Global Health Internship Scholarship: Interns for Interns, 10 Years On

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NWIA and CFHI Join Forces to Increase Accessibility of Global Health Training Opportunities for Candidates in Low-and Middle-Income Countries

NWIA and CFHI are delighted to have over 80 strong applicants from low-and middle-income countries seeking support for a WHO-HQ internship through the Global Health Internship Scholarship.

Each year, over 600 young people descend on Geneva, Switzerland for highly sought after internships at the pre-eminent organization in global health: the World Health Organization (WHO). At its core, global health is a movement dedicated to eliminating social and health disparities. These internships are a mechanism for WHO to help build public health capacity in its Member States. Yet, for over 10 years WHO-HQ internships have lacked geographic diversity, with most interns coming from rich countries.

Are these internships best serving those young people and countries who most need skills in health systems management? A passionate group of WHO-HQ interns think not. In 2011, they began gathering data to investigate their anecdotal experience. They again gathered data in 2013, and found that only 20% of WHO-HQ interns hailed from the poorest countries in the world, known as low-and middle-income countries (LMICs). However, LMICs bear 80% of the world’s burden of disease. When digging into why this disparity exists, the interns found much of this skewed representation was due to the cost associated with getting to and living in Geneva. The interns published their data in an open access journal, The Lancet Global Health, for all to see and then set off on an ambitious plan to remedy this disparity.

The interns who conducted the demographic surveys formed the Network of WHO Intern Alumni (NWIA) to take action. NWIA, in collaboration with US-based global health non-profit education leader Child Family Health International(CFHI), is offering scholarships for young people from LMICs to make WHO-HQ internships a reality for those poor in monetary terms but rich in potential and passion.

One such intern, Oluwaseyi Owaseye, travelled from his home country of Nigeria to Switzerland with the support of his family and church for a three-month internship at WHO-HQ that he says ‘was rewarding for me both personally and professionally, but most importantly it has benefited the health system in my country.’ Upon his return to Nigeria, Oluwaseyi was able to apply the skills he gained at WHO-HQ in his new role as the State Manager of the Ebola Emergency Operation Centre, Lagos, Nigeria. You can read his full story here.

This initiative has thus far benefitted from the support of the Royal Society of Arts during a successful Kickstarter campaign this summer. The project will also partner with the Global Health Film initiative (GHFi) to film a short video-documentary on the broader issue of global health internships. Video can be a powerful medium to drive discussion on social issues, and the NWIA hopes this documentary will highlight the impact of internships and their utility for national health systems. Written reports will also be generated from the pilot of the scholarship, to evaluate the role of financial support programmes in increasing global health internship accessibility.

Beginning in January 2016, two LMIC interns accepted by WHO will be financially supported to gain professional experience. The Global Health Internship Scholarship is part of a wider project to support more balanced multinational participation amongst junior candidates in international health training, an aim shared by NWIA, CFHI, and many other agencies and individuals across the global health arena.

NWIA and CFHI are delighted to have over 80 strong applicants from low-and middle-income countries seeking support for a WHO-HQ internship through the Global Health Internship Scholarship. They hope such financial support programmes and other efforts to increase accessibility of global health training opportunities can be expanded in the coming months and years. Contributions toward enabling opportunities for these essential emerging leaders can be made here.

Network of WHO Intern Alumni

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Lauren Talamo
Child Family Health International (CFHI)
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