Global Health and the Language of Innovation and Impact

July 7, 2017 | By Hannah Kelly

As a Global Health student at Georgetown, I have spent the last three years studying components of healthcare systems and infrastructure in developing countries. I’ve sat in countless lectures discussing the reciprocal nature of poverty and health in lower income countries. We were taught that an interdisciplinary approach is essential to bolstering healthcare infrastructure. While vertical programming and campaigns that attack health issues from a specific discipline can be effective, a holistic approach to health is critical for sustainable change. That’s where financing, workforce, data/technology, and governance come in. In my global health classes, we talked loosely about Pay for Success health financing and the importance of open data forums. But that’s where the discussion stopped. I was left with the idea that we should be working towards these goals of tying outcomes to financing, or standardizing data collection of health records, but no real concept on “how” these goals would be accomplished.

Since starting at the Beeck Center last fall, my time here has always been accompanied by a strong sense of déjà vu, which I internally acknowledged but never expressed outwardly. My first project for Center was to learn about public-private partnerships and the impact investment models that link outcomes to return on investment. Since the Center functions from political and economic perspective, I did not immediately pinpoint the similarities to global health. However, after attending the Unite for Site Global Health and Innovation conference at Yale University this past spring on behalf of the Center, that feeling became too large to ignore.

The theme of this year’s discussion at the conference was innovation and its importance in designing effective solutions to large scale health problems. The number of times that Beeck Center buzz words like “social good, cultural humility, innovation, open data, and financing social change” were used at the conference was astounding. These translational terms have provided me with answers to the mysterious “hows” that I encountered in my global health studies. By educating stakeholders on novel financing schemes and data capabilities for social good, the Beeck Center employs innovative strategies that global health is just now beginning to embrace.

When we talk about social good at the Center, our metrics focus on outcomes to improve quality of human life through infrastructure development. My suggestion moving forward is focus more on the health component of the outcomes we seek through social entrepreneurship. And to all the global health folks out there — pay attention to what is going in other development arenas, and begin integrating “Beeck Centered” methodology in your proposals for change. Whether you are working to leverage data to improve civic engagement, or to implement a diagnostic device in a rural community, the same language should be applied: “Be innovative. Make an impact.” By appreciating the overlapping language of these two worlds, opening communication, and promoting constructive dialogue, we can start transforming these buzz words into real, working solutions.

Developing new solutions to old problems.

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