NEWS • MEDIA
PRESS RELEASE: March 13, 2013
Global Health Equity Foundation’s New Home in Geneva, Switzerland: A Summary of Our Symposium and Launch Event
Geneva, Switzerland—Global Health Equity Foundation (GHEF) opened its international headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland in October 2012. Dr. Tayeb Al-Hafez, the Founder and President of GHEF in the USA, is proud to share with you details of the launch and a summary of the Foundation’s progress.
GHEF held its first high-level symposium, Global Health Equity in Times of Crisis, on October 31, 2012, followed by a launch party in Geneva.
The Global Health Equity in Times of Crisis symposium proved a great success. Senior researchers and professionals from academia and international organizations presented, sharing their analysis of the effects of global crises on health equity. The presentations tackled everything from climate change to food security, including a study of health inequity across southern and eastern Africa; best practices from a community-based suicide prevention program in the USA; and case studies of healthcare reform from post-conflict environments. Presentations were followed by a vibrant discussion that demonstrated the multi-disciplinary nature of health equity. Dr. Al-Hafez said that he was, “pleased with the high-level of discussion and the ideas generated during the symposium.” The symposium concluded with presenters offering to print their findings in a booklet to be published and disseminated by GHEF.
Following the symposium, presenters, discussants and distinguished guests from international organizations, national governments, international non-governmental organizations, and major pharmaceutical and food companies celebrated GHEF’s launch with cocktails, live music, and an art exhibit at the Louis Jeantet Villa in Geneva. Dr. Al-Hafez introduced GHEF-Geneva and two of its biggest projects: First, the Equity Gap Analysis project, through which GHEF pioneers new methods for analyzing and addressing health equity gaps. Second, the Syrian International Coalition for Health, a non-political coalition through which GHEF aims to strengthen health-related ministries and organizations in Syria.
For 2013, GHEF is proud to announce that Dr. Eduardo Missoni is the new GHEF Secretary General. Dr. Missoni comes to GHEF with extensive experience as a medical professional, advisor to the Italian government, professor, liaison officer for the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization, and representative of Italy to such international negotiations as the G8 health group.
“We are delighted to have such a distinguished and talented professional join our leadership team,” said Dr. Al-Hafez. “Dr. Missoni was chosen for his expert knowledge of health equity and his dedication to the field of global health. He will bring an innovative approach to integrating the global health equity process.”
Moving forward, GHEF is committed to harnessing the unique expertise of its executive staff, advisory board, and valued partners to drive discussion and action for health equity.
Global Health Equity Foundation is a philanthropic organization dedicated to health equity. Health equity is defined as impartiality in treatment and equality in an individual’s access to healthcare, health education, and medical prevention services. For more information on Global Health Equity Foundation or any of its projects, please visit www.ghef.org.
Syrian International Coalition for Health
Contact: Mazen Kherallah, MD, FCCP • firstname.lastname@example.org • +966554949041
Geneva, SWITZERLAND - Nearly seventeen months into the current conflict in Syria, violence continues to intensify across the nation of roughly 23 million. As a result, thousands have been killed and even more displaced, both internally and externally. The ongoing crisis has placed a massive burden on Syria's healthcare system and on its ability to adequately address the needs of its citizens. Collaborative efforts and immediate action are needed.
In response to this need for immediate assistance and comprehensive future planning, a consortium of Syrian medical organizations, along with expert physicians and academics, constituted the Syrian International Coalition for Health (SICH). Formed in March 2012, and hosted by Global Health Equity Foundation (GHEF), SICH's founding members include, among others, the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), the Syrian British Medical Society (SBMS), and Middle East Critical Care Assembly (MCCA). The Coalition's administrative headquarters is located in Geneva, Switzerland.
SICH's mission is to strengthen health-related ministries and organizations through a process of coalition building. The Coalition believes that this goal can be achieved by improving coordination and communication among different Syrian medical organizations, and by providing healthcare leadership and strategic planning at the country level. SICH maintains a nonpartisan approach to its concerted activities and efforts.
Four main principles guide SICH's mission: quality, equity, sustainability, and transparency.
On 12 June 2012, SICH was formally introduced at GHEF's Consensus Building Forum entitled New Methodology - Analysing Health Equity Gaps, in London, England. SICH also hosted a Consensus Building Forum at SAMS's 12th Annual International Convention in Istanbul, Turkey, on 3 July 2012, where a plan of action and potential projects were discussed.
Following these fruitful meetings, SICH refined its structure and assigned strategic operational duties and responsibilities. The structure includes a General Assembly, Advisory Board and Executive Committee, with the latter body comprised of branches covering matters such as funding, external and internal affairs, networking and project supervision.
Currently, SICH is preparing to submit its first publication, Syria: Health Crisis, to peer-reviewed medical journals. This paper has been translated into Arabic and will also be circulated among wider audiences of the Middle East. Syria: Health Crisis outlines the negative effects of violence on Syria's healthcare system while also recognizing achievements that were made prior to the recent conflict. This short piece provides a backdrop for future studies, including SICH's plan for Post Conflict Needs Assessment (PCNA), prevalence of communicable diseases, and symptom load and risk factors of mental health problems (including post-traumatic stress disorder among Syrian refugees).
