouraging each other to plant mangoes and subsidies that cover post-harvest expenses and reduce price fluctuations provide incentives to plant trees that benefit families and communities.

“Haiti has great potential to increase the value and volume of its mango production and to expand its portfolio of economic opportunities,” Polynice says.

Polynice, who was born in Fond-Parisien and raised in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, discussed the project recently with GHI.

Why did you develop this project?

This project came up mainly after the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 when there was a lot of interest from people and companies who wanted to help Haiti and give whatever they could. I was looking at what other values people could emphasize to help producers and, ultimately, help the country that faces high poverty rates and limited access to education, health, housing and other basic services.

This study focused on small-scale farmers and how to build the capacity of local communities to take advantage of their mango crops.

Why mangoes?

One of the best paths to reducing poverty in Haiti has nothing to do with finding gold, diamonds, oil or foreign aid, but rather can be found in creating economic activities and jobs in rural communities.

Mango consumption is increasing in developed countries, and Haiti is one of the main producers of mangoes for the U.S. market. Haiti exports a minimal quantity compared to its total production.  However its export volume is of very high value.

What did your project entail?

The project is about trying to predict the pattern of mango production based on price and based on the social network of the producers. I went to Haiti and interviewed about 800 producers. We gathered data in the field and analyzed it through predictive analytics and economic models.

We tried to predict how price increases would affect mango production and how that would affect land that people would make available to plant mangos and, in return, how the whole thing will affect the people’s livelihoods.

What are the economic benefits of increasing small farmers’ mango production?

From the producer standpoint, mango production requires only a few trees on a farm or in a backyard. The economic opportunity is widespread as opposed to concentrating production in the hands of one large farmer. From an economic standpoint, it makes sense that small producers will be in control if the mango price and the actual production increase.

What other benefits do you see?

  • Mangoes are a vital fruit for human nutrition.
  • Planting fruit trees will help reverse the effects of massive deforestation and help protect the soil.
  • Encouraging mango production among small farmers will reduce poverty, strengthen communities and increase family incomes Reducing poverty will strengthen communities.

What did you find?

Haiti_Mango in Madison

Mango consumption continues to increase in developed countries, and mangos from Haiti are high quality. They are popular at U.S. markets, including Brennan’s Market in Madison, Wisconsin.

I found that, basically, social networks significantly impact the production of mangoes. When the price increases, folks tend to plant more but, on top of that, coupling the price with actual networking encourages production. It’s kind of like having a farmers’ organization, where helping each other is an incentive for them to plant more.

What else would you like us to know?

The mango is a small little piece of the pie when it comes to development in Haiti. However, if we want to have a quick economic impact  ̶  if the small producers receive the higher value for their mango and cut the middle man out  ̶  then you will see more trees  and more economic value. It’s something that’s doable. Providing incentives for planting mangos or any fruit tree for that matter could result in a lot more trees and economic value for small farmers.

GHI awarded the seed grants to help investigators like you address the multi-faceted root causes of health and disease. How did the seed grant impact your project?

The seed grant helped pay tuition expenses and hire three research assistants, one from UW-Madison and two from Haiti.

What happens next?

I am preparing two articles for publication that explore the data in specific detailed predictions on the effects of price, land availability and social network on production.


Symposium links human, animal, environmental health


The Global Health Symposium at the University of Wisconsin-Madison reflects a decade of interdisciplinary global health work on campus, says Dr. Christopher Olsen, this year’s keynote speaker.

This year’s symposium, “One Health: Making the Connections,” begins at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 1, in the Health Sciences Learning Center. More than 50 students and faculty and staff members will participate in panel discussions and present posters that showcase their work. Their investigations delve into an array of medical, policy and environmental factors that influence health and illness, including:

  • Identifying barriers to childhood immunizations in rural Uganda
  • Building sustainable livelihoods in Sierra Leone
  • Developing a model for veterinary medical care in Ecuador
  • Improving medical education for Ethiopian women
  • Understanding the health impacts of climate change in eastern United States
  • Identifying new disease threats to wildlife

UW-Madison’s Global Health Institute (GHI) with the Schools of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH), Nursing, Pharmacy and Veterinary Medicine sponsor the symposium. It is co-sponsored by the SMPH Global Health Interest Group.

