Global Health Conferences

Global Health Conferences

Why I Love the International AIDS Conference

~Written by Jessica Taaffe, PhD (Contact:; Twitter: @jessicataaffe)

Originally published on Global Health NOW

I remember my first International AIDS Conference well.  It was 2010, and I attended the conference in Vienna to present a poster on my PhD thesis work. Walking through the conference one day, I came upon a group of activists loudly protesting for better access to harm reduction services, like needle and syringe programs and opioid substitution therapy.

I thought, “WHAT kind of conference is this???”

I’m a biomedical scientist. I was trained that science is neutral, objective, dispassionate. So I was naturally shocked by the activism at the conference. My perspective on this has changed since then, and it’s why I now love the International AIDS Conference. At this conference, scientists ARE activists; they are part of the large and inclusive community of people working to end AIDS. And at this conference, all of those people–scientists, policy makers, activists, civil society, communities living with or affected by HIV—come together.

Science, policy and activist communities don’t often intersect. At conferences scientists usually focus on research advances and less on how to put them into policy and practice. Conversely, high-level policymakers attend meetings that set global agendas but few scientists are in the room.

At this conference, they do intersect—and interact.  Scientists have access to sessions hosted by organizations setting global HIV policy. They can give the context of their evidence and influence how it is used (or not).  Policymakers and program directors have access to the latest research advancing the field, helping inform their recommendations and program implementation.  

And those researchers and policymakers have an opportunity to directly interact with the communities affected by the HIV epidemic.  For example, I attended a pre-conference event next door to a session on transgender rights. The cheering and loud applause seeping through the walls warmed my heart.

Mutual access and dialogue between communities is critical. As a scientist, a better understanding of affected communities or populations leads to more targeted research or solutions.  For instance, research presented yesterday indicates that African women are more susceptible to HIV infection and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) isn’t as effective in some of them due to differing vaginal microbial strains.  Targeting treatments against the responsible bacteria may enhance current and future HIV prevention efforts.  

For activists, having access to the science allows them to make demands and personal decisions based on the evidence. Men who have sex with men have been enthusiastic and early adopters of PreP. When these communities interact, real change happens.  

I love the International AIDS Conference because it epitomizes the HIV movement–the coming together of an expansive and diverse community with the common goal of ending AIDS.

That is what I want to see in global health: I want scientists to see how their research directly improves the lives of people.  I want them to be informed of larger issues in the field that may shape their research or inspire new studies. I want scientists to be PASSIONATE about their science and use it to directly advocate for policy change.  I want policymakers to appreciate the complexity of the research process and use evidence appropriately.  I want them to see the impact of their decisions on the lives they affect.  

I want more communities living with a disease or at risk from the disease to be science-literate and empowered to advocate for what the health services they need.

As the 21st International AIDS Conference unfolds this week in Durban, South Africa, I hope the global health community is paying attention.  Colleagues, this is how you mobilize an equitable, science-driven, people centered, and effective health response.  We need much more of these events in global health.

Global Health Conferences, Government Policy, Healthcare Workforce, International Aid

Humanitarian Congress: A Workforce Self-Evaluates

~Written by Victoria Stanford (Contact:

Humanitarian Congress, Berlin. Photo Credit: Victoria Stanford

The 17th Humanitarian Congress - ‘Understanding Failure, Adjusting Practice’ - took place in early October this year. The stimulating two-day event in Berlin, Germany could not have occurred at a more appropriate moment for the international humanitarian movement, its workers and its supporters. Just six days previously on October 3rd, an MSF (Doctors without Borders) trauma centre in Kunduz, Afghanistan was bombed, killing over 30 people including 10 patients and 13 staff, and injuring over 30 (more are missing and/or unidentifiable; MSF).  The Conference began with a poignant moment of silence for the victims of this tragedy. Inevitably however, the agenda was overwhelmingly full of lectures and seminars shedding light on numerous serious, devastating, and urgent crises that call upon the attention of the humanitarian community; the ongoing instability in the Central African Republic and protracted crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the war in Syria and its subsequent refugee crisis, to name a few.

