Washington Global Health Alliance


The Sudden Death and Rebirth of the Global Health Council | 


GHClogoThe global health community was left bewildered when the Global Health Council suddenly announced last April that it was closing.

Members of the prestigious, decades-old organization were not warned in advance, participants in the upcoming annual meeting had to abruptly cancel their plans and the GHC’s cryptic explanation (scroll down to April) just left everyone scratching their heads:

“Times have changed… Funding that once existed to promote a broad-based health agenda is now focused on specific health issues. The fundamental shifts in the health landscape have led the Board to revisit the relevance of the organization and determine that the Council’s current operating model is no longer sustainable.”

But times have changed again, apparently.

The organization is being resurrected with a new board, a slightly new name (Global Health Coalition) and with purportedly a new and more relevant strategy. Continue reading

AIDS 2012: Faith-based aid and secular humanitarians still uneasy bedfellows | 

Flickr, Lawrence OP

WASHINGTON, DC — Here at the (ridiculously) big International AIDS Conference, I’ve been wandering around listening to scientists talk about science and policy makers talk about policy but not hearing much about another critical issue in AIDS:

Charity, and the role of faith-based groups.

Being charitable is the central tenet of almost every religion. Charity is the ‘greatest form of love’ in Christianity, the ‘third pillar’ of Islam as well as the ‘third observance’ for Hindus and the obligatory ‘tzedakah’ of Judaism.

It’s a guiding principle for faith-based organizations working around the world to help the poor, assist in disaster relief and provide for those in need.

And, perhaps surprisingly for many, it has been a critical force that led to one of the greatest achievements in modern global health — the expansion of anti-HIV treatment to millions of people who would have otherwise died.

I’m talking about PEPFAR, the $15 billion program President George W. Bush launched in 2003 to distribute anti-HIV drugs to millions of infected people living in poor parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

PEPFAR is mentioned in perhaps every other speech here at the International AIDS Conference, AIDS 2012, as one of those game-changers. Infrequently, some folks also mention, usually just in passing, something like the ‘contributions of the faith-based community.’

What’s probably not appreciated is that U.S. leadership in responding to the global AIDS pandemic came together thanks to an unusual partnership of evangelical Christians and very secular AIDS activists, isolationist conservatives and bleeding-heart liberals. Continue reading

Seattle parties to help ‘Mobile Moms’ in Timor-Leste | 

Melinda Gates was there. Supermodel Christy Turlington was there.

So were a thousand or two others, Seattle’s young humanitarians who started a Saturday evening bash with talks about maternal health but ended it with loud, thumping dance music.

Tom Paulson

Partying for a purpose at Agency 2012

This annual Seattle do-gooder event at McCaw Hall, sponsored by the Washington Global Health Alliance and formerly known as Party With A Purpose, is aimed at raising awareness among young people of critical issues in global health and also raising funds for a specific cause — all combined with some serious partying.

Now called Agency, this year’s event sought to educate the glam crowd of young do-gooders (and a few not-so-glam older folks like me) about the threat of maternal mortality and some of the efforts underway to increase safety of childbirth in poor countries.

The Seattle organization Health Alliance International, which recently launched a Mobile Moms text messaging service aimed at improving maternal health in Timor-Leste, is the beneficiary of the funds raised by the event’s ticket sales (which looked to be at least $40,000. Last year’s fund-raising focus was on the Infectious Disease Research Institute‘s TB work, which raised $34,000).

Tom Paulson

Susan Thompson of HAI's Timor-Leste program

“The idea is to use mobile phones, through text messaging, to get them the information they need for healthy births,” said Susan Thompson, head of the Timor-Leste program for HAI. The long-term goal, Thompson said, is to use this project to further her organization’s broader aim of strengthening the tiny country’s overall health system.

Because of the ubiquity of cell phones in even poor communities (Thompson said they did a survey and discovered 69% of the women had phones, and nearly all texted regularly), the idea is to test in Timor-Leste if reproductive health messaging using text messages sent to pregnant women will improve health outcomes.

“So-called ‘mHealth’ projects are very popular but we need to determine if they really work,” Thompson said.

Continue reading

Changemakers: Enlisting spiders to fight malaria | 

By Cyan James, special correspondent

A fresh crop of Changemakers has been identified by the Washington Global Health Alliance’s Be the Change student competition. Among the three first place winners was a group of UW students who want to enlist a spider to fight malaria:

Some 250 teams from the region’s high schools, community colleges and undergraduate universities submitted proposals aimed at suggesting solutions to problems in global health. Students came up with solutions to dealing with a number of problems such as the need for safe drinking water, obstetric fistula and HIV diagnosis.

Semi-finalists were treated to an Argosy cruise of Puget Sound Thursday to celebrate their works and recognize the winners

The “UW Spider Trio” said they put in a lot of work on their winning submission, as well as a lot of laughter and camaraderie. Spider Trio’s members Adam Tanaka, Christine Scullywest, and Roshan Mahoney learned of their first place award in the undergraduate category on the Argosy — and are among those who will be feted during a VIP reception at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in July.

