The Worldwide Universities Network (WUN) announced a funding award to University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Medicine and Public Health faculty member Dr. Tom Oliver and his collaborators, Dr. Ken Zakariasen of the University of Alberta School of Public Health and Dr. Darren Shickle of the Leeds Institutes for Health Sciences at the University of Leeds. Oliver is a professor in the Department of Population Health Sciences and the director of the UW Master of Public Health Program. His research examines critical issues in health policy, politics, and system reform. The award, which totals £15,000, is matched by funding from the University of Wisconsin European Union Center of Excellence, the UW-Madison Global Health Initiative, The University of Leeds, and the University of Alberta. Administrative support is provided by the UW–Madison Division of International Studies, the College of Letters & Science, the Graduate School, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Administration.
Oliver and his collaborators expect to shine new light on how policies outside the healthcare domain affect the health of populations around the world, with special comparative focus on North America and Europe. The award will support a conference series, “Putting New Paradigms Into Practice: Transatlantic Lessons in Population Health Improvement.” The series will convene experts from academia, the press, business, government, and the non-profit sector to address the fundamental question, “Why are some people and places healthier than others?”
“This WUN project provides an opportunity for leaders in public health from many different countries to focus together on broader paradigms for considering the many factors which influence health status, thus encouraging the development of far more encompassing, and potentially far more effective, public policies that influence health,” says Zakariasen, a collaborator on the project from the University of Alberta.
UW-Madison will host two conferences. The first, scheduled for early spring, will bring a small group of international contributors who will help frame the agenda and key questions to be addressed in the second, larger fall conference.
While some specific health issues such as obesity and alcohol consumption may be used as examples to draw the policy landscape between nations, the goal of the conference is broader and aspires to ask big questions about public health: how is it defined and what are the key challenges to developing effective and sustainable strategies for population health improvement. According to Oliver, “This project will critically examine the capacity of current measures, models, and evidence to serve as practical guides for action and resource allocation, as well as the challenges to establishing multi-sector governance to promote a ‘health in all policies’ strategy.”
WUN is a consortium of leading public research universities. Members draw on their collective expertise to advance knowledge and understanding on issues of global concern. Together, WUN member universities support joint projects addressing three broadly framed “global challenges”: climate change, globalization, and cultural understanding.
True to the spirit of the WUN, collaborator Darren Shickle says, “The approaches that Public Health have adopted have needed to adapt to reflect the changing threats as well as shifting political, economic, ethical and social environment…With the increasing internationalization of public health problems, Public Health as a discipline also needs international solutions, or at least to learn from the problems and successes in our various countries.”
UW–Madison faculty and academic staff use the WUN framework to strengthen the university’s global engagement in several ways. Through the WUN framework, UW-Madison researchers are conducting interdisciplinary and international collaborative research, comparing best practices, and developing new online resources. In the context of their research, faculty and academic staff have also created innovative learning opportunities for students, including virtual seminars, research visits, and summer institutes. To support these activities, UW–Madison awards WUN grants twice annually.