The demand on the humanitarian system is ever-growing and events such as the Congress facilitate a reflection of its principles, priorities, objectives and effectiveness. The focus on ‘failure’, albeit with its negative connotations, helpfully directed discussions towards ideas for improvement. Importantly, this approach avoided blame and finger-pointing and instead flagged problems that applied to many agencies, in many situations. For example, speakers from the Treatment Action Campaign suggested that international agencies often use local agencies as subcontractors, outsourcing risk to those whose protection is less internationally observed. It was argued that this can often mean that the local workforce, and those directly involved in the crisis are not placed at the centre of decision-making processes. Instead, beneficiaries or those workers who are part of the vulnerable community are treated as “victims” without autonomy, who blindly receive assistance rather than self-remediate. This idea of working with communities rather than for them, expanded to a conference-wide discussion of responsibility. Questions like, whose role is it to alleviate suffering, who should provide the funding and resources, and who should decide policy and provide care for vulnerable people in crisis situations were discussed.

 Whilst the conference facilitated stimulating intellectual discussion on the ideas and concepts of today’s humanitarianism, it also showed the reality of human need. An engineer from Syria who came to Germany as a refugee, risking his safety along the highly publicised journey across the Mediterranean, spoke about his experiences. He spoke of the boat that took him across the sea slowly sinking while other passengers panicked, treading water for hours until an eventual coastguard rescue. A story such as his reminded all at the Conference that the jargonised political discussions about the refugee crisis create a rhetoric that often overlooks the human experience. Speakers from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia also provided the weekend’s event with a more individualised, personalised view of the concepts and themes we were discussing; reminding us of the human aspect of an increasingly intellectualised and politicised field. 

The Congress also served as a pre-dialogue to the Humanitarian Summit, a novel event announced by the UN Secretary-General to be held in Istanbul in early 2016. The purpose is to discuss current challenges and decide on an agenda for future humanitarian action (ICVA, 2015). Many of the regional consultations which will contribute to the Summit have already taken place, and many of the speakers in Berlin commented on the predictability of the points which have been brought up thus far. For example, it was mentioned by many that staff security and safety in the field is likely to ignite serious discussion and debate, as is the issue of agency co-ordination and leadership. The example of the Ebola Crisis in West Africa provided an astute example of this need for a decision on establishing leadership and accountability in humanitarian action; the general rhetoric was that the WHO did not do enough, early enough, and NGOs such as MSF found themselves to be the principal driving force behind the response efforts.  

Increasingly complex humanitarian crises which involve both more agencies and beneficiaries than ever before, must be met with an efficient workforce that can respond to the challenges the humanitarian sector faces. The Conference seemed to bring about an understanding of the fact that the extent to which the sector can be successful may depend on how far the actors are willing to innovate and adapt, introduce creativity, and collaborate with non-traditional allies.  Humanitarianism is no longer a subjective theory with ad-hoc projects run by the adventurous few, it is a rapidly-expanding multidisciplinary system which should be based on rigorous evidence and carried out by legitimate actors who show consistent adherence to mutual humanitarian principles. If and how this will come about will rely on the humanitarian sector continuing to self-evaluate, a feat which will be facilitated by the upcoming Summit in 2016, which we all eagerly anticipate.


MSF (2015) Afghanistan: Death toll from the MSF hospital attack in Kunduz still rising,, 23rd October 2015 [Online] Available at: [Accessed 24 October 2015]

ICVA (International Council of Voluntary Agencies) (2015) World Humanitarian Summit 2016 [Online] Available at: [Accessed 09 November 2015] 

Global Health Conferences

Health in All Policies: A Review of the 2015 American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting

~Written by Theresa Majeski (Contact:; Twitter: @theresamajeski)

The 143rd American Public Health Association (APHA) annual meeting was held in Chicago, IL from October 31 to November 4, 2015. The theme for this year’s annual meeting, “Health in All Policies”, focused on the impact of where someone lives, works, learns and plays on their ability to live a healthy life. Focusing on creating policies to address community issues ensures a long-lasting implementation of community improvements. There were a wide variety of sessions; some directly related to the theme and others which were less clearly aligned. In the following paragraphs, I provide some of my impressions of the meeting and highlight a few sessions I attended which really got me thinking about global health.

On Saturday Oct. 30, I attended the APHA Global Health Learning Institute. This half-day session focused solely on how students and young professionals can break into the global health field. The institute was run by representatives from Chemonics International and the Global Health Fellows Program (GHFP) II within the Public Health Institute. One highlight was the results of a survey, done by GHFP II, of global health employers to determine what they perceive as areas where applicants are lacking in skills. Most (85%) of the employers surveyed felt that academia could do a better job preparing students for the real-world by providing more non-clinical skill building in the areas of program management, strategy and project management, communication with stakeholders, and collaboration and teamwork. Employers perceived gaps in understanding the context and reality of global health work, flexibility and adaptability of applicants, cultural sensitivity, cross-cultural communication, and knowledge of how the key players and systems work in a global health capacity. What I took away from this session was the importance of adjusting one’s resume to demonstrate skills in the areas that global health employers think most applicants are lacking.

