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Mahidol takes up global health challenges


Mahidol University should take the lead in addressing global health issues through knowledge sharing, capacity building and networking, experts told the audience at the meeting titled "Time to Think Global", organized by Mahidol University Global Health (MUGH) on August 21, 2013 at Institute for Population and Social Research.

MUGH is a multi-disciplinary and cross-sectoral task force with an aim to push forward global health policy and implementation through a collaborative approach and partnership with national and international organizations, from Ministry of Public Health, National Health Commission, Health Systems Research Institute to WHO's South-East Asia Regional Office.

The task group is assigned to coordinate collaboration among faculties and institutes under Mahidol University, and with other organizations to drive forward global health projects.

Health has become global because globalization has increased exchange of information, movement of capital, goods, services, and people, and hence the spread of diseases, said Dr. Suwit Wibulpolprasert, Senior Advisor on Disease Control and Prevention, Ministry of Public Health.

Increasingly the role in global health has been taken up by new players ranging from NGOs, the private sector, global health delivery projects to international groupings and regional bodies like BRICS, Foreign Policy and Global Health Initiative, and ASEAN, according to Dr. Suwit.

"Mahidol University should take a leading role in global health by generating, managing and sharing knowledge of global health systems and specific issues. It should build capacity for public policy negotiation and networks of human resources for health education.

"It must have the capacity to host global conferences and to engage in global health governance to advocate policies at regional conferences and 66th World Health Assembly," he said.

In his talk on "Current Global Issues", Dr. Wiwat Rojanapithayakorn, MD., Director of Center for Health Policy and Management, Faculty of Medicine Ramathibodi Hospital discussed the impact of social change over time on global health and the necessity of dealing with intractable health problems, e.g. non-communicable diseases, which involve a wide range of risk factors such as behavior, family, community, environment, economic condition, etc. Dr. Wiwat listed major issues on global health as follows:

1) Global health risks: social determinants of health, risky lifestyles, global warming
2) Global health problems: high burden of NCDs; increasing aging population; high frequency of disasters, both natural and man-made (terrorism); re-emerging HIV/AIDS, mental health
3) Global health opportunities: WHO Reform, Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, GAVI Alliance, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
4) Global health initiatives: Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), UNAIDS: "Universal Access" and "Getting to Zero".

Prof. Rajata Rajatanavin, President of Mahidol University, stressed that the university's internationalization plan being implemented and MUGH were key policies for its internationalization.

MUGH, he said, would help build the capacity of Mahidol personnel since its programs would link up with local organizations and agencies as well as international bodies in addressing global health issues including elderly and aging, migration and health, mother and children health, environmental health, tobacco and alcohol study, infectious diseases, nutrition and food safety, transformative education and non-communicable diseases.

Created last October by a Mahidol University Council decision. MUGH is directed by a steering committee consisting of university and faculty administrators, Mahidol experts and others, according to Assoc. Prof. Churnrutai Kanchanachitra, MUGH Director.

MUGH has set out its vision of "Mahidol being a leading global health organization and the ASEAN center for global health by 2015". To realize this vision, it has been mobilizing all sectors concerned to develop capacity and formulate policies to drive forward global health policy in the region through three key strategies:

1) knowledge creation and management
2) development of capacity of personnel, participating organizations and networks
3) support for development and implementation of health policy.

MUGH's main activities are:
1) research-related activities including organization of forums for information exchange and learning to support research
2) training
3) regional networking and participation in international forums
4) network support including publishing e-newsletters on research and analysis of global health issues and compiling databases on global health research and experts.

Also, MUGH has collaborated with faculties, national as well as international organizations to carry out other activities including:

1) Hosting regional network meetings in October and December for brainstorming on research
2) Working with World Economic Forum on a set of research projects on Thailand's health care system in collaboration with Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, Faculty of Medicine Ramathibodi Hospital, Mahidol University; Khon Kaen University; and Ministry of Public Health, with MUGH coordinating the projects' research management.
3) Collaborating with Faculty of Public Health, Mahidol University on social and behavior research on HIV/AIDS for 11th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (November 18-22, 2013).


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