Olsen, interim vice provost for teaching and learning and professor of public health in the School of Veterinary Medicine, was among 24 faculty members convened in 2001 to coordinate and establish policies for UW-Madison’s global health efforts. He remembers the initial meetings: “When we looked at the collection of people in the room, we knew we could do a lot more to establish a global health presence on campus if we kept on meeting and talking.”Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 3.25.40 PM

The first annual Global Health Symposium was organized in 2004 to further connect students, faculty and staff who were doing interesting global health work, Olsen says. It told the rest of campus and the larger Madison community what they were doing and began to build interest and cast that net wider. “There certainly was a sense early on that people didn’t know what was already happening and that there were lots of potential human capital to tap into … if you could just get people talking in the same room.”

“The symposium is an event people look forward to, and it represents content from across the campus,” Olsen says. “It’s a great reflection of the interdisciplinary sense at the UW-Madison.”

With the symposium, GHI provides an interactive forum for students and faculty. It provides networking opportunities, celebrates global health work and includes a diversity of scholars.

Each year, the symposium’s theme also provides a path for follow-up action, Director Jonathan Patz says. “One Health, which recognizes human health is linked to the health of animals and the environment, is an integral framework to bring to all global health work, and we’ll be doing more in that area in the next few years.”

One Health is a way to solve issues at a global scale through interdisciplinary collaboration, Olsen says. His keynote address will explore issues around the world that require the One Health approach, such the movement of influenza from animals to humans and the geographic expansion of the mosquito-born chikungunya.Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 3.06.01 PM

“No one person can be broadly trained enough in today’s world to address these major problems alone,” Olsen says. “UW-Madison is uniquely poised to contribute to these big global issues from a One Health perspective because of the world-class units we have on this campus.” With key cross-sector collaborations spanning physical, biological and social sciences and the humanities, the university has the collective intelligence, creativity and will to tackle what are often seen as unsolvable challenges.

GHI can connect partners from across campus and across the world, he says. “My hope is that we can continue to build a unique enterprise to grapple with global challenges.”

The Global Health Institute, supported by public and private funds, is dedicated to improving health today without compromising health for tomorrow by addressing the multi-layered causes of disease. GHI fosters collaborations that improve health, strengthen health systems and restore and conserve the ecosystem and natural resources that are key to human health. For more information or to learn how you can become part of the GHI community, visit

Follow these links for a promotional flyer and preview of the program.


By Ann Grauvogl 3/26/14

Introducing rural Wisconsin students to global opportunities


Kayla Dittberner wants to be a surgical technician. A senior at Watertown High School, Dittberner learned about global health at the first Global Health Institute Training Workshop at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“It made me realize what’s really going on and how I can help,” Dittberner says.

Seventeen students from small towns in south central Wisconsin attended the high school public health day Saturday, March 8, along with four teachers and six GlobeMed students who acted as mentors for the day. UW-Madison’s Global Health Institute (GHI) and GlobeMed and the Area Health Education Center (AHEC) organized the event.Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 12.34.49 PM

The workshop exposed students interested in health and healthcare as a career to the broader field of global public health. The goal was to show the implications of actions in a larger context and to begin discussions about disparities, inequality and steps to rectify the problems.

“Global health is an interesting field,” Sara Kelm says. “There’s a lot you can do with it. High school students don’t necessarily know what you can do with it besides just being a doctor or working directly with medicine.” Kelm is a UW-Madison senior majoring in biology and psychology and a two-year member of GlobeMed. She volunteered to lead discussions with a small group of students because she wanted to give high school students the resources and exposure to global health issues that they likely don’t have in their communities.

