Experts and policymakers including two World Health Organization regional directors will gather in Washington D.C. this week for the World Health Summit (WHS) 2023 Regional Meeting, an interdisciplinary public health convention that aims to bridge the gap between theory and practice for better worldwide health outcomes. Hosted this year by the George Washington University, the summit is a hybrid online event and is the first WHS regional meeting held in the United States.
“This summit is a major opportunity that positions GW amongst the world’s leading institutions in global health and global diplomacy,” said Adnan Hyder, a senior associate dean for research and professor of global health in the Milken Institute School of Public Health. “We have hundreds of people from dozens of countries around the world coming to talk about critical issues, and I’m excited to showcase the engagement of the George Washington University at the highest levels of global health.”
Running from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. April 13, the daylong summit is held in partnership with the annual conference of the Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH 2023) and the Global Innovation Forum organized by the Association of Academic Health Centers International (AAHC/I).
The choice of GW as host “means that our peer institutions around the world have trust and faith in our capacity to engage the global community,” said Hyder, who also is this year’s WHS international president.
This year’s theme, “Bridging the Science to Policy Gap for Global Health: Opportunities for Academia,” explores the problem of translating research to effective interventions, interventions to implementation and local implementation to better health outcomes. Speakers also will explore how politicization impedes public health and how to depoliticize health interventions in an increasingly partisan world.
Even for the layperson, the increasing politicization of public health is an issue of concern. But it may be even more disturbing to experts in the field, Hyder said. During the COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, partisan values were assigned to interventions like masking and vaccines, making participation fraught for many and lessening the overall efficacy of these measures.
“Another example comes from climate change and the environment, where—for health reasons, for economic reasons, for development reasons—there is an evidence-based movement to work together to improve what we call ‘planetary health,’” Hyder said. “And yet we find that the discourse [introduces] suspicions and doubts and controversies and so on.”
It may be tempting to blame one side or the other of the political divide for these public health obstacles. But Hyder suggests that it’s more important to examine the structural inequities and cultural forces at the root of politicization and how these forces play into disparate health outcomes. That’s part of what he hopes the summit will achieve.
“Our topics are not [only] disease-focused,” Hyder said. “We have a session on racism in global health; we have a session on gender and power in global health. Our topics are themes that we want people to discuss, irrespective of the diseases you work in.”
To learn more about the World Health Summit Regional Meeting and register to attend online or in person, visit https://www.worldhealthsummit.org/regional-meeting/2023-usa.html.