Introducing Global Health Ethics Seminars

Posted on 9 September 2015

Introducing the ‘Global Health Ethics Seminars (GHES); to be held at the WHO HQ in Geneva, selected WHO Regional and Country Offices, and broadcast live online.

Globalization has been defined in many different ways, one of them being the intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa. In the context of global public health, it means that public health issues are no longer contained by national borders. A public health crisis in on country can quickly spread to its neighbours and impact the rest of the global community, and vice versa. In these scenarios, ethical questions are of central importance. For example, the recent Ebola epidemic in western Africa raised ethical issues for countries beyond the borders of Africa – as far afield as Spain and the USA. This underscored the need for high quality research into the bioethical issues that arise amidst the most serious global health challenges of our times. To that end, a regular, new collaboration has been established to examine key issues in global bioethics, titled “Global Health Ethics Seminars” (GHES). The aim is to provide a forum in which leading ethicists, health care workers, policy makers and patients from across the world can come together to provide practical answers to the major moral and ethical questions that arise during times of global health crises.

Dr Daniel O’Connor (Head of Humanities and Social Science at the Wellcome Trust) said: “The Wellcome Trust believes that the humanities and social sciences are an essential part of our mission to improve human health. This new Global Health Ethics series is a perfect example of the ways in which approaches from philosophy, sociology, political science and the wider humanities and social sciences are essential to our understanding of – and approaches to – some of the most pressing ethical issues in global health.”

Dr Abha Saxena (Coordinator, Global Health Ethics, World Health Organization) said: “Public health is no longer limited within the confines of national boundaries. Events that occur in one country have the potential to impact on the health of people living in other countries, whether or not they share a common border. Ease of travel, virtual social networking, and the possibility to store and share biological specimens and genetic materials have shrunk this world into what is commonly called a ‘global village’.  This invariably leads to a myriad ethical questions and concerns. The Global Health Ethics Seminar Series provides an opportunity to raise the issues, challenge the global community, debate and provide solutions on a common platform. The Wellcome Trust with its interest in global ethical issues, and the University of York with its interest in the history of medicine and inter-sectoral linkages, are natural partners in this activity. The Global Health Ethics Unit is proud to host this series and be a part of this endeavour.”

Ethics Wellcome Library London The gyri of the thinker's brain as a maze of choices in biomedical ethics. Scraperboard drawing by Bill Sanderson, 1997. Wellcome Library London

Professor Sanjoy Bhattacharya (Professor of the History of Medicine, Department of History and the Director of the Centre for Global Health Histories at the University of York, UK, and the Head of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Global Health Histories) said: “GHES is a very important, new innovation for the WHO fraternity and global academia. It is an independent initiative that is intended to support the work of the WHO and its sister UN agencies. GHES will encourage free and critical discussions between different healthcare sectors, and focus on some of the most critical themes in global health. There can be little doubt that this multi-sectoral collaboration will be useful for health policy planning, design, implementation and, not least, evaluation. The University of York, UK, and the WHO Collaborating Centre for Global Health Histories are proud to be GHES partners.”

Following the model of the established and successful WHO Global Health Histories project, seminars will be held initially at the WHO Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland and simultaneously broadcast live online. Registration for the live broadcasts will be free and on a first come first served basis. Over time, GHES will expand to select WHO Regional and Country Offices, ensuring the widest possible critical engagement with ethical issues of significance.

GHES is a direct partnership between the Wellcome Trust, UK, the World Health Organization and the University of York, UK.

Useful Websites: World Health Organization: www.who.int/en Wellcome Trust: www.wellcome.ac.uk Global Health Histories Project: www.who.int/global_health_histories/en/ University of York Department of History: www.york.ac.uk/history Centre for Global Health Histories: www.york.ac.uk/history/global-health-histories