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Featured photo taken from Emory Global Health Institute.

By: Sarah Du

The Emory Global Health Institute (EGHI) is an integral part of Emory University’s commitment towards global health, bringing together individuals from various interdisciplinary subjects to create innovative solutions and promote the awareness of prominent global health issues. Founded in 2006, the EGHI was created as part of Emory University’s 2005-2015 strategic initiative towards global health work under former President James Wagner. 

At the helm of the institute’s upbringing is Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 1998-2002. In collaboration with Wagner and other colleagues, Koplan founded EGHI and remained director until August 2021. Since then, Dr. Rebecca Martin, longtime global health expert and CDC veteran, has succeeded Koplan as director. 

The Institute began its work towards greater global health with programs such as the International Association of National Public Health Institutes (IANPHI). Today, IANPHI utilizes and provides resources for various countries to use evidence-based research to implement public health policies that address the needs of each country. The program addresses the need for greater public health awareness and integration of knowledge between countries, collaborating with institutes such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and CDC. Supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the program currently contains 110 members in 95 countries across the globe. 

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also supports EGHI’s Child Health and Mortality Surveillance Network (CHAMPS) program, which seeks to reduce the current annual rate of 6 million child deaths across the globe. The program does so by addressing the lack of death registries, data, and disease surveillance through “community engagement, mortality surveillance, diagnostic and laboratory innovation, and rapid, open access to data,” according to the official website. Through evidence-based research, the program seeks to drive policy and develop interventions long-term. While most IANPHI centers exist primarily in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, multiple sites exist across the globe. 

Photo by Alfonso Scarpa.

While also a program designated to boost public health initiatives, IANPHI is a program that works directly with public health leaders within various countries in order to build a stronger public health infrastructure for the country. The program focuses on working with leaders within the country’s government to create National Public Health Institutes (NPHI), creating alliances across the globe so that NPHIs can collaborate with one another to boost public health initiatives.

Other student and faculty-run programs offered by the Institute include the Global Health Forum Speaker Series as well as the Field Scholars Awards program. Forums are held multiple times each year with each series tackling various global health issues. Speakers from various interdisciplinary studies in relation to global health are invited to bring awareness to a subject of their expertise. In 2020, the series topic was “Decolonizing Global Health,” in which 5 forums were held that each hosted various speakers who discussed ways in which external parties should approach addressing public health issues within a country. The Field Scholars Awards program allows students to apply such tools into real life examples where students are supported to conduct public health projects in various countries through EGHI funding.

“This sort of goes back to long term attempts to decolonize global health, to work with this partner organization as a true partner,” said Rebecca Baggett, director of Student Programs at EGHI, during an interview I conducted with her in May 2021. “To not come in and say, ‘we’re the experts, we’re Emory students, and we’re going to fix everything for you,’ but to really work with a partner organization that’s identified a problem that they would like Emory students to come and help them with.” 

To help boost collaboration, EGHI also hosts various competitions that attract students and global health experts from various schools within the University. The Emory Global Health Case Competitions consist of two competitions each year, the Emory Morningside Global Health Case Competition and the Intramural Emory Global Health Case Competition. The case competitions are written by students, and address modern 21st century public health issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine distribution. 

Case competitions are not limited to Emory students, however. The EGHI/GT hackathon connects Emory students with students from Georgia Institute of Technology (GT) to propose products as solutions to global health issues. The winners of each competition have the opportunity to take their proposed products to market through GT’s CREATE-X Startup Launch.

“While it’s a tough week and an exhausting week, most people say that it’s an incredibly valuable educational experience both because they’ve taken this extremely deep dive into the case challenge topic, and they’re working with people from different backgrounds,” said Baggett.

“Not only is global health looking at population health and public health, but also the way people are treated within healthcare systems and the clinical delivery of health as well as one’s own personal health… artists can address anything, and health topics like a pandemic can be a very compelling subject.”

In parallel with the institute’s message to incorporate interdisciplinary studies into global health, the Institute also hosts arts programs highlighting public health and community engagement. Examples of such programs are the Warren Westerberg Global Health and the Arts prize as well as the Global Health Student Photography Contest. The Warren Westerberg Global Health and the Arts Prize is dedicated to honoring late Warren Westerberg, spouse of Roseann Waters and founding EGHI staff member. Each year, a prize is given to the student who most exemplifies an innovative piece that incorporates global health into visual art, which includes but is not limited to film, music, dance, etc. What’s more, the Global Health Student Photography Contest allows students to submit photos that examine the culture and individuals in which students are working with to address public health issues. In alignment with the theme of decolonizing global health, with the combination of art and global health awareness, both programs promote EGHI’s mission “of bringing people who would not necessarily think that what they’re doing has anything to do with global health, such as artists, into the realm of global health,” noted Baggett. 

In combination with arts programs, the COVID-19 Children’s e-Book competition was also recently created to generate the ability for adults to speak with children and their grandchildren about the pandemic in creative ways. “People were so hungry for information, not only for themselves, but also how to talk about the pandemic for their children and grandchildren,” noted Baggett.

Since 2006, EGHI has committed to the promotion of global health, both on an institutional and global scale. The institute brings together students of all levels, faculty, and global health leaders together in not only addressing public health’s greatest concerns, but also the best approaches in doing so. To learn more about EGHI, go to globalhealth.emory.edu.