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CGHH PhD Candidate involved in important UK Parliamentary Policy Report Launch

Posted on 9 March 2016

Wellcome Trust-Funded CGHH Doctoral Candidate Ben Walker has been involved in an important UK Parliamentary Policy Report Launch: "Principal lessons learned from communities affected by the Ebola epidemic in preparedness for future health crises."

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‌Ben Walker, Wellcome Trust doctoral student in the Centre for Global Health Histories, has been involved as a researcher and writer on a significant report launched in Parliament this week entitled: 'Lessons from Ebola affected communities: being prepared for future health crises.' The report, co-authored by the Africa All-Party Parliamentary Group (Africa APPG) and Polygeia, was submitted to the House of Lords on Wednesday afternoon by Lord Chidgley who chaired the subsequent committee. More about the launch event is available here, from Africa APPG and Polygeia.

Several speakers were invited to present at this launch: Professor Aliko Ahmed, co-convenor of the Better Health for Africa Group, Chair of Public Health Africa Initiative and a Director at Public Health England; Kate Muhwezi, Sierra Leone Director Manager at Restless Development; Susan Elden, DfiD health adviser based in Sierra Leone during and after the outbreak; and Tom Hird & Samara Linton, Co-lead writers of the report at Polygeia. Closing remarks were given by DfiD Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Nick Hurd MP. 

Through Polygeia, Ben's chief role was to compose a short history of Ebola in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea via correspondence with key scholars in the field and from the 23 community informant reports compiled by Restless Development in Sierra Leone and Public Health and Development Initiative in Liberia. CGHH's recent talk on Ebola and Ground Zero by Mark Honigsbaum also provided important evidence. Using this historical research, alongside eye-witness information from community leaders, Ben then made policy recommendations which tied in to the overall findings of the Report.
Ben's findings were, briefly, that horizontal approaches to healthcare, such as primary healthcare, are vital in dealing with the challenges Ebola may pose in the future, that long-term mistrust was a key issue in community engagement, and that community-level demand is the most effective driver of health improvement. 
Ben is currently working on a PhD Project, titled ‘Religion, Medical Aid and International Health: Colonial and Post-Colonial Development, and Smallpox Control and Eradication in Ghana, 1950-1980’. Ben’s key questions will include: How did ideology and religion figure in competing visions of international health programmes, particularly smallpox eradication and control, in Ghana after 1950? And, how did such debates and ideas influence the efforts of various actors in providing medical aid on the ground? The aim is to provide a unique long-term perspective on how religious and ideological factors influenced the policies of international organisations. The interplay between local politics, medical missions and the aims of their funders, in the context of the emergence of Ghana as an independent state, will be explored. Ben’s thesis will break new ground by a taking a long view, and studying the periods both before and after independence. The project will begin by researching the relations between the state, smallpox structures and missionaries in colonial Ghana.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health focuses on the underlying, cross-cutting health issues which affect the global population. Through research and regular events, they offer recommendations and advice to Parliament and the Government on key policies impacting health in the UK and overseas.
Similarly Polygeia is a global health think tank giving students the opportunity to engage in research and policy making. In fulfilling this ambition, they provide policy makers and others with the opportunity to commission evidence based global health policy.


You can watch the policy be discussed in the House of Lords online here.

You can find out more about all CGHH PhD candidates here.