Accessibility statement

Global Health Histories Seminars: 2015’s series unveiled

Posted on 13 February 2015

The popular annual seminars return for 2015 with a wide-ranging programme focussing on important topics in global health.

(Scroll down for programme)

Last year’s Global Health Histories (GHH) series concluded with an enthralling exploration of antimicrobial resistance and twentieth century medicine, which featured as panellists the WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, Director of the Wellcome Trust Jeremy Farrar, WHO Assistant Director-General Marie-Paule Kieny and Professor in the History of Medicine Christoph Gradmann. The seminar, which was delivered to a packed audience at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, covered several historical situations in which the current challenges relating to antibiotic resistance were shaped, and brought perspectives on the continuing work to counter resistance. The seminar encapsulated the goal of the GHH project, to bring diverse specialties together to show that understanding the history of health can help the global public health community to respond to the challenges of today and help shape a healthier future for everyone.

Global Health Histories events bring historians and social scientists from around the world to discuss and debate topical issue in global health with WHO . There have now been eighty-five seminars spanning a ten year period with a tremendous array of topics covered. As it nears a landmark 100th seminar, the series is in rude health.

2015 heralds an exciting seminar programme and some wonderful speakers. It covers topics like Ayurveda, a system of medicine that has been important to the Indian sub-continent and diaspora during the course of many centuries, and Chikungunya, a mosquito-borne viral disease first described during an outbreak in southern Tanzania in 1952.  The series will consider the recent history of challenges such as air pollution, the cause behind famous London ‘pea-soupers’ of the first half of the twentieth century which killed thousands with air containing soot particles and poisonous gases, and which today causes respiratory and other diseases. Climate change, the focus of September’s seminar, portends a number of potential impacts on health, not just in the increased frequency of extreme weather but in the range and occurrence of diseases as well as impact on food production.

The seminars, presented by the academics and senior WHO officials, are certain to provide access to significant amounts of useful data and ideas for effective public engagement about the uses and expansion of healthcare. Each event is broadcast live, meaning that by signing up for this (registration is free and on a first came first served basis) participants can listen to the talks, view the speakers’ PowerPoint presentations and, if they wish, even pose questions to the presenters and other discussants.  The full programme of speakers and topics appears below. Please note that whilst each seminar features and academic speaker and WHO official, owing to official commitments the WHO speakers will be confirmed closer to each seminar:

19th March Traditional Medicine & Ayurveda: Professor Madhulika Banerjee, University of Delhi, India & Dr Zhang Qi, WHO

23rd April Universal Healthcare & Missionary Medicine: Dr. Shane Doyle, University of Leeds, UK

21st May Chemical and biological weapons: Professor Brian Balmer, University College London, UK

18th June The Decline of Public Sector Vaccine Production: Professor Stuart Blume, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands 

17th September Climate change & health: Professor Merrill Singer, University of Connecticut, USA

8th October Ebola: Professor Jeremy Farrar, Zsuzsanna Jakab, Guenael Rodier, Joao Nunes (to be held at WHO Regional Office for Europe)

15th October Evidence based medicine and health policy: Dr. Nadav Davidovitch, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel

12th November Migration: Dr. Fern Elsdon-Baker, Dr Santino Severoni (to be held at WHO Regional Office for Europe)

19th November Air pollution: Professor Melanie DuPuis, University of California Santa Cruz, USA

3rd December Chikungunya: Dr. Karine Aasgaard Jansen, Umea University, Sweden

Of the series Professor Sanjoy Bhattacharya, Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Global Health Histories and Professor in the History of Medicine at York's Department of History, said that “The Global Health Histories seminars have been an effective and enjoyable way of working with different WHO departments, at the headquarters and Regional Offices. They represent a unique forum, where important - and sometimes challenging - questions are discussed openly and critically, to the benefit of all concerned. The initiative offers opportunities for creating partnerships between international and global governance, and different branches of academia, links that can be mutually beneficial in an era of economic rationalisation. The WHO Collaborating Centre for Global Health Histories at the University of York looks forward to supporting the 2015 series of Global Health Histories seminars.”

Jing Wang Cavallanti, the Responsible Officer of WHO Global Health Histories, added: “By bringing academics, health workers and policy makers together for the better understanding of health in history, Global Health Histories seminar series facilitates ‘translating valuable knowledge into practice’ in public health domain, contributes to articulate evidence-based policy options and helps to engage the global public health communities in shaping a healthier future for all.”

Further details about all upcoming seminars will be posted at and in due course. You can also catch up on events in 2014’s series via the Centre for Global Health Histories’ YouTube page (

The Global Health Histories seminar series is a collaboration between the World Health Organization Department of Knowledge, Ethics and Research (KER) and the Centre for Global Health Histories (CGHH), part of the Department of History and a constituent member of Humanities Research Centre at the University of York, generously funded by the Wellcome Trust.








Nuclear Emergencies: a GP's guide,  Wellcome Library, London



The climate of London, c. 1830s (Wellcome Library, London)



Large scale manufacture of vaccine (Wellcome Library, London)

Image Credits: Wellcome Library, London