Global Health Ideas

Finding global health solutions through innovation and technology

Global Health Council 6: Reflections on the Conference

One final post on the Global Health Council Conference.  I wanted to wait a few days so that I’d have some room to reflect on the last week.  Here are my lasting observations from the conference.
  1. International crowd. I was pleasantly surprised by the significant international attendance at this conference.  Based on an accumulation of experiences, I think I had set my expectations low.
  2. Sharing the conference. Through,, and sharing presentations, the Global Health Council is pulling its weight in terms of dissemination and sharing.  But it doesn’t need to stop there.  The reason I blogged so actively from the conference is to share the experience, the discussions, and the debates with those in the global health community who were not there.  It’s great that the GHC is doing its part, but it’s up to the participants to take it one step further – not simply to report on it, but to provide commentary, to tie together disparate threads, to engage a wider community in timely discussions.  The last conference I attended before this was CHI 2008 (Human Factors in Computing) in Florence. CHI and GHC each had about 2000 attendees and both are well-respected conferences.  But the former has significantly more content in the blogosphere (5-10x).  The tools are free and accessible, so I don’t buy the excuse of CHI being more tech-savvy.  It is about the importance we place on sharing information.
  3. Listen to the people. This was a theme that kept coming up throughout the conference (see each of my previous posts from the conference).  Probably related to both the community health theme and a realization that we have historically done a poor job of understanding people and communities in global health.  Not just listening to people, but re-emphasizing primary healthcare, localized systems, and the merits of patience.
  4. There’s more to it than health systems.  The discussions focused largely on health systems and not enough on other aspects of public health.  (I am complicit in this – the work I was presenting was well within the framework of health systems.)
  5. Where’s the rest of the West?  All of Seattle was there, but very few people besides.  From California, there were only 4 from Berkeley, 2 from UCSF, and a handful from the rest of the state.  Also, other than North America, the Western Hemisphere seemed to be MIA (besides my Bolivian roommate).
  6. Technology is not neutral.  The way people at the conference were talking about technology – e.g. PDAs and LifeStraws – assured me that technology has maintained its magical allure.  We need to deal with technology the same way that we deal with branding in microfranchising, social marketing of condoms, and HIV/AIDS IEC campaigns.  That is, we need to determine what will be most effective by understanding how people value and perceive technology.  And we need to realize that, like any innovation, there will be different solutions for different places.

Written by Jaspal

June 5, 2008 at 12:17 pm

Posted in Global Health

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