McDonnell Scholar Blog: Building global health partnerships between China, the United States and Africa

stethoscope with globe

Global health and strengthening collaborations to improve it will be among the topics discussed at the McDonnell International Scholars Academy’s 7thInternational Symposium in Beijing. The event is co-hosted by Tsinghua University.

China has been investing massively in Africa in recent years. Chinese companies have invested over $30 billion in the continent and will be investing even more in the future. In Uganda specifically, Chinese investments total over $4 billion. Concurrently, China has been emerging as major player in global health, helping to provide healthcare in low-income countries.

As a second-year medical student interested in global health and as the founder and CEO of a public health non-profit that primarily operates in Uganda, Empower Through Health (ETH), collaboration opportunities with Chinese institutions have been on my mind.

ETH is an innovation hub that finds collaborative solutions for the challenges that the most vulnerable global populations face. Additionally, we provide healthcare to 20,000 Ugandans, which will increase to 70,000 people within the year, and we conduct various clinical and agricultural research projects to help build healthy and productive communities. So far, our operations have just involved American and Ugandan institutions, but it would be only natural to include Chinese institutions as well, given their already large and still growing presence in related fields and regions.

China’s emergence in global health marks a paradigm shift, especially as the United States government decreases its commitment to the field. It is the first time that a developing nation has transitioned from being a recipient of aid to a major donor.

Building a robust global health presence not only makes the world a better and healthier place, but it has also been used as a tool for donors to increase soft power and create favorable trading deals.

Given China’s rise as a force in global health and my personal investment in the field, I am excited for the workshop on U.S.-China-Africa global health partnerships on October 14th. Given China’s relatively new entrance as a major potential donor for global health initiatives, the country has not yet developed a capacity to conduct extensive global health projects. Thus, partnerships with the U.S. organizations like ETH, which possess resources and expertise, will be beneficial for China to build its own capacity.

Jae Lee_headshot

Jae Lee, McDonnell Scholar in the School of Medicine (MD)

I also look forward to speaking with various partner university representatives about potential collaboration opportunities with ETH. I feel that we bring attractive elements – strong local and national connections to high-ranking officials in Uganda and a driven team that is capable of managing large-scale projects. Among Washington University’s partner universities, we have so far reached out to the Indian Institute of Technology and Yonsei University in South Korea, and we are excited by the prospect of connecting with Chinese institutions as well.