by Amaran Cumarasamy – CORBIS Co-founder.
The breadth of Global Health in its most conceptual sense, is a spectrum that encompasses every facet of human existence. Amidst the capricious complexities that come with a twenty-first century globalised world, it is our state of health and wellbeing that provides us with a powerful sense of connection and common humanity. To achieve Global Health’s ever-growing ambitions, no one or group can be excluded, however, as the discipline continues to evolve, some of its key proponents remain rooted in the conventional praxis of healthcare and development, often to the detriment of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.
Installed among some of the newest academic health disciplines, its essence promotes a multi-disciplinary approach to research and practice, inclusive of a wide range of stakeholders and participants. In their pursuit of tackling the political, economic, environmental and social determinants of health, Global Health initiatives act as a nexus bringing actors from an array of industries and disciplines together, combining expertise and strengths in the process. Despite some outdated methodology, increasingly Global Health organisations are reaping the benefit of sharing resources to meet health needs and untangling some of the greatest social challenges of our time, benefiting from innovation in strategy crafted by global perspectives with percipience beyond the realm of healthcare’s traditional biomedical narrative.
As collaborations between diverse areas of expertise continue to grow and find success in Global Health and Development goals, such a culture change should be considered in the way in which the next generation of health and development leaders mature, calling into question the current nature of education for the future changemakers. Indeed, the overnight eruption of undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Global Health signifies tremendous progress being made, however all too often, their focus can be overly specific and incapable of engaging the mainstream.
In order to fully prepare for multi-disciplinary careers in Global Health and International Development that reflect the changing tides, is there enough broader training and collaboration at the educational level?
Global Health’s presence in higher education is still in its relative infancy, having only outstripped International Health references in the academic literature as recently as 2004. Despite this, enormous strides have been made in expanding the profile of the discipline and its integration within broader social science academic circles with increasing numbers of modules and courses available for social science and non-medical students. Within medical education in the UK, the inclusion of Global Health student selected components (SSCs) have enabled the key themes and concepts to become more accessible to student doctors with a keen interest. Whilst largely absent from mainstream compulsory curricula, this contrasts sharply with Global Health and Development activity among many higher education echelons in North America, which quintessentially comprise a more comprehensive and cross-disciplinary topography.
A critical mass of enthusiasm and demand is palpable in the UK, owed to successive generations of students who are increasingly interested in the detail of a healthy human race and of the relationship between globalisation and the broader determinants of health and wellbeing. Fostering a vibrant Global Health community at an educational level has the potential to further increase the profile of Global Health and its promotion in the wider health and development agenda. Indeed, we are at a turning point in higher education and in particular in the training of tomorrow’s doctors.
This increased interest in engaging with Global Health and International Development issues, coupled with the growing collaborative zeitgeist has inspired a nascent local Global Health and Development community at the Universities of Sussex, Brighton and Brighton and Sussex Medical School.
Recent years have been exceptionally successful for the staff and students of these institutions, and there is evidence to show that such a realisation of cross-discipline approaches are emerging. The Refugee Crisis conference which took place in Spring 2017, hosted by Friends of MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières), Students for Global Health (previously ‘Medsin’) and Sussex Lawyers without Borders – Student Division, broadened horizons and helped cross-pollinate perspectives. There has also been increasing recognition of the world-class in-house Global Health and International Development institutions, who were able to support the delivery of the 2nd Annual Sussex Global Health and Development Conference in March 2017, the largest of its kind in the UK.
Beyond events however, there is an unmet need to construct the architecture to enable a cross-disciplinary Global Health and Development community to flourish, and to provide the space for the next generation of academics, policy makers and practitioners to better understand the unique perspectives involved in tackling health inequality around the globe. The possibility of research initiatives, curriculum enhancement, student teaching opportunities, career mentorship and multi-year projects become appreciably more attainable, transforming the capabilities of what Global Health societies are able to achieve.
Installing and supporting a formal Global Health and Development community in Brighton, encompassing the diversity of student groups, reinforced by the support of leading local figures, is therefore critical to the future success of Global Health and has the potential to open up opportunities and horizons that would previously be considered unfathomable. A future that reaps the benefit of such a culture-shift hinges on our collective ability to appreciate our mutual agendas and advocate more effectively for the world’s marginalised, as a unified community.
Such a community starts here.