In 2018 when I accepted the mission of leading USC’s Institute for Global Health, now the Institute on Inequalities in Global Health (USC IIGH), my primary focus was twofold. First, how can we work with stakeholders, educators, students and policy leaders at USC and around the world to comprehensively confront the broad spectrum of health-related disparities that exist in our communities. And most importantly, how can we collaboratively lead the charge for a more just and healthy world through timely research and educational opportunities, engaging partnerships, policy actions, informative events and insightful publications.
Over the past few years, we have been busy. In this period we have developed and validated a strategic plan, worked with close to a dozen USC schools on educational activities in the U.S. and around the world, hosted a broad array of public discussions and collaborations on multidisciplinary projects, launched projects with partners in over 35 countries, and signed Memorandums of Understanding with key strategic partners in Kenya and Malaysia, amongst others, to launch research and education hubs.
While we were developing these programs, we of course did not envision the obstacles that we have all endured this year. At no point did we imagine a global pandemic of this scale and lethality, with infections reported in over 200 countries and territories, tens of millions of worldwide infections and over one million deaths. Here in the United States, universities and schools have remained shuttered, teaching and in-person events have been cancelled or moved to web based mediums, and small businesses, communities and individuals are trying to acclimate to a still unimproved and deteriorating health environment.
We need in particular to pay attention to the heightened risks facing those most vulnerable— the elderly, the sick, the poor, and those otherwise discriminated against — in all of our communities. Even in places that have adequate facilities, resources and public health policies in place, it’s crucial that we do everything we can to support each other, locally and globally, in these difficult times.
And this is why the Institute on Inequalities in Global Health exists. In times like these there are innumerable concerns but there are also best practices, and there is always hope. As hard as it may be to clearly see and to keep seeing at this time, there are slivers of positive news that continue to emerge. People reaching out to help people and communities, local and global activism, and a sense of solidarity across communities and borders. If we follow best practices, and learn from and support one another, we can recover from this period of difficulty with increased resiliency and understanding.
One of the most important things we can all do during this time is to ensure that we remain engaged and informed. To that end, at USC IIGH we are trying to share pertinent information through our new website, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages, highlighting best practices, occasional positive stories, as well as ways to collaborate with local and global leaders to implement effective policies to keep our communities safe.
We look forward to continuing to engage with you our broad community of partners and stakeholders, and we are excited to learn from this experience and work together to build back in ways that put health and human rights at the center for all of us.
Sofia Gruskin, JD, MIA
USC Institute on Inequalities in Global Health