Given the volatile nature of the conflict in Syria, SICH is cognizant of the need to remain aware of developments on the ground in order to provide the most accurate assessments of conditions faced by displaced and refugee Syrians. The Coalition continues to work on formulating projects that aim to fulfill this imperative, and on 31 October 2012 will present preliminary findings in Geneva as part of GHEF's one-day symposium Global Health Equity in Times of Crisis.
GHEF advocates on behalf of people who lack access to health education, to prevention services and to healthcare. GHEF is a philanthropic organization that conducts research, and integrates that research into advocacy and capacity building projects.
Global Health Equity Foundation is hosting a one-day symposium Global Health Equity in Times of Crisis, in Geneva, Switzerland on October 31, 2012, followed by a reception to celebrate the establishment of the Foundation's new headquarters.
Global Health Equity Foundation held a forum, Syrian International Coalition for Health, in Istanbul, Turkey
on July 3, 2012.
GHEF hosted a forum, New Methodology: Analysing Health Equity Gaps, in London, England on June 12, 2012.
Global Health Equity Foundation (GHEF) is a non-profit organization seeking to address challenges faced by healthcare providers. The Foundation serves as a catalyst for community awareness, communication, and involvement. In September of 2011, GHEF sponsored filmmaker Lise Swenson as she recorded and produced a film dramatizing the issues surrounding suicide. GHEF sponsored the film and other community-awareness events as part of a Community Based Media Project (CBMP) with a focus on suicide prevention. In October, 2011, CBMP leaders scheduled follow-up events and meetings to continue to build the awareness and prevention program.
Local and International Foundations Support Suicide Awareness Campaign in Miles City
Contacts: Kasey Stanton , Research Intern, 406.853.4842 • Global Health Equity Foundation, 406.951.2080
In a community ravaged by suicide, individual efforts have been made to address the issue and instigate lasting positive change. Despite these efforts, suicide has remained prevalent in Miles City and eastern Montana, and has resulted in the loss of lives even within the last month. A unified and collaborative approach may be necessary to end the crisis of suicide in our community.
Global Health Equity Foundation plans to merge previous efforts into a single, interactive approach. Attacking the problem head on will truly make a significant impact in eastern Montana. Global Health Equity Foundation is a non-profit organization seeking to address challenges faced by health and mental health care providers in rural areas. The Foundation serves as a catalyst for community awareness, communication, and involvement. Already, several community forums have been held to facilitate discussion. GHEF is sponsoring a documentary film as part of a Community Media Based Project with a focus on suicide.
While there have been groups and individuals, such as the Local Advisory Committee and Holy Rosary Healthcare, who have sought to increase suicide awareness, the issue has been covered up or ignored by many others. For a significant impact to be made, involvement in suicide prevention and awareness of warning signs, and of what those struggling with mental illness may be facing needs to be nurtured in our community. Having community leaders interested and active is a great start, but it is the community as a whole who must act if the issue is to be resolved. GHEF will continue to hold community forums, and will provide print publications to present the objectives of the Foundation and information on suicide in order to spur community awareness and involvement.
Suicide is a grave concern in Eastern Montana. According to the Montana Department of Health and Human Services, suicide ranked as the second-leading cause of death for three age groups, ranging from 10-34 years old. In Miles City alone, there have been many unfortunate incidences of people taking their own lives. Although suicide among adolescents and young adults may be the most commonly recognized and publicized, the elderly have the highest rate of suicide nationally, and suicide remained as the third-leading cause of death for those 35-44, and suicide ranks fourth for people aged 45-54.
Suicide is harmful not only to individuals, but clearly to families, friends, and communities. Ken Holmlund, who lost his son Kevin to suicide, is among many eastern Montanans who have lost a family member to suicide. Holmlund’s son Kevin committed suicide when he was 17 years old, and Holmlund now uses his ability as an orator to share his story, although he admits the topic is never an easy one to present. Kevin was a talented young man involved in Key Club and Speech and Drama. He was a math whiz who had been accepted to study engineering and robotics at Purdue University. Holmlund described his son as a “good kid who made a serious mistake.” While Holmlund knows firsthand that losing a child is incredibly difficult, he also suggested putting an emphasis on siblings and other family members left behind, “who may feel alone and need just as much help as parents.”
When asked how authorities in Miles City and the surrounding area can best meet the needs of families after a suicide crisis, Holmlund advised training public officials and workers who respond to such cases. A long-time friend who was serving as police officer for the Miles City task force informed Holmlund about Kevin’s suicide.
“It is devastating to tell someone their child is gone, and there needs to be more emphasis on training people in these roles,” said Holmlund. “Nobody has the right words to say, but being there to listen without passing judgment is critical.”
