Global Health Initiative

The student-led Global Health Initiative (GHI) is strengthening UBC’s role as a transformative force in global health. In providing students with educational, research and service-learning opportunities, GHI reduces health disparities within our global community.

With donor support, UBC students work in partnership with local organizations to assess community needs and to develop sustainable programs, infrastructure and human resources that aim to improve health care and education in low-resource communities. Here are project updates from two GHI teams that traveled to Uganda and India in the summer of 2012.

Uganda ACCESS (African Community CEntre for Social Sustainability)

Health education in the classroom

Uganda ACCESS (African Community Center for Social Sustainability) is a community organization in the Nakaseke district of Uganda dedicated to supporting the local community through medical care, education, community health workers’ training and economic empowerment. ACCESS operates a medical clinic and nursing school and provides care and support to people living with HIV/AIDS, orphans and vulnerable children. The collaboration between GHI and ACCESS dates back to 2010, when a needs assessment identified health education of both the ACCESS nursing students and Nakaseke-area secondary school students as being of benefit to the community.

The 2012 GHI team delivered a set of health seminars to nursing aide students and secondary school pupils. The lesson plans and teaching methodology were modified to improve knowledge acquisition and retention based on an evaluation conducted by the 2011 GHI team.

Although the main focus of the project is health education, the 2012 GHI team also gained clinical exposure at the local and tertiary hospitals. The four medical students saw differences between rural and urban health care and how diseases are handled in resource-limited settings.

The GHI team also helped ACCESS staff, nursing students and community health workers organize two free community health days. More than 700 patients from surrounding communities were triaged, screened for HIV, diabetes and malaria, and provided with free medical care. The GHI volunteers ensured flow and organization, took patient histories and shadowed clinicians.

Global Health Uganda Access Anatomy Lesson

An anatomy lesson

The 2012 GHI team left Uganda with the experience of global health care, an appreciation for the adversities and disparities facing those living with health care in a resource-limited setting, and a deeper understanding of Ugandan culture.


Uganda ACCESS will be undergoing many changes in the next year as the nursing aide school is replaced by a full nursing education centre. As a result, the 2013 GHI team will likely not teach the nursing students and the project may shift toward education of the ACCESS community health workers, while maintaining the secondary school student curriculum.

India Spiti Health Project

Located in a remote, high-altitude valley in the Indian Himalayas, the village of Spiti is isolated from health care and basic services for seven months of the year due to snow on the high mountain passes. The Spiti Health Project began in 2006 when a partnership was established with the Munsel-ling Boarding School for children in Kindergarten through Grade 10. In collaboration with Rinchen Zangpo Society for Spiti Development (the local NGO that runs the school) and several foreign NGOs, GHI teams have helped to develop and implement several approaches to promote health and prevent disease among the school children.

UBC Global Health India Spiti Girl Teaching

A Munsel-ling Student Health Council member teaching health education

Since 2007, GHI teams have worked with the nurse and teachers at Munsel-ling School to provide health education to the children. This year, the health education program was transferred to the Student Health Council. The 2012 GHI team worked with senior students to create their own health education curriculum based on what they felt were the most important issues at the school, primarily hygiene and water safety. A strategic plan for health education was developed in collaboration with the school principal and council to support the transition.

Continuous access to safe water is a problem in Spiti. The 2012 GHI team assessed the structure and function of existing water infrastructure, including the outcomes of past efforts to improve water and sanitation. The delivery of accessible, clean drinking water to the student population was found to be insufficient due to E. Coli contamination and inadequate distribution. A comprehensive report was developed that outlines recommendations for water improvements.

The Indian NGO is keen to use solar energy to reduce fuel and wood consumption. The 2012 GHI team and a Vancouver-based NGO partnered to fund the installation of a solar water heating system, which reduces fuel costs for bathing and cooking. Local expertise was used for installation, which will allow Munsel-ling School to maintain and expand the solar energy project in the future.

An oral history pilot project was launched by one GHI team member. The experiences of community members, including how they view health, treat sickness and maintain wellness, were recorded through a series of interviews. This project will capture knowledge about the community and the school and help future GHI teams understand community attitudes about health and the impact of visiting NGOs.


India Spiti UBC Global Health Students

UBC students perform child health screens

The 2013 GHI team will continue to monitor and evaluate project outcomes and sustainability. The transfer of health education to the Munsel-ling Student Health Council will be evaluated and completed. Planning is underway for the 2013 GHI team to work with UBC Engineering to implement the recommendations of the comprehensive safe water study. In addition to the engineering components of the project, tasks will include gathering health data to evaluate the outcomes of water improvements and supporting the education of students and staff to change water use habits. The Spiti Oral History project will continue to provide rich insight into the perspectives of local community members of all ages.