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Joining Forces for Health

By Brian W. Simpson

Coming soon to a computer, a television and a world economic forum near you: the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.    

To educate the public and leaders around the world about public health issues and ultimately improve global health, the School has recently forged new partnerships with the World Economic Forum, public television’s NOVA series and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s OpenCourseWare program. “These partnerships represent the increasing recognition of public health and the growing promise and visibility of the School,” says Dean Alfred Sommer, MD, MHS ’73. “They’re totally different from what we’ve done before.” The details: 

The School is helping augment the health agenda at the World Economic Forum (WEF). Each January, presidents, prime ministers and CEOs of the world’s largest corporations journey to Davos, Switzerland, to discuss trade, global economics and other international issues. The mix of powerful leaders and health experts presents a great opportunity to effect change. “You need people who make policy and people who know what the issues are,” says Sommer. “[School faculty] are a resource for helping frame issues and provide data for government leaders to begin to think about policy and programs.” 

With support from Klaus Schwab, WEF executive chairman, and program advice from the Dean and School faculty, the January 2005 WEF will add more health-focused panel discussions and other forums devoted to global health. The program will also gauge the interest for a separate health-focused meeting that will engage government and corporate leaders from around the world. “They have seen the importance of global health, the protection of populations from disease, the necessity of preventing disease everywhere in the world so it doesn’t become a global threat, and the development of financing that can provide prevention and treatment,” says Sommer. “There seems little doubt that health will be a main theme at future Davos meetings.” 

The six-part NOVA series, which is scheduled to debut in the fall of 2005, is already in production and will highlight topics in global health, such as epidemics and infectious disease, malnutrition and population issues. Sommer has advised the production team, and School faculty will be highlighted in the series. In concert with the series, the School will develop the curriculum for an undergraduate course in public health that can be adopted by other universities that lack public health programs. Their faculty will come to Baltimore for a “boot camp” to learn how to teach the course. 

Early next year, the Bloomberg School will join MIT’s OpenCourseWare (OCW) effort and begin placing its course materials online for free. OCW’s goal is to provide free, searchable access to materials from a wide range of university-level courses for educators, students and autodidacts worldwide. The School is scheduled to have materials from eight courses online by the new year, and materials from many of the almost 500 other courses offered by the School will follow over the next several years.

The OCW project, as well as the other partnerships, complements School objectives, according to Sommer. “Our mission is to create new knowledge and disseminate it to the world,” he says.