Global health case competitors tackle problems across disciplines

By Rebecca Baggett | Emory Report | March 29, 2013

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Begun as a student-coordinated intramural competition of about 40 Emory students in 2009, the competition has grown to include close to 150 students who this year represented 10 countries from 24 universities.

Global health case competition winners

The winning team from Johns Hopkins University includes (from left) Matthew R. Lindsley, Stephanie Van Dyke, Aaron Chang, Kevin Wang, Nidhi Khurana, and Collin Weinberger.

Helen Keller once said: "Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much."  

In his role as a competition judge, Peter Lochery of CARE International shared Helen Keller's words to participants of the 2013 International Emory Global Health Case Competition. And in many ways, the competition brings Keller's words to life.  

Hosted by the Emory Global Health Institute (EGHI) and its Student Advisory Committee, the competition took place March 22-23 at Emory School of Medicine and the Rollins School of Public Health.  

This was the fifth year of the competition and the second time Emory hosted both national and international teams. Begun as a student-coordinated intramural competition of about 40 Emory students in 2009, the competition, through the work of the EGHI, its Student Advisory Committee, and key Emory faculty, has grown to a competition that includes close to 150 students who this year represented 10 countries from 24 universities.  

Multidisciplinary teams developed and presented foreign aid recommendations to the government of the People's Republic of China. The case, set in the near future, required teams to recommend for China specific sanitation programs and countries for Beijing to invest in. Teams had to consider the feasibility and likelihood of success of the sanitation programs they proposed, as well as the economic benefits China would receive for investing in the proposed countries.  

Johns Hopkins University (JHU) won first place with its recommendation to create the "China Assure" Program. Modeled on the American Peace Corps, China Assure would require volunteers to provide one year of service in rural China and two years in a low-income country working on sanitation interventions. The team recommended an innovative scoring system that the Chinese government could use to both select investment countries and specific interventions that would be feasible and culturally appropriate.  

"The case was extremely complex and multi-layered and truly mirrored a policy challenge of the future. It needed solutions on multiple levels and made us think hard to devise a workable plan. In essence, the case was a problem solver's delight and we would like to thank the case writers at Emory for presenting us with a cracker of a case," said Nidhi Khurana, a member of the winning team from JHU.  

Yale University won second place, while the University of Miami placed third and the Georgia Institute of Technology won an Honorable Mention Award and the Participants' Choice Award. The University of Alabama at Birmingham won the competition's Innovation Award.  

The winning team earned a $6,000 prize to be used at the team members' discretion. The second-place prize was $3,000, the third-place prize was $1,500, and the Honorable Mention and Participant Choice Award prizes were $900 each. The Innovation Award prize was $600.

Bill Foege, former head of the CDC, The Carter Center, and the Task Force for Global Health, spoke to the student teams during the competition.  

"It was amazing that we could have great, down-to-earth conversations with giants in the field of global health such as Bill Foege, Jeff Koplan [founding director of the EGHI], Moitreyee Sinha [a competition judge from GE] and Therese Dooley [a competition judge from UNICEF]," said Aaron Chang from the JHU team.  

His teammate Stephanie Van Dyke said the experience was inspiring. "I was reminded that there are so many people from a variety of backgrounds who care deeply about solving some of humanity's greatest challenges, and that if we can harness this collective potential, stunning and extraordinary solutions can result."  

Competition sponsors included GE, Danya International, John Snow, Inc., The Pendleton Group, Emory Catering, Sodexo, and the Emory Center for Global Safe Water.