On Sunday I attended the Opening Session where the US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy spoke about three elements that are central to our work as public health leaders: information, inspiration, and equality. With these three elements Dr. Murthy believes that we can achieve our public health goals. Actor Ed Begely spoke briefly about the importance of climate change and how if everyone does small feasible things each day it can have a large collective impact. The keynote speaker of the opening session was Dr. Freeman Hrabowski from the University of Maryland – Baltimore County. Dr. Hrabowski spoke animatedly about public health and the importance of education. In the last few minutes of his talk, he stated that we should all watch our thoughts, for our thoughts become our words; watch our words because they become our actions; watch our actions because they become our habits; watch our habits because they become our character, andwatch our character because it becomes our destiny, dreams and values.

I attended many International Health section-sponsored sessions while at APHA. Several presentations really made me think about how we can and must do better in global health. Many groups around the world are making a significant impact in global health including the implementation of a mobile app to help maternal and child health community health workers in India, promoting communities to take greater control of their healthcare service delivery, determining the true prevalence of malaria versus other febrile illnesses which are often mistaken for malaria, and having a greater respect for established traditions in communities that require assistance from global health workers such as in the West African Ebola response. Attending international health sessions as APHA always inspires me to continue to learn about the vast field of global health and to continue to remain aware of all of the great work going on around the world.

That is my challenge to you, do not remain complacent in your job or life; continue to learn and grow, personally and professionally, as the field of global health continues to learn and grow.

Global Health Conferences, Infectious Diseases

The World Hepatitis Summit 2015

~Written by Caity Jackson (Contact:

The World Hepatitis Alliance team members. Photo Credit: Caity Jackson

Today, viral hepatitis kills more people than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, or malaria and has become the 7th major cause of death globally. Despite this, hepatitis has not received the same global attention as the other illnesses it shares the Top 10 global killer list with. The President of the World Hepatitis Alliance Charles Gore noted in his plenary speech ‘‘we felt honestly, neglected.” Neglected they are not today.

Walking into the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Center (SECC), one could feel the energy and urgency in the crowd. The first ever World Hepatitis Summit brought together a group of patients, NGOs, academics, and government officials that have long awaited their time in the spotlight. The Summit’s three-day meeting came in response to last year’s World Health Assembly Resolution calling for concerted action to reverse the ever-rising death toll from viral hepatitis. It serves as the beginning of a series of summits focusing on information sharing and “how we can scale up and not waste the precious resources we know are limited” said Gore. Those at the summit are passionately working towards increasing awareness about viral hepatitis, focusing on the draft WHO Global Health Sector Strategy on Viral Hepatitis which aims to reduce new cases of chronic hepatitis B and C by 90%, reduce hepatitis B and C deaths by 65%, and treat 80% of eligible persons with chronic hepatitis B and C infections by 2030.

Because viral hepatitis has been neglected for so long (viral hepatitis was not included in the Millennium Development Goals) much needs to be done rapidly to make up for lost time. In that context, the Summit, intended as an annual event, will focus on the public health approach to viral hepatitis and become the central forum for countries to share their experience and best practices in order to drive rapid advances in national responses. The inaugural World Hepatitis Summit made history; an effort everyone hopes will lead to reducing the burden on those afflicted by viral hepatitis.

For the full press release please visit the WHO Media centre

For another perspective, please visit the BioMed Central Blog

Community Engagement, Global Health Conferences, Healthcare Workforce, Infectious Diseases, Vaccination

World Hepatitis Day 2015 - Focusing on Prevention

~Written by Theresa Majesty (Contact:; Twitter: @theresamajeski)

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that approximately 1.5 million people die each year from the various types of hepatitis caused by hepatitis viruses A, B, C, D, and E. It is estimated that half a billion people worldwide are infected with hepatitis B or C virus, the strains responsible for the majority of cases of liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.

