Where Are We Now?
The Department of International Health is committed to helping the world’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged people improve their health and well-being. We focus on diseases, disabilities, malnutrition, and the social, economic, biological, and environmental conditions that affect communities around the world. Whether the problem is defined by illness, ability, economic or social status, gender, age, race, religion, political affiliation, or sexual orientation, we work with partners around the world to identify, test, and implement technologies, practices, and policies to protect health and save lives.
The Power of Education
Objectives: Enhance the accessibility of our academic programs to diverse learners.
Ensure that our academic offerings continue to effectively prepare students for public health careers in a rapidly changing world.
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Over the past four years, the Department has made several improvements to our academic program, from revamping and revitalizing core courses to improving student advising. We have also created three fully online master’s degree programs to enhance accessibility to working professionals around the world. And we, along with the rest of the Bloomberg School, have committed to tuition-free doctoral programs.
We have long recognized that our graduating students need strong practical skills to prepare them better for the workplace. We believe that strengthening engagement with the employers of our students will allow us to continue to stay current in terms of the skills that employers seek in our graduates. Our outstanding alumni network and strong links with professional practice organizations also can help support students’ orientation to global health work and their job search.
While the Department has begun to address the issue of financial accessibility for our students, much more needs to be done in this regard, so that we can both expand the number of doctoral students able to benefit from our education and provide increased support for other students.
The Power of Science
Objectives: Sustain and adapt departmental capacities in existing areas of strengths notably:
- Primary health care and universal health coverage
- Nutrition and food systems
- Maternal and child health
- Vaccine sciences
Further enhance our capacity for cutting-edge research in two select domain:
- Climate change and health
- Health technologies
Reinforce the quality and innovativeness of our research through proactively connecting researchers across disciplinary and organizational boundaries in the School and the University
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The Department has been a leader in identifying, developing, testing, and implementing practices and policies to improve the health of disadvantaged populations. We are well known for our work addressing maternal and child health, particularly for vaccine-preventable diseases and childhood nutrition. Faculty have collectively contributed to this body of work through the development and identification of new technologies and interventions, the development of an evidence base to demonstrate effectiveness under real-world conditions, and scaling up new effective services. The Department is also well known for its seminal contributions to community health and primary health care, as well as its ongoing work in this field.
While the Department has historically been known for its strengths in the disciplines identified above, with nearly 200 full-time faculty, our work spans well beyond these traditional areas, as illustrated by the range of disciplines we use and the diversity of centers affiliated with the Department (see APPENDIX).
Between 2015 and 2019 the Department invested to strengthen its capacity in a number of research areas including mHealth, the microbiome, and noncommunicable diseases. We also focused on specific methodological areas including health policy, health economics, and systems science. Work on NCDs permeates all four programs within the Department and will continue to be an important domain for our growth. Many of the prioritized areas described below link to NCD prevention or treatment.
Departmental priorities in the Power of Science domain focus on identifying and supporting strategic priority research themes, and overcoming silos between faculty both within the Department and across departments and divisions. While the Department will continue to support work across diverse research themes, it makes sense to focus new departmental investments on priority topics and associated research methods and approaches. These priority areas will suffuse our research, teaching, communications, and partner engagement.
The Power of People
Objective: Increase access to our academic programs for underrepresented minority and international students, particularly those from low- and middle-income countries.
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The Department of International Health recognizes that the quality of its research, teaching, and service is enhanced by the presence of diverse perspectives and experiences. As a Department, the heart of our mission is to serve low-income and more vulnerable populations, making it essential that such populations are well represented among our staff, faculty, and students. There is and has been a strong representation of minorities among our staff. During recent years we have sought to diversify our faculty body. Faculty ranks have always been internationally diverse, with many of our members born overseas and holding citizenship in LMICs, but in recent years they also represent greater gender and ethnic diversity. Though progress has been made, we recognize that this should continue to be a priority for the Department.
Among our student body, we can do more to increase the participation of underrepresented minorities from the U.S., as well as international students who come from LMICs and from underprivileged backgrounds.
The Power of Partnerships
Objectives: Strengthen our partnerships with overseas research groups and universities.
Strengthen our partnerships with policy and practice organizations to promote improved employment opportunities for our students and enhance our impact in the world
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Partnerships are fundamental to the successful operation of departmental research, teaching, and service. Our faculty partner with government agencies in the U.S. and overseas, research institutes and universities, global nongovernmental organizations and smaller NGOs based in LMICs, private corporations, multilateral organizations such as the World Health Organization and the World Bank, and different types of community groups. The Department also has several ongoing population research sites that we have led for 20 to 30 years, strategically located to represent the cultures, health profiles, food and health systems, diets, and ecologies of large populations in need. These research sites represent strong departmental assets and are home to long-term collaborations with national and international research institutions and diverse funding organizations.
These different partnerships enhance the relevance of our work, support the implementation of research projects, ensure that research findings are translated into policy and action, communicate evidence to audiences and stakeholders including vulnerable groups, and open up innovative training and educational opportunities. Partnerships are particularly crucial to our educational programs—for example, our partnerships with international NGOs and NGOs in LMICs enable us to offer service-oriented practicums for our students. Within Johns Hopkins, departmental faculty and students collaborate widely with other departments in the Bloomberg School, as well as with other schools (notably schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Engineering) and Jhpiego. Going forward, we will pursue a more strategic approach to collaboration across the University and externally.
The Department of International Health has always viewed a core part of its mandate to support capacity development in LMIC settings, and for many faculty this is a primary motivation for their work. We anticipate our partnerships with entities in LMICs will become even more important, though the nature of our roles in these partnerships will inevitably change as power relations between high-, middle-, and low-income countries shift. We will need to prepare for this by working closely with and listening to strategically placed partner institutions in LMICs to better understand their needs and develop sustainable and equitable partnerships.
The Power of Advocacy
Objectives: Together with partners, advocate for the field of global health, in particular by articulating the relevance of the research that the Department and our partners do to address public health problems.
Enhance the impact that our work has on policies, programs, and practices through convening an annual Global Health Forum.
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Historically, advocacy for the field of global health research has not been central to the work of the Department. Recently, however, there have been repeated efforts to cut U.S. government funding to both health research and international development, which fortunately, to-date, have been largely resisted. Many people in the U.S. do not understand how investments in global health research benefit them, and they may also fail to see how research can change lives within LMICs. These concerns are exacerbated by public misinformation and fake news. This is perhaps most apparent with vaccines; anti-vaccine propaganda has eroded trust in vaccines both in the U.S. and internationally. Misinformation has also undermined efforts to tackle Ebola, has spread AIDS denialism, and has promoted bogus cures. We have a responsibility to ensure that critical research findings are disseminated not only through academic journals, but also to the general public through accessible, accurate stories in mass media.
Within this strategic goal, we will focus on (i) advocacy for the field of global health and the role of science within it, and (ii) the translation of research findings into policy and practice. These components are interlinked and mutually reinforcing.