Students from rural areas may be able to bring insight to addressing needs in rural areas in other countries, says Sweta Shrestha, GHI education programs associate. “The Global Health Institute defines global as local and international, therefore the inclusion of rural students and their lived experience is essential to the complete picture of global health,” she says. “The program allows rural students to view health in a holistic manner and realize how different fields can and should work together to build a better world.”

During the half-day program, students read four parallel stories set in high-income, middle-income, low-income and collapsed economies four different countries, focusing on the health disparities and how lived experiences vary depending on place, situations and access to services. They discussed how safety, socioeconomic status and politics can all affect health care and how there are nuances even within each community – the world is not easily split into high income and poor.

The activity was valuable because it helped students realize how these disparities could affect their own community, says Christina Patrin, a science teacher from Adams-Friendship High School. She hopes some of her students will come back and help Adams-Friendship after college, as it is a rural area with a low socioeconomic status.

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 12.37.49 PM

The students also discussed the ethics of volunteering abroad and thought critically about engaged learning and culturally and ethnically appropriate service. When students were asked to stand on opposite sides of the room if they agreed or disagreed with a statement, not a single high school student stepped forward to agree with the statement, “I have volunteered abroad.

” All crossed the room at the statement, “I want to volunteer abroad.”

The program was designed for high school students, especially from rural communities who wouldn’t have the resources to learn about global health, says Wendy Hinz, a health career education consultant with the south central Wisconsin chapter of AHEC. She wanted to spread the word about how there are so many different ways of getting involved with public hea

lth. It’s not just being a doctor in a clinic: It’s engineering sustainable water systems, educating people about hygienic food practices and advocating for low-income groups.

“It doesn’t even have to mean going over to India. You can work in your community,” Hinz says. She hopes the event will be an annual one, with the potential for more schools to attend. “They took the time out of their Saturday to learn about global health,” she says. “We can give them the resources to do something about their passion.”

The Global Health Institute, supported by public and private funds, is dedicated to improving health today and tomorrow by addressing the multi-layered causes of disease. GHI fosters collaborations that strengthen health care and health systems and encourage the sustainable use of global resources, restore and conserve the ecosystem and address and reverse the causes of climate change. For more information or to learn how you can become part of the GHI community, visit

AHEC’s coverage of the Global Health Institute Training Workshop


Sara Schumacher  3/16/2014

10th Annual Global Health Symposium Call for Abstracts

Deadline: Monday, March 3, 2014
Tenth Annual Global Health Symposium

“One Health: Making the Connections”

Tuesday, April 1, 2014, 5:00-9:00pm

1st floor Health Sciences Learning Center

“The One Health concept recognizes that the health of humans is connected to the health of animals and the environment.” -CDC

Are you interested or engaged in global health?  The UW-Madison Global Health Institute (GHI) will sponsor its tenth annual symposium to highlight the exciting global health efforts of UW faculty, staff, students, and colleagues from the Madison area and beyond.  You are cordially invited to attend, share your work with the UW community, and learn from others.

We welcome presentations and participants from all disciplines that address global health or improving the conditions necessary for health.  We encourage presentations from the entire campus including the arts, agriculture, business, education, engineering, humanities, health and social sciences.

Christopher Olsen, DVM, PhD, professor of Public Health at the School of Veterinary Medicine and interim vice provost for Teaching and Learning, will deliver the keynote address.

Following the keynote, participants may select from concurrent sessions featuring brief presentations of global health activities.  Poster presenters will then be available for a short session as the reception begins.  Delicious food, good music, and opportunities for networking will round out the evening.

Please submit an abstract if you are interested in sharing a five to seven minute presentation or displaying a poster about your global health work.


Abstract Requirements:

Abstracts for posters or presentations should be sent via e-mail to Betsy Teigland at the Global Health Institute, (300 word maximum).  Follow these links for the abstract submission form and the document, Guidelines for Global Health Presentations.

The deadline for submissions is 5pm, March 3, 2014.  You will be notified of the status of your application by March 21, 2014.

For more information, please contact Betsy Teigland at or at 608-262-3862.



