Professor to assist Africa with public health initiatives

A professor is teaming up with Johns Hopkins University and Tulane University in a five-year initiative to improve public health education in East Africa.

The initiative aims to jumpstart the health system in Africa by improving public health education programs in order to produce qualified and experienced public health officials.

School of Public Policy and Public Administration professor Jed Kee will teach a leadership component of the program.

“I will be looking at the public health curriculum and suggesting ways to incorporate leadership concepts,” Kee said.

American professors will work with African institutions Makerere University in Uganda, and Muhimbili College of Health Sciences in Tanzania. Funding for the first two years of the initiative comes from a $2 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the government agency responsible for distributing most non-military foreign aid.

The schools are still in the planning stages of the initiative. Kee will go to Africa in mid-May to visit the schools and begin meetings for the project.

“The skills needed for health leaders to negotiate with rebel factions – to allow immunization programs or disease treatment programs to function in areas outside government control – are perhaps different skills than would be needed by public health leadership in North America,” said Gilbert Burnham, a Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health professor who is also a part of the project.

Kee, who teaches courses in leadership at GW, is the only professor outside of the public health schools at Johns Hopkins University and Tulane University involved in the project. Burnham said the decision to employ Kee came out of an effort to reach outside traditional realms of public health leadership. Employing Kee reaches into the realm of leadership in public administration.

Burnham said the overall health of the population in East Africa is stagnant, citing infant mortality rates of 102 in every 1,000 in sub-Saharan Africa, compared to America’s seven in every 1,000.

Burnham said, “Death rates of children are no longer going down very fast, and neither are death rates among women in pregnancy … Further, life expectancy is decreasing instead of increasing.”

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