Global Health Leaders Convene in Montreal to Discuss Advancing Health Equity in the 21st Century

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Global Health Leaders from Canada, the United States and around the World to Convene in Montreal to Discuss “Advancing Health Equity in the 21st Century”

More than 1,300 people from 60 countries are expected to convene in Montreal, Canada on November 13-15 for a joint meeting of three major academic global healthorganizations in North America: the Canadian Society for International Health, the Consortium of Universities for Global Health, and the Global Health Education Consortium. The three-day 2011 Global Health Conference, whose theme is “Advancing health equity in the 21st Century”, will be attended by government leaders from Canada, the US and around the world who shape global health policy, as well as university faculty and students who conduct cutting-edge research across a spectrum of health and non-health disciplines.

This unique gathering is designed to both address the multiple and complex factors that impact health equity and to facilitate discussion around potential solutions to some of the world’s most pressing health issues.

“It has never been more important for universities and other global health partners to come together to address health equity around the world,” says Timothy Brewer, MD, MPH, Co-chair of the 2011 Global Health Conference and Director of Global Health Programs at McGill University. “Funding for global health from government programs and other sources of development aid is decreasing due to the worldwide economic crisis, and this threatens progress in programs around the world that are making strides toward reducing health inequities in some of the most challenging environments.”

Six plenary sessions, 36 breakout sessions, 14 workshops and 500 posters will focus on a wide breadth of global health-related topics, including climate change, ethics, policy, engineering and innovation, and the media.

On Sunday, US and Canadian government leaders will participate in a session entitled “The Role of Governments in Global Health” in which they will discuss their agencies’ impact on global health policy and implementation, including on science, advocacy and security. Keith Martin, MD, who served as a Canadian Member of Parliament for 17 years, will speak about the vital role of universities in Mainstreaming conservation initiatives for health equity, environmental security and conflict prevention. Ambassador Eric Goosby, MD, who serves as the United States Global AIDS Coordinator, leading all US government international HIV/AIDS efforts, will speak about PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) and engaging governments to use science to save lives.

Not all presenters at the 2011 Global Health Conference will be health professionals, however.  A defining aspect of the global health discipline is the multi-disciplinarity of the faculty and students who cross traditional academic boundaries and partner with NGOs and government agencies to jointly develop solutions to deeply engrained problems. This is also a community with a strong commitment to human rights and to understanding the many factors that lead to health disparities, which can result in the destabilization of an entire community or country.

For example, on the government panel, Martin and Goosby will be joined by Romeo Dallaire, Senator, Lieutenant-General of the Canadian Armed Forces (retired), who commanded the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) in 1993. In that postDallaire and his troops witnessed the killing of more than 800,000 Rwandans in a period of just three months.

“Failing states and imploding nations where massive abuses of human rights are prevalent are ideal hotbeds of extremism and pandemics,” says Dallaire, whose talk is titled Child soldiers and security forces: ensuring adequate preparation for peacekeeping.  “The use of children as child soldiers to sustain these conflicts remains a source of instability as well as being a crime against humanity.”

Also on Sunday will be an afternoon panel on global health and the media that will feature some of the top health journalists and communications professionalsworking in North America today: Nancy Snyderman from NBC News, Donald McNeil, Jr. from The New York Times, André Picard from the Globe and Mail, and Dan Green, from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Other notable speakers include Peter Singer, Chief Executive Officer of Grand Challenges Canada and Director at the McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health, University Health Network and University of Toronto, who will discuss Canada’s strategic role in global health.

On Monday, the Delivering Transformational Change with Simple Solutions breakout session will explore why some innovative ideas thrive and others fail in resource-limited environments.

Featured speakers include Maxim Budyansky, a Johns Hopkins student who was on the winningteam of the Be the Change: Save a Life Maternal Health Challenge<http://abcnews.go.com/MillionMomsChallenge/GlobalHealth/save-life-maternal-health-challenge-johns-hopkins-students/story?id=13575157>, sponsored by ABC News, the Duke Global Health Institute, and the Lemelson Foundation. Maxim and his team from the School of Engineering designed a pen-sized device that can help screen pregnant women and newborns in developing countries for life-threatening conditions. The team spent months in Nepal field testing the device before winning the $10,000 award. This panel will open with representatives from USAID and the National Collegiate Innovators and Inventors Alliance who will discuss the funders’ perspective, and representatives from frogdesign and GE Company, who will discuss product design.

Of the 1,200 attendees expected at the conference, 450 will be students from US and Canadian universities. The number of global health programs in North America has surged in the past decade. Student demand has driven much of this growth, with enrollment in undergraduate and graduate courses doubling in recent years, according to the Consortium of Universities for Global Health.

“My desire to learn about medical practices beyond the borders of my community was my main drive to become involved in global health,” says Helene Retrouvey, a second-year medical student at McGill. “This will be a great opportunity to develop professional bonds with members of the global health community. It will enable me to develop the skills and knowledge to improve the lives of others worldwide. ”

Global Health TV will be on hand to film sessions of the conference, conduct interviews and provide daily reporting. Also, a team of volunteers will be blogging, tweeting and using other social media tools to share perspectives on the conference as it is happening.

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For more information on the 2011 Global Health Conference, visit the website at http://www.2011globalhealth.org/ .

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