As countries across the globe slowly emerge from the harshest phases of the Covid-19 pandemic, closer assessment is being made of the pandemic’s effects on the global health sector. While the burden and strain placed on the system is obvious, there are also key lessons learnt which can contribute to strengthening health systems to better withstand future pandemics.
The Consortium of Universities for Global Health’s 2022 Virtual Conference held under the theme Healthy People, Healthy Planet, Social Justice from March 28 to April 1, 2022 explored some of these lessons.
The event which was 13th staging of the annual conference, included a breakout panel facilitated by its Global Health Operations Committee, where partners working across the north and south shared their experiences of how they managed to continue collaborations and partnerships different contexts during the Covid-19 pandemic. The panelists also shared key lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic experience which could shape their future work plans. The panel consisted of presentations from Universities, Research Institutes and Non-Government organizations collaborating on issues ranging across Cancer, HIV, Child Health and Non-communicable diseases. Among the presentations made was the partnership between the University of Alabama, Birmingham (UAB) and the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities (CVC).
In highlighting the benefits and lessons from the partnership, Ivan Cruickshank, Executive Director at Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition, shared the genesis of the collaboration and the critical role it has played in fostering community led action research to inform policy and programming for the HIV and Human Rights response in the Caribbean. He highlighted significant research conducted through the partnership including the conduct of population size estimate (PSEs) of key populations in the OECS and Belize, the introduction and expansion of Motivational Interviewing training for health care workers across a number of countries as well as extensive research to document the issues of stigma
and discrimination. Also discussed were the opportunities provided through the partners for students doing the MPH and DrPH programmes to intern in the region as well as opportunities for CVC to be able integrate Caribbean issues in the teaching and learning of the Sparkman Centre for Global Health at the UAB.
While noting the drawbacks arising from the onset of COVID, the session identified a number of opportunities presented by the pandemic to strengthen health systems including empowering and strengthening LMIC partners’ operational capacities, using new technologies such as telemedicine, introduction of virtual learning platforms in non-traditional settings such as NGOs, rapid advancements in the development of therapeutics to support global health, expansion in service delivery models driven by the need for creative solutions to the pandemic as well as greater recognition of links between health and social justice. The session also explored how COVID demonstrated the ways in which silo programmes such as HIV Cancer and NCD research can be leveraged to support the wider health system.
The CVC, Executive Director commended the session’s organizers for the foresight to facilitate a different type of critique and analysis of the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on global health.
The Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH) established in 2008 with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation is a rapidly growing Washington, DC based network of over 170 academic institutions and other organizations from around the world engaged in addressing global health challenges.