HSPH Students Gather to Hear UN Goals

Students from across Harvard’s schools gathered Monday morning at the School of Public Health to attend a live videocast  of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals—which was taking place in New York City—followed by a discussion between faculty and students.

The talk was officially part of the TEDx program, a localized version of the Technology Entertainment Design nonprofit conference series dedicated to spreading influential ideas.

The event was intended to spark debate about some of the most complicated and consequential real world issues, according to HSPH Coordinator of Strategic Partnerships and Global Health Practice Cecil Haverkamp.

“The combination of TED and Harvard has a lot of traction.  TED is known for its innovative research—there are some really interesting things to come out, especially regarding global health,” said Juveeza Chadha, an HSPH student who helped organize the event.

“And at Harvard you have students who are really interested in pursuing such things.”

HSPH is working towards a more integrated, interdisciplinary approach to global health and this event was intended to further this initiative, according to Haverkamp.

“The key is for people in technical areas to interact more with people on the political and social side of things,” Haverkamp said.

“We need faculty, researchers, and students from different disciplines to meet,” he added.

“We need to be better at interdisciplinary collaboration.”

More than 30 students and faculty from HSPH, the Harvard Kennedy School, the Harvard Business School, and the College gathered to listen to issues pertaining to achieving the Millenium Development Goals set by the UN in 2000.

Each of the eight goals is concrete, with several measureable indicators for each target.

The goals include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger (halving the number of people living on less than $1 a day, increasing employment, and halving the number of malnourished people), achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality, and ensuring environmental stability.

During the event Melinda F. Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which hosted the conference, spoke on distribution methods, analyzing Coca-Cola’s strategies and how health experts could learn from such a system.

Another speaker, Hans Rosling, professor of international health at the Swedish Karolinska Institute  used statistics to quantify the rate of global progress towards achieving the goals.

Elaborating on the importance of bringing events like the TED talk to HSPH, Chadha said, “global health is economics, it is medicine, it is policy, ethics—everything is combined in global health.”

Both Haverkamp and Chadha hope that Monday’s event will be the first of many interdisciplinary discussions to come.

Already, Haverkamp is planning on regularly streaming TEDx events at the HSPH and a group at HKS will be doing the same.

“It was clearly just a starting point for future discussions, and hopefully one that will lead to similar events at HSPH where such topics can be expanded upon more fully,” said Chadha.

—Staff writer Nitish Lakhanpal can be reached at nitishlakhanpal@college.harvard.edu

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