Shaping a Vision for Global Health Education

November 1, 2019

By Rosie Jervase, Key Correspondent for the Irish Global Health Network

The adoption of the United Nations (UN) Political Declaration of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in 2019 requires countries to develop partnerships to build a healthier world. Sustainable North-South partnerships, with education at the forefront, will help carry this agenda forward. Consequently, investing in global health education through the support of these partnerships was the fundamental theme of the 2019 Global Health Symposium, held at the College of Anaesthesiologists of Ireland.

Developing the health workforce, both in Ireland and overseas, was one of the topics of the symposium’s opening session, entitled, ‘Shaping a vision for Global Health Education Ireland’. In a video message, Dr Jim Campbell, Director of the Health Workforce Department, World Health Organisation, expressed the need to finance the education, and skills enhancement of all health personnel. By doing so, health systems can be strengthened and consequently become more responsive to health and social needs. Dr Brian Kinirons, President of the College of Anesthesiologists, also highlighted “the power of partnerships” at national and local levels, which can help deliver these robust and adaptable health systems.

Mr Ruairi de Búrca, Director General of Irish Aid, stressed that Ireland must continue to engage in supporting health systems abroad, to scale-up the country’s response to global health. Mr Paul Reid, Chief Executive Officer of Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE), agreed as he believes there is significant value addition in Ireland engaging in overseas health education. By training doctors in Sudan, and delivering medical equipment to hospitals in Zambia, the HSE works towards sustainably building the capacity of health systems in the developing world. Mr Reid emphasised that Ireland must continue to think from a global perspective, engaging with new communities and cultures to help improve healthcare worldwide. 

Addressing health training needs in developing countries was another topic of the symposium. More specifically, Professor Pankaj Jani, President of the College of Surgeons for East, Central and Southern Africa (COSECSA), explained the importance of sustainable training of healthcare professionals in meeting these needs. For instance, fostering a reciprocal learning environment through peer-to-peer learning can enhance the success of health training through increased comprehension. Also, Professor Jani expressed the importance of attitudes training in health, as the behaviour of healthcare professionals can impact their effectiveness as leaders as well as their professionalism. With the application of this sustainable approach, COSECSA has successfully contributed to 38 per cent of the surgical workforce in East, Central and Southern Africa. Thus, Professor Jani has shown that health systems will last if we integrate sustainability into global health training and in the partnerships made that aim to improve these systems. 

To work towards a vision of ‘quality health care for all’, Dr David Weakliam, Chair of the Global Health Strategic Working Group, Forum of Irish Postgraduate Medical Training Bodies, addressed the need for Ireland’s health workforce to develop ‘global health’ skills to tackle global health issues. Dr Weakliam stated that “Health of its nature is global and transnational”. Therefore, given Ireland’s culturally diverse population, health personnel must be equipped to respond to people from diverse cultures and with varying health needs. The integration of cultural sensitivity into the work ethic of health personnel in Ireland can also increase healthcare accessibility for marginalised populations.

Ireland, therefore, can play a significant role in helping achieve universal access to health care, when and where needed by 2030. Investing in sustainable global health education in Ireland and the developing world is hence crucial. But above all, we must recognise that when it comes to health, we are all interconnected. Striving towards quality health care for all is a collective goal, and when we work “together, we do more, we do better”, as stated by Mr Weakliam.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African Proverb



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