Tupesis helps design global health course for health care learners

A new version of “The Practitioner’s Guide to Global Health,” an online, open-access course, is available, says UW Emergency physician Janis Tupesis, the Global Health Institute-Graduate Medical Education liaison, who helped develop and teaches in the program.

The course provides a uniform and comprehensive national education program to help medical students safely and effectively participate in international rotations. It is an open-access course that’s available free-of-charge, Tupesis and his colleagues write in The Journal of Travel Medicine. Gabrielle Jacquet and Suzy Sarfaty from Boston University School of Medicine are co-authors of the Letter to the Editor.

“Many of our institutions were spending a tremendous amount of time putting together these global health programs with administrative components, financial components and logistics,” Tupesis says. “But they were spending little time in actually preparing the learners.”

Global health faculty from many countries and many specialties collaborated to complete the three-part course. It includes three segments:

  • The Big Picture, completed 6 to 12 months in advance of the international experience, looks at what students expect from a global health rotation and what experience will be right for their level of training.
  • Preparation and On the Ground, completed 1 to 3 months in advance of the experience, looks at the logistics of preparing for the trip, including topics from transportation and security to vaccinations and cultural awareness.
  • Reflection, completed near the end of the rotation, gives students tools to prepare to return, It includes information about dealing with unexpected feelings and health issues, and planning for the future.

March 14, 2017


GHI joins Wellcome Trust partnership to transform cities for equity, human and planetary health

A scene looking at the New York skyline after dark with lights on in the buildings.

“With more than half the world’s population now living in cities and projections for further rapid urban growth worldwide, understanding health in the urban environment is even more critical.”—Jonathan Patz

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Global Health Institute (GHI) will help determine how alternative transportation improves health in six international cities as part of a new urban health project funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Wellcome Trust, a global charitable organization based in London, launched the nearly $14 million research partnership in early February to understand how cities around the world can be transformed to equitably support healthier lives while also protecting the planet. The work will be coordinated from London and includes scientists and practitioners from four continents, who will work to provide evidence that helps policy makers and governments take actions to improve health for all in a way that minimizes health inequities.

GHI Director Jonathan Patz is principal investigator for UW-Madison’s partnership in the urban environments portion of the project. The Complex Urban Systems for Sustainability and Health program will use six cities as case studies, focusing on the complex systems that connect urban development and health. It will specifically address challenges in the areas of energy, transport, infrastructure, water, sanitation and housing.

“The Wellcome Trust grant comes out of one of its key programs – Our Planet, Our Health – one of the most important medical foundation investments in projects at the intersection of human health and environmental justice,” Patz says. “With more than half the world’s population now living in cities and projections for further rapid urban growth worldwide, understanding health in the urban environment is even more critical.”

GHI will receive about $250,000 to run model simulations on alternate transportation scenarios, linking them to health outcomes, Patz said. The work is part of GHI’s Health-Oriented Transportation initiative led by assistant research scientist Samuel Younkin. The computer modeling will help determine whether policies that encourage bicycling and walking are likely to be successful and to discover unintended consequences.

By 2050, 70 percent of the world’s population is expected to live in cities. People who live in cities are on average healthier than those living rurally, mainly due to the concentration of economic activity and extensive public services. However, as more and more people are exposed to city life, these services are stretched and stressed, and the urban poor fall behind.

“To date no city has succeeded in implementing a pathway of development that is consistently and demonstrably on track to deliver long-term environment and health goals that fulfil both local needs and the increasingly urgent imperatives for planetary health,” says Professor Michael Davies from the University College London who’s leading the urban environments portion of the partnership. “In this program, we aim to develop system-wide understanding of how those challenges can be addressed through development and implementation of evidence-informed solutions.”

February 27, 2018

A New WHO: The Ambitious Transformation of the World Health Organization

This post originally appeared on the UN Foundation blog

There is a palpable sense of energy and excitement at the World Health Organization (WHO) these days, as witnessed during last week’s Executive Board meeting. The new Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has embarked on what has the potential to be a breathtaking transformation of the United Nations specialized agency.

The new approach is summed up as “Promote health, keep the world safe, serve the vulnerable.” But the approach isn’t simply a nice slogan – it’s a new vision and strategy (called the 13th General Programme of Work for 2019-2023, or GPW-13) that was unanimously endorsed by the board for approval at the World Health Assembly in May.

