Looking Ahead and Our Role in Shaping the Future of Global Health

This year's annual Quie and Peterson Global Health Lecture spotlights major trends that may impact global health in the 21st century.

This past month, the University of Minnesota's Center for Global Health and Social Responsibility hosted the third annual Quie and Peterson Global Health Lecture at the Weisman Art Museum. This year's keynote speaker, Dr. Dennis Carroll, highlighted six of tomorrow's mega-trends and their implications for global health. These trends pose both challenges and opportunities as we head into the new decade and look forward to what the future will look like in the year 2100.

With over 30 years of experience in global health, Dr. Carroll has been leading initiatives to combat infectious diseases globally, including strategic leadership for the United States Agency for International Development on the Ebola epidemic in West Africa as the agency's director of the Emerging Pandemic Threats Program. His experience has led to an insightful look into issues that are at the top of his mind as we think about where our efforts should be focused in the 21st century.

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What should we be concerned about?

According to the United Nations, we can expect the world's population to reach over 10.9 billion people—with many of those people living in Africa or Asia. Dr. Carroll dove into six mega-trends during the lecture that can impact global health—from population change to transformative technologies. Ultimately, an exponential increase in population numbers around the world will also affect other concerning trends including changing demographics, urbanization, climate change, and land use change.

So what can we do about it?

Although these mega-trends may be concerning, projections and research can give some insight into these issues so we can identify the challenges. "We can't solve the problems we don't recognize. We have to pay attention. Understanding trends and dynamics will allow us to understand what those problems are," said Dr. Carroll during the lecture. Once we identify the challenges, it allows us to move forward and use it as an opportunity to find a solution. This allows us to prepare rather than react.

We also know that these issues are inherently multisectoral, so our solutions need to be multisectoral. "We need to have a global health vision that brings the kind of sectors that are inherently responsible for causing the problems, but also responsible for solving the problems into that global health vision," said Dr. Carroll.

A key effort of discovering these solutions will be on those that attended the lecture—our global health educators. "Universities have the charge of educating," said Dr. Carroll. "But they also have the opportunity within that educational experience to instill an ethos—a sense of morality." He called upon the audience to educate the next generation of global health leaders by developing the mindset and skillset to take on these challenges.

Dr. Carroll's last point during the lecture was to not panic.

"All of these things are not necessarily written in stone. We are great problem solvers," said Dr. Carroll. "I'm a big believer that if we pay attention, we can solve the problems in the world."

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Hosted annually, the Quie and Peterson Global Health Lecture honors the work of Drs. Paul Quie and Phil Peterson. Drs. Quie and Peterson spearheaded the creation of the center in 2010 as part of the original steering committee and Dr. Peterson became its first director. Throughout the years, both of the lecture's namesakes have continued to promote our center's vision of "sustainable, equitable health globally."

To continue their legacy, consider giving to our Paul Quie and Phil Peterson Global Health Fund to support global health activities for faculty, staff, and students, as well as the Quie & Peterson Global Health Lecture.