Written by Katie Crowder, MHA, administrative coordinator of the Global Health Center at the Institute for Public Health
Global Health Week 2022 was celebrated on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis on Monday, October 24 through Friday, October 28.
The week’s kickoff event featured a talk from Michael Sinha, MD, JD, MPH, assistant professor at Saint Louis University School of Law. Sinha addressed the barriers in global access to vaccines and therapeutics during the Covid-19 pandemic, and explained how the issues of intellectual property and extensive “exclusive rights” to patented information, such as the process involved in manufacturing vaccines, has created obstacles in prompt, widespread access to these medical innovations. In addition, the reluctance of wealthier nations to waive exclusivity rights and readily share these innovations during the pandemic with lower-to middle-income countries (LMICs) has led to a lopsided availability of vaccine and therapeutic developments. Sinha believes that new regulations for intellectual property are necessary to keep access fair and level worldwide.
The 8th Annual Global Health Week also included the Pediatric Noon Conference, where David Taylor Hendrixson, MD, assistant professor in the Division of Pediatric Neonatology & Infectious Diseases at the University of Washington, spoke about the relationship between maternal nutrition and early infant health. Hendrixson discussed issues like maternal nutritional deficiencies, which can cause neonatal complications such as low-birth weight or preterm birth, and can lead to adverse maternal outcomes, such as hypertensive disorders of pregnancy and life-threatening hemorrhage. He highlighted several health interventions for this maternal-to early-infant relationship that should continue to be implemented, such as nutritional education, nutritional supplements, and measures to sustain infant growth in the first six months of life via the mother-breastmilk-infant triad.
Another highlight during the weeklong initiative was the Department of Medicine Grand Rounds, at which Victor Davila-Roman, MD, FACC, FASE, director of the Global Health Center and professor in the School of Medicine, touched on the global issues of cardiovascular disease (CVD), specifically hypertension and heart failure. He pointed out that CVD is the leading cause of death worldwide, including in the United States and in LMICs, which carry a disproportionate percentage of the global burden. He stressed that implementation science and research must be optimized to improve health and reduce disease. Davila-Roman also highlighted several active research projects at WashU that aim to address this global health challenge, including the ANDES study, a study that aims for Transforming Hypertension Control in Nigeria, a randomized controlled trial identified as QUARTET USA, and a new study that focuses on Enhancing Cardiovascular Health Equity in Mothers and Children Through Home Visiting.
Global Health Week ended on a high note with a presentation from Michelle Oyen, PhD, MS, associate professor at the McKelvey School of Engineering and inaugural Director of the Center for Women’s Health Engineering. Oyen discussed multiple challenges that may occur specifically throughout womens’ lifetimes, including endometriosis, preeclampsia, preterm birth and pelvic floor disorders. She stressed the need for practical diagnostics and treatments to reduce disparities in often-preventable adverse outcomes in different regions within the United States and between high-income and LMICs. Christine O’Brien, PhD, assistant professor at the School of Engineering and one of Oyen’s collaborators, commented on the presentation, “As a biomechanics expert, Oyen presented highlights from her team’s research, which aims to improve fundamental understanding of pregnancy and maternal health problems via creative and multidisciplinary studies focusing on mechanical forces during pregnancy. She left us with a call to action, emphasizing the need to further research funding and dedicated studies of basic reproductive biology and physiology in order to identify novel biomarkers for screening and diagnostics, as well as new therapeutic targets for women’s health diseases.”
The staff and faculty of the Global Health Center look forward to welcoming participants to another exciting Global Health Week in 2023!