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International Health

From the Chair
Robert Black, MD MPH

Robert BlackIn 2002 after the defeat of the Taliban, Afghanistan had some of the worst health statistics in the world and the health system was virtually destroyed after decades of conflict and neglect. An international commitment of many donors and partners working with a dedicated, but overwhelmed, Ministry of Public Health and non-governmental organizations began to rebuild the system. The faculty and students of our Health Systems Program played a critical role from the inception of this effort by providing the approach and tools to ensure accountability for the stated goals of service quality, access and equity. Progress has been measured by these activities, showing improvements in health services and a 25 percent reduction in child mortality. Another Department faculty member, Associate Scientist Linda Bartlett, MD, MHSc, will be directing a large survey to determine if there has been a reduction in maternal mortality, which she demonstrated to be among the world’s worst in a survey she conducted in 2002 while she was working in Afghanistan with CDC and UNICEF.

Just a couple of weeks ago the Department mourned the loss of Professor Carl Taylor, an esteemed international public health professional, a pioneer in community-based primary health care and women’s empowerment, and the first chair of our Department. Carl was a visionary with aspirations of global health equity, but as important he was a man of action who practiced his commitment every day of his long and exceptional career. There are many of his contributions that need to be recognized and his life celebrated. The School will do that in a symposium that is currently being planned. Suffice for now to recall that his last major professional engagement was in Afghanistan. From 2004-2006 he was the resident Country Director for Future Generations, leading the efforts to provide education to Afghan women and empowerment-based training for community health workers. He returned to Afghanistan in 2008 at age 92 to assess how women's action groups can contribute to solving family health problems. Many Department faculty and students had the opportunity to work alongside Carl in his efforts to document the progress made in Afghanistan. His vision and commitment have been an inspiration for generations of health professionals in many countries. We will deeply miss his wisdom and passion to help the world's poor, but many of his lessons will remain with us.