The other two first place winners were High Five from Glacier Peak High School for their educational program designed to impart health and hygiene information in low-resource communities and Educational Advocates from Seattle Central Community College for their community awareness initiative on deafness. Continue reading

Seattle global health experts put talents to use in south King County | 


Physician examines child, south King County

By Collin Tong for Crosscut

Seattle’s global health powerhouses turn their attention to south King County

A coalition of local and global health groups have banded together to bring the lessons they’ve learned in developing countries to south King County, where the health index is as bad as Nairobi.

The project is called Global-to-Local and is a partnership between Public Health – Seattle & King County, Swedish Health Services, HealthPoint and the Washington Global Health Alliance.


Morocco was the last place that Asma Bulale expected to spend her summer vacation when she started medical school. But several years ago, the 31-year-old former Somali medical student at the University of Washington decided to switch from cardiology to public health and become an AmeriCorps volunteer.

Last summer, Bulale began working with rural community-based health organizations in Morocco. A native of Mogadishu in northern Somalia, she visited health clinics in villages in dire need of basic health education. Eventually Bulale and her fellow volunteers set up clinics to do screenings for general health. That experience proved to be life changing.

Now Bulale is a community health promoter in another marginalized, low-income community where access to affordable health care is problematic: south King County.

At first glance, applying the lessons learned from developing nations in North Africa, Asia, or Central America to residents in Tukwila and SeaTac might seem a stretch. But Bulale has learned otherwise. Continue reading

Seattle’s Party with a Purpose is on again, as ‘Agency’ | 

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: Global health is sexy.

At least in Seattle. The best evidence of this perhaps has been the annual Party with a Purpose, a celebration sponsored by the Washington Global Health Alliance and lavishly funded by donors like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Boeing and others. This year, the party’s name is changing to Agency.

Why? Here’s what the artists formerly known as Partying Purposefully say:

“Agency means taking action on behalf of others. Agency is founded in the belief that focusing the power of young adults for the betterment of a single global health cause, even just for one night, can lead to world-changing progress.”

Aimed primarily at the younger set, the idea behind this event is to combine a spectacular, posh night out with educational and fund-raising activities devoted to a particular issue in global health. Organizers bravely launched the event with a focus on diarrhea and last year took up tuberculosis.

This year, the party is July 14 and they will focus on a University of Washington organization, Health Alliance International, working with mobile phones to improve maternal and child health.

Here’s a video pitch from lead organizer Kristen Eddings:

Announcing Agency from WGHA on Vimeo.

Note: Some have raised questions about the actual impact of these celebrations, if not the conflicting message they send — as I noted to much consternation last year. Hey, don’t shoot the messenger!

What I can say in defense of the idea of partying about diseases of poverty is it’s a heck of a lot better than ignoring these issues.

So party on!

A word to the wise: These events have sold out both times so if you want to go, better get your tickets as soon as they go on sale. I’m told it will be sometime in April.

How the ‘Battle in Seattle’ led to a global health epicenter | 

Tom Paulson

Global health geographer Matt Sparke

How did Seattle get to be a world epicenter for global health?

Most people would say that it’s due to the simple fact that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s biggest philanthropy with an endowment the size of a middle-income country, happens to be located here and has made fighting diseases of poverty its primary mission.

True, but Matt Sparke would say it’s a bit more complicated than that. To some extent, he says it’s also a reaction to some violent street protests the world knew as the Battle in Seattle.

Sparke is a geographer and professor of international studies at the University of Washington and also director of the new UW global health undergraduate minor.

As a co-author of a fascinating new book called Seattle Geographies, he’s been studying how Seattle has been altered by assuming a leadership role in global health — and, in turn, how this has worked to put a happy face on a word that once sparked (sorry Matt) world-class rioting in the streets here.


Flickr, djbones

WTO Seattle protests

In 1999, Seattle gained worldwide attention when the World Trade Organization (WTO) came to town. Protesters converged on the meeting to argue that “globalization” as conceived by the WTO, World Bank and others served corporate interests at the expense of poor farmers, labor laws and the environment (to name a few).

See the movie Battle in Seattle if your memory doesn’t serve.

So what do the WTO riots and globalization have to do with global health? 

“Lots,” said Sparke, who noted that geographers do much more than make maps. He studies human geography — the study of how people shape, and are shaped by, place.

And Seattle is a very outward-looking, globalized place. Always has been. Washington was the first state to normalize trade relations with China. We’ve always depended heavily upon international trade. Microsoft, Starbucks and Amazon.com are just a few examples of our entrepreneurial track record. On the humanitarian side of things, we put out more Peace Corps volunteers per capita than any other region. Continue reading

A look at the local global health “industry” of Washington state | 

The Washington Global Health Alliance and the City of Seattle’s Office of Economic Development has published a new report describing our region’s growing global health industry (even though they shy away from calling it that, preferring words like “sector” and such).

Called the 2011 Global Health Strategic Mapping and Economic Opportunity Portfolio, the report identifies local organizations working in global health, the number of jobs, types of projects overseas and many other interesting tidbits — including business opportunities. Some key findings:

  • Respondent’s organizations have 2,503 projects and initiatives in 156 countries.
  • In Washington, 2,979 people work in global health. Outside of the state, these 59 organizations support an additional 17,275 employees.
  • Washington has particular expertise in infectious & chronic disease and developing technologies & devices.
  • Washington global health organizations surveyed collaborate with 1,574 partners, located in 111 countries across the world.


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