Judy Wasserheit: Universities Fired Up for Global Health

Universities are emerging as a major force in global health, and their power and potential is soon to be demonstrated at the second annual meeting of the Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH), to be held at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Founded just one year ago, the CUGH has surged in size.  From eight founding members it has expanded to include more than 60 universities, including 13 international partners.  This rapid growth matches an explosion in student and institutional interest in global health.  At least 86 North American universities have robust global health programs, according to a 2008 survey — a 300% increase from three to four years earlier.

The growth represents a potential tipping point in the battle to improve global health, for universities are uniquely situated to address some of the most complex global health problems, such as the intersection of climate change, ecosystem health and human health.  Universities have an unsurpassed breadth of expertise, bringing together knowledge of the health and social sciences, economics, engineering, energy, architecture, law and business.  And they have a mandate not only to be engines of discovery — to excel at research — but also to prepare the next generation to tackle our most important challenges and build workforce capacity. 

Those joint mandates and capacities position universities to play a key role in shaping a new era of improved global health, an era in which global health can work together with diplomacy, in what some have called “soft power” to develop a more secure, peaceful and health world.  Next week, we will explore these issues and more as we learn about a number of university-based global health approaches, projects and impacts.  We invite you to learn with us, to use this blog and other social media to come together, join the discussion, generate new ideas, share experiences and forge collaborations.   Join us at www.cugh.wordpress.com .

Together, let us use the interdisciplinary power of universities to transform global health.

Judith Wasserheit, Vice Chair, Department of Global Health, University of Washington

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