Global Health Case Challenge 2019 – Bending the Curve of Obesity

October 17, 2019
By Alina Aiesha Khan, Key Correspondent with the Irish GLobal Health Network

For the first time, the Irish Global Health Network (IFGN) sent a team to represent them at Copenhagen’s annual Global Health Challenge from October 10-11th. The team consisted of three members from the IGHN student outreach team; Viveka Guzman (UCD), Hongying Chen (Trinity) and Nicole Katherine Conners (UCC) and two University of Copenhagen MSc students, Alina Aiesha Khan and Tanja Munk Warmdahl. The University of Copenhagen selected only 75 students (15 teams) among a huge amount of students from all over the world that applied to take part in the Global Health Case Challenge 2019 “Breaking the Curve of Obesity”. The selected students represented 16 universities, 26 different study programs and 31 different nationalities – a truly diverse and interdisciplinary group.

Each team had only 24 hours to develop the best solution regarding this year’s challenge “Breaking the curve of obesity”. Additionally, each team presented their solution both in writing and as a 5-minute pitch presentation. All teams received pitch training and delivered their pitch in front of a general audience and to a jury consisting of representatives from the School of Global Health – University of Copenhagen, Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen, Cities Changing Diabetes, Novo Nordisk and EIT Health that is supported by the EIT body of European Union.

Here are their short reflections about participating in the case challenge:

“First of all, it was an honor that we were the chosen few that got the opportunity to tackle a real-life problem because we were the experts they relied on. This kept us motivated through the whole process where our case competition was in a team setting. We distributed tasks among team members where the members contributed to their own strengths. We supported each other and worked as a single unit to achieve a common goal.

To gather the required information, we, as a team had to think outside the box. In addition, while solving the issues in the case, we had to integrate knowledge from different disciplines and consider managerial roles, financial outcomes, and other related aspects as well. Being a part of this team was definitely a great work experience for me.

You also feel that you can make a difference since you actually use your many skills like for example critical thinking, problem-solving and decision making.”

-Alina Aiesha Khan (Global Health, University of Copenhagen)


“The 28 hours we spend on coming up with our proposal were challenging and educational. All teams came up with great solutions on how to bend the curve of obesity in Copenhagen, Shanghai and Mexico City. I had an amazing time getting to know my teammates and combining our skills into a great solution.”

-Tanja Munk Warmdahl (Health & Informatics, University of Copenhagen)


“Participating in a case challenge with a talented group of individuals was a truly rewarding experience. I had the opportunity to work in a diverse group in which we were challenged to tackle a novel case on obesity while under a time constraint. Not only did we come up with an innovative solution to bending the curve of obesity in Mexico City, but we were able to connect on a deeper level by building friendships and networking with other students from around the world.”

-Nicole Katherine Conners (Graduate-Entry Medicine, University College Cork)


“This case challenge provided me with extremely valuable insights and experiences working with a diverse group of individuals in brainstorming a solution to improve population health and well-being. Being able to think out of the box and step out of my comfort zone was the biggest takeaway from the event. It is through this platform where the greatest exchange of ideas happen; where we learn to think critically from different perspectives, and to cast away the assumptions we make in oversimplifying the solution to tackling the obesity epidemic.”

-Hongying Chen (Medicine, Trinity College Dublin)


“The Global Health Challenge competition was the ultimate get-out-your-head exercise! Before arriving to Copenhagen, I was really motivated to work in a ‘real challenge’ because I thought it was the perfect way to put legs into my classroom knowledge. I was also very excited to receive feedback from talented people that have been significantly involved in the development/implementation of solutions to obesity in diverse contexts! Working together and developing a friendship with a wonderful team of people I knew little about a few hours earlier was just the cherry on top. We had lengthy discussions about public/global health, different types of interventions, the many challenges of tackling overweight and obesity, and various things Mexico related (the people, the food, the barriers and the opportunities!). I learned different ways to approach a problem that can sometimes seem overwhelming to solve, and to listen and incorporate diverse ideas into one. While listening to the other teams I was also reminded of the value of challenging our assumptions related to health and the social determinants, which is so incredibly important if we want to make a sustainable positive impact! I also take away with me the amazing experience of co-pitching our idea in front of a large audience and expert judges~ that sensation of being able to take a breath, communicate and think ‘Uh, maybe I can do this after all, it’s intense, but so inspirational and fun!’

-Viveka Guzman (PhD Population health and health-care services research education [SPHeRE], Royal College of Surgeons Ireland)


17 October 2019


The IGHN Student Outreach Coordinator, Rosemary James, is currently working on starting a similar annual Global Health Challenge in Ireland. If you’re interested in learning more, you can contact her at [email protected]


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