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Global Health Forum

Global Health Forum

February 3, 2020

Jeff Sturchio Speaks on the Benefits of Public-Private Partnerships in Healthcare Blog Post

From Merck & Co. to Rabin Martin,. Jeff Sturchio. Ph.D. has years of experience exploring public-private solutions to the pressing healthcare issues in our world today. On Tuesday, February 4th, students in the “Conversations in Global Health” course had the opportunity to hear the career path of Dr. Sturchio and his insights on the role of private actors in global health. 

Very different than past speakers the class had hosted, Dr. Sturchio elaborated on how the private sector has much to contribute to accomplishing universal healthcare coverage. He spoke of past successes, such as the Merck-Washington University partnership to advance bioinformatics in the mid-90s and his consulting experience of encouraging the use of generic medicine and local clinics in Kenya to reach a larger population suffering from hypertension. He also was prepared to speak to the political economy aspect of healthcare: the current coronavirus epidemic is having huge consequences on the global economy, and no country can truly have a totally public health care system (even the UK’s exemplary National Health Service has private clinics). As reflected in his article “Global health disruptors: the global healthcare market,” Dr. Sturchio stressed the fact that no minister of health can tackle these issues alone. 

Therefore, from HIV/AIDS to asthma to achieving the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, the public and private sectors must play an active and cooperative role into the future. “The issue is not the lack of money, but misallocated money,” he said during the discussion. To achieve this monetary efficiency, Sturchio further drew from his experiences at multinationals and consulting firms. He explained that anyone researching a cure to a disease—regardless if it’s the government, a private firm, or academia— is equally committed to finding the solution. His work “The Road to Universal Health Coverage” further explains the urgency of this multifaceted approach to healthcare. The book speaks to how governments would be better equipped to respond to natural disasters with the help of the private sector, and that “the lack of adequate numbers of trained health workers is arguably one of the biggest barriers to UHC [universal health coverage] implementation.” If the world is going to continue seeing breakthroughs in healthcare, it is imperative that governments, private firms, and academia continue to work together. 

Overall, I found Dr. Sturchio’s conversation with us very informative and well thought out. He inspired us that no matter what degree we may be pursuing as undergraduates, anyone can get involved in global health. Businessmen and politicians as well as scientists, doctors, and healthcare professionals all must work together to resolve these dilemmas, from epidemics and natural disasters to the new implications of aging societies. 

Joey Edmundson (SFS’22) is an undergraduate studying international economics. He is currently enrolled in the India Innovation Studio and plans to study abroad in India in Spring 2021.

January 29, 2020

A Conversation with Dr. Rebecca Katz: Global Health Diplomacy and Partnerships for Health Blog Post

By Zachary Fritz

On Tuesday, January 29, 2020, Georgetown’s Conversations in Global Health class hosted Dr. Rebecca Katz, Georgetown Professor and the Director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security, to reflect upon her professional journey in global health and discuss one of the most pressing issues in global health security: the novel coronavirus in China. In addition to sharing her vast experience as a global health security consultant to the U.S. State Department and a leading figure in academia, Dr. Katz provided a unique yet measured perspective regarding the potential implications of declaring a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), the importance of the International Health Regulations (IHR), and the main difficulties of global health diplomacy.

Much of the discussion with Dr. Katz centered around global health preparedness and the proper implementation of the IHRs to the coronavirus outbreak. When asked about the current state of global preparedness, I found Dr. Katz’s emphasis on political willingness and communication to be insightful into her beliefs regarding the areas for potential improvement in coordinating global health security. Furthermore, her comments seemed to indicate the importance of capturing the fluctuating interest of policymakers in creating global health policies. This attention on politics is particularly important to the coronavirus outbreak given China’s negative global health reputation from the SARS outbreak. One of the most salient points of controversy is whether or not to declare the novel coronavirus outbreak a PHEIC. Katz compared the present situation in China with the hesitancy to declare a PHEIC in the Ebola epidemic in western Africa, explaining that the IHR defines it as an outbreak that has the potential to cross international borders. While issuing it earlier has immense benefits for the affected population if the outbreak expands, a pre-mature declaration has significant consequences as affected nations’ industrial supply chains are disrupted by travel and trade restrictions and other nations enact restrictive and stigmatizing immigration policies. In my opinion, the tentativeness indicates that global health emergencies are evaluated primarily through a political lens, as the signal matters as much as the treatment of the epidemic. The decision has significant implications on the political weight of the IHR and what exactly should constitute a PHEIC (e.g. regional versus global terminology).

Dr. Katz expressed her expectation that PHEIC for coronavirus will likely be declared in the next week since it has fulfilled the legal definition of crossing international borders. While I understand that such a decision would be validated according to a strict IHR interpretation, I believe that the declaration should not be issued until either the fatality rate spikes significantly or there is person-to-person transmission outside the country of origin to limit the negative political consequences until absolutely necessary. Furthermore, I think it would also be useful to distinguish between regional international threats and global international threats in future IHR reviews. 

Dr. Katz measured analysis and careful diction toward complex global health issues, such as the novel coronavirus, demonstrate the importance of proper communication and language skills toward her success in global health security. From our discussion with Dr. Katz and along with “Defining Health Diplomacy (Links to an external site.)," I was reminded of the necessity of taking a coordinated and international approach to combat global health crises through employing a variety of global health experts from foreign service agents to academics, such as Dr. Katz, in an era of globalization with increased probabilities of epidemics and pandemics. 

Zachary Fritz (C‘21) is a third-year undergraduate at Georgetown University studying Biology of Global Health and Science, Technology, and International Affairs with a concentration in Global Health.