When I think of Africa and public health, the AIDS epidemic immediately comes to mind. It’s still front and center in Kampala, Uganda, where 12 University of Minnesota students and five faculty members from various schools are participating in a two-week Global Health Institute with educators and students in Uganda. But other problems persist, too.
“AIDS and other infectious diseases like malaria are top of mind here,” School of Public Health Assistant Dean Diana Harvey wrote in an email from Kampala. “It was evident in today’s (Wednesday’s) press conference that the kind of prevention we are talking about doesn’t seem particularly urgent in the face of everything else. But the conditions here, and in other areas like it around the world, are absolutely ripe for new diseases that we can’t even imagine at this point and will pose incredible challenges, so preparedness and prevention kinds of activities are so critical. Tough sell, though.”
Besides the School of Public Health, the U’s College of Veterinary Medicine and School of Nursing are involved in a $185 million project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to “help developing countries better respond to emerging infectious diseases that pose a threat to human and animal health,” according to this description.
The U is partnering with the Makerere University’s School of Public Health in Uganda in the institute, where participants develop a curriculum to address the nation’s needs. The U of M also has partnered with universities in Iceland and India for other Global Health Institutes, said Harvey, who oversees advancement and external affairs for the School of Public Health.
“The new and interesting thing about this institute is the way it is all being framed under the ‘one health’ umbrella, in an attempt to break down disciplinary silos to address urgent public health needs,” she said.
School of Public Health Dean John R. Finnegan Jr. is headed to Uganda to meet with deans from seven schools of public health in East and Central Africa. “We’ll be talking about research, education, and engagement efforts, and how the Minnesota SPH (School of Public Health) can participate,” Finnegan said.