On October 28, representatives from 19 of 24 CCGHR member universities, along with invited guests, gathered at Carleton University in Ottawa. They discussed the theme “Strengthening Communication and Synergies” at this sixth annual workshop of the CCGHR’s University Advisory Council (UAC).
To set the context for the day’s discussions, we heard from Charles Larson (CCGHR National Coordinator) and committee co-chairs Katrina Plamondon (Policy and Advocacy Committee, PAC) and Jill Allison (Capacity Building Committee, CBC). In addition, invited guest Ibrahim Daibes, Director of Metrics for the Canadian Network for Women and Children’s Health (CanWaCH) informed us about a special initiative to assess the impact of Canada’s investment to date on women and children’s health, and suggested ways in which the CCGHR could be involved (Charles Larson currently sits on their Metrics Working Group).
We also received update reports from each of the UAC working groups (WG), including the WG’s on Coalition Institutes, Curriculum Sharing, Country Partnerships, and Institutional Advocacy. It was noted that several of these WGs are now joint initiatives with the two main CCGHR committees—PAC and CBC. This strategy in itself has been helpful in strengthening communication and synergy within the Coalition.
A key part of the day was the “roundtable” discussion of highlights and challenges at each of our member universities over the past year. This included suggestions of how institutional membership in the UAC could be more useful, and what priorities the UAC should consider, arising directly from the experiences and realities about global health research within member universities.
Given all the information and insights from the above discussions, participants divided into small groups to identify and recommend priorities for the coming 12 months. These included the following:
- Regarding “fragmentation” of the global health research system in Canada, a joint CCGHR–CSIH committee has been created to explore synergies. A representative from CanWaCH has joined the Coalition’s board of directors. We should also strengthen links to global health research networks and activities in Québec.
- There was a strong endorsement to continue with the Coalition Institute (CI) “model,” particularly given the successful recent BC Coalition Institute. Plans are underway for the second Ontario CI to be hosted by Guelph University and also a possible Toronto CI. Special efforts are needed to include the Students & Young Professionals Network (SYPN) in any future CIs. It was considered that the CIs could become an increasingly important Coalition strategy for nurturing the next generation of global health research leadership. Some other innovative ideas were suggested, such as more use of “distant education” strategies, and possibly conducting similar events in our LMIC country partners.
- Two major new “flagship” initiatives were discussed where the CCGHR could provide leadership. The first is to initiate a national dialogue toward a Canadian strategy for global health research (building upon the momentum of the CCGHR “principles”). The second is a proposed awareness raising campaign on climate change and health.
- The WG on curriculum sharing will expand its work to include the development of a common framework on competencies, the creation of a repository of readings and other resources about GHR and sharing innovative educational strategies.
- A specific initiative on institutional advocacy will be launched, possibly in the form of a “handbook” for UAC liaison persons, in order to help build support for GHR. This could include ideas and strategies for “educating” university leaders about global health research and the benefits of UAC membership. Also included could be strategies for involving younger colleagues (e.g. mentorship for career development). Another feature could be guidance about how the university could be involved with major current issues (e.g. disasters, aboriginal health, planetary health/climate change, and others). This would involve some guidance about the role of universities in systems change.
- There is a need to communicate the CCGHR’s country partnership work more effectively, and support the development of new country partnerships. Also the harmonization database initiative will be reviewed and some out-of-date components will likely be archived.
- Overall, there is a need for more improved internal communications within the Coalition. Several ideas were put forward, such as blogs to describe “success stories,” and more use of various forms of social media—here the SYPN could provide leadership.
- We were encouraged to see the growth of the SYPN, which now represents nearly half of the Coalition’s paying members. Institutional liaison persons at each UAC member institution were asked to support CCGHR student chapters, as an investment in nurturing the next generation of global health research leaders.
These action ideas will be taken up by the various working groups, and included in their workplans. The UAC Executive Committee will be responsible for developing an overall 12-month work lan, supporting the working groups and monitoring progress.