Building Global Frameworks to Improve Public Health

In March, 18 experts traveled to Paris, Geneva, and Rome to explore opportunities for collaboration around some of the most pressing challenges in human, animal, and environmental health.

These University of Minnesota faculty, government officials, and intergovernmental employees were part of Engaging Intergovernmental Organizations, a week-long professional development program based out of the Center for Animal Health and Food Safety (CAHFS) in the U’s College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM), with support from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) and Global Programs and Strategy (GPS) Alliance.

The program brought experts from across academic disciplines to the headquarters of intergovernmental organizations across Europe—such as the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations—to discover the best ways to engage with them for public health research projects. Participants learned how these organizations work, what their priorities are, and how they collaborate with external partners. Discussion topics included international trade, antimicrobial resistance, food safety, and zoonotic (animal-to-human) diseases.

Participants in the EIO program discuss ideas for collaboration
“One of the biggest takeaways was that participants realized that these intergovernmental organizations are developing important policies, but there’s a large gap between creating and actually acting upon these policies,” said Kaylee Myhre Errecaborde, DVM, policy program director with CAHFS. “The multidisciplinary approach helps researchers understand how their work fits within this global framework.”

The program participants represented many colleges and centers at the U, including CVM; the College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences; the Humphrey School; the Institute on the Environment; and the School of Nursing. Several experts from outside the U were also involved, including Irene Naigaga, PhD, regional program manager of One Health Central and Eastern Africa (OHCEA). Naigaga said the program helped her “connect the dots” around her organization’s activities.

“Coming to this training and having this experience has helped me appreciate the relevance of the work we do at the national and regional level in informing the frameworks at the global level,” she said.

The EIO program, which has been part of CAHFS since 2008, was redesigned this year by Errecaborde and CAHFS director Andres Perez, DVM, PhD, with help from Carissa Slotterback, PhD, associate dean of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Together, they worked to create a curriculum that would facilitate networking among key global leaders while also teaching new skills for effective collaboration between the private sector, academia, and intergovernmental organizations.

Building Capacity for the Long Term

Throughout the program, EIO participants went a step beyond learning about intergovernmental organizations—they were also working to seek out opportunities for collaboration that would allow them to put their skills in international capacity building to use and have a tangible impact on the world. As part of the EIO program, organizers offered a $10,000 in seed funding, supported by OVPR and GPS Alliance, to launch research projects proposed by participants.

EIO participants at a World Trade Organization meeting
“We didn’t want all that new knowledge to end when the week was done,” Errecaborde said. “We felt there was a real opportunity coming out of this program to form more partnerships not only across U of M departments, but also externally in the private or government sectors.”

The seed grant was awarded to a single collaborative proposal supported by the full team of participants and led by principal investigator Cheryl Robertson, PhD, professor in the School of Nursing. The project aims to strengthen research and partnerships with global researchers by developing community-led field sites. Researchers will work directly with communities in East Africa, Latin America, or Southeast Asia through these field sites to foster long-term, collaborative projects between U faculty and the regional researchers, practitioners, students, and faculty in the program.

Funding from the seed grant will help the team begin to pursue this project, supporting exploratory meetings in Minnesota and Uganda to establish partner needs and develop the project design for a pilot site in East Africa.

Find out more about the EIO 2019 Grand Challenge Innovation team: