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Bristol thinking globally for health

5 July 2018

Rachael Gooberman-Hill, Director of Elizabeth Blackwell Institute for Health Research, University of Bristol, describes the Institute's innovative approach to global health challenges. This blog is part of the Bristol Firsts series, celebrating Bristol-based innovations in the NHS’s 70th year. If you have an idea for a Bristol Firsts blog, get in touch with Zoe Trinder-Widdess on zoe.trinder-widdess@bristol.ac.uk.

Bristol is a connected city, we’re linked across the world and our University is full to the brim with people who want to make a difference to some of the challenges that our world now faces. The 2018 Global Challenges symposium at the University of Bristol, organised by our four Research Institutes, brought together cross-disciplinary researchers to think about how we can address those challenges. Over three days this April we welcomed people from countries all over the world to work in partnership and develop new ideas. This was the first event of its kind in Bristol, and it highlighted our commitment to working across disciplines and approaches.

The Elizabeth Blackwell Institute for Health Research ran two sessions focusing on global health, looking at partnerships, interdisciplinarity in research and delivery impact. The aim? To encourage learning, sharing and networking, and to facilitate connections for potential future research collaborations to improve global health. The researchers thought hard about how to work together to identify any barriers to health and how research might help. It was inspirational to see the level of partnership, engagement and focus on what matters to people living in diverse contexts.

The event gave fantastic insight into a wide range of research projects all delivering impact on global health, from livestock parasites to women’s empowerment and child health. The diversity of the topic areas covered over the two days was vast, but with this came great synergy and connections made. The overarching message was that cross collaboration between disciplines is the only way to address today’s complex global health challenges.

Visiting Doctor Cecilia Mbae, Senior Research Officer Kenya Medical Research summed it up really well, saying:

"Something that is extremely unique was to see people so many from different specialities. There were engineers there, there were lawyers, environmentalists, people working in basic science, social scientists, clinicians - people working on different areas all together. I never expected to have engineers in a medical conference! Through this meeting I've come to understand why it's extremely important for people from different disciplines to work together to achieve the goal of solving the health problems that are affecting our populations."

The Elizabeth Blackwell Institute at Bristol is committed to developing global health communities. We are working to develop partnerships in global health research, with the University of Bristol providing seed corn funding to help new collaborative projects between Bristol researchers and international partners get up and running.

I’m really looking forward to seeing the new collaborations, equitable partnerships and world-leading research that emerges from the event. For us as a Research Institute we’re completely committed to research that delivers sustainable change, and our research community members are at the vanguard of this.

Global health challenges are becoming ever more complicated and interwoven: solving them requires a truly joined-up approach based on equitable partnerships. This event may have been the first of its kind in Bristol but we’re hopeful that the partnerships established will have a lasting impact. This will be thanks to the people from different places bringing their diverse approaches together in our incredible, connected city.

Professor Gooberman-Hill is an applied health researcher who works across disciplines with focus on qualitative research approaches. Her work has addressed diverse topics that range from clinical decision-making, organisation of healthcare to people’s experiences of long-term health conditions. She collaborates widely in her research, supports researchers in developing their careers and has received awards for her work in patient and public engagement. In 2016, she was honoured to receive the British Pain Society Medal for her work.

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