Universities 2.0: Advancing global health in the post-MDG era

May 6th, 2014
Universities are a growing force in tackling complex global problems from poverty and health inequities to conflict and environmental sustainability. They are leading the agenda for global health.

More than 1,500 people will be gathering at the Consortium of Universities for Global Health's fifth annual conference in Washington D.C., May 9-12. The theme is, "Universities 2.0: Advancing global health in the post-MDG era."

The eight Millennium Development Goals were adopted in September 2000 at the Millennium Summit—the largest gathering of world leaders in history – with a deadline of 2015.

The Consortium of Universities for Global Health is working to sustain commitments to achieve the MDGs while advancing support for a list of Sustainable Development Goals, which will be adopted by world leaders in September 2015. SDGs will address the twin challenges of improving human well-being while addressing vital sustainability challenges that affect everyone especially those living in the world's poorest nations.

Jeffrey Sachs, an economist, New York Times best-selling author, and special adviser to U.N. leaders on millennium development goals, will deliver this year's opening conference keynote exploring what sustainable development goals mean and how to achieve them. He will discuss Health for all as a human right, key to prosperity and something that should be part of the new Sustainable Development Goals.

Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and former under secretary-general of the United Nations, will examine new challenges for global health in the post-MDG era. Harvey Fineberg, outgoing president of the Institute of Medicine, will speak on the global health challenges ahead.

And the 2014 Gairdner Global Health awardee Satoshi Omura from Kitasato University in Tokyo—a world leader in bioorganic chemistry who developed hybrid antibiotics—will talk on the global health "wonder" drug invermectin, a highly successful treatment for many parasitic diseases.

The consortium, formed in 2008, includes 100 North American universities and 37 universities in other countries. It is the largest university-member organization in the world focusing on global health challenges through the lens of a wide variety of disciplines and professions.

The conference will feature over 160 speakers from 24 nations and over 67 sessions covering a wide spectrum of global health issues.

"The world is faced with two colossal challenges: the sustainability of the planet and ensuring human well-being," said Keith Martin, CUGH's executive director, based in Washington, D.C., and a former Canadian Member of Parliament. "Our primary challenge is not so much a knowledge deficit but a gap in implementing what we already know will address the enormous challenges before us."

Conference participants will also be debating whether global health investments benefit countries of the global north more than countries of the south.

One of the plenary sessions will discuss the emerging evidence on violence against women and girls. Another will feature William H. Foege, who helped rid the world of smallpox. He will talk about 'pharma-philanthropy,' a new direction in global health. Special workshops will focus on university-specific issues such as interprofessional competencies, evaluating global health programs and the role of universities in global human resources for health. There will also be a session with the media in global health.

The conference will also have breakout sessions covering global health policy, law and diplomacy; global mental health; strengthening the science of global health initiatives; applying lessons from the HIV experience to noncommunicable diseases; models of university-nongovernmental organization partnerships; ethics and reciprocity in global health partnerships; food security; road traffic injuries; strengthening health systems; global health innovation in the market; and much more, including award ceremonies for best essay, poster and video.

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