International leaders in the field of global public health will meet in Winnipeg this week to talk about Canada’s role in making a healthier world — starting with women and girls.
Experts from Canada, Brazil, India, Pakistan, Peru, Nigeria and Uganda are in the Manitoba capital today and Wednesday, looking at how this country should use its knowledge, expertise and resources to reduce suffering and improve the health of people around the world.
"What’s significant about this conference is we’re trying to bring together diverse individuals and organizations to see whether we can come up with a more co-ordinated strategy," said James Blanchard, the Canada Research Chair in epidemiology and global public health at the University of Manitoba.
"We’re bringing in people from a variety of different countries who manage programs in different areas."
Thirty internationally recognized experts are taking part in the two-day event: "Canada and Global Public Health: Moving from Strategy to Action."
"It gives us an opportunity to listen and dialogue about the big challenges going forward and how Canadians might respond," Blanchard said.
The conference was organized by the U of M and the non-profit Gairdner Foundation, which recognizes health research that has an impact. It is taking place in the Frederic Gaspard Theatre in the Basic Medical Sciences Building on the U of M’s Bannatyne campus.
"Part of it is listening and engaging with people," said Blanchard, director of the Centre for Global Public Health at the U of M’s Rady Faculty of Health Sciences. "It’s an opportunity to take stock of what Canadians have done well, and how will this meet the emerging challenges in global health that are continually changing."
Blanchard hailed Canada’s feminist international assistance policy, and said there will be a lot of conference discussion among the experts — many of whom are women — about supporting public health initiatives for women and girls.
The federal government announced the policy last year. It said the past three decades have resulted in dramatic reductions in global poverty, but not everyone has benefited equally. Hundreds of millions of people, especially women and girls, are still poor, have unequal access to resources and opportunities, and face major risks of violent conflict, climate and environmental hazards, and/or economic and political insecurity, the federal policy says.
"There are really strong gender differences, in terms of access to programs and services and resources," Blanchard said. "There are power imbalances faced by women and girls in many global contexts — whether its HIV and TB or maternal and child health.
"We do see a strong need for proactive work to strengthen the ability of women to address the challenges that families face," he said. "We see the need to understand how gender influences power and the imbalance that leads to poor health and poor access to health services.
"Canada can play a lead role in mobilizing our values and strengths to address those challenges."
Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.