Princeton's Online Portal to Global Health

Sep 08 2015
By Isabella (Mizzi) Gomes '16
Topics Health
Source Woodrow Wilson School

After a visit to Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet Richard Horton wrote that in Princeton, he found "a university not at all relaxed about its present or its future," but rather "an institution anxious to make an impact."

With its latest addition — a new, fully revamped online portal connecting all things global health — Princeton is showing just how much it aims to be, as Horton says, "a leading voice in global health affairs."

The Global Health Program website, developed by Kristina Graff, director of global health programs and associate director at Princeton's Center for Health and Wellbeing (CHW), gathers together information about students, faculty, Princeton partnerships abroad and global health-related events featured at the University.

"This website is a pathway for finding your global health community at Princeton," said Graff, who also is a Princeton alumna. "It provides snapshots of what faculty and students are doing across campus, and it offers a myriad of ways to take advantage of the program’s offerings."

"CHW's Global Health Program is truly interdisciplinary. It brings together a broad array of stakeholders including faculty, students, researchers, health policy practitioners and the general public in a dynamic and multifaceted discourse about health and health policy," said Janet Currie, Henry Putnam Professor of Economics and Public Affairs, CHW director and chair of the Department of Economics. "Our new web portal highlights this diversity and offers many different avenues for connecting with our work."

One of the major features of the new website is CHW's Global Health and Health Policy (GHP) certificate program. With students from more than 20 majors, the program integrates perspectives from the natural sciences, social sciences, engineering and the humanities within course work and conversation. The GHP program aims to create an extraordinary setting in which a combination of students – for example, a computer science major, a public policy concentrator and a molecular biology student – can use the knowledge and experiences from their own academic backgrounds to discuss and explore the same topic.

With a personalized understanding of global health, certificate students are encouraged to further develop their relationship with the field through travel and hands-on experiences, both abroad and domestic. Students have explored interests from public policy to clinical research in countries such as Brazil, France, India, Peru, Vietnam, South Africa, Kenya and Ghana.

For example, many GHP students, from freshmen to seniors, have received generous internship grants from the Health Grand Challenges program, which offers summer positions in laboratories, policy organizations, global academic organizations and not-for-profit institutions, all of which are accessible through the online portal. This program, co-sponsored by CHW, the Wilson School and the Princeton Environmental Institute, also provides funding for unpaid internships and independent research projects.

With the new website, students can also view the full list of global health courses and electives, as well as familiarize themselves with and connect with the program’s esteemed faculty and postdoctoral students.

But beyond serving as a vehicle to encourage students to engage with Princeton’s many global health resources and opportunities, the new website also showcases the interdisciplinary work and research of professors on campus. As Horton said, "few universities put the translation of knowledge at the pinnacle of their priorities. Princeton does."

With the help of seed grants, such as those offered by Princeton’s Health Grand Challenges program and the Program on U.S. Health Policy, many faculty members have conducted innovative research related to global health.

The Health Grand Challenge has facilitated Associate Professor Andrea Graham’s research on the tradeoffs of autoimmunity and infection as well as Assistant Professor Tom Vogl’s examination of pollution’s impact on early-life health and child development in developing countries. Through the program, Assistant Professor Alex Ploss is conducting cutting-edge laboratory research on vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue virus, and Professor Amaney Jamal is exploring how political Islam affects health outcomes in the Arab World.

The Program on U.S. Health Policy — the second of Princeton's global health flagship programs — has funded Professor Bryan Grenfell's and Graduate Student Ruthie Birger’s work in addressing the ongoing HIV epidemic in Newark, New Jersey, and Professor Ilyana Kuziemko’s investigation into how privatizing public health insurance affects later-life inequality.

However, despite the diversity and range of faculty projects on campus, Princeton extends itself far beyond an individualistic approach to global health research. As Richard Horton notes in his article, universities need to "husband their broad intellectual resources with a view to unprecedented collaboration," and Princeton is right on the forefront.

Featured under the subtitle of "Big-Picture Thinking," the new website spotlights exactly how the University promotes research that honors the multidimensionality of global health and health policy — by "globalizing the classroom" through strategic international partnerships.

For example, the Princeton-Brazil program, established in 2012 and led by Professor João Biehl, not only hosted professors and students from the University of São Paulo at Princeton, but also sent cohorts of Princeton students to Brazil as part of a summer research fellowship. The program facilitated students' relationships with faculty at the host institutions and connected them with previous fellows for guidance in data collection and research development.

Another veteran partnership highlighted on the website is the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit (OUCRU), headquartered in Vietnam. Princeton interns at OUCRU have investigated enteric fever, typhoid fever, antibiotic resistance and developing microbiological techniques. With even more partnerships available in Sierra Leone, South Africa, India, Benin, Ghana, Kenya and the U.S., as well as those across campus, students and faculty have a remarkable opportunity to create an interdisciplinary and internationalized academic experience in global health.

Students who are not pursuing the certificate but are interested in global health can still enjoy Princeton's global health offerings. Lunch seminars with practitioners are regularly hosted as well as speaker panels and public lectures as part of the Princeton Seminar on Global Health — all of which are available to the entire university community. These events invite Princeton professors and guest speakers from other research institutions and policy organizations to discuss relevant health policy topics such as the Affordable Care Act, obstetric fistula treatment and a look at herd immunity from a public health standpoint.

With these events, students are given the opportunity to apply concepts learned through coursework to address real-world, real-time global health issues. The impact of students' hands-on learning is elegantly showcased at the annual Student Research Symposium, during which students present posters and short films highlighting their summer experiences and research findings. As with so many other global health events, the symposium reflects the tight-knit community of global health students and faculty — in which academics, research and international engagement come together to create a truly interdisciplinary, collaborative global health experience.

For more information about global health at Princeton, click here