GHME Day 1: Thinking ethics, accountability, and new ideas.

A very busy first day is coming to a close at the Global Health Metrics and Evaluation conference out here in Seattle.  Approximately 600 attendees have come together to discuss metrics, addressing controversies, innovations, and accountability in methodology across a broad cross section of the global health sphere.

The conference is unique, both in its aim and scope, and in the attitude of the organizers and the presenters. In the first 30 minutes of the day, organizers shared their sentiments on the importance of bringing in new, young voices in the field of public health, and allowing us to start to fill the shoes of those leading the field now.  It’s refreshing to be in a room where approximately half of the room is under the age of 35, and the content is technical, rather than being filled with buzzwords and ideology.

Remarks that have stuck with me throughout the day are the opening comments on the field of global health as a science, on how unique this discipline is even compared to other health disciplines:

[paraphrased from my notes] We’re different: we don’t function like a normal discipline. We write editorials that no one reads, have a disconnect between academia and programs, and would have had one of these meetings years ago to get together and talk if we worked in cardiology or another clinical science. But people who work in global health are passionate. In the past five years, there has been a shift towards collaboration across individuals and institutions in developing and implementing programs, and metrics should be equally collaborative.  At the same time, we must remember that there is an ethical dimension to what we do, and we need to understand where we stand as scientists and advocates. We cannot shift to put our science before our shared quest for equity and social justice, but must maintain and improve the rigor of our work.

Those remarks set the tone for a day filled with interesting presentations, ideas, findings, and side conversations.  Professor Bicknell would be proud: he always championed the need to acknowledge the ethics of working in global health. Panelists discussed the controversial maternal mortality findings from the past year, non-communicable diseases, emerging methods, and data on inequalities in health across and within regions. Lunch included a presentation on the new Global Health Data Exchange (which I blogged about last week) – of note is the availability of all RHS datasets, previously only available by request from the CDC.

I’ve intermittently tweeted throughout the day, and would be happy to share notes on any of the sessions of interest to you; you can view the conference program here. IHME will also be posting video of all of the sessions; I’ll post a link when available. Also be sure to follow IHME and GHME on twitter for more updates, or look at #ghme2011. A few tools and items I will be posting separate entries on, including the session on MMR data and its use, and the 2010 Global Burden of Disease.

Humanosphere did an excellent post on the conference if you care to read more about the meeting and its motivations.

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