On being questioned about the best way to diminish the occurrence of suicide in eastern Montana, Holmlund advises reaching kids at a young age to educate them on the severity and permanence of suicide. Suicide has occurred even among middle school students in Miles City. Middle school can be a difficult age where a great deal of change may occur as new relationships form and adolescents seek an identity for themselves. Holmlund also feels bullying and a lack of activities for youth only exacerbate the problem. A youth center or outlet for kids would be especially beneficial.
In eastern Montana stigma against mental illness makes combating suicide even more challenging. It is easy to overlook the symptoms and severity of mental illness, and many people disregard it entirely. Holmlund said his personal views on mental illness have evolved through all of his experiences, and he realizes how drastically mental illness can distress people
“In most cases people are not feigning mental illness,” said Holmlund, “It is really serious, and it really does affect people.”
Holmlund believes his son Kevin may have had some chemical imbalance that contributed to his state, and, after losing his son he faced a bout of depression.
“Don’t ignore it,” Holmlund urges, “It won’t get better by itself.”
Unfortunately, Kevin and Ken Holmlund’s story is only one of many in eastern Montana. To truly make an impact in reducing suicide, not just for teens but for Montanans of all ages, unity and the dissemination of knowledge are necessary. Action and involvement is needed, and Holmlund urges remembering those who have been lost to suicide. Recently at a class reunion, Kevin’s former classmates conducted a remembrance in honor of Kevin and visited the family.
Alongside the work being conducted by Global Health Equity Foundation, an Out of the Darkness Walk, sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, will be held on September 11, 2011. Ken Holmlund will speak at this event, giving a full account of his family’s story.
Direct any questions about Global Health Equity Foundation and its objectives to email@example.com. Feel free to stop by the GHEF office in the US Bank Building at 615 Main in Miles City.
By AMANDA BREITBACH RAGSDALE, Star Staff Writer (reprinted with permission from the Miles City Star newspaper)
"This is really a pit that you need help climbing out of," said Heather Schmidt, associate producer of a community-based film project aimed at preventing teen suicide and treating depression.
Filmmaker and social activist Lise Swenson presented the idea Tuesday night to a group of health professionals, people who have been touched personally by teen suicide and depression and others interested in working on the project. The idea to create a community film project addressing suicide was born from a presentation Swenson did in Miles City back in March, she explained. Invited by the Global Health Equity Foundation to film the Eastern Montana Rural Health Care Conference, held in Miles City on March 4, she was asked to do a presentation on her work in community-based media. Attendees immediately saw the potential to use the use that kind of approach in addressing teen suicide, which has been a persistent and serious problem in Miles City. "I've never had such an overwhelming response from a community to an idea," she said.
The project will be a community effort, Swenson said. Locals will be sought to contribute their personal experiences and stories, as well as filmmaking, sound, editing and acting skills. Swenson will serve as lead media expert, with locals Molly Wendland as lead community expert and Schmidt as associate producer. Anyone with an interest in being involved or a story or skill to contribute is invited to become involved as the project takes shape. Confidentiality and personal comfort will be respected in all interviews.
Although the filmmakers will be working from real stories and experiences, the resulting film will not be a documentary or a reenactment, Swenson emphasized. Those stories will be compiled and recorded as inspiration, and from them a fictional script will be written.
There are several reasons for using fiction to tell the story. First, it will appeal to a broader audience – especially affected teens. "Kids don't generally want to watch a documentary," said Swenson. Also, creating a fictional story gives people more freedom to tell their stories. "Fiction can often get closer to the truth," she said.
Swenson shared some examples of her previous work in community-based film projects, including work she did with Latino youth and students at "continuation" high schools – alternative schools for at-risk students – in California. She also shared ways the project could become more than a film – through interactive art displays, use of the Internet and educational distribution.
Members of the audience suggested areas and populations the film could focus on, emphasizing the need to include the American Indian community and students at the high school and middle school.
The project is being spearheaded by the Global Health Equity Foundation, a nonprofit organization aimed at improving global health equity through research, advocacy and capacity building. Other partners have expressed interest in becoming involved, Swenson said, and more partners will be sought as the effort gets under way.
To become involved in the project or to share a story or experience, contact Rani Alhafez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MORE NEWS & MEDIA
June 2, 2011 - Global Health Equity Foundation Hosts its 2nd Consensus Building Forum in Miles City
The forum brought together a diverse group: city leaders, nurses, hospital CEOs, physicians, business owners, and other community leaders from across eastern Montana. The sheer excitement of these participants was impressive. People met and discussed what the real issues were and how to potentially solve them. They set priorities, and decided where best to begin. It worked because we involved all the key stakeholders. We moved the envelope as to when things could get done. — Jackie Muri, Director Business Development, Strategy & Foundation, Holy Rosary Healthcare
May 17, 2010 - Global Health Equity Foundation To Host Global Health Leaders at its 1st International Symposium in Geneva, Switzerland
Global Health Equity Foundation engages in three core strategies - Research, Advocacy and Capacity Building. Read more.
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