In order to bring attention to the large global burden of disease caused by viral hepatitis, 2015’s World Hepatitis Day is July 28th. This date was chosen to honor the birthday of Nobel Laureate Professor Baruch Samuel Blumberg who discovered the hepatitis B virus and developed the first hepatitis B vaccine. This year the emphasis is on prevention, with the slogan “Prevent hepatitis. Act now.”

We can prevent hepatitis by providing safe food and water (hepatitis A and E), vaccines (hepatitis A, B, and E), screening blood donations and providing proper equipment to maintain infection control (hepatitis B and C). While hepatitis B and C can be treated, many people in low- and middle- income countries lack access to treatment due to a lack of screening and the high cost of treatment. Until screening and treatment options become more accessible and affordable, prevention messages are incredibly important.

To help people learn how to prevent hepatitis, the WHO World Hepatitis Day 2015 campaign focuses on four key prevention messages:

  1. Prevent hepatitis - know the risks
  2. Prevent hepatitis – demand safe injections
  3. Prevent hepatitis – vaccinate children
  4. Prevent hepatitis – get tested, seek treatment

Figure 1: A poster from World Hepatitis Alliance. 

If you’d like to get involved in raising awareness about hepatitis, please visit There you’ll find some ideas on how to get involved, information on what social media campaigns have been formed, and materials to share to help spread the word that hepatitis is preventable.

The future of the fight against hepatitis looks promising. WHO has been increasing its efforts to fight hepatitis by establishing the Global Hepatitis Programme in 2011, and in 2014 moved that program to the cluster of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria, and Neglected Tropical Diseases to help facilitate work between HIV/AIDS and hepatitis programs (due to the high number of people around the world living with both HIV and viral hepatitis). Furthermore, WHO, in conjunction with the Scottish Government and the World Hepatitis Alliance, is organizing the first ever World Hepatitis Summit in Glasgow, Scotland over 2-4 September 2015. This invite-only summit will bring together policy makers, patients, and other key stakeholders to determine how best to make lasting progress to reduce the global burden of hepatitis.

There is still progress to be made by the global community in order to win the fight against hepatitis. Key efforts, such as establishing events to publicize the global burden of viral hepatitis and holding summits to bring together the stakeholders that can make a difference, are contributing to saving lives in the fight against viral hepatitis.

Global Health Conferences, Healthcare Workforce

International Day of the Midwife: What are Global Leaders Saying?

- Written by Kate Millar, Technical Writer, Maternal Health Task Force

This post originally appeared in the American College of Nurse Midwives’ Quickening, Volume 46, Number 2 (Spring 2015). It was also posted on the Maternal Health Task Force blog on May 5th. 


Today, May 5, is the International Day of the Midwife. This is an opportunity for the global community to come together to recognize the incredible impact midwives have on maternal and newborn health and decreasing mortality. Want to know more about what global leaders are doing to strengthen midwifery?

On Monday, March 23rd, global leaders in midwifery and maternal, newborn and child health gathered in Washington, DC at the Wilson Center for Call the Midwife: A Conversation About the Rising Global Midwifery Movement. This symposium hosted four panels to discuss current data, country investments, important global initiatives and public private partnerships and innovation in midwifery. Each of the panels was presented in the context of exciting new strides in maternal health with the forthcoming Sustainable Development Goals, an updated strategy for the United Nations’ Every Woman, Every Child initiative and the World Bank’s Global Financing Facility that supports it.

While each speaker’s background and focus varied, the themes of the symposium were consistent:

  • Improve management and leaderships skills of midwives
  • Improve pre-service and in-service education
  • Innovate to keep midwives in rural areas
  • Fill the need for well-trained midwifery faculty
  • Integrate maternal and newborn healthcare
  • Provide respectful maternity care (RMC)
  • Build capacity

To kick-off the symposium, His Excellency Björn Lyrvall, Swedish Ambassador to the United States told the story of midwifery in Sweden: in 1751, it was reported to parliament that 400 of 651 maternal deaths could be averted with midwifery. Parliament took this seriously and by training midwives with safe delivery techniques decreased Sweden’s maternal mortality ratio (MMR) from 900 deaths per 100,000 live births (among the highest in Europe at the time) to 230. Sweden’s passion and investment in midwifery can act as an example to countries that are now facing a similar burden of maternal mortality.

