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Building international partnerships for global health

Global Challenges Symposium 2018, Global health sessions - Dr Walasinee Moonmart

“Bristol University’s Global Challenges Symposium was really great; I’ve been to many cross disciplinary events and found this one to be so well organised. With so many professions working together means you get different ideas from many different fields.” Dr Walasinee Moonmart, Deputy Dean of the Faculty Veterinary Science, Mahidol University

19 June 2018

The recent Global Challenges symposium, organised by the University of Bristol’s Research Institutes, brought together cross-disciplinary researchers from around the world to discuss how address some of the world’s most pressing challenges, with the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute welcoming over 150 people from countries worldwide for its sessions on global health.

Over two days, the dedicated health sessions were themed around partnerships, interdisciplinarity in research and delivery impact. The aim? To encourage learning, sharing and networking, and to facilitate connections for potential future research collaborations with a focus on global health challenges.

Global Health Challenges Symposium - Elizabeth Blackwell Institute sessions on global health

Doctor Cecilia Mbae, Senior Research Officer Kenya Medical Research: “It was really great to be at the Global Health sessions, building bridges and building partnerships; I got to meet many new people. Something that is extremely unique was to see people so many from different specialities. There were engineers there, there were lawyers, environmentalists, people working in basic science, social scientists, clinicians - people working on different areas all together. I never expected to have engineers in a medical conference! Through this meeting I've come to understand why it's extremely important for people from different disciplines to work together to achieve the goal of solving the health problems that are affecting our populations.”

Chair of Day two Global Health session on impact, Kristen Reyher, Senior Lecturer in Farm Animal Science at the University of Bristol, echoed this:  "One of the main challenges with tackling global health problems is being able to fully understand the barriers and drivers for people in different countries and situations when you don’t inhabit that space. The recent Global Challenges Symposium was great for bringing people together, providing a space to see things from different perspectives. I really enjoyed working around a table on an unknown challenge with colleagues I had just met from a number of disciplines. It was also helpful to get a good view of the work that is being done around the globe – very inspiring and gave me lots of ideas for future work! There is lots of work yet to be done, but we will only be successful by working in true partnership and establishing sustainable initiatives that benefit everyone involved.”

High quality presentations gave delegates fantastic insight into a wide range of research projects all delivering impact on global health, from livestock parasites to women’s empowerment and child health. The diversity of the topic areas covered over the two days was vast, but with this came great synergy and connections made. The overarching message was that cross collaboration between disciplines is the only way to tackle today’s complex global health challenges.

Rachael Gooberman-Hill, Director of Elizabeth Blackwell Institute, said: “The Elizabeth Blackwell Institute at Bristol is committed to developing global health communities.  The symposium was a great example of this – people from different places, using different approaches, and with different expertise coming together to learn from each other and to connect. Global health challenges are becoming ever more complicated and interwoven: solving them requires a truly joined-up approach based on equitable partnerships.

Kirsty Donald, Paediatric Neurologist, Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital, and the University of Cape Town, South Africa explains the importance of equitable partnerships:“I think the huge value of the last couple of days has been exposure to not only people looking at similar global health challenges from different perspectives, but also looking at completely different challenges from different perspectives. What this meeting has really crystallised for me is identifying what our particular strengths are in my home environment, with the huge strengths of Bristol University and trying to think of ways of partnering so that one builds combined expertise in key areas. Doing research in very resource limited environments forces one to be creative about one's approaches and I think that researchers from better resourced environments often have something to learn about creativity in your approach to both research and clinical problem solving which can be of value.”

We are working to develop partnerships in global health research, with the University of Bristol committing seed corn funding to help kick start new collaborative projects between Bristol researchers and international partners. This is helping to support bids to the UK government’s £1.5 billion Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). In his opening address, Professor Nishan Canagarajah, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Research and Enterprise, said: “It’s really encouraging that the government has committed this GCRF funding to support global research. It’s part of my mission to support colleagues working on global projects, and I’m looking forward to hearing about all the exciting research bids and outcomes from this symposium.”

Rachael Gooberman-Hill, Director of Elizabeth Blackwell Institute, continued: “It was fantastic to see people talking about developing new project ideas or building on their existing work to develop follow on projects. We’re really looking forward to seeing what new collaborations emerge following on from this event.”

If you would like to discuss collaboration or cross-disciplinary research for global health please get in touch with us:

Further information

The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a £1.5 billion fund announced by the UK Government in late 2015 to support cutting-edge research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries. GCRF-funded research is challenge-led and focused on strengthening capacity for research, innovation and knowledge exchange both in the UK and developing countries. It forms part of the UK’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment.

More on how the University is using research to address global challenges.

The University Research Institutes draw together thematic, multidisciplinary research spanning the breadth of our academic community, helping to support a more collaborative way for researchers to work at Bristol. They are:

Elizabeth Blackwell Institute for Health Research - building new health research communities

Brigstow Institute - researching new ways of living and being

Cabot Institute - living with environmental uncertainty

Jean Golding Institute - making data work for everyone.

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