Barbara Bush: Global health needs 'systems thinkers'

By Jeff Tyson 03 March 2016

Barbara Bush, co-founder and CEO of Global Health Corps, speaks during the the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases’ END7 Student Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. Photo by: Jeff Tyson / Devex

Speaking to a group of students on Capitol Hill Tuesday, co-founder and CEO of Global Health Corps Barbara Bush said the field of global health needs leaders from diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise, including technology, engineering, architecture and even retail.

“We need diversity at the table when we’re thinking about problem solving,” Bush said during the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases’ END7 Student Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C.

The global health advocate and daughter of former U.S. President George W. Bush described the growth of her organization — a nonprofit founded in 2009 that sends young professionals on yearlong global health fellowships — and emphasized that many fellows in the program don’t come from medical backgrounds.

One fellow in particular studied engineering at the University of California Berkeley and worked for clothing retailer The Gap for three years prior to his transition to global health. When he became a Global Health Corps fellow, he applied his retail skills to transport drugs to clinics and patients and now works in Sierra Leone, overseeing supply chains for Partners in Health, Bush said.

Other fellows have been architects, Bush added, who put their training to use by addressing airflow in health centers in Rwanda in order to prevent the spread of airborne diseases such as tuberculosis.

“I think right now, most people hear global health and think doctor, nurse, that’s what comes to mind immediately,” Bush told Devex. “And yet with Ebola or with Zika, these are systems gaps and systems failures and so we need systems thinkers to address them.”

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About the author

Jeff tyson 400x400  1
Jeff Tyson@jtyson21

Jeff is a global development reporter for Devex. Based in Washington, DC, he covers multilateral affairs, U.S. aid and international development trends. He has worked with human rights organizations in both Senegal and the United States, and prior to joining Devex worked as a production assistant at National Public Radio. He holds a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in international relations and French from the University of Rochester.


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