University collaboration in global health

7 September 2020

Photo of the Humanities Theatre shining in gold against a blue sky.

On 12 October, in the Humanities Theatre in Uppsala, an inauguration that can be attended on Zoom will take place.

In global health, many interdisciplinary collaborations to improve worldwide health are under way. And there are more to come, now that Uppsala University and Karolinska Institute are joining forces in the GlobeLife initiative. On 12 October, in the Humanities Theatre in Uppsala, an inauguration that can be attended on Zoom will take place.

Professor Andreas Mårtensson of Department of
Women’s and Children's Health, Uppsala University.

The starting point for GlobeLife is the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the United Nations’ Agenda 2030. Global health is a matter not only of medical but, just as much, of other factors such as climate change, migration and urbanisation.

“The idea is for us to make global health more visible at the two universities, because global health is by nature interdisciplinary. If we’re to achieve the 17 global SDGs in Agenda 2030, we’ve got to adopt a much broader approach than working in our own fields.”

The speaker is Professor Andreas Mårtensson of International Maternal and Child Health (IMCH), Department of Women’s and Children's Health, Uppsala University (UU). He is heading the initiative jointly with Professor Cecilia Stålsby Lundborg of the Department of Global Public Health at Karolinska Institute (KI).

Resources contributed by Vice-Chancellors

The two universities are equal partners. Both Uppsala University’s Vice-Chancellor Eva Åkesson and her counterpart at KI, Rector Ole Petter Ottersen, have provided resources.

“We want to create interdisciplinary networks on both the educational and the research side. So we’re reaching out not only to researchers but also to teachers, students and other people interested in issues of this type,” Mårtensson says.

Professor Cecilia Stålsby Lundborg of the
Department of Global Public Health at Karolinska
Institute (KI).

There is already a sound basis for cooperation. In 2018, a questionnaire survey of all ongoing projects was conducted, and a total of 256 responses were received from UU and KI. More in-depth collaboration will now take place, both between different subject areas and between the two universities.

Ahead of the inauguration on 12 October, a website will be launched with information on projects and activities in global health. In addition, GlobeLife will hold one or two workshops a year on various topics, to offer interfaces for researchers who want to expand their network.

“We want the networks to grow, so that we can make more competitive research applications. We can also provide better, both broader and deeper education by using the complementary areas of expertise available.”

Strengthening Sweden's competitiveness

One long-term goal is to engage in joint educational initiatives and collaboration in supervision of doctoral students. Ultimately, this is about boosting Sweden's competitiveness in global health, Mårtensson thinks.

“You can have very lofty visions, but fulfilling them isn’t always so easy. Instead, we want to start from the bottom, by creating a platform and seeing what emerges.”

In the area of global health, efforts are very much about finding sustainable global solutions to health problems. Nevertheless, the solutions vary from one country to another.

“An example is the COVID-19 pandemic, which so clearly shows the importance of worldwide understanding. We face a common problem, but different solutions will be required in different countries because conditions vary widely among them. At the same time, the goal is the same: to improve the situation.

Facts: GlobeLife

  • Led by a steering group with representatives from various academic fields. Members from Uppsala University (besides Andreas Mårtensson) are Anna Rutgersson, Professor of Meteorology and Chair of the Vice-Chancellor’s Advisory Board for Sustainable Development, and Meena Daivadanam, Associate Professor at the Department of Food Studies, Nutrition and Dietetics.
  • The inauguration, adapted to the current situation, will take place in the form of both a face-to-face gathering in the Humanities Theatre and a live Zoom webcast.
  • The website Globelife.se will be launched in good time for the inauguration.