The data on midwifery

The first panel on data summarized the State of the World’s Midwifery 2014 (SoWMy 2014), the Lancet Series on Midwifery and the International Confederation of Midwives’ (ICM) vision and programs. In his presentation on SoWMy 2014, Luc de Bernis, Technical Adviser at UNFPA, focused on projections of workforce availability and met need, or the ratio of workforce time available to time needed. Projections identify countries with a low-met need, medium-met need and high-met need in 2030. Interestingly, two countries that are doing well now, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, will not be able to meet their health workforce needs by 2030 if investment does not accelerate now to keep up with an increasing need for services.

In her review of the Lancet Series on Midwifery, Holly Kennedy, Varney Professor of Midwifery at Yale University, announced two papers that will be added to the series: one on disrespect and abuse and RMC and another that summarizes the top 10 research priorities from the series to improve maternal and newborn health using the QMNC framework.

Frances Day-Stirk, President of the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), then spoke on her organization’s vision and programs, including “A Promising Future,” a campaign to promote midwifery as the norm and not a novelty. The focus of ICM is to have midwives who are appropriate (well-educated and regulated), accessible (especially in poor geographic areas) and cost-effective. Day-Stirk also outlined the critical pillars of midwifery—education, regulation and association—which stand on a foundation of ICM core competencies. The focus and pillars of ICM were echoed throughout the remainder of the symposium.

At the end of this panel, countries were encouraged to look at long-term plans for strengthening and scaling-up professional midwifery, instead of quick fixes with training auxiliary midwives.

Country investments and lessons learned

Representatives from Cameroon, Afghanistan, Liberia and Ethiopia presented data on current initiatives in their countries to support and scale up midwifery. Ethiopia and Cameroon have both seen improvements in midwifery and maternal health indicators through investing in midwifery education and establishing accreditation of schools and training sites. Although they have seen success in their efforts, challenges still remain with a shortage of midwifery faculty and clinical training sites.

In Afghanistan, the Community Midwifery Education (CME) program, supported by USAID, Jhpiego, WHO and UNFPA, provides quality, sustainable midwifery education. The 2-year program supports women with at least a 10th grade education, chosen by their communities to participate. After training is complete, women return to their communities where child care and transportation is provided to enable them to use their skills and also to incentivize them to stay in their community. Other initiatives include leadership training, accreditation and mobile programs.

Marion Subah, a senior nurse midwife and Jhpiego’s country representative in Liberia, reported that since Ebola, antenatal care (ANC) coverage, skilled birth attendance and institutional delivery have all had an absolute decrease of about 10%, reversing recent advances in maternal health in Liberia. She recounted the difficulties of delivering maternal health care in the context of Ebola: six midwives have died from Ebola and women who need post abortion care are especially at risk because of the fears associated with contracting Ebola through bodily fluids. Moving forward, the ministry of health (MOH) has created a 10-year plan that focuses on increasing the number and quality of midwives, faculty development and establishing well-working computer and science labs and clinical sites.

Global midwifery initiatives

All over the world, organizations of all types are banning together to improve maternal and newborn health by investing in midwifery. With initiatives by the World Bank, USAID, GE Foundation and global policy experts, there was a lot to be excited about.

These initiatives are focused on creating a sustainable midwifery workforcestrengthening professional associationsimproving workplace conditions for midwives, promoting RMC,building leadership and management skills, implementing global policies for ending maternaland newborn deaths and a new ICM Midwifery Services Framework. Many of the initiatives presented have overlapping goals, all to the end of creating a healthy, well-educated, accessible midwifery workforce.

At the close of this panel, Laura Laski, Chief of the Sexual and Reproductive Health Branch at UNFPA, noted three upcoming critical turning points for midwifery:

  1. The Global Maternal Newborn Health Conference in Mexico City: timed right after the agreement of countries on the SDGs, this conference in October 2015, provides an opportunity to emphasize the need to invest in midwives to accomplish the SDGs
  2. The World Health Assembly: provides a forum in May to discuss the new version of Every Woman, Every Child
  3. The Women Deliver Conference in 2016

Innovation and Public-Private Partnerships for Midwifery

To end the day, we looked forward to the future with a focus on innovation and pioneering public-private partnerships (PPPs). Greeta Lal of UNFPA shared recently developed e-learning modules that were created in partnership with Jhpiego, UNFPA, Intel and WHO. With topics ranging from family planning to essential newborn care, these e-learning modules can be conducted almost anywhere with a battery-operated projector, solar powered charger and a cheap tablet, these modules can be used in almost any part of the world.