The triple-billion, interconnected strategic priorities are based on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and are aimed at ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages:

Achieving universal health coverage (UHC). Universal access to health care, particularly primary health care based on each country’s system, is fundamentally important. WHO will support countries’ progress toward UHC, leaving no one behind. This will include technical assistance and, working with partners, the design of a package of essential services based on interventions for reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health, infectious diseases, and noncommunicable diseases. The result: Reducing persistent barriers to accessing health services and 1 billion more people benefitting from universal health coverage.

Addressing health emergencies. Back in 2014, WHO was criticized for the international community’s slow response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.  Now, building on the successful reforms of Dr. Margaret Chan, his predecessor, Dr. Tedros plans to measurably increase the resilience of health systems based on WHO’s International Health Regulations. Those regulations focus on building core capacities to enable a rapid response at the source of an outbreak in every country in the world. The result: Improved global health security, with 1 billion more people better protected from health emergencies.

Promoting healthier populations. WHO will contribute to people enjoying better health and well-being through five platforms: human capital; noncommunicable diseases and mental health; communicable diseases; antimicrobial resistance; and the health effects of climate change in small island developing states. The result: Through an integrated and multi-sectoral approach, 1 billion more people enjoying better health and well-being.

The WHO Secretariat makes it clear that the agency has a catalytic role to play, but no single actor can achieve these goals. Governments, civil society organizations, the private sector, other international organizations, and many others will need to act together. But WHO is signaling its ambition in a way that, in the years to come, could transform the organization and make a major difference in the lives of billions.

At the same time, WHO plans to strengthen its normative work. One of the agency’s most important functions continues to be setting standards for public health.

The road ahead contains numerous obstacles. Dr. Tedros told the Executive Board, “We cannot implement the [General Programme of Work] without transforming WHO, or without resources, or without strong leadership.” Within the WHO Secretariat, Dr. Tedros intends to bring about “a change of culture, a change of mindset” that focuses on measurable impact, management for results, and accountability for performance; that is not easy to pull off in any bureaucratic institution, particularly one serving 194 Member States. He plans to overhaul core business processes, from planning to procurement to recruitment. He recruited a highly-lauded leadership team, over half of them women. Now he must transform the culture organization-wide.

Beyond WHO, the question is whether governments, particularly major contributors to WHO’s budget, will provide the necessary financial support to help Dr. Tedros achieve his ambitious but realistic goals. At the Executive Board meeting, governments agreed with his vision, but made it clear they were not (yet) making new financial commitments. Dr. Tedros is moving forward on his agenda urgently, yet governmental budgeting tends to be slow. Among major donors, this is not a propitious time to increase health assistance – even though WHO’s total budget comes to little over $2.2 billion dollars per year, much less than several other global health programs. In the near term, the WHO Secretariat may need to develop scenarios to meet top priorities even without full funding.

Can Dr. Tedros pull this off? When he was Ethiopia’s health minister, I met with him in Addis Ababa and visited villages in southern Ethiopia to witness first-hand his innovative and successful Health Extension Program providing services at remote health posts. He was very impressive, and so was the program. Now, he approaches his role as Director-General with that same focus on promoting essential health services at the country level. And his stint as Ethiopia’s foreign minister has led him to understand the criticality of highest-level advocacy with governments, beyond the health ministries. One example: He told the Executive Board he will be sending a letter to every head of state to ask them to take three concrete steps toward achieving Universal Health Coverage.

Despite a few stumbles, Director-General Tedros is off to a great start. Don’t bet against him.

Ambassador John E. Lange (Ret.) serves as the United Nations Foundation’s Senior Fellow for Global Health Diplomacy.

UW-Madison UniverCity Alliance hiring new director

UniverCity Alliance Director
The UniverCity Alliance (UCA)’s purpose is to improve the visibility and quality of research and teaching of urban affairs throughout the UW-Madison. UCY, a member of the Educational Partnership for Innovation in Communities Network (EPIC-Network/EPIC-N), engages students, academic staff, faculty, and administrators at UW-Madison in helping to solve problems and develop opportunities identified by municipalities, other local government entities, or community organizations. MetroLab is a national network of smart city university-city collaboration between Universities and their host city for which, at UW-Madison, UCA is responsible for managing.
The Managing Director of the UniverCity Alliance will take lead operational and management responsibility for the fiscal and reputational success of UCA, its ingredient UniverCity Year (UCY) program, and its strategic alliances (e.g., MetroLab). They will report to the UCA Advisory Board, composed of faculty and other leaders in the UW-Madison community and co-chaired by professors Joel Rogers and Paul Robbins. Their immediate supervisor will be Rogers.