Making global health knowledge accessible | News

January 24, 2023 — Next summer will mark 15th the annual session of the Global Health Delivery Intensive Program at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. The three-week non-degree program brings together mid-career professionals from around the world to gain skills and consider issues related to improving the delivery of healthcare to patients. Co-directed by Rebecca Weintraub and Joseph Rattigan, it is one of the few programs that links the Harvard Chan School and Harvard Medical School.

Students enroll in three courses that are also components of the Master of Medical Sciences in Global Health Delivery program offered through HMS. Courses cover topics including designing effective global health interventions, epidemiological methods for global health, and management practices. Students also participate in additional training and mentoring opportunities. To date, more than 550 clinicians, political leaders and government administrators from 80 countries have attended.

Next year, the program will be held virtually from July 6 to 28. Applications close on February 1st.

The annual intensive has proven powerful for both students and faculty members, said Julie Rosenberg, deputy director of the Global Health Delivery Project (GHD), which houses the program. “Working in global health can be really difficult and isolating. There are many difficult battles that you fight. So when people come together who work for the same cause with a shared commitment, shared passion and shared values, it’s invigorating.”

During the program’s graduation ceremonies, students often talk about what it means to be part of a community of change-makers and how energized they are to continue their work. The GHDI website shares their reflections and stories. After the program, students join an alumni community that continues to provide support and share best practices.

“I always come away from my experience teaching this course and engaging with these remarkable students with a new perspective on my own work,” said Jessica Cohen, Bruce A. Beal, Robert L. Beal, and Alexander S. Beal, Associate Professor of Global health. “The diversity of students’ experiences and insights makes for a truly engaging discussion about how to tackle the most challenging problems in global health.”

Other Harvard Chan School faculty members teaching during the intensive course include Rifat Atun, Richard Siegrist, and Marcello Pagano, who teaches the quantitative course with HMS lecturer MaryKay Smith Fawzi.

“We have been fortunate to have a dedicated group of global health experts from Harvard faculty who have helped teach the program for more than a decade,” said Rattigan, associate professor in the Department of Global Health and Population at the Harvard Chan School and associate professor and director of development of curricula for global health education programs at HMS. “It’s a wonderful community that makes students feel welcome and valued.”

Real-time knowledge sharing

GHD was founded in 2007 by Jim Kim, Paul Farmer, and Michael Porter, with director Rebecca Weintraub, assistant professor in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at HMS, associate physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and director of vaccine delivery at Ariadne Laboratories. The aim was to learn from what is going well in global health and make this knowledge available in the form of case studies. The program has also run an online community of practice for a decade, promoting real-time knowledge exchange, and developed a program – now integrated into Ariadne Labs’ Better Evidence work – to promote access and use of Up to Date, based on subscription clinical solution support tool.

“We started the Global Health Delivery Project with the idea that there is a gap between knowing what works to improve patient and population health and what is being done in the field. By bridging this gap and translating scientific findings into better care, we could improve health outcomes, health equity,” said Weintraub. “Teaching is one way to bridge the gap. We are really trying to carry on the legacy of one of our founders, Paul Farmer, who believed that teaching students was his retirement plan.”

Weintraub, Rhatigan, Rosenberg and colleagues also wrote a collection of more than 45 case studies that cover topics including maternal health, HIV, and the COVID-19 vaccine supply chain. The cases are used during the summer intensive course and are also available online for free along with teaching notes. They are taught in universities around the world and have been downloaded tens of thousands of times.

In November, GHD launched a new smallpox eradication case in conjunction with a virtual learning series called Becoming Better Ancestors. It was produced by the Center for Global Health Innovation and was created by public health experts Bill Foige, MPH ’65 — who helped develop a vaccination strategy that ultimately broke the smallpox transmission cycle — and Mark Rosenberg, former Asst. US Surgeon General and CEO of the Global Health Task Force.

Work on this project began before the pandemic, Julie Rosenberg noted, but the relevance soon became very clear. “We could see so many parallels with the COVID outbreaks and the response, and the challenges facing public health around the global coordination of vaccine delivery,” she said. As COVID continues and other potential pandemics loom on the horizon, “There’s a lot we can learn from the past instead of reinventing the wheel every time something happens. We hope this case and the training we are doing can help lay that foundation.”

Amy Roeder

Photo: Courtesy of the Global Health Delivery Project

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