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May 15, 2006

Johns Hopkins Launches Center for Global Health

Center Will Coordinate Efforts at Schools of Public Health, Medicine and Nursing

The Johns Hopkins University is launching a Center for Global Health to coordinate and focus its efforts against HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, hepatitis, flu and other worldwide health threats, especially in developing countries, President William R. Brody announced.

The center will bridge the international work of the university's Bloomberg School of Public Health, School of Medicine and School of Nursing. It will be led by Thomas Quinn, a professor of international health, epidemiology and molecular microbiology and immunology in the Bloomberg School and professor of medicine in the School of Medicine.

Thomas Quinn, MD

Thomas Quinn, MD

"Johns Hopkins already works around the world to stop HIV/AIDS, to promote maternal and child health, to prevent malnutrition and to fight diseases -- from malaria to high blood pressure -- in developing countries," Brody said. "But we want to do more, we know how to do more and we must do more.

"The most effective way to strengthen our efforts is to find smart ways to combine and focus them," Brody said, "to create teams of physicians, nurses, basic scientists, epidemiologists, entomologists, engineers -- whoever is needed to attack a problem from all angles in a coordinated way. That's what the Center for Global Health will help us do."

The Center for Global Health, says Quinn, is the first such center anywhere to combine the strengths of top-ranked schools of Medicine, Nursing and Public Health.

Both the causes and effects of many health problems -- infectious, environmental, behavioral or stemming from man-made or natural disasters --- are increasingly global in nature, Quinn said. In that worldwide environment, he said, "You can't solve one small problem without looking at the big problem. Bringing together the expertise of the three disciplines of public health, nursing and medicine is far more effective than one specialty alone in solving today's global health problems.

"To fight HIV, for instance," he said, "you need the behavioral specialists -- that's public health and nursing. You need the infectious disease specialists -- that's medicine and public health. And you need the skilled care delivery -- that's nursing." 

"We want to take all that expertise and put it together and focus it," Quinn said. "I have been on the ground in these countries for more than 20 years. I know what has been accomplished. My colleagues and I know how much more can be accomplished. The faculty is rallying to this idea.  In many cases, they want to implement their research findings on a larger scale in order to influence change and improve health wherever disparities exist."

The center will help to broker collaboration among nearly two dozen existing programs in the three schools [see accompanying fact sheet]; together, those programs already operate more than 400 projects around the world. Other Johns Hopkins entities collaborating with the center will include the Berman Bioethics Institute, JHPIEGO and Johns Hopkins International. Additional Johns Hopkins organizations are expected to affiliate as the effort becomes widely known around the university. 

The center will seek out and secure funding for new initiatives and recruit faculty to address emerging global health issues. It also will put students out into the field to work shoulder-to-shoulder with faculty mentors, where they can train most effectively to become the next generation of leaders in global health.

Quinn has won a half-dozen awards from the U.S. Public Health Service for outstanding, meritorious or distinguished service and was elected a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 2004.

"The Bloomberg School of Public Health's international mission has been part and parcel of what we've done since the school was founded in 1916," said the school's dean, Michael J. Klag. "Tom Quinn is an excellent choice to spearhead this center. He and his colleagues will build on our already strong partnerships with the School of Nursing and the School of Medicine, so that Johns Hopkins is even more effective in preventing and treating diseases that kill millions of people around the world."

Martha N. Hill, dean of the School of Nursing, said the center is a unique three-way partnership. “With the Center for Global Health and under the leadership of Tom Quinn, we will rapidly increase our effectiveness in research, teaching, practice and service around the world," Hill said. "Our students and faculty are enthusiastic about the schools working together as we prepare practitioners and scientists to work in teams dedicated to improving global health.”

Edward D. Miller, dean of the School of Medicine and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine, said that the fusion of the three schools' expertise, leadership and resources would result in a "uniquely Hopkins enterprise to address international health problems."

“While the challenges are daunting," Miller said, "I have no doubt that this center will play a major role in improving the health and lives of people throughout the world."

The center's staff will work with an executive advisory committee, as well as internal and external advisory committees, to define key global health problems and then design scientifically based interventions, address barriers and identify potential financial resources. Center leaders will also act as Johns Hopkins' voice in support of local, national or international policy or political initiatives. Funds will also be identified to support travel by students and young investigators to international field sites.

Quinn's own work on the epidemiology and nature of HIV/AIDS infection around the world has led to recognition of the importance of treating and preventing other sexually transmitted diseases to slow the transmission of HIV. He directs programs in Africa, Latin America and Asia that examine the biological and behavioral aspects of HIV transmission and the effectiveness of community-based STD treatment and HIV care programs in controlling HIV spread worldwide.

As with HIV and other STDs, many health problems in today's world can have major implications not only locally or regionally but across national borders, making a global health perspective on those problems critically important, Quinn said.

"Emerging and re-emerging epidemics can spread rapidly due to international travel and can have major health and economic implications in all countries within weeks to months," he said. "Chronic diseases are on the rise in developing as well as developed countries. Malnutrition, child survival and disaster relief are constant problems facing many countries that lack sufficient resources to mount effective responses."

JHU Media Contact: Dennis O'Shea at 443-287-9960 or dro@jhu.edu.

JHSPH Media Contact: Kenna Lowe or Tim Parsons at 410-955-6878 or paffairs@jhsph.edu.

JHSON Media Contact: Lynn Schultz-Writsel or Ron Supan at 410-955-7552 or communications@son.jhmi.edu.

JHSOM Media Contact: Joann Rodgers at 410-955-8659 or jrodgers@jhmi.edu.