Friday, March 21, 2014

Connecting Indiana to the Globe

Why should Indiana public health experts collaborate internationally? Public health and global health are linked.

Through over 30 years of international collaboration, the School of Public Health- Bloomington has exchanged knowledge with many partners. Global health issues transcend borders and are local, national, and international in nature. Global health lessons can apply at home and abroad. This drives the school’s work to engage globally and train emerging public health practitioners in cultural competency.

Local and international parallels.
Engagement with community health workers (CHWs) is one example of how the school shares best practices globally. CHWs are frontline public health workers with deep understanding of and connection to the communities they serve. Advocates in Indiana are now working to formally define the CHW profession, based on the long existence of CHWs like social workers and home care workers across the state. School partners in the West African country of Liberia are simultaneously establishing a Certificate in Public Health to equip CHWs with public health competencies. Upon completion, CHWs will spend 40% of their time at home clinics and 60% in the surrounding communities to support a preventative care approach to community health. IU faculty drew on Indiana workforce development experience to help the University of Liberia develop this curriculum, as part of a larger effort to address the Liberian national shortage of health care workers.

International collaborations.
Roughly 100 international collaborations are conducted by faculty in the School of Public Health-Bloomington. School-level partners include but are not limited to Seoul National University, Beijing Sport University, Victoria University (Australia), Cairo University, and the University of Liberia. These partnerships are channels for research collaboration and faculty/student exchange. International visiting scholars are hosted by the school to conduct collaborative projects and share knowledge with faculty and students. Roughly 15-25 scholars visit each year. Grants often support the international work of school faculty. The Liberia initiative is supported by USAID/Liberia and HED. In Ghana, faculty members are using recreational sports to help Ghanaian youth avoid problems associated with substance abuse and sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV. This is funded by the U.S. Department of State-Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs.

The next generation.
Cross-cultural competency recently ranked as a highly desired skill among graduating students from the school, based on a survey of Indiana-based public health employers, alumni, and practitioners. The school’s global health and other initiatives help students develop cross-cultural competency, such as:

- REACH, a student group for empowering all students to grow and learn in an environment 
  embracing culture, and understanding diversity within public health;
- Workshops on international study, internships, and work;
- Study abroad programs; and
- Round tables with cross culturally-focused guests.

Faculty and staff seek more bridges between international and local initiatives, to support the two-way exchange of public health knowledge. The school welcomes opportunities to connect local and international partners across similar areas of work.

Interested organizations should contact:
Jen Pearl, Director for Global Health Partnerships 
SPH Office of Global and Community Health
Partnerships: 812-856-7172 or

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