India: Building Partnerships, Building Capacity
India has many of the biggest public health challenges in the world. Clean water is in short supply, and sanitation is poor. Infant mortality rates are high, and malnutrition is pervasive. Immunization coverage is low, and tuberculosis and malaria are serious problems. India leads the world in diabetes. The list goes on and on.
So it's easy to understand why the U-M School of Public Health is interested in India. If SPH is not doing research and capacity-building in the country, it's missing a huge opportunity to improve global public health. That's why a ten-member delegation from U-M SPH spent a week in India last October.
The goals of the visit included finding ways to build on the school's existing legacy in India by seeking out new partners and opportunities for capacity-building. The delegation spent much of its time at the Public Health Foundation of India in Delhi and the Indian Institute of Public Health–Hyderabad.
U-M SPH and the Public Health Foundation of India in New Delhi signed a memorandum of understanding in 2012, and they've already launched a scholar exchange program and a joint-research project involving immunization programs in poor rural areas. During their talks in October, the two sides discussed how they can build on their relationship to address some of India's biggest health issues, including problems in the health system that hinder the country's ability to respond to its challenges.
And yet despite those challenges, India has plenty of positives. The country has a rich, diverse culture. Its population is entrepreneurial and innovative. There are vast intellectual resources waiting to be tapped. And India is seeking partners. "A small public health investment can go a long way in India," said Matthew Boulton, associate dean for global public health and director of the U-M SPH Office of Global Public Health.
SPH Dean Martin Philbert, who with Boulton co-led the delegation to India, said, "Ultimately our goal is to build mutually beneficial ties that will improve health in India, here in the United States, and globally."
—William Foreman, U-M News Service
Israel: A "Promising and Rich" Collaboration
The School of Public Health has expanded its global public health program to include Israel, signing a memorandum of understanding in March 2014 with the Clalit Research Institute. SPH research collaborations are now percolating with the Clalit Institute, Ben Gurion University (BGU) of the Negev, and the Ministry of Health.
The idea of a partnership first took hold in July 2013 when epidemiology professor and flu expert Arnold Monto organized a group of seven SPH faculty members interested in conducting research in Israel. Led by Monto and SPH Dean Martin Philbert, the group visited Israel at the invitation of the Clalit Research Institute and Ben Gurion University. The SPH delegation met with well-respected public health organizations and individuals across the country. Israel's Ministry of Health hosted a half-day session, providing an overview of how Israel's health care system is organized, financed, administered, and evaluated.
At BGU, faculty met with potential collaborators and discussed mutual research interests. "A number of projects are likely to emerge from our visit," observed Professor Marc Zimmerman, who will oversee the BGU collaboration. As a first step, Zimmerman noted that SPH is sending four student interns to BGU this summer. "We expect the internship program to grow significantly over the next several years, and to complement the research program that emerges."
Philbert called the visit an "unmitigated success" that suggests a future of "rich and meaningful engagement."
"Our effectiveness will only be enhanced by partnerships with the organizations we visited in much the same way that they continue to be in other regions of the world, including West and South Africa, the South American continent, China, and India," he added.
Leading officials from both the Clalit Institute and BGU have subsequently visited SPH to continue discussions about potential collaborations. Research ideas range from water quality to health systems research, youth violence prevention, statistical genetics, flu, and the study of Bedouin populations.
"What started as an idea for a flu burden study has evolved into a promising and rich
collaboration," notes Monto. "It's a long process that will require start-up funds
and initiative on both sides, but the structural pieces are coming together and that's