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York launches global health ethics events

Posted on 16 September 2015

The University of York is to collaborate with leading medical charity the Wellcome Trust (UK) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) to produce a high-profile series of seminars examining key issues in global bioethics.

The Global Health Ethics Seminars (GHES) will provide a forum for leading ethicists, health care workers, policy makers and patients from across the world to come together and provide practical answers to the major moral and ethical questions that arise during times of global health crises.

As the recent Ebola epidemic in western Africa demonstrated, public health issues are no longer contained by national borders - a public health crisis in one 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.

The seminars are being coordinated by the University of York’s Centre for Global Health Histories, which is part of the Department of History.

Professor Sanjoy Bhattacharya, Director of the Centre for Global Health Histories and 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 and the WHO Collaborating Centre for Global Health Histories are proud to be GHES partners.”

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 for Global Health Ethics at the WHO, 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 of 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.”

GHES will start in October 2015 at the WHO HQ in Geneva, Switzerland, and events will be broadcast live online before expanding to selected WHO Regional and Country Offices. Registration for the live broadcasts is free and on a first-come first-served basis. Further detailed information on upcoming events will be available soon.

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