In addition, Survive & Thrive and Nurses Investing in Maternal Child Health both seek to strengthen young professionals to become leaders in the field to create sustainable change. Both programs work internationally, but with different strategies. Survive & Thrive, supported by ACNM and other partners, works to strengthen professional associations and host master training of trainer courses for the management of maternal and newborn complications, from Malawi to Afghanistan. Nurses Investing in Maternal Child Health is an 18-month program supported by Johnson & Johnson and Sigma Theta Tau for nurse fellows to work with a mentor in order to gain leadership and technical skills in order to improve maternal and child health through evidence-based practice, health systems improvements and program evaluation.

Lastly, the NGO Direct Relief, with technical support from ICM, creates midwife kits for facility-based deliveries. With essential commodities, these kits have the potential to decrease MMR and the neonatal mortality rate by 63%. Thus far, these kits have been distributed in the Phillipines after Typhoon Haiyan and in Sierra Leone in the wake of Ebola.

The symposium was a full day of reviewing the incredible impact midwifery can have and what we need to do as a global community to realize that impact.

Resources discussed at this symposium:

Innovation, Global Health Conferences

Review of Unite for Site Global Health and Innovation Conference 2015

~Written by Sarah Weber (Contact:

I attended the Unite for Site Global Health and Innovation Conference last weekend which brought together over 2,000 global health and international development professionals, social entrepreneurs and students to exchange ideas and leading practices. One of the best parts of the conference was meeting committed global health professionals with the bonus of connecting with other TWiGH team members and viewers. The conference was held at Yale and participants had the opportunity to enjoy the quaint city of New Haven as well as the snow that fell throughout Saturday. The conference was similar to many other global health conferences I’ve attended but had a unique feel due to its social innovation edge and opportunity to hear from social entrepreneurs competing for the J.M.K. Innovation Prize. The innovation prize was established by the J.M. Kaplan Fund to provide grants to emerging social sector innovations.  

The conference had some very engaging and high profile speakers. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the key-note address by the Honorable Minister of Health of Rwanda, Agnes Binagwaho, MD. She is an energetic women who isn’t afraid to speak her mind, even on controversial topics. She spoke about how Rwanda has greatly decreased its AIDS deaths, which is the fastest decrease ever in the world. She stressed how imperative it is that women have the choice for family planning since “There is no woman crazy enough to say, I want a baby every year”. She spoke about the need to meet people where they are and to move where you are needed most (rather than nice areas with beaches or better amenities). When asked what she would do if she were the Health Minister of the United States, she said she would put parents who refused to vaccinate their children on trial! Lastly, she urged us to work together and unite since “We live in one world, not three.”

Another engaging speaker was Cal Bruns, CEO/Chief Creative Incubationist at Matchboxology who presented on “What Condom Manufacturers Could Learn from Car Designers.” He spoke about a fact that car manufacturers learned long ago, that people are more motivated to purchase a product with a benefit that they want, rather than a product to prevent something they don’t want. He proposed that the condom companies should work on creating condoms with advanced technology such as stimulating beads on the inside of the condom to increase pleasure. Then men would be motivated to use condoms for the increased sensation which would as a by-product help reduce STIs and unwanted pregnancy. It was a different look on condom promotion than I’d heard before, but totally made sense.

The Social Impact Labs, which was the catalysis feature of the conference, brought together social entrepreneurs to pitch presentations about new innovations in front of a panel of judges and the audience in competition for the innovation prize. The innovation pitches ranged from nascent ideas, grassroots projects, to initiatives already underway being backed by large public health NGOs, universities and/or private companies. We heard about innovations ranging from a sex education program in Kenya teaching farmers to spread HIV prevention messages, a movement to create greenhouses in inner-city Baltimore to bring fresh produce to areas lacking produce options, to a project that creates wells to provide safe drinking water at a low cost to prevent arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh. The winning innovation was presented by Lucy Topaloff with a company called Miraclefeet which provides high quality, low cost braces for patients with Clubfoot in India. Miraclefeet won $10,000 which will be used to help provide braces to 40+ children. 

Overall it was a motivating and encouraging weekend. It’s always great to meet other public health professionals passionate about improving health and opportunities for disadvantaged populations globally. Listening to all the enthusiastic and motivated young people during the social innovation pitches drove home the idea that: great ideas + passion + commitment = opportunities. These individuals, in collaboration with their networks and connections, are turning ideas into solutions to help the less advantaged. That is inspiring!