University of Wisconsin-Madison alumna Erin Luhmann watched skin peel off a boy’s legs, the result of malnutrition. She spoke with women who suffered from obstetric fistulas, many times caused by pregnancies before their teenage bodies were fully developed. She spent three days among Darfuri refugees at a camp in Chad, picking out widows by their symbolic two headscarves. Most of their husbands had been killed in violent attacks on their villages in Sudan.

Luhmann, a 2013 graduate with a master’s degree in journalism, traveled to Chad, Niger and Mali in July 2013 after winning the trip with New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, visiting clinics, rural villages and refugee camps. Kristof, who has made a career out of social justice and humanitarian reporting, sponsors Win-A-Trip and chose Luhmann from 700 applicants. She will share her experiences and the difficulties of humanitarian reporting at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 10, in Gordon Commons. Her talk is co-sponsored by the Global Health Institute and the School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

“When you’re in school, it’s good to sit and talk about issues and gray areas in journalism and social justice,” Luhmann said. “But when you’re on the job, it’s hard to know when to intervene and when to step back.”FistulaClinic_Niger

Luhmann, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Kyrgyzstan, says classes at UW-Madison helped prepare her for the trip. In the journalism program, she learned how to use social media as a professional and was challenged to think about ethics in reporting. Gender and women’s studies courses helped expand her world view and gave her the awareness needed for investigating humanitarian issues. She also consulted with faculty who were familiar with customs and current affairs in Niger, Chad and Mali before leaving.

Sometimes Luhmann could intervene abroad. When she and Kristof saw a baby who was suffering from malnutrition, they took the mother and child to a clinic. A doctor showed the woman how to breastfeed properly. In that case, a simple change was all that was needed. In other situations, Luhmann was troubled when she could do nothing more than report what she saw.

“Anecdotes about a specific person add to a story about malnutrition or politics,” she says. “Writing that story doesn’t guarantee that child will benefit, but hopefully it will help the larger picture. You have to find solace in the fact that this will play into a grander plan.”

Social justice journalism is often considered soft news or relegated to human interest pieces, Luhmann says. It’s difficult to make a career out of it, but she’s determined anyway.

“Journalism is about helping elevate voices that don’t normally have the platforms they need to make a change,” she says. “In my opinion, it’s a great honor to be given a platform and reach a large audience, to be trusted with the voices and stories of those who need it most.”

Having a platform is also a large responsibility. Sometimes a journalist can do more harm than good, Luhmann says. Those situations can include interviewing people who have just dealt with a traumatic experience. However, journalists can also empower those suffering.

“You say that you’re a journalist from America, and most people have an idea of what that means,” Luhmann says. “People will say they want to share their story because other people should know, because this shouldn’t happen to other people. It can be a source of healing for those sharing their story, too.”

In her talk, Luhmann will share advice for those interested in humanitarian work, offering tips on how to deal with the ethics of a situation.

“You have a great responsibility,” she says. “You need to be clear headed about the work you are doing so you can continue to move forward and be effective.”

To learn more about Luhmann, read her blog posts from the field.

The Global Health Institute (GHI), supported by public and private funds, is dedicated to improving health today and tomorrow by addressing the multi-layered causes of disease. GHI fosters collaborations that strengthen health care and health systems and encourage the sustainable use of global resources, restore and conserve the ecosystem and address and reverse the causes of climate change. For more information or to learn how you can become part of the GHI community, visit


By Sara Shumacher 1/27/2014


Save the Date!


On Tuesday, April 1, 2014 the UW-Madison Global Health Institute (GHI) will sponsor its tenth annual symposium to highlight the exciting global health efforts of UW faculty, staff, students, and colleagues from the Madison area and beyond.  You are cordially invited to attend, share your work with the UW community, and learn from others.

We welcome presentations and participants from all disciplines that address global health or improving the conditions necessary for health.  We encourage presentations from the entire campus including the arts, agriculture, business, education, engineering, health and social sciences.

Check back here for more details and updates on the abstract submission deadline.