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Tuesday, August 3, 2021

UC Berkeley hosts second UC Global Health Day

UC Berkeley played host to the second University of California Global Health Day this past Saturday. The multitude of speakers centered on the topic of population growth, while global health disciples representing all UC campuses displayed current graduate student, postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty work on a broad array of research falling under the global health banner.

The burgeoning event was deemed a success on all accounts. The affair saw nearly 450 attendees — a boost of double that of the previous year’s inaugural UC Global Health Day. In addition, the UC Global Health Day represented the feats of an unprecedented partnership between the UC Global Health Institute, the UC Berkeley Center for Global Public Health and the UC Berkeley Bixby Center for Population, Health and Sustainability in collaboration with the Northern California International Health Interest Group.

It was through the sponsorship of such facilities that the event was able to present its two keynote speakers, Sir John E. Sulston and Dr. Eliya Msiyaphazi Zulu. The former, a Nobel Laureate and chair of the UK Royal Society Working Group on the People and the Planet project delivered an address mentioning the large backlash the subject of population growth conjures.

As if in reference to current political tensions surrounding the topics of contraception, Professor Malcolm Potts, director and founder of the UC Berkeley Bixby Center for Population, Health and Sustainability, quoted Sulston’s writing detailing the necessity of governmental and academic convergence.

“Scientists have to join politicians in deciding the kind of world we want to live in,” Potts said.

Dr. Zulu, director of the African Institute for Development Policy, spoke on the consequences of high fertility and population, focusing on their repercussions for Africa. Professor Ndola Prata, scientific director for the Bixby Center for Population, Health and Sustainability and medical director for Venture Strategies Innovations, similarly underscored the ramifications of limited or non-accessible family planning.

Startling statistics were highlighted, such as the yearly 75 million unintended pregnancies, the 215 million women with an unmet need for contraception and the annual 21.6 million unsafe abortions — all of which could be reduced with the provision of family planning.

The day, beginning with check-in at 8:30 a.m. and culminating with the end of smaller “breakout sessions” focused on specified global health issues around 5 p.m., provided an array of panelists and speakers all with backgrounds in the global health arena. Potts commenced the proceedings with an introduction touting global health’s over-arching significance to the international community.

“An individual cannot be healthy if they live in an unhealthy world and much of our world is extremely sick,” Potts said.

Among those in attendance were a conglomeration of UC students interested in all aspects of global health from learning more on the subject to pursuing graduate studies and careers in the field. Roxanne Winston, a UC Berkeley graduate and current campus campaign organizer with Universities Allied for Essential Medicine expressed her anticipation for speakers to touch on possible means for UC campuses to address global health problems.

“I hope the conference will focus more on some larger global health issues that we within the university will have the ability to impact,” Winston said.  “Such as addressing the prevalence of neglected diseases and ensuring access to the medical technologies that can vastly improve quality of life in low and middle income countries.”

At the end of the day UCSF Program Manager of Global Health Sciences and chief organizer of the event — beginning with preparations as early as summer – Catherin Lee, discussed her pleasure with the entire affair.

“Our point of pride,” Lee said, “is the fact that we’ve been able to reach out to people at every single UC campus at all the different levels in the education hierarchy.”

KELLEY REES can be reached at city@theaggie.org.

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