By Professor Philip Calder
In a recent blog for Medically Speaking, Michael Head and Jessica Boxall from the Clinical Informatics Research Unit, highlighted that climate change will likely turn global health into our health, making the point that health issues in other geographies may well become relevant to the UK as a result of climate change. They said awareness of global health needs to be raised through our education of medical students. I want to continue the discussion of this theme of global heath.
Global health research is of paramount importance for UK universities for several compelling reasons. It allows academic institutions to contribute to the global fight against disease and inequity and promote the health and wellbeing of populations around the world. By conducting research on global health issues, universities can generate crucial knowledge and insights into diseases, their prevention, and treatment strategies, ultimately benefiting not only individuals but entire communities. Moreover, such research facilitates collaborations and partnerships with international organisations, governments, and academic institutions, enabling UK universities to play a pivotal role in addressing global health challenges as part of a collective ecosystem. Additionally, global health research offers valuable learning opportunities for students, exposing them to diverse healthcare systems, cultural contexts, and research methodologies. This exposure fosters a deeper understanding of health disparities, promotes cultural sensitivity, and equips students with the necessary skills to tackle complex health issues in an increasingly interconnected world. Lastly, investing in global health research enhances the reputation and prestige of UK universities, attracting top-tier researchers, talented students, and funding, while reinforcing the institutions’ commitment to making a meaningful impact on a global scale.
To realise the value of global health research, and building upon the foundations of Professors Marie Louise Newell and Mark Hanson, Professor Shane Norris within the School of Human Development and Health is driving a Global Health Initiative. Shane says: “My current vision is to connect scientists across the Faculty of Medicine, indeed across Faculties, with scientists in Africa to develop global health grants and projects that foster equitable and bidirectional learning. There are excellent partnerships already in place and being developed, but I hope to see these grow and be more inclusive of early career researchers.”
Current Global Health Initiative projects encompass adolescent mental health support in Africa, improving health literacy of youth in South Africa, and preconception health interventions in Africa and India to offset intergenerational non-communicable disease risk. For Shane “a key focus in the short-term is to both showcase and engage scientists around global health research at the University of Southampton”. Researchers from across the Schools of Human Development and Health and Primary Care, Population Science and Medical Education, the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Centre and the Faculty of Health Sciences have formed a Community of Practice, which aims to expand further across the University and strengthen global health research. A global health symposium is being planned in the new academic year. If you want to find out more about the Global Health Initiative, contact Shane Norris.