The UC Global Health Institute announced funding for two specialized centers of expertise — one addressing women’s health and empowerment and another advocating for research on planetary health.
As a systemwide effort launched in 2009, the institute works towards progressing the quality of life of California residents and beyond. Both the new Center of Expertise on Planetary Health and the preexisting Center of Expertise on Women’s Health, Gender and Empowerment were funded by the UC Office of the President as well as from additional internal fundraising efforts.
“Because a lot of our universities are excellent in training but also in research, we are the forefront of cutting edge intervention in global health,” said Ndola Prata, co-director of the Center of Expertise on Women’s Health, Gender and Empowerment. “We have a much bigger ability to impact the world as a huge unit.”
According to Dallas Swendeman, co-director of the Center of Expertise on Women’s Health, Gender and Empowerment, the center has made several strides to boost awareness about female health, such as facilitating a multi-campus educational retreat, writing a book on women’s health and development, and resolving to engage boys and men with the issue. Additionally, Prata said, the center plans to research the role of faculty in sexual violence intervention on UC campuses.
On the other hand, the new program on planetary health will tackle three “major morbidities” facing humanity that have escalated with changing climate conditions — food production issues, infectious diseases and exposure to toxic pollutants — according to David Lopez-Carr, co-director of the Center of Expertise on Planetary Health.
“We have a disaster coming our way if we can’t find sustainable ways to deal with changing climate and growing populations,” said Woutrina Smith, co-director of the Center of Expertise on Planetary Health. She added that the new center will explore environmental issues during a particularly “critical time in history” for the planet’s health.
The center will combine research and education to inform the public about environmental issues, Smith said, adding that it will also provide avenues for UC students to learn more about planetary health and potential research opportunities.
Lopez-Carr said that policy and academia often placed environmental issues into “separate lines of inquiry” from matters of poverty or human health—two fields he considered interconnected. This intersection between planetary health and women’s health allowed members of each specialized center to collaborate “towards a bigger vision,” according to Lopez-Carr.
“We’re going to be working together to try and synergize the effort that any one of us could do … but if we work together, it’s very powerful,” Smith said.