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April 28, 2023

Responding To: Georgetown Reflects on CUGH 2023: "Global Health at a Crossroads: Equity, Climate Change and Microbial Threats"

Global Health at a Crossroads: Continuing After a Global Crisis

Cory Freivald (G’23)

This year’s theme for the Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH) conference was “Global Health at a Crossroads: Equity, Climate Change and Microbial Threats.” The first in-person conference since 2019, it was held in conjunction with the World Health Summit Regional Meeting and the Alliance of Academic Health Centers International (AAHCI) Global Innovation Forum. The COVID-19 pandemic tested the world’s ability to respond to a major disease outbreak and put global health leaders under a microscope. Tensions between the Global North and South rose, competition for vaccines and other supplies were fierce, and millions of lives were lost. Inequity abounded within communities and across the world. At the same time, there was incredible scientific collaboration and record-breaking vaccine development. No one questioned the need for proper health funding and infrastructure. Now that the shock of the pandemic is waning, there is an urgent need to maintain momentum, learn from this crisis, and look to the future.

As a graduate assistant for Georgetown’s Center for Global Health Practice and Impact (CGHPI), I was proud to attend the conference where so many members of CGHPI were involved in satellite sessions, conference leadership, and moderating panels. Colleagues working in Kenya, Eswatini, and Nigeria presented on their programs working to solve health system challenges and bolster public health emergency responses. Dr. Deus Bazira, director of CGHPI and the Global Health Institute, led a panel on implementation science, emphasizing how investments in implementation science translate to policy and practice.

Additional talks at CUGH ran the gamut from pandemic preparedness and data modeling to climate and planetary health. Halfway through the conference, the Great Global Health Debate discussed the pros and cons of expanding the field of global health to include the Sustainable Development Goals—addressing how essential health is to achieve those goals while also noting failures that became more glaringly apparent throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The “crossroads” theme captured the heart of many discussions as global health was approached from so many different angles with different ways of approaching problems, implementing solutions, and measuring success.

After years of reacting to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s CUGH conference emphasized systemic improvement and preparation for the next global health event. As an aspiring health professional, I was inspired by how many people were working to improve health across the world. Ultimately, global health is a multi-disciplinary endeavor. Harnessing the current attention on pandemic preparedness and working to make long-lasting and effective change in global health will require collaboration across all aspects of global health, from strengthening health systems to addressing climate change.

Cory Freivald (G’23) is a master’s degree student in the global infectious disease program at Georgetown University.

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