News Archive

posted 11/06/02

Columbia Launches New Center for Global Health and Economic Development
Center initiatives provide new vision-addressing critical health issues in resource-poor countries to stimulate social and economic development

New York, NY-Economic progress in developing countries depends on healthy citizens and environments. The Mailman School of Public Health and The Earth Institute at Columbia University are launching the Center for Global Health and Economic Development (CGHED), as a joint venture based at the Mailman School, to mobilize global health programs that help resource-poor countries address the burden of disease.

"In this age, people should not be devastated by the disability, misery and death caused by preventable diseases and malnutrition," said Allan Rosenfield, MD, director of CGHED and dean of the Mailman School. "No country should have its social and economic development efforts compromised because their people are too sick to work or their children are orphaned."

"Global markets by themselves can't be relied to address the crises of disease and deprivation in the world's poorest countries," said Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia, chair of the CGHED Advisory Board, and Special Advisor to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the Millennium Development Goals. "The poorest countries can't make it on their own. They will need help from the international community to fight malnutrition and infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV and malaria. These diseases devastate economies and destabilize societies. Disease control is therefore an economic and security priority, as well as a humanitarian imperative."

CGHED creates an umbrella for numerous ongoing public health initiatives at Columbia's Mailman School. Through partnerships with the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and private donors, a number of existing programs and new programs will be developed to address critical global health issues. Initiatives focus on a wide range of issues, such as AIDS, tuberculosis, maternal mortality, reproductive health, gender equity, sexuality, environmental contamination (arsenic), forced migration and health, assistance and human rights.

Ronald J. Waldman, MD, professor of Population and Family Health at the Mailman School and director of the School's Program on Forced Migration and Health, will serve as CGHED's deputy director of global health programs and Joseph H. Graziano, PhD, professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the Mailman School, will coordinate environmental health activities.

Mailman School alumnus Joshua Ruxin, MPH '94, who worked with Professor Sachs on similar projects at Harvard University before both moved to Columbia earlier this year, will manage and implement several new initiatives that focus on helping governments and advisory organizations in developing countries attack preventable diseases and build infrastructures to deliver effective health care services.

Current CGHED projects include:

The Access Project for the Global Fund, with a grant from the Glaser Foundation, helps countries develop strategic plans and grant requests for the Global Fund, a separately managed fund of private and national donations, directed at mitigating the impact caused by HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Technical expertise is provided to leaders in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Malawi, South Africa, Angola and Haiti.

MacroHealth, with assistance from the Gates Foundation, works with the World Health Organization to offer poor countries technical assistance in scaling up essential health services to ensure that health systems are adequately financed, operating effectively, and dedicated to the most important health problems. More than a dozen countries are slated to have GHED teams working in them in the next year.

The Millennium Project is a United Nations initiative, led by Jeffrey Sachs, to end poverty-related death and illness in poor countries by 2015 by working towards the UN's Millennium Development Goals. Significant among the goals is the reduction of preventable diseases. Through the new Center for Global Health and Economic Development, Columbia expertise will be harnessed to coordinate various Millennium issues, such as HIV/AIDS, malaria prevention projects, and maternal and child health initiatives.

MTCT-Plus (Mother to Child Transmission), launched by the Mailman School in December 2001, is the first major multi-country, family-centered AIDS treatment program for developing countries. Programs getting underway at 40 sites in eight African and Asian countries are aimed at providing HIV/AIDS prevention and health care for mothers and children. MTCT-Plus care and treatment initiatives will serve as demonstration programs for the new Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.

An overarching objective of the Center for Global Health and Economic Development is to promote interdisciplinary collaboration across schools and programs of Columbia's Health Sciences and main campuses-including research, education, and service programs-in order to improve the health of the world's poorest people. In addition, the Center will work in close collaboration with a new interdepartmental Masters in Public Health track on global public health that is currently being developed at the Mailman School.

"Issues of global health are at the core of economic development. CGHED initiatives are focused on helping to scale up successful local initiatives to become national programs," stated Dr. Rosenfield. "By linking researchers with field-based organizations, we can help document successful strategies and pass the best practices to a new generation of global health leaders."

The Earth Institute at Columbia University is among the world’s leading academic centers for the integrated study of Earth, its environment, and society. The Earth Institute builds upon excellence in the core disciplines—earth sciences, biological sciences, engineering sciences, social sciences and health sciences—and stresses cross-disciplinary approaches to complex problems. Through its research, training and global partnerships, it mobilizes science and technology to advance sustainable development, while placing special emphasis on the needs of the world’s poor.