LIVE UPDATES: From the 7th Annual Consortia of Universities for Global Health in San Francisco

By Karen Harmon.

As 2016 World Health Day spans the globe this April 7th or 8th if you are Down Under, people from around the world are meeting in San Francisco to discuss health issues facing both the developed and developing world.  The 7th Annual Consortia of Universities for Global Health is being held in San Francisco, USA.

Major agenda topics include:

  • Good governance for successful global health initiatives (with a focus on health in failed states) the Sustainable Development Goals – what have we learnt from the Millennium Development Goals successes and failures?
  • Emerging challenges and priorities for global health will also be discussed. There be will be a strong focus on the worrying dominance of chronic disease in many countries, also maternal and child health and impacts of violence and injuries.
  • It is pleasing to note that this conference will also be a forum to discuss mental health, a subject that has received far less emphasis than it deserves compared to infectious diseases and non-communicable a diseases.

As the week progresses our very own Karen Harmon will be providing highlights and new strategic directions for global health.


Sunday, 10 April 2016

khKaren Harmon:


Today’s conference sessions were some of the more challenging in that the complexity of working in harmony with recipient countries was highlighted. The issue of global health diplomacy was centre stage. Global health and diplomacy – what does this mean? At the outset, it is intended to focus on the relationship  between health, foreign affairs and trade. Some would call it “soft power”! It is important that donors and implementors are on the front foot of policy shifts and changes in recipient country priorities do not adversely impact on donor intentions.

Health diplomacy should support collective action across all recipient country government sectors with the aim of ameliorating key health risks. This brand of diplomacy is an avenue which supports the building of trust with all stakeholders, ensuring that global health priorities have a platform where politics and public health can intersect with mutual benefit to the population so that the most pressing of health issues  can be addressed on behalf of the most vulnerable.

It is a given that global health diplomacy is driven by geopolitics, national interests and soft power goals as much as they are about improving population health outcomes.

The”soft power” of global health seeks to “use health as an agent of foreign policy recognising that improving the health of the worlds population can make a strong contribution towards promoting a low carbon, high growth global economy” (UK Strategy for Global Health 2008-2013)



Saturday, 9 April 2016

khKaren Harmon:


The Global Health Conference Keynote address was given by Richard Horton, the Editor in Chief of The Lancet.

This was a powerful presentation which focussed on the importance of writing the stories of human development and an acknowledgement that those stories protect human truths. Horton argued that the discourse on health fails to highlight the urgency of the development imperative to address global health and that it is acceptable to recognise reasonable pluralism, the diversity of unity, seek public reason and democratic peace to reach universal sustainable development.

There is an ecological paradox in that while human health and economic development is improving globally, it is at the cost of planetary health. Our environment is crumbling under the weight of unsustainable resource use. The conundrum is “how can you continue to improve global health without impacting planetary health?” Human health inevitably impacts on climate change and is integral to the way we interact with the rest of our planet. Climate change impacts will, ultimately, reduce our resilience and increase risks to sustainable human health.

Another relevant issue presented and discussed related to corruption and its impacts on health sector security. Corruption continues to be reported in national and global health systems which leads to an undermining of development progress, impacts the security of health systems and the effort required to strengthen health systems. Corruption primarily impacts poor countries most particularly. Even the perception of corruption can often be enough to disrupt the disbursement of funds by some donors.

In order to address corruption in health it has been suggested that the introduction of incentives for good governance should include the introduction of incentives, that is, financial rewards, such as bonus payments for transparency and accountability. Also budget information should be shared openly and budgets tracked with monitoring and oversight measures in place. Importantly, where there are no budgetary performance measures performance metrics need to be embedded in accountability frameworks. All of these measures require supportive public policy.

Corruption control needs to be inclusive of national anti-corruption strategies, sound and reliable data collection and reporting systems, governments being made accountable to its citizens, building on emerging democratic transparency trends and educating people to question their decision makers and government agents. It should be recognised that corruption is a neglected dimension of global security and politics and policy needs to interact if trust is to be demonstrated.

Friday 8, April 2016


Karen Harmon:


It is known that global security is compromised by infectious diseases that know no borders. It is, therefore, imperative that strategies to address prevention, detection and response are in place. This requires a multidisciplinary approach and is not solely the domain of health professionals. It requires strong partnerships with government sectors such as agriculture, education, law and justice, defence services, political and diplomatic agencies and the capital letter security agencies.

Additionally, there is a significant role to be played by the private sector and non-government organisations. What has not been highlighted as much is the role researchers can play in these unstable environments. There is much to be investigated, learnt and disseminated, providing an evidence base for future responses.

We have seen the results of diseases such as The Ebola virus which horrified the world with its savage trail of death, it also undermined the health and economic progress of these countries. Large numbers of health workers died and thousands lost jobs as hospitals, schools and businesses closed as a result of the grave fears of the virus spreading.

We have seen similar outcomes from natural and civil disasters such as the Indian Ocean tsunami, the earthquake in Haiti and the genocide in Rwanda. Infectious disease takes hold and respects no one making terrible situations even direr.

While the emergency responses are in motion at the front line, the results of research provide opportunities to minimise impacts, direct interventions and support the establishment of effective programs to address infectious diseases.

A critical issue and one often not considered, is what happens post disaster?  Aid and development agencies are becoming more aware of the strengths of partnering for success to rebuild skills, develop new capacities, provide sound regulatory frameworks, ensure reliable data collection and analysis and most importantly underpin these with sustainable funding support.

Those involved in preserving Global Health security recognise that effective solutions require effective partnerships and significant commitment. It is further recognised that these partnerships can be hindered by language, culture, infrastructure, the need for recognition and ownership of initiatives and managing joint funding mechanisms. Collaboration with international research organisations are likely to assist in navigating through these issues as there is a rich repository of lessons learnt and evidence to support solutions.”