21st Canadian Conference on Global Health: A Report

The 21st Canadian Conference on Global Health was held at the Westin Hotel in Ottawa, Canada, from November 2-4, 2014. The theme of the conference was “Partnerships for Global Health.” About 143 papers were presented in various forms – papers, posters, symposiums, etc. – to approximately 441 participants from 28 countries, from all over the world.

The Objectives

  1. The objectives of the conference were:
  2. To increase the interaction among key stakeholders concerned with global health, like non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academia, governments, private sectors and funders
  3. To explore innovative learning and action strategies
  4. To understand the range of partnerships
  5. To increase the expertise in successful partnering
  6. To increase the participation and perspectives of people from low- and middle-income countries
  7. To include like-minded organizations in program planning and implementation
  8. To strengthen the global health community

The Take-Home Messages

  • Toolkit: The Canadian Society for International Health is developing a toolkit to plan for a 5-year roadmap, for planning the careers of those interested in global health. The society also would help find mentors and identify networks that are helpful
  • Quality improvement: The process of quality control and improvement addresses the various challenges in developing countries. Materials are available for applying quality improvement science in primary care and hospital settings
  • Visual representation: University clerkships are available for learning how to visually represent what we stand for. Photographic and visual representations go a long way in community education and research
  • Global health training programs: Several Canadian Universities like Queen’s University, Trinity Western University, the Institute of Feminist and Gender Studies, etc., offer courses in global health
  • Best practices in community partnership: The Red Cross ensures continuum and avoids the artificial trap of compartmentalizing emergency, recovery and long term development
  • The ColaLife: The Cola Road is an award winning documentary on the first trial of using Coca-Cola’s crates and supply chain to deliver life-saving anti-diarrhea kits to rural communities in Zambia
  • Motivators for health worker volunteers: In Uganda, the community health volunteers working with anti-retroviral treatment said that their motivating factors are 1) feeling appreciated by patients, family, etc., 2) personal obligation to serve based on faith, 3) gaining of knowledge on health and 4) monetary and material incentives
  • Trans-disciplinary “one health” research-intensive field school: In Tanzania, collaboration between medicine, veterinary medicine and the pastoralist community helped fight Brucellosis
  • Mental wellbeing among students: The high level of stress anxiety and stress among students, and the easy accessibility of screening for mental illness in this group is much easier
  • Menstrual hygiene among Masai girls: Menstruation did not impede secondary school attendance, and the schoolchildren placed high importance on scientific knowledge. Cultural beliefs prevented them from cutting vegetables or preparing alcohol while menstruating
  • Medical tourism in Barbados and Guatemala: Medical tourism widened the health inequalities and made health care more expensive for locals
  • Tele Safe motherhood project in Nepal: Use of local language templates in cell phones used by community health workers helped reach 90% coverage of high risk pregnancies
  • Smile Train program in East Africa: Over 37,000 surgeries were carried out during a 12-year period, and the cost per DALY (Disability-Adjusted Life Years) of $62.8 is comparable with other diseases addressed by the global health community
  • Diagnostic and surgical camps model: Diagnostic camps take all the diagnostic facilities of the hospital to remote areas, while surgical camps take modern surgery to rural areas. It is a cost-effective model that was able to meet more than 50% of the estimated surgical needs of the community and take over 3,500 laparoscopic surgeries to remote areas
  • Mobile antenatal clinic with ultrasound: Such mobile clinics helped detect pre-natal complications in 26.6% of women in Southwest Uganda
  • Micro-research in East Africa: Workshops help the locals to ask a relevant research question and work out a research methodology to answer the question. From 391 workshops, 29 successful projects were funded
  • Dating violence and adolescent health: There is a positive correlation between dating violence and negative health outcomes in adolescents

The Arrangement

Some of the unique features of the conference arrangements were as follows:

  1. All the meeting halls had round tables, chairs, and several TV monitors. This helped participants to meet in small groups, and sufficient time was given between talks for small group discussions
  2. No specific breaks were given for meals and tea, etc., which could be brought in, and the saved time was used for meetings
  3. Posters were given a separate session, so that the authors were available for the audience along with their posters


A conference app was available for contacting like-minded people during the conference and participating in surveys and feedback. Immediate follow-up surveys were again conducted using the app.

The Indian Contribution

There were four contributions from India. These were related to innovations in surgical care, out-of-pocket medical expenses in urban areas, a public-private partnership in tackling tuberculosis, and educating children on inappropriate use of antibiotics. There were many presentations from Indians working in Canadian and USA universities, too.

Gnanaraj-64 Dr. J. Gnanaraj MS, MCh [Urology], FICS, FARSI, FIAGES is a urologist and laparoscopic surgeon trained at CMC Vellore. He has been appointed as a Professor in the Electronics and Instrumentation Engineering Department of Karunya University and is the Director of Medical Services of the charitable organization SEESHA. He has a special interest in rural surgery and has trained many surgeons in remote rural areas while working in the mission hospitals in rural India. He has helped 21 rural hospitals start minimally invasive surgeries. He has more than 150 publications in national and international journals, most of which are related to modifications necessary for rural surgical practice. He received the Barker Memorial award from the Tropical Doctor for the work regarding surgical camps in rural areas. He is also the recipient of the Innovations award of Emmanuel Hospital Association for health insurance programs in remote areas and the Antia Finseth innovation award for Single incision Gas less laparoscopic surgeries. During the past year, he has been training surgeons in innovative gas less single incision laparoscopic surgeries.
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