Program in Global Public Policy and Social Change

Vanessa Bradford Kerry, MD, MSc, Program Director

Program Background

Since the principal aim of medicine is to combat illness and alleviate suffering, medicine is not traditionally considered an agent of global public policy. Yet health care is in fact an underutilized tool to address the economic, social, and cultural disparities that define poor health in many regions. Poor health, in turn, fuels social vulnerabilities and discord, as illness decreases individual and community productivity and disrupts family and social structures. The broad consensus that improvements in population health can reduce poverty and contribute to long-term economic growth and development offers some hope. Interventions for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), tuberculosis, and vaccine-preventable illnesses, for example, have all improved economies and demonstrated that, just as disease transcends borders and can adversely affect regional economies, sound investments in health promotion can have a positive effect. The challenges are significant: currently, one-third of the world’s population lives on less than two dollars a day; six million children die before the age of five from preventable causes, including infectious diseases, malnutrition, and violence; chronic conditions such as coronary disease and malignancies contribute increasingly to global mortality; and at the same time, the world is striving to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. To address these challenges and the complex interplay of health, poverty, education, governance, and environment, the field of medicine must become a partner to global public policy, global health care policy, and foreign policy.

The Program in Global Health Policy and Social Change aims to embrace this complex intersection and help develop the needed partnerships among the fields of global health, public policy, and diplomacy. The Program works collaboratively across departments and institutions and engages undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and key policymakers in discourse to provide innovative